Most sources cite eastern Kentucky or Tennessee as the birthplace of stack cake. In 1983, the Louisville Courier-Journal published an oft-repeated story claiming that stack cake was originally a wedding cake. According to this tale, the bride’s family was responsible for preparing the spiced apple filling while the guests provided the cake layers, often as their gift to the young couple.
This story sounds a bit too quaint for modern food historians, who question when this “communal” cake would have been assembled—the day before the wedding? Other sources claim that stack cake developed as a “wash day cake,” made days ahead of time and served on busy wash days, when the women of the house were too occupied boiling, rinsing, and drying the laundry to bake a cake. The most plausible history ties apple stack cake to Thanksgiving or Christmas. Given the work involved, this makes sense. Mark Sohn refers to stack cake as “Christmas fruitcake” in his book Appalachian Home Cooking (2005), and this description sounds right to us.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Strawberry Stack Cake is free through October 15, 2013.