I hosted a book club meeting a couple of nights ago. We had read On Agate Hill by Lee Smith, which I absolutely loved. It follows the fictional life of Molly Petree through letters, diary entries, school reports, court documents, and such. If you like historical novels, specifically Reconstruction era Southern lit, you should at least take a look at the Amazon listing! The book reminded me of sifting through material on ancestry.com or rootsweb.com trying to piece together enough information to get to know an ancestor.
Anyhoo, sometimes at our meetings we try to share a meal that somehow relates to the book. It's a creative way to make another connection with the story. So, after our southern barbecue fare, we feasted on Apple Stack Cake. It was delish! But here are the changes I made to the original recipe, along with my modern kitchen revelations.
First of all, the recipe called for dried apples. Ok, did you know that it's actually kind of difficult to locate dried apples in the grocery store these days? I remember back in the day, dried fruit came in 4 varieties: raisins, prunes, apricots, and apples. Now it's cranberries, bananas, mangos, pineapples, blueberries, papayas, yada, yada, yada. No apples. Not at my local Fry's anyway. So I figured, "What the heck? Why not just use fresh apples? I mean, I was just gonna reconstitute those dried apples anyway." So that's what I did, after I calculated that 2 ounces of dried apple=1 pound of fresh apple. I'm pretty sure this recipe was developed back in the day when fresh apples weren't available year round, and everybody canned and preserved and dried their own harvest. Well, I don't have an apple tree, so I rely on my local food storage unit down the street, also known as the grocery store. Let them pay the utility bill to store my food; that's hubby's motto.
Next step, simmer the apples, then mash them and add a whole lotta spices and brown sugar. About halfway into this process (I know, sometimes I can be a little slow) I realized I was just making applesauce. For heaven's sake, why didn't I just buy applesauce in the first place?! Well, in the end I did run back to the store to get some applesauce, because I was afraid (and rightly so) that I hadn't simmered enough apples.
Okay, on to the cake part. These were basically 8-inch round gingerbread cookies. I was able to bake two at a time. The recipe directed me to make 8 layers, but I wasn't careful in the divvying up department so I only wound up with 6. Interestingly enough, the amount of layers indicates your popularity. Back in the day, neighbors would each bring a cake layer to the party. The more friends you had, the more layers your cake would have! Well, I made all my own layers, so I don't know what that says about poor little pitiful me.
So you just stack these all up with applesauce in between each layer, leave it in the fridge to soften up, and 8 hours later it is absolutely scrumptious. It was even good the next morning for breakfast, which is what you see in the picture above. Later in the day, it was still tasty, but beginning to border on gooey and mushy, so we just put it out of its misery and finished it off. This was a fun cake to put together (although, come to think of it, I've seen similar recipes using applesauce and graham crackers; now that would be easy!) and I'll probably make it again sometime next fall during apple season!