From Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine by Joseph E. Dabney
This is probably the most “mountain” of cakes. The story goes that James Harrod, one of Kentucky’s early pioneers and the founder of Harrodsburg, brought the stack cake recipe when he came to the frontier state via the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap.
One story goes that since fancy “in-fare” wedding cakes were beyond the reach of many pioneer mountain families, neighbor wives would bring in cake layers to donate to the bride’s family. Author Elizabeth Dunn confirmed the tradition, declaring a bride’s popularity was often measured by the number of layers in her cake! As the layers arrived, the bride’s family would spread the apple filling between each.
While plain applesauce can be used in such cakes, dried apples offer a much stronger flavor and therefore were the choice of most mountain cooks.
This 1800s recipe was used for many years by Mrs. Dolphus Kerley of Waynesville, North Carolina, who died in January 1948, just shy of age ninety. The recipe actually came from her mother, Mrs. Drury Bigham, or the Allens Creek section of Haywood County, North Carolina.
4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup sorghum molasses
1 cup milk
3 cups sweetened, slightly spiced applesauce
1. Sift flour, salt, soda, and baking powder. Cream the shortening, then add sugar, a little at a time, blending well. Add sorghum, and mix thoroughly. Add milk and eggs, one at a time, blending well until smooth.
2. Pour 1/3-inch deep in greased 9-inch pans, and bake until golden brown.
3. When cool, stack the layers (around six), and use 3 cups of the applesauce between them.
Makes 6 to 7 layers.