Most of us have enjoyed a good dump cake at one time or another. For those of you who might not recall eating such a concoction, let me remind you. A dump cake typically consists of pie filling being thrown into a baking dish, topped with the contents of a cake mix, and then further topped by butter. For several years when I would teach my UNDERwhelmed in Food Storage class, the dump cake would be featured as one of the no-brainer, yet delightful dishes, because, in spite of its simplicity, it always pleases the taste buds—especially when people think of frankenfoods such as ramen noodles, beans, and rice when they think of “food storage.” However, the reason why I call this recipe “Diva Dump Cake” is because it elevates the plain old everyday dump cake to “Wow! You’re an amazing cook!” status—and let’s face it, if we’re going to take the time to cook something, we might as well fool people into believing that we’re fabulous culinary geniuses, right? *grin*
So, some basics of dump cake, and why it’s on my yearly menu list.
1) It’s easy. It literally IS a matter of just opening, dumping, and baking. You won’t even have time to break a sweat. (The last thing you want to do is burn more calories making a meal, that when you consume—well, at least in a crisis scenario, that is.)
2) It works even as a long-term, shelf-stable food recipe. If you take the inside bags of the cake mix, label them with a marker, and then put them into a half-gallon Mason jar, then suck the oxygen out with your FoodSaver, you’ve got a “food” that will sit on your shelves just fine for at least 5 years. The canned pie filling (even that which you make yourself—my personal favorite) will sit in a cool, dry, dark environment happily for 5 to 8 years—easy. Butter? Well you can actually use freeze-dried butter on this recipe without compromising the taste, however, you can also use your own canned butter or ghee. However, I use just plain butter sticks on this recipe.
Now before you start hollering at your computer and embarrass yourself, all because I declared butter to be a “shelf-stable” type of food, let me explain. Yes, it is most definitely a shelf-stable food because it can be canned and stored, it can be dehydrated and stored, and it can be left alone in a freezer or refrigerator and be just fine and dandy for at least a year. (1 year is my personal minimum benchmark for choosing to use or purchase particular foods. More on the detailed “why’s and wherefores” in an upcoming post.) With butter, I can store it in the freezer or the refrigerator for at least a year, however, when the electricity goes out, all is not lost, so long as I keep it enclosed in the freezer or refrigerator during that power outage time (in order to get it to last a long time). The cold and frozen butter will continue to help maintain some level of “cool” so it’s not like an ice cream product that I have to keep frozen. Worst case scenario I can have a butter canning party using my propane stove top or solar oven if I find myself in for a long-term power outage, and doing so will still preserve and maintain my stash of beautiful, tasty, butter! There are plenty of households that use butter, keep it out on their counter near the toaster, right? Butter isn’t even sold in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores in many other nations. Instead of keeping it on a plate or in a butter dish on the counter, one could elevate it’s freshness on the counter by keeping it in a butter crock. Get the picture? It’s not what I call a “Sissy Food”—all fragile and temperamental in a room temperature environment.
OK. Heart attack averted. Let’s go back to the reasons why this recipe meets my “shelf-stable food” criteria.
4) It’s tasty to most palates. (Believe it or not, hunger may be the best sauce, but there are some things that folks just won’t eat except in the most dire of circumstances. So I try not to make my job of feeding and nourishing others so difficult.)
And lastly, 5) My last criteria is that all of the ingredients I use in a recipe are reasonably affordable, readily available, and multi-purpose. Pie filling, cake mix, butter, and spices. Yep. “Check! 1-2-3!” it fits my criteria.
I call this my Diva Dump Cake because I elevated it from ho-hum, been-there-done-that status, to a combination that’s more worthy of a culinary diva. ;-) But don’t worry, I didn’t make it any harder. All I did to elevate it from “the norm” is by adding a nice, warm, spice combination in addition to using a pie filling that’s not so normal. Dump cakes are typically done with a white or yellow cake mix, but you can create all kinds of Diva-like options simply by pairing less common flavors such as a key lime cake mix with a pear pie filling, or a caramel chocolate cake mix with strawberry pie filling.
To discover which flavors will compliment your choice of fruit filling, you can invest in this wonderful book called “The Flavor Bible” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. The entire book is like a major reference book of flavor companions. You can just look up the food item you’re wanting to work with and you’ll get a list of all kinds of things that go really well with that food or spice that you might have been unaware. (I just recently discovered that I LOVE a little bit of homemade cranberry sauce flavored with some cardamom on top of my grilled salmon or salmon cakes!)
My inspiration for this dish came from a fabulous cake recipe that I discovered in one of Anne Byrn’s books, “The Cake Mix Doctor”. She combined a cake mix with pureed plums with cardamom. That was the first time I had ever used cardamom and nowadays I’m totally hooked. So I wanted to accomplish that same kind of surprise pairing with this so I added some allspice and cinnamon to my cardamom craving—all of which get along perfectly with apples and cranberries.
So let’s get to this Diva-style recipe, shall we? I made this in an effort to impress a couple of friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Mission accomplished. *grin*
Dive Dump Cake
Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with your cooking spray or non-stick ingredients.
Preheat your baking source to 350 degrees. (you can make this easily in a Dutch Oven)
2 cans of cranberry apple pie filling
1 yellow, butter yellow, or white cake mix. Do NOT use the kind with “pudding in the mix” (Butter yellow is my favorite. However, I have become fond of my homemade butter yellow cake mix. More on that later)
1 teaspoon of Cardamon
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 stick of butter (sliced into thin pats)
Pour the pie filling in your pan and spread it out gently so that it’s even and fills in all of the edges of the pan.
Sprinkle half of your spice blend over the top of the pie filling.
Gently distribute the cake mix over the top of the pie filling, being sure to not press down on it and to not leave any open spaces.
Take your pats of butter and gently place them over the top of the cake mix. It’s important that you’ve covered the entire mixture with these pats of butter. You’ll have about a quarter inch of space in between each of the pats. If for some reason you didn’t cover the top properly, use more butter to do so otherwise you’re going to have unappetizing “dry” spots when you’re finished cooking.
Sprinkle the remainder of your spice mix over the cake mix and butter.
Finish off the top by sprinkling the sugar over the top of the entire mixture.
Place into your oven and let bake for 45 minutes. You want it to be toasted on the top.
Serve warm or cold. I prefer it warm along with a dollop of freshly whipped cream that’s been sweetened just a bit with powdered sugar. (I always have cream on hand thanks to the raw milk I purchase fresh from the farm, but you can make it just the same from the non-dairy creamers sold in bulk at Target and wholesale stores.) You don’t need the topping; you’ll enjoy the rich aroma and pleasant surprise of a taste all on its own.
I’m SO sorry that I don’t have a “final” picture for you. I was in a hurry to get out the door with this dessert, and when I went to take a picture after being at the party only 30 minutes, it was almost all gone! So let an empty pan be your mental picture—it’s a very descriptive picture for this particular recipe. *grin*
*By the way, I totally recommend Anne’s books because whether it’s desserts, side dishes, or entrees, all of her books are about taking something that’s already packaged and elevating it to fast and fabulous with the addition of some other ingredients. In my opinion, Anne’s books are as much a MUST as Lorna Sass’s books are for pressure cookers!