The Southern History Of Dump Cakes

Desserts tend to be more of an exact science, with precise measurements and little margin for error. However, dump cakes are proof that even dessert-making can be easy. Named for how it's prepared, dump cakes date back to the 1920s, although the original versions look a lot different than they do now. The first recipe for a dump cake is featured in a southern church cookbook published in 1924 called "Carolina Cookery from Quaker Kitchens." The original recipe dumps wet ingredients into a measuring cup, mixes them into three dry ingredients, and bakes them into a simple cake.

Dump cakes as we know them today originated during the 1950s with the invention of boxed cake mixes, which simplifies the process even more. A slew of recipes popped up in Southern community cookbooks and newspaper articles from Oklahoma to New Orleans. These newer methods layered cake mix over canned or fresh fruit, topping the dry mix with butter or cream. Dump cakes still retain this fruit cobbler-like format — the cake mix puffs up into a fluffy crumb with bits of fruit seeping through. 

Dump cakes reached their peak during the '60s and '70s, with boxed cake mix companies like Duncan Hines offering dump cake recipes on the back of the box. Many iconic '60s dump cake recipes use classic Southern pie and cobbler fruits like canned cherry pie filling and crushed pineapple as well as canned peaches.

Popular dump cake recipes

While the classic easy three-ingredient dump cakes are fan favorites in the South, modern adaptations simply dump a few more ingredients into the mix. Our go-to recipe for apple dump cake uses apple pie spice mix, white box cake, sliced apples, and lemon juice for a fresher-tasting version that's still just as easy to prepare. Yellow cake mix with cherry pie and crushed pineapple is a summery, tart option that you can spruce up with shredded coconut and toasted walnuts.

You could also make a cherry dump cake with chocolate boxed cake mix and a sprinkle of thinly sliced almonds. Swap cake mix for tinned biscuits to top strawberry pie filling for the ultimate two-ingredient strawberry shortcake dump to serve with a dollop of whipped topping. Additional store-bought ingredients like pretzels, cookies, dried fruit, and nuts would all add depth of flavor and a nice textural contrast to the soft cake and gooey fruit filling.