Old Fashioned Stack Cake - Lady Behind The Curtain

I love the history behind this old-fashioned stack cake.  I had never heard of a “Stack Cake”.  Here is a little history behind the “Stack Cake”.  Because cakes were so expensive back in the days of old.  Whenever there was a gathering like a barn dance.  Families would each prepare a layer of this special ginger and molasses cake to donate to the shindig.  It is said that the number of layers in a cake was a measure of the popularity of the hosting family.  Sometimes there would be as many as twelve layers!

This cake turned out to be the coolest looking thing I’ve ever made.  I chose to make Apple Butter for the filling (recipe below).  You can make apricot butter, cranberry butter, pear butter, or fig butter.  I’m sure store bought would work fine but the apple butter was really easy to make and has better flavor than the store bought.

Old-Fashioned Stack Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 42 minutes

Yield: Serves 8

Old-Fashioned Stack Cake


    For the Cake-This recipe is enough for 6 layers:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • confectioners' sugar for sprinkling on top
  • For the Apple Butter Filling:
  • 4 cups roughly chopped dried apples
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups apple cider


    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 6 (9-inch) cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. NOTE: if you're like me and don't have 6 cake pans you can do this in stages.
  3. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, and spray parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Beat shortening and sugar until creamy.
  5. Add buttermilk, molasses, egg, and vanilla, beating well.
  6. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  7. Make a well in center of flour mixture.
  8. Add shortening mixture, stirring just until combined. NOTE: I added the flour to the shortening mixture into the mixer. The dough still was a very tender dough. It didn't make it tough at all.
  9. On a lightly floured surface, form dough into a log; cut into 6 equal portions.
  10. Place 1 portion in each prepared pan, and use finger to lightly pat dough to edges of pans. NOTE: This dough is more of a cookie dough then a cake batter.
  11. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  12. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Cake will have the consistency of a gingerbread cookie.
  13. Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand; spread with about 3/4 cup warm fruit butter filling.
  14. Repeat procedure with remaining layers and fruit butter filling, stacking each on previous layer. Do not spread fruit butter filling on top layer.
  15. Cover and refrigerate cake for at least 24 hours.
  16. Just before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar.
  17. For the Apple Butter Filling:
  18. In a large saucepan, combine dried fruit and all dry ingredients.
  19. Add enough liquid to cover. TIP: Remember that as the dried fruit absorbs the liquid the apples will expand. Make sure you have a big enough pan.
  20. Bring to a low boil, and cook, stirring often, for 45 minutes.
  21. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes or until cooled slightly.
  22. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor or container of a blender; process until smooth. Use while still warm.


This recipe is from Cooking With Paula Deen September/October 2011 magazine.




Old-Fashioned Stack Cake — 56 Comments

      • HI and yes it was made by hill billy people in southern Kentucky and parts of Appalachia in Virginia, and one of them was my granny she passed away at 103 years old in the early 2000 or so her name was Ruth Jackson. She aways made this recipe but she got the ingredients from locals esp the molasses, milk, butter and she dried her own apples from her apple tree. I was just telling my cousins how I would love to have this recipe to keep and to frame. My granny made this in an old cast iron skillet. I used to watch her make it and it took her days to do it. She always dried her apples during the harvest season and always dried them and put them into very large pickle jars once they were dried to store them in a cool dry place for safe keeping. She also dried her beens and make shuck beans they call them. Her beans were from her garden. No one could ever make this cake like my granny. And the ingredients were organic ones no fake stuff what so ever. It was a very rich cake and we only enjoyed it once a year on Christmas. It was my granny’s gift to us all and my relatives came and enjoyed the home made goodness. So many priceless memories. And to beat it all, you can’t get the fresh ingredients any more either. You can get some of them if you order them on line but not all of them unless you are fortunate to have some locals that have fresh cows milk and butter.

  1. Saw this at Mushki Loves–looks great! I didn’t know the story behind stack cakes before reading this. You’ve inspired me to try making apple butter at home!

