Why Southerners Will Always Love a Dump Cake

No matter the season, a dump cake can always be served.

cherry dump cake in a pan with a scoop taken out
Photo: Emily Laurae/Southern Living

A dump cake is a silly name for a terrific dessert. As the name implies, all we must do to make one is to strategically dump (sprinkle or spoon, actually) a dry cake mix and a few other convenience products into a baking pan and pop it in the oven. There's nothing dumpy about that idea, or the finished product, which resembles a tender cakey cobbler.

Sure, we Southerners appreciate a stunning layer cake, but we also appreciate smart shortcuts when a casual cake will hit the spot. Southerners are very good at doctoring store-bought ingredients to bring them closer to scratch-made.

When Did Dump Cakes First Appear?

Recipe historians are not sure when dump cakes first came along. Although there were a few uses of the term "dump cake" as far back as the 1920s, that was another nickname for so-called wacky cakes and crazy cakes, a type of make-do, eggless batters stirred together in the baking pan.

Those cakes predate cake mixes, a necessity for contemporary dump cake recipes. Given that, it makes sense that there was a surge in dump cake recipes in hometown newspapers and community cookbooks in the 1960s and 70s, a decade or so after national brand cake mixes hit our grocery store shelves in the early 1950s. Some cake mix companies provided dump cake recipes in their print ads as a way to increase sales.

two bowls of cherry dump cake with ice cream on top
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

One of the most popular dump cakes to make the rounds in the early days combined yellow cake mix with canned cherry pie filling, canned crushed pineapple, chopped nuts, and butter. Soon, cooks were swapping out other flavors of pie filling and making other creative variations. Some bakers figured out how to use juicy fresh or frozen fruit in place of canned, for example.

No matter the flavor combo, a dump cake recipe is always quick and easy. We can serve them warm or cooled, and can top them with whipped cream or ice cream. That sounds like just the thing to satisfy the legendary Southern sweet tooth.

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