Making a cake is never easy. With all the bowls, whisks, and measuring cups involved, it can feel a lot more like a chemistry experiment than a celebratory snack. “One bowl” recipes can make the process less of a chore, but all I really want to do is just dump everything in a dish and bake it. Turns out I’ve been in the dark this whole time: The easiest cake to make, with a most charming name, is the dump cake.
What is a dump cake?
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If you’re new to dessert dump-culture, like myself, here’s a short overview. At minimum, dump cake is made with boxed cake mix, butter, and canned fruit or pie filling. The idea is to dump the ingredients and bake. No extra bowls or utensils, and no mixing.
The fruit, syrup included, is dumped into a buttered casserole dish. The cake mix is layered over it, and butter is either melted and drizzled or tiled over the top in pats. The cake bakes and the liquid from the fruit and the melted fat hydrate the cake mix and activates the leavening agents. The cake mix rises, absorbs the excess syrup, and browns. You’re rewarded with a cobbler-esque dessert: There’s a crisp, crumbly texture on top, kind of like a thin shortbread cookie, and soft cake underneath. The acidic fruit in every scoop keeps the dessert just safe of being absurdly sweet. Beyond the bare essentials, you can dribble in extracts, sprinkle on cinnamon, add layers of cereal, chocolate chips, granola, or nuts to the dish.
Dump cakes are all over TikTok and YouTube as a fun, fresh take on boxed cake mix, but this casserole style cake with its quirky name has been around for much longer than social media. Wikipedia mentions a couple articles on dump cakes from the 1960s, but it’s likely that cake mix was mingling with canned fruit as soon as the packaged powder showed up on the scene in the ‘50s.
How to make a dump cake
Dump cakes are a lifesaver when you need a dessert fast, but they’re also a lot of fun to experiment with. With the variety of cake mixes available, different types of pie filling and canned fruit, and creative add-ins, you’ll never run out of dump-cake combinations to make.
1. Prepare the casserole dish
I used a nine by 13-inch casserole dish, but you could use a smaller pan for a deeper dessert. Butter the dish.
2. Dump in the ingredients
I saw a lot of recipes that used cereal, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, so I couldn’t help myself. I planned to use Cap’n Crunch originally, but as soon as I laid eyes on Golden Grahams I had to have it. I paired that with peaches, pecans, and French vanilla cake mix.
I poured in the cereal first. In my mind, dump cake means freedom from all the annoying parts of cake baking, and that is measuring things, so I poured cereal in until the bottom was covered in a way that pleased me. If you need measurements, you’ll pour in three to four cups of cereal. I poured the canned sliced peaches in syrup over the cereal, and tried to disperse the peaches evenly. Then I scattered two handfuls of pecan halves over the peaches.
Sprinkle the entire bag of cake mix over the mixture as evenly as possible, and dot the surface with a stick and a half of butter, sliced into pats. You could melt the butter and drizzle it, but the cake powder is so fine that the butter ends up running off into valleys and puddling there, making for an uneven application.
3. Bake the dump cake
Bake the cake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350°F, or until the juices are bubbling and the cake is lightly browned on top. Allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes before serving. Scoop the cake out, making sure to get a little bit of every layer. Serve as-is or with ice cream.
Golden Grahams & Peaches Dump Cake Recipe
- 3 cups Golden Grahams cereal
- 2 cans sliced peaches in syrup (15-ounce cans)
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 box vanilla cake mix
- 1 ½ sticks butter, cut into thin pats
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large casserole dish, about nine by 13 inches.
Scatter the cereal into the bottom of the buttered dish. Add the peaches and syrup evenly on top. Sprinkle the pecans onto the peaches. Evenly dust the dry cake mix over everything. Dot the top of the cake mix with pats of butter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the syrup is bubbling throughout, and the top of the dump cake is lightly browned.