  2. When we were growing up, Mom made a dried apple stack cake for Christmas, also an old fashioned Jam cake. Both were so good!!

  3. Cooked, dried apples makes the best one! When we strung up the apples in the heat of summer, we were almost tasting the Christmas cake!

  4. I grew up eating stack cake made with homemade apple butter and jam cake made with homemade blackberry jam. My mother put caramel frosting on the jam cake. Both cake were delicious and not that hard to make.

  5. This Stack cake looks great but my family always used dried apples cooked with spices between layers. My mother dried the apples herself.

  6. Cake layers were baked in cast iron skillets. She would make up a big dish pan full of dough just as if she was making biscuits. Stack cakes were one of my favorites. My favorite was when she would used homemade applesauce between the layers.

  7. My mom use to make this. However, she would peel, core and cook fresh apples with brown sugar and cinnamon to put between the layers. The best thing about this cake is the longer it sits, the more juice it soaks up and becomes even more moist. YUM!

  8. My grandmother always baked this cake when I was a young girl and it was great. I loved to watch her make it and she taught me how to make it just like she did. And today I do bake one at least once a year at Thanksgiving . And when I do it bring back so many good memories of my grandmother.

  9. i have looked and looked for this recipe for a long time .i grew up watching my grandmother make it.it really was a big hit in my family….thank you very much for me being able to find this …just here sauce was a lil different .she would use apple sauce and apple butter both in her mix by draining the excess juice from the apple sauce then she would add her apple butter and spices as in this and cook till it thickened ……AGAIN THANK YOU SO MUCH…..

  10. my grandma made these cakes all the time. she used dried apples. but when I make them I use granny smith apples. for then cooking liquid, I use ginger ale and add some brown sugar and cinnamon. they are so delicious and they bring back a taste of childhood.

  11. well i am a “hillbilly” from the appalachian mountains and this cake is a staple of our diets. Mostly made when we can our applebutter and the low cost makes it a weekday cake as we like to call it.

  12. I can’t believe I found this. When I was growing up, we had apple trees. One of our neighbors would come and pick apples, and as a thank you, she would always send back something baked with them. This was always my favorite. I have searched for years for the recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  13. I remember my grandmother making this cake. She would alternate layers with apple butter and fried carmalized apples. Delish with homemade whip cream or vanilla ice cream. And like someone else posted about shuck beans. I remember sitting for hours with my gma, needles and thread to string up green beans to hang and dry out to become shuck beand. The good ole days indeed. Miss them

  14. We lived in the most southern/eastern part of Kentucky in Cranks and we had this recipe from generations past and my nice got rid of an old recipe book, by accident, with the hand-written recipe inside, We have been on the hunt for the same recipe since *not all are alike, thanks for sharing I’ve sent this to my mom to review

  15. I have been looking FORRRRRRREVERRRRRRR for this recipe my hillbilly side of my family ( dads side lol ) made this every holiday. And nobody got tired of it and it usually was bout gone by the time we left grandma and grandpas I am so freakin excited that I found this. I wish I could hug you right now 😂😂😂🎊🎉 thanks you a bunch

  16. My Mom made this cake and I looked forward to coming home on leave from the Marines to have her stack cake. She made it all from scratch and apples she dried every year. Mom and Dad had 12 kids and this cake was a hit for all of us. I have her recipe and have made it myself. I could never make it as good as hers.

  17. Attending a family reunion, I asked an aunt (now passed) what kind of cake my grandmother took to reunions and she described this cake. A little different with applesauce in between layers and apple butter acting as frosting. Made it, took to area near Portsmouth OH and overheard raves about it and people asking, who brought Vonnie’s (Grandmother) cake? Family was also from southeast KY, Letcher County. Nothing better than preserving the best of the past. Thank you for the recipe and the memories.

  18. I just made this and for those who think it looks hard, it’s very easy. The layers are just like big cookies and I just splurged on disposable pans, 3 for $1.99–and I’ll use them again–to save some time. Thanks!!!

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