The History of Dump Cake

I first had a dump cake at a work potluck. I had never heard of it before and looking back I find that wierd. This recipe is definitely something that if my mother had known about it would have made for her three children. It was a low effort but high reward recipe and those were what my mother liked to bake. Anyways this recipe became a quick favorite of mine so much so that when I left the company this was made for my going away party. This is also a favorite of my brother in law who requested it at his last birthday party.

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Who and where was Dump Cake created?
My oh my was this a super frustrating recipe to research. I swear the recipes that I think I am going to find TONS of information about end up being the hardest to track down. I first went to my go-to books that usually help send me down my path and I came back with a HUGE nothing. Then I tried Wikipedia because they also have some great references listed that can help in research and again ZILCH. Next I did a quick internet search to see if anyone could give me any crumbs of information which it did…..sort of. I kept getting 1980 as the first mention of dump cake which supposedly was in a Pillsbury cookbook. So yay I guess on getting a date but it didn’t sit right with me. I was pretty positive that this was a midcentury creation. Why was I so sure? Well I remember the lovely lady who brought it to the potluck mentioned in intro that she used to make it for her kids which she raised in the 1960s and 1970s.

I almost gave up and moved on to a different recipe but I told myself to do one last search in the newspaper archives. Bam there was the information I was looking for. I found three articles that talk about the popularity of the dump cake in the late 1960s. There is mention of it originating on the back of a cake mix box but which one and when I have not been able to recover.

What ingredients are in Dump Cake?
This is going to be a quite quick to answer as Dump Cake only has five ingredients. This dessert consist of a can of crushed pineapple ( a mid century staple), a can of cherry pie filling, a box of yellow cake mix, chopped nuts and one stick of butter. Though cherry is by far the most popular and the fruit that it seemed to originate, any pie filling flavor can be used. One note should be that the end result comes out more like a cobbler than an actual cake.

When was Dump Cake popular?
It seems like the late 1960s specifically the years of 1968 and 1969 was when this recipe swept the nation. One 1968 article from this time period remarked that this cake had been making it’s rounds around the Midwest states. They joke that “you may not like the name but you’ll certainly like the results” while mentioning the cake has “good flavor, interesting texture and very attractive”. Another article from this year called it a special dessert especially when you are in a hurry and that it is “hard to beat”.

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In 1969, a Florida reporter wrote that it seemed like everyone in Jacksonville, Florida was talking about this “delicious” dessert. In the article it talks about the reaction the Jacksonville Journal had when the recipe was first printed. The newspaper got a lot of calls from irate readers demanding they reprint the recipe correctly as they didn’t believe that the recipe called for just dumping the ingredients without any mixing. After being reassured that the recipe was correct, one women called back in to apologize and to say the cake was quite good. After questioning people around St. Petersburg, Florida one women said her husband thought it tasted like a fruit cobbler while another said while no one in her bridge club had yet to make the dump cake, it was a topic of conversation.

Dump cake was in many peoples recipe boxes over the years. By the 1990s there was a growing concern over fat and calories. While it was still a simple beloved recipe one article summed up the feelings of the decade with “simplicity came with a big price tag: excess fat, calories, sugar and sodium”. Dump cakes therefore got a makeover with lighter versions being printed in many newspapers.

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Why should I make Dump Cake?
It is super easy to make. If you have kids this is a great cake to make with them. There was a perfect quote in a 1969 article that sums this cake up quite well: “It’s so quick and easy to do and after an hour’s baking you have a dump cake that can be enjoyed hot or cold. Just scoop it out and dump on a plate. We served ours hot topped with vanilla ice cream (yum!).” I do agree that a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes this recipe so much better.

How do you make Dump Cake?

Dump Cake

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A super simple cobbler like dessert from the late 1960s.

Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 1 20 oz can of crushed pineapple
  • 1 21 oz can of cherry pie filling (or any pie filling flavor)
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix (again any flavor can be used)
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 stick of butter sliced thin
  • Optional: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and well grease a 13 x 9 pan.
  2. In this order layer the ingredients: crushed pineapple, cherry pie filling, cake mix and then the pecans.
  3. Place the thin pats of butter evenly across the top. 
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour.
  5. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if you desire.


Sources:

Bucket, Emily. “Good Taste: A Special Dessert.” The Victoria Advocate. Sunday 10, 1968.

Gagen, Helen. “Dump Cake Looks Pretty, Taste Good, Despite Name.” The Star-Phoenix. January 23, 1968.

Lane, Charlotte Balcomb. “Lighter Cake Won’t Leave You in Dumps!” Beaver Country Times. May 10, 1995.

McFall, Madge. “The Dump Brings Best Eating In Town.” The Evening Independent. February 27, 1969.

 

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