Dump Cakes are my favorite desserts to make and eat.
With just a few simple ingredients (most of which are shelf-stable), you can create a tasty treat without even stirring.
And while they are quick and easy, I find that many people still have questions. I've made 17 easy dump cake recipes so I've learned a thing or two.
If you're new to this delicious dump and bake method for creating dessert, here's everything you need to know about dump cakes.
- Everything you need to know about Dump Cakes
- Types of Dump Cakes
- How to cook dump cakes
- How do you know when dump cake is done?
- Cake mix crust and toppings for dump cakes
- Special tools for making dump cakes
- How to serve Dump Cakes
- Can Dump Cake be made ahead?
- Can Dump Cake sit out
- How to store Dump Cake
- Can Dump Cake be frozen
- An expert opinion
- Tasty dessert recipes to try
Everything you need to know about Dump Cakes
Dump Cakes are a super simple dessert idea, which I love. But what I love even more is all the different variations you can make.
Open, dump and bake. Sounds easy enough, right? Here is just a little more information to help you nail this recipe every single time.
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Types of Dump Cakes
I would suggest that the "original" dump cake was this Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake. So for that reason, I think people typically think of dump cakes as a fruity dessert.
They aren't wrong, but there are so many other types you can make. Like Moscow Mules, once you know the basic recipe you can riff on them forever.
Canned fruit and pie filling
I would say that canned fruit provides the most consistent dump cakes due to the amount of liquid included.
It also makes it easy to make a fruity dump cake even if your favorite fruit is out of season.
In my opinion, the best dump cake recipes use canned fruit and pie fillings!
Crushed pineapple is one of the most common ingredients because of the moisture you get from the juice and the general fruity flavor the pineapple brings.
Using fresh fruit adds more steps to this process. You must prep the fruit (wash, cut, etc) but you also need to introduce moisture to ensure the "crust" will form on top.
One of the ways to do this is by macerating fruit with sugar to bring out their natural juices.
Fresh fruit also varies in sweetness so you may need to adjust flavors for each batch you make.
Since I make dump cakes because they are so easy, adding these steps starts making them feel complicated.
Plus, baking fruit doesn't always turn out the way you want.
I tried making my Strawberry Shortcake Dump Cake with fresh strawberries and did not like how the strawberries tasted out of the oven.
I haven't fooled around too much with frozen fruit dump cakes. But I think I'll put that on my list of things to-do.
When using frozen fruit in dump cakes, you just add them, frozen, to your baking dish.
As they warm up in the oven, they will release some moisture which, along with the butter, should help to create that cake mix crust.
They are also a good way to get a more fresh fruit flavor into the dump cake without having to have fresh fruit.
There are no rules saying you can't do a combination of these types of dump cakes.
Using some frozen with some canned pie filling would give it a jolt of fresh flavor and more fruit texture.
Pumpkin Dump Cake is a must during the holidays. Canned pumpkin is a puree which will give the dump cake a different texture. I prefer to add a crunchy element (like pecans) when using a puree.
Using purees as a base is much less common but can be done. Because, yum.
Unlike the fruit-based dump cakes, you can also create chocolate masterpieces.
To do this, there are a few more ingredients and steps to ensure the final product is just as rich and delicious as you hoped it would be.
You can check out my Chocolate Caramel Dump Cake recipe to see what I mean.
What? Yes, liquid. This is not a popular method but I really think some delicious things could be done with this method. I used eggnog to create my Eggnog Dump Cake for Christmas.
The result is a custard-like dump cake with lots of flavor.
How to cook dump cakes
In the oven
The oven is the most popular place to cook a dump cake recipe. It's ready in about an hour with a yummy golden-brown crust.
In a slow cooker or Crockpot
Using a slow cooker or Crockpot is a great way to cook dump cakes when the weather warms up. You don't have to heat up your kitchen by using the oven.
It takes 2 hours to cook one in the slow cooker, but the prep is the same (totally easy) and cooking is hands-off.
I like using the slow cooker when I have to feed dessert to a crowd. It keeps the dump cake warmer longer and it is easy for guests to serve themselves.
There is one little thing you have to do differently because it's made in a slow cooker. Check out my Crockpot Apple Dump Cake post to see what it is!
In an Instant Pot
I have not made a dump cake in the Instant Pot yet. I'm a novice pressure cooker user, at best. But my friend, Justine from The Typical Mom, shows you how to make an Instant Pot Dump Cake over on her site.
In the microwave
I wasn't sure how Microwave Dump Cake would turn out but I was pretty impressed. Although the topping wasn't as golden brown, it still had a great texture to it. And since a regular baking dish won't fit, the consistency is a bit different.
All the delicious flavor was still there though. And it only took about 20 minutes to cook.
How do you know when dump cake is done?
Nothing needs to be cooked through in a dump cake recipe. There are no raw eggs or anything like that. The fruit filling heats below while the butter melts above.
The melted butter mixes with the dry cake mix to create my favorite part of the dessert. To get the best texture, the topping should be golden brown.
I prefer mine to be cooked for about 50-60 minutes.
It really is more of a personal preference than a dump cake being "done".
Cake mix crust and toppings for dump cakes
Boxed cake mix
That golden-brown crust on a dump cake comes from boxed cake mix. Of course, you can make a cake mix from scratch, but that is just adding on more steps than there needs to be.
Cake mixes work super well to create a vast number of flavor combinations! Just remember you don't prepare the cake mix per the box directions.
You simply sprinkle on the dry cake mix and let it mix and mingle with the butter and fruit juices.
The only minor exception is the chocolate dump cakes that use a little milk. I like to use a fork to give it a very minimal mix.
