I attended two granddaughters’ high school graduation earlier this month, and among the many things I observed about the attire of young women today was what the majority of them were wearing on their feet.
Wedgies, very tall wedgies in most cases. I was surprised, to say the least. Wedgies have to be one of the world’s most dangerous shoe styles, with high stacked heels and a narrow base. I know this because I was teetering around on them a few decades ago. Back then, we referred to them as our “ankle breakers.” As I watched the graduating girls totter up the stairs onto the stage and teeter back down after receiving their diplomas, I thought about how many things in the world of fashion are “hot,” then fade only to come back in some form decades later. It occurred to me that the same thing happens in the food world.
Take cupcakes, for example. For about the past four years, it’s all been about cupcakes in the baker’s world. Most of us grew up with cupcakes in our lives, but they fell out of favor and were considered only for kids sometime in the 1960s, if I remember correctly. They were replaced by bars of many kinds: brownies, lemon bars, pecan bars, etc., most of which are still welcome in most kitchens, until, as I said, about four years ago when cupcakes were suddenly big time business. Small shops selling only cupcakes sprang up all over the country; the Food Channel featured the “Cupