Micah A. Leal
The rise in popularity of the dump cake did not come from it being a dessert that is eloquently named and elegantly presented. It came from being downright delicious and undeniably easy to make at home in minutes. Often calling for just boxed cake mix from the grocery store and very few other ingredients (including lots of butter), dump cakes are designated as such because you're able to leave the electric mixer in the cabinet and throw the ingredients into a baking dish with gusto.
Once baked, a dump cake comes out like a cross between fluffy cake and melty cobbler. Soft ooey-gooey bars come to mind, except more scoopable. Many people choose to use store-bought pie filling or canned fruit as the base, but you can really customize it to fit your taste. All in all, it's the perfect dessert for novice bakers to make when they want to ensure success, as well as for experienced home cooks that are looking for something quick and easy to throw on the table with ice cream on the side.
Now, if you've seen any of the viral dump cake videos—such as here, here, or here—you'll know that there is one cardinal sin when it comes to making a dump cake. Avoid it, and you'll be propelling yourself to an instant triumph. It's not a step that you'll see in most other cake recipes, but dump cakes are a different breed. The rule is simple and resolute: Don't mix it.
When making a simple and classic dump cake, the last two steps are always the boxed cake mix and the butter. First the cake mix and then the butter are layered on top of the other ingredients (such as canned fruit like in our best-ever recipe for Peach Dump Cake) before heading off to the oven. Typically, a recipe will call for sprinkling the dry cake mix over the wet filling. Do NOT mix. Then, the recipe will call for cutting a stick or two of butter into thin pats and then placing the butter pats evenly across the top of the dry cake mix in the baking dish. Again, do NOT mix.
This is when you have to exercise self-control, and leave it be. It might look silly and feel counter-productive, but it's the trick to ensuring a crusty, crumbly, buttery top, and a gooey interior. Alternatively, some recipes will call for melting the stick of butter and drizzling it evenly over the entire portion of dry cake mix instead of using cold butter. Technically, either way works. However, melting isn't really necessary. (The cold butter is the first thing to melt in the oven anyway.) However, still always refrain from mixing either cold or melted butter into the dry cake mix when assembling. Just make sure to evenly distribute it.
Now that everyone knows that butter is the final and most important step to making the best dump cake, it should come as no surprise that it's so tasty and beloved by many. Try our favorite homemade dump cake recipes, and you'll be raking in the compliments at the next family dinner.