- Yellow Cake Mix
- White Cake Mix
- Chocolate Cake Mix
- Spice Cake Mix
- Angel Food Cake Mix
- Gluten-Free Cake Mix (check out my Gluten-Free Blueberry Dump Cake)
- Brownie Mix
Yellow is my go-to choice when making this treat. It gives the most buttery, vanilla cake flavor in my opinion.
I have never tried using brownie mix but I'm guessing it would work similarly to cake mix.
You can make vanilla cake mix from scratch also. I'm not convinced that it would change the flavor all that much.
Butter is one of the reasons this sweet treat is so tasty. The melted butter combined with the fruit juices and dry cake mix creates the most amazing crust-like topping!
Recipes specify varying amounts of butter, but in my opinion, you can't go wrong with 2 sticks (1 cup butter).
I cut back a little bit on chocolate versions because the chocolate brings it owns flavor and the milk in the recipe brings moisture.
Since you aren't mixing the ingredients, you want to make sure that you have plenty of melted butter to wet the dry cake mix.
It's near impossible to not end up with a little dry mix left after baking, but in no way does this ruin the dessert.
My favorite way to add the butter is by using kitchen shears or a knife to cut a stick of butter into pats. The pats are set evenly on the top of the dry cake mix to melt as it bakes.
This way provides the evenest coverage of all the methods I've tried.
This is not a healthy dessert. So you might as well make it as delicious as possible!
I've heard of using soda and other things to finish off the dump cake, but I'm a butter gal. All the way.
You can change up a simple recipe for dump cake by adding on toppings.
Sweetened condensed milk mixes with the butter and cake mix to make the crust even more crusty. I wouldn't use this to replace the butter but it's a great way to add more coverage of the dry cake mix.
It adds a sweetness that when baked can sometimes create a caramel-ish flavor.
Any kind of chopped nut is awesome because it adds a delicious crunch to an otherwise smooshy bite. There are no wrong combinations. Choose your favorites!
Coconut is a delicious way to add a different texture to the dessert. Like the crushed pineapple, the coconut is not a strong flavor when baked. It mostly adds to the crust experience.
Adding oatmeal to the top of a dump cake as I did here with this Peach Blueberry Dump Cake, gives it a totally new vibe.
It makes the dump cake feel a little bit more like a cobbler or crumble and is a great way to change things up.
I've also used pretzels. And toffee pieces.
There are probably an infinite amount of dump cake ideas on this planet. And I freaking love that.
There really is no wrong way to make a dump cake. That's my favorite kind of recipe!
Special tools for making dump cakes
There really aren't too many specialty tools required for making dump cakes. And I prefer to make them right in their baking dish to keep from having to wash any bowls.
The exception is when using Angel Food Cake Mix. You have to mix that with water first. This is my go-to batter bowl for baking.
And that's really it! If you're taking a dump cake to a party, I love to make them in a baking dish that has a cover which makes transporting it really easy.
Or use disposable pans and serve ware so you don't have to worry about bringing your dish back home.
How to serve Dump Cakes
Dump cake recipes can be served hot or cold. But I prefer them at room temperature.
For hot dump cakes, you can serve them with a flavorful vanilla ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream.
Cold dump cakes can be served with a fluffy mountain of whipped cream. And room-temperature dump cake can be served however you want.
It also depends on when you'll be eating the dump cake. I prefer breakfast dump cake to be served cold. Yes. I eat dump cake for breakfast.
There's no wrong way to eat a dump cake. Don't judge me.
Can Dump Cake be made ahead?
Yes! Dump Cakes can be made ahead of time. Unless you want this to be warm for your guests, you can make it ahead and store it at room temperature until ready to eat (if that day).
Depending on what type of dish you've made it in, you might be able to reheat it in the microwave just before serving, if desired.
You could also probably reheat it in the oven although I haven't tried it. Cover the top with foil to make sure the crust doesn't get too brown.
I love that it can be made ahead of time so that you don't have to have the oven on, heating up the house, when you have guests over!
But it's also so easy that you could whip this together, once your guests have arrived, to serve after dinner.
I really do love for people to see this being made and then tasting it when it's done. They usually can't believe how delicious it is.
Can Dump Cake sit out
Dump cakes are fine to sit out (loosely covered once cooled) until you are ready to serve them. I'll be honest, I have left a dump cake out for a few days and it's been just fine. And I'm not dead so... (Make this decision for yourself, though).
How to store Dump Cake
If you aren't going to serve it until the next day, I would store it, covered, in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days in the fridge.
But it probably won't be around that long. It's a pretty hearty cake so if you don't want it cold, you can leave it out on the counter to come up to room temperature.
Can Dump Cake be frozen
I'm pretty sure you can freeze dump cake. But I have never done it myself. I've never had a reason to try. I would think that you would want to make sure to wrap it well to keep out freezer burn.
To thaw, I would leave it in the fridge overnight.
But it's seriously so easy to make, I don't know why you would want to freeze it.
An expert opinion
If you're new here, you may not know that I consider myself a lazy baker. I look for shortcuts and I'm not about following conventional rules.
True baking experts have weighed in on dump cakes though. Check out this article on Epicurious on how to make dump cakes better.
Tasty dessert recipes to try
- Alcohol-Infused Cupcakes are delicious and a fun way to combine your love of desserts and cocktails.
- This list of Cake Mix desserts will give you ideas for other easy desserts to make that your family will love.
- Fruit Desserts are my favorite things to eat when the weather warms up!
- Angel Food Cake Desserts are quick and easy and always a crowd-pleaser!
With these tips, I know you'll be able to make perfect dump cakes any time you need them!