Hallmarks of Appalachian cooking include heartiness, resourcefulness and deep-seated tradition. No other dish resonates like the apple stack cake, typically made with warm spices like cinnamon and clove and dried apples or apple butter. Chef Travis Milton, a Virginia native and cofounder of the Appalachian Food Summit honors Appalachian ingenuity in his Appalachian Apple Stack Cake. When spices were scarce, his great-grandmother used Red Hots candy to provide the cinnamon flavor in the apple butter, a family tradition he’s embraced. If you don’t have any Red Hot candy on hand, use 2 tablespoons (12 grams) ground cinnamon instead. Find the recipe for Travis’ Apple Stack Cake in our May/June Issue, on sale April 24th! Travis will continue to share the footways of his people at his new restaurant, Shovel and Pick, in his Wise County hometown.
- 12 pounds (5,443 grams) apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 1 to 1½ cups (240 to 360 grams) water
- 1½ to 3 cups (300 to 600 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 5 cinnamon candies or Red Hots (2 grams)
- Fill a large stockpot with 1 inch of water (1 to 1½ cups [240 to 360 grams]) then add apple pieces to pot. Cook apples over medium-low heat. Apples will start to brown as they oxidize; let them break down. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Taste for level of sweetness. Add 1½ to 2 cups (300 to 400 grams) sugar; stir and mash remaining chunks of apples.
- Add cinnamon candies, stirring as they melt down. Simmer until reduced to desired thickness, 1 to 2 hours. Add up to 1 cup (200 grams) more sugar, if desired. To determine if apple butter is the correct thickness, spoon a small amount onto a plate, and let stand for 1 minute. If a ring of liquid does not separate around the edge, it is ready. Let cool, and transfer to airtight containers, or can for longer storage. It will keep for about a month in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer.