Applesauce cake can be traced back at least four generations in my family. Originally made with sorghum, this recipe has been modified to use sugar, and often pecans are substituted now for black walnuts. Another modification is using purchased applesauce instead of dried apples that would have been boiled to reconstitute them and obtain the consistency needed for the recipe. Caramel icing is another adaptation.
The originator of this recipe was Everline Taylor, the great-great granddaughter of Irish immigrant Andrew Taylor and Elizabeth Wilson Taylor, and the daughter of Nathaniel and Clemmie Rockhold Taylor, who was my great-great grandmother. The youngest of Everline’s children, my great-grandfather, James Blain Buck, born in 1885, married Connie Berry in 1906. My great-grandmother would continue the tradition of making her mother-in-law’s cake and passed the recipe on to her daughters and daughters-in-law. Her oldest son, a teacher, and my grandfather, Kyle Buck, married a fellow teacher, my grandmother, Beulah Feathers, in 1933. Later that year they gave birth to my mother, Dolores Buck Hart.
I come from a long line of wonderful country cooks known throughout the community for their culinary offerings. At every church potluck, community club gathering, or birthday celebration, friends would always search for the dishes prepared by my grandmother and mother.
My earliest recollection of this cake was always around the holidays. The aroma of cinnamon and cloves would permeate the air at Christmas. My mother continues to make this cake every Christmas. The first known cookbook that carried the recipe was the Central Community Club Cookbook, published in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1959. The recipe was submitted by my great aunt, Evelyn Buck Turbyfield.
2 cups white sugar 1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 cup shortening (do not use butter) 4 cups flour, divided
4 teaspoons soda (dissolved in 1 cup coffee) 2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups cooked apples 2 teaspoons cloves
1 pound raisins 1 tablespoon vanilla
Cream sugar and shortening; add soda, coffee, and apples. Mix raisins and walnuts with 1 cup flour. Add spices and vanilla to the rest of the flour. Add all of this to the rest of the mixture. Bake at 350˚ for one hour. (Optional: Frost with caramel icing.)
2 cups brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 stick margarine 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 cup buttermilk