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Recipe for Old Fashioned Apple Stack Cake

Recipe for Old Fashioned Apple Stack Cake

Last Updated on 17th December 2021 by

Apple stack cake is a classic comfort food from the Southern United States. It’s basically layers of moist, delicate cake, with applesauce, Nutella, or other sweet foods packed in between each layer.

If you have never lived in the South or ordered from specific restaurants there, you might have never experienced this incredible dessert. That’s probably because it’s a lot of work to make, and this isn’t something you will whip up in a few minutes. It takes time and dedication to make this layered dessert, but once you give it a taste, we think you will agree that it is time well spent.

It pairs really well with a cup of tea or coffee, and there are tons of different ways to make it. We’ll share our favorites with you so that you have a few different options to choose from. Whichever one you go with, though, you’ll have a winning dessert on your hands.

What to Know about Old Fashioned Apple Stack Cake

Traditionally, apple stack cake is moist and rich, with a lovely molasses flavour. Maybe you have never had sorghum molasses, which is one of the finest delicacies that Tennessee has to offer. If the only molasses you have experienced is what you get from the store, then it’s probably not sweetened and not very tasty. Some people mix that in their coffee or make cakes with it, but sorghum molasses is already sweet and can be used as a pancake or waffle topping.

That’s what you would use if you are making an old fashioned apple stack cake recipe. We suggest using fresh apples that you slice yourself as well, to give it that authentic apple taste that this cake is known for. Fresh ingredients will make a big difference and help your cake to feel more old fashioned and homemade rather than something that is processed and filled with preservatives.

Appalachian apple stack cake is another name for this, and it’s known for being made without using a cake pan at all. How do you make a cake without a cake pan? Well, it’s a process that will produce a cake that is a little dry and brittle initially. You will then have to moisten the layers using apple filling.

So, this starts out as dried apple stack cake, but it doesn’t stay dry. The cake becomes fragrant with the spices you’ll be using, and the lovely aroma of cinnamon and apple in the oven will make you eagerly anticipate the cake being finished. Even when it comes out of the oven, though, you still have to wait a while to enjoy it.

The process of making the cake involves a couple days of waiting as well, and you should know that upfront. This isn’t the kind of cake that you just put together in a few hours and enjoy the same day. You’ll need patience with it, since the traditional recipe for old fashioned apple stack cake calls for you to wrap the cake up and then wait for a day or more for the cake to moisten properly.

If that sounds like you’re marinating the cake, then you’re not far off. When you are marinating meat, waiting allows the flavour to seep into the meat and make it tastier. The days of waiting after you wrap the apple stack cake are important, since they allow the cake to get that full flavour and moisture it’s supposed to have. It’s still a good cake without all the waiting involved, but it’s not going to be an authentic apple stack cake if you make it in a hurry.

Apple Stack Cake Recipe
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Apple Stack Cake Recipe

Keyword: apple stack, Cake, cake recipe


For the filling:

  • 4 cups cups of sliced dried apples
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the cake:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup room temperature butter
  • 1 cup sorghum molasses
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • Start by making the filling. This is in essence a process of making applesauce using dried apples. You’ll simmer your apples with brown sugar and spices in some water. Once they become soft, you can put them in a food processer to puree.
  • Next, make up the cake batter by creaming sugar and butter, then add in your buttermilk, eggs, and flour mixture (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon).
  • This needs to chill in your fridge for a while. Once it is cold, you can spread it into cake pans. You’re making layers, so they need to be spread into multiple pans. We are using six cake pans with this recipe.
  • Once your cake pans are filled out, you can take the cake out and spread it on parchment paper and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. When they are ready, the cake will start pulling away from the edges of the paper. Doing this gives you sturdy layers that will cook quickly.
  • You will have some dry cake coming out of the oven, but that’s expected. Next, you need to put your layers together. Between each layer, spread a generous portion of your apple filling. Once the entire cake is assembled, you need to wrap it tightly and let it refrigerate for at least 24 hours. The longer the better, and if you can leave it in there for a few days, that would be perfect.
  • Once the cake is ready, you can garnish it with powdered sugar.

Why Use Dried Apples?

We don’t suggest using store bought applesauce. You will lose a lot of the apple flavour when you bake an apple stack cake with store bought applesauce. Fresh apples have a similar problem, which is why we suggest dried apples for strong, authentic flavour. The Paula Deen apple stack cake has the same requirements, as does the apple stack cake recipe Southern Living features.

You can buy dried apples or make them yourself, but it’s important that you don’t use freshly cut apples or just skip some steps and use pre made applesauce.

Easy Apple Stack Cake

If you want to make apple stack cake in the simplest way possible, we have an easy apple stack cake recipe for you. This won’t taste like the real deal, but it’s a decent approximation.

You start by using a cinnamon cake box mix and making cake batter from it. Then, pour that into a round cake pan, separating each half cup of batter with a layer of parchment paper. Bake according to the directions for the cake mix.

Once your cake is done, you can separate the layers. They will be moister than an apple cake recipe would call for, but we’re not going to spend a few days letting all the layers moisten each other with this simplified recipe.

Next, spread apple filling between the layers and serve. You could opt for homemade applesauce or use store-bought applesauce as well. You have a few options as long as you are not going from authentic apple stack cake and just want something simple. Some people even use Nutella or frosting for a different kind of layer cake experience. You can even put different spreads between each layer.

Apple Stack Cake with Apple Butter

One variation of apple stack cake that we love is one made with apple butter. The apple butter stack cake uses premade apple butter to go between the layers. That’s the only difference in the recipe from what we gave you above for traditional apple stack cake. The apple butter does a reasonably good job of moistening the dry layers for you and giving you a decent facsimile of apple stack cake.

Closing Thoughts

There you have it- a few different ways you can make it as well as the long form, traditional method. You may want to try one of the shorter versions to start with, just to see how you like it. Then, when you feel ready, you can give the longer, tougher version a try.

This isn’t a particularly difficult cake, but it’s not made like a conventional cake. Then again, apple stack cake doesn’t offer just conventional flavour. It’s bursting with the kind of flavour that makes your taste buds do a dance, and that’s why we think it is worth the extra time and effort.

No matter what kind of apple stack cake you are making, be sure to add powdered sugar on top for the finishing touch. It works perfectly with the delicately moist layers of cake and will definitely taste good with some coffee or hot cocoa.

Apple stack cake is traditionally served hot but can be served chilled as well.

You can make as many layers as you want for this cake. It’s up to you and how much time and resources you have on hand. We opted for six layers with this recipe to accommodate the average oven size.

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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!

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