Dessert on a weeknight? It’s a done deal with my simple, scrumptious Apple Dump Cake. Tender fruit and a rich, buttery cake covered with crunchy crumbs – queue the applause!
What’s not to love about dump cakes?!
I don’t know about you, but sometimes life gets so busy that getting dinner on the table is a real challenge. Dump cakes, with their handful of ingredients and effortless prep, means my family can enjoy dessert even on those nights I barely have enough time to heat leftovers.
While the name itself could use a bit of PR work, there’s no denying that dump cake is a home cook favorite. It’s incredibly versatile, with practically endless possible flavor combinations, and has an ingredient list so short a toddler can count the items on it.
During the summer, I love to make my Peach Dump Cake, since peaches are as synonymous with summer as sunburn. When the heat starts to wane a bit, though, I switch gears.
Apple Dump Cake is good year-round, of course (I’ve made this in lieu of an apple pie for Fourth of July), but there’s nothing quite as homey as the smell of warm apples and cinnamon wafting through the house to get me ready for fall.
Like most dump cakes, this one is a combination of apple pie filling and cake mix. A nice buttery yellow mix is the perfect choice for this recipe and complements the naturally sweet/tart apples and cinnamon with a just touch of vanilla.
To really bring a little fall into your kitchen, you can also make this Apple Dump Cake with spice cake mix, mingling other “spicy” aromatics like cloves and allspice with the cinnamon already in the pie filling.
If you haven’t heard of or made a dump cake before, well, first, you’re welcome in advance. Second, dump “cake” is a misnomer. You’ll basically end up with an apple pie filling and cake mix cobbler.
Since you sprinkle the cake mix onto the pie filling and smoosh it down a bit, there will be little pockets of cakey-ness among the apples themselves, but the top will end up with a crunchy, crumbly texture. I like to think of it as the best of both worlds!
Slicing the butter is the key to ensuring the perfect topping texture, and you really don’t want to cut any corners (literally) in evenly arranging the slices across the cake mix. Starting with a really cold stick of butter will help with the slicing. Some recipes suggest melting the butter first, but, while that takes a teeny bit of the prep time off my recipe, the results just aren’t as good. Pouring or drizzling isn’t the most precise technique in the first place, but I also find the butter separates a bit during the melting process, and you may find soggy little pockets that impact the texture of this cakey-cobbler in a negative way.
While I’m fine with a little vanilla ice cream melting into the top and making it all nice and gooey, I don’t want the Apple Dump Cake to start out that way.
Can you make an apple dump cake from scratch? Sure. At that point, though, it ceases being a quick and easy dessert solution and becomes a time-consuming, albeit tasty, endeavor.
If you happen to find yourself with a giant basket of apples or overflowing trees, you can compromise a bit on making this COMPLETELY from scratch and make an apple dump cake with fresh apples. You’ll need to add two teaspoons of cinnamon, to compensate for the added spice in the pie filling, and sweeten the apples to-taste based on the type of apples.
Since the pie filling apples have already been cooked, I’d also suggest cooking them for 15 to 20 minutes before adding the cake mix and butter if you want to make sure they’re nice and soft at the end (you can do this in the same pan you’ll cook the cake in). Depending on how much liquid has seeped out of the apples, you may need to drain off some or mix in a little cornstarch to thicken it before adding the cake mix and butter. You might even need to add a little apple juice or cider if they’re really dry.
The instructions are all kind of variable depending again on the variety of apples which you’ve likely witnessed yourself if you’ve ever made an apple pie that had a soupy filling. I’d suggest staying in the apple-pie-filling camp if you want a low-stress, high-success-rate dessert!
This cake doesn’t keep very well after a day or two, so it’s important to assemble all the hungry bodies you can to polish it off quickly. It’s definitely best warm, so feel free to reheat the whole thing in the oven for Round 2 or warm some in the microwave.
Make one for your neighbor, make one for a potluck, or make one just for you while you dream of cooler weather.
No matter when or where you’re diving into this simple, satisfying dessert, my Apple Dump Cake will sweeten the occasion.
Variations – Yes, they’re pretty much endless, but here are two of my favorites because they’re still super easy. To make an Apple Pineapple Dump Cake, you just need to sprinkle a 20 oz can of drained, crushed pineapple over your apples before finishing the recipe. If you want to try a Caramel Apple Dump Cake (much less messier than those things on sticks), drizzle ¼ – ½ c. of your favorite caramel topping over the apples or about 1/3 cup of chopped caramels (the ones you use to MAKE those things on sticks). If you really want to kick up the whole “spice” thing a bit, you can still use a yellow cake mix but make it an Apple Spice Dump Cake by mixing 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of allspice, and 1 tablespoon of sugar together in a bowl and sprinkling it over the pie filling. I also like to add 1 cup of chopped pecans on top of the cake mix if I’m making this version.
Crockpot – If you’re oven’s too busy working on supper, you can bake this in your slow cooker. To make an Apple Dump Cake crockpot version, put everything in the pot (following the same instructions as the recipe), and cook on low for about 4 hours or on high for 2-3. Everyone’s slow cooker is different, though, so I’d suggest starting to check it after about 1 and ½ hours. It just needs to feel set and have a nice golden brown crust with sugary, bubbly bits around the edges.