The Rule You Should Never Break When Making A Dump Cake

Invented in the 1930s, cake mixes gained popularity post-World War II. By the 50s, Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker had entered the mix. But halfway through the decade, sales declined. Market research suggested women (who are still the majority of home cooks) felt cake mix didn't require enough effort on their part. Manufacturers responded by marketing cake mix as just one of a number of steps along the road to making a dessert one might feel proud of. Initially, the next steps involved frosting, filling, and edible decorations, and soon women became hungry to make their cake mix cakes their own (via Cooks Illustrated). 

Cake mix manufacturers responded by printing recipes for cake mix upgrades right on cake mix boxes, according to Bon Appétit – which is somewhat of a paradox since anyone with the recipe and the cake mix would then be able to make the same cake. Be that as it may, cake mix box recipes became ubiquitous, and cake mix hacks became firmly rooted in home baking culture. One perennial hack is dump cake, for which recipes began appearing on cake mix boxes by the 1960s (via Quaint Cooking). 

Dump cake has since gained a strong foothold in the United States, especially in the South, per Southern Living. And this is despite its counter-aesthetic name, which also happens to be woefully misleading. You see, there's no dumping in the making of dump cake, and that leads us to this fundamental dump cake rule that should never be broken.

Don't mix your dump cake

The first rule of dump cake is don't mix your dump cake, according to the first of a number of dump cake recipes compiled in a video posted to Tasty's Facebook page. It's also the second, third, fifth, and tenth rule, according to said video. And it's not just a matter of convenience, although convenience certainly does play a role. You see, dump cake is, essentially, the world's easiest cake-mix Mad Lib — which is to say, all you have to do is mindfully fill in the blanks as instructed, and your result should prove tasty, if not exactly tasteful. 

Dump cake starts with smoothing a layer of fruit/fruit pie filling into a baking pan. Dump cake ends with carefully sprinkling a layer of your preferred variety of boxed cake mix, topped with another layer consisting of neat little pats of butter, per Southern Living. These layers are not dumped so much as arranged. Moreover, they shouldn't be mixed any more than you'd read a Mad Lib out of order. 

But if word games aren't your thing, consider the magic bar. Or the Italian rainbow cookie. Or a layer cake! Alternatively, taking the sweet out of the equation, let us consider lasagna. There are many common and easily avoidable mistakes one can make with lasagna, but virtually everyone knows that once you finish layering, you don't mix it all up. The same applies to dump cake. The more you know.