The Fascinating History Of The Dump Cake

Dump cake is one of the easiest desserts you can make. It got its name from its signature recipe technique, which literally involves dumping cake mix into a baking vessel. That simplicity has made the pastry popular, and dump cakes are a favorite to bring to events like family get-togethers. 

While enjoying these cakes, it's natural to wonder who first invented the recipes. Many believe the first dump cake was invented after World War II, when boxed cake mixes became popular. It's easy to understand why people would think this. After all, most dump cake recipes from the 1960s to the present day have boxed cake mix as one of the essential ingredients. A dump cake recipe has even sometimes been featured on boxes for cake mixes. However, there are recipes for the dessert as early as the 1920s.

The church cookbook "Carolina Cookery: From Quaker Kitchens" was written in 1924 and contained a dump cake recipe created from scratch. It called for placing butter, eggs, and milk in a measuring cup. Those ingredients were then dumped into a bowl containing flour, sugar, and baking powder. The instructions told the reader to mix the ingredients and pour them into a pan before baking.

By the late 1950s and the '60s, local newspapers began featuring the box cake inclusion in recipes using either canned pie filling or Jell-O. The various recipes and ingredients used have only grown from there.

Modern dump cakes are often made with fresh fruit

Contemporary dump cakes have become slightly more nutritious, using fresh or fewer processed ingredients. For example, recipe developer Ting Dalton created an easy cherry dump cake recipe for Mashed that substitutes a cherry compote and fresh cherries for the cherry pie filling. It may require more effort, but many dump cakes can be made with homemade fruit fillings for a more handcrafted taste.

While you can make a three-ingredient dump cake with just the fruit, cake mix, and butter, nothing stops you from adding pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips, or any other extra ingredient to create a more personalized cake. One of the most popular dump cake recipes in the 1960s used cherry pie filling, crushed pineapple, and chopped walnuts or pecans.

This pastry is nearly impossible to mess up, but over the decades, there have been some dump cake fails. For instance, one TikToker went viral when they made a pumpkin dump cake using condensed milk, eggs, and sugar instead of a box mix but neglected to fully mix the ingredients. While all of these variations might not have been what the original creators of these cakes envisioned, everyone who has enjoyed a dump cake owes a debt of gratitude to them.