Photo credit: American Cake, by Anne Byrn (Rodale, 2016)
If you were invited to a wedding in the Appalachian mountains, you might be asked to bring a cake layer. For generations, a wedding cake has been constructed from these spice cake layers and filled with a thick and fragrant apple butter made from dried apples put up from the fall harvest. The more layers to the cake – 12 to 16, perhaps – the more popular the bride, or so the story goes. Stack cakes may contain other fillings, often lemon or coconut, but the original was and still is apple. Not calling for fancy and expensive ingredients, stack cakes use what people have on hand – modest baking staples like sorghum, flour, and vegetable shortening, and you could bake the cake in a cast iron skillet. Or you can use 9-inch round cake pans. The secret to a great stack cake is to bake it a day in advance and cover it so that the apple filling slowly seeps into the cake. To save time, use apple butter, such as the Old Mill Apple Butter, instead of making the filling.
Here are links to Old Mill Products, which can be used in the recipe below from our friend Anne Byrn. Old Mill Apple Butter, Spiced Apple Seasoning, Old Mill Plain Flour, Muddy Pond Sorghum, Molasses.
Old Mill Apple Skillet Cobbler
- Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll the pie pastry out to two 9-inch rounds. (Or use two pre-made crusts.)
- Place one of the pastry rounds in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Pile the apples into the skillet evenly. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup sugar over the top. Sprinkle on the cinnamon. Distribute the cold pieces of butter across the top.
- Cut the remaining round of pie pastry into 1-inch strips. Lay 4 to 5 strips across the top of the apples, leaving a couple inches in between each one. With the remaining strips weave them in an over-and-under fashion to create a lattice pattern. Pinch the edges of the lattice strips to seal them to the bottom crust. Tuck any excess crust under to finish the edges. If desired, scallop the edges or press the edges down with the tines of a fork to create a finished look.
- Brush the egg on top of the pie crust. Sprinkle the top of the crust with the tablespoon of sugar. Place the cobbler in the oven.
- Bake the cobbler 10 minutes, until golden brown, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the filling is bubbly and the apples are soft, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cover the cobbler lightly with foil if it starts to get too brown. Remove from the oven, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Spoon warm into serving bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream.