History of Stack Cake

If you are from the Appalachian region of the United States, you are likely familiar with the traditional dessert known as stack cake. This multi-layered cake has a unique history that spans back generations, making it a beloved dessert amongst many families in the area. In this article, we will explore the history of stack cake and its significance in the Appalachian culture.

Stack Cake
Stack Cake

What is Stack Cake?

Stack cake is a traditional dessert that consists of multiple thin layers of cake with apple butter spread between each layer. The cake layers are typically made from a simple recipe of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs, and the apple butter is made by slow-cooking apples with sugar and spices until it turns into a thick and spreadable mixture.

The Origins of Stack Cake

The origins of stack cake can be traced back to the early settlers of the Appalachian region. During the 19th century, it was common for families to gather together for social events, and stack cake quickly became a popular dessert to serve at these gatherings.

Initially, the cake was made with whatever ingredients were readily available, which often included sourdough starter as a leavening agent. As baking powder became more widely available, it replaced sourdough starter in the recipe, and the cake became sweeter and lighter.

The Significance of Stack Cake in Appalachian Culture

Stack cake is more than just a dessert in the Appalachian culture – it is a symbol of tradition, family, and community. Many families have their own unique recipe for stack cake, passed down from generation to generation. In some families, it is customary for the bride and groom to serve stack cake at their wedding reception, with each layer made by a different family member.

Stack cake also has a social significance in the Appalachian culture. In the past, families would gather together to make the cake, with each family contributing a layer. This allowed families to work together and socialize while creating something delicious to share.

Variations of Stack Cake

While the traditional stack cake recipe consists of apple butter spread between each layer, there are many variations of the recipe. Some families use a different fruit butter, such as pumpkin or peach, while others use jam or preserves. Some recipes also call for additional ingredients, such as spices or nuts, to be added to the cake layers or the filling.

The Future of Stack Cake

As the Appalachian region continues to evolve, so too does the tradition of stack cake. While the dessert is still a beloved part of many families’ traditions, younger generations are putting their own spin on the recipe. Some are experimenting with different flavor combinations or using different ingredients altogether.


What makes stack cake different from other cakes?

Stack cake is unique in that it consists of multiple thin layers with a fruit filling spread between each layer.

Is stack cake difficult to make?

The recipe for stack cake is fairly simple, but it can be time-consuming to make all the individual layers.

Can I use a different fruit filling in my stack cake?

Yes, many families have their own unique twist on the traditional recipe, and different fruit fillings are often used.

How long does stack cake keep?

Stack cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Why is stack cake significant in the Appalachian culture?

Stack cake is a symbol of tradition, family, and community in the Appalachian culture. It has been a part of the region’s culinary heritage for generations and is a cherished dessert amongst many families.

Can stack cake be made gluten-free?

Yes, there are gluten-free recipes for stack cake available that use alternative flours such as almond flour or coconut flour.

What occasions is stack cake typically served at?

Stack cake is often served at social events such as weddings, holidays, and family gatherings.

Is stack cake only popular in the Appalachian region?

While stack cake has its roots in the Appalachian region, it has gained popularity in other areas of the United States as well.

What is the significance of each layer in a stack cake made by different family members?

Each layer represents a different family member and their contribution to the creation of the cake, symbolizing the importance of community and working together.

How has stack cake evolved over time?

While the traditional recipe for stack cake remains popular, younger generations have put their own spin on the dessert by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients.


Stack cake is more than just a dessert – it is a symbol of tradition, family, and community in the Appalachian region. Its unique history and significance have made it a beloved part of the culture, and it continues to be enjoyed by many families today. Whether you prefer the traditional recipe or a modern twist, stack cake is a delicious and meaningful dessert that is sure to bring people together.

I'm Jennifer Tirrell, a self-taught baker, and founder of CakeRe. As an experienced baker and recipe publisher, I have spent over a decade working in the kitchen and have tried and tested countless baking tools and products. From classic cakes to creative twists, I've got you covered. So grab your apron and let's get baking!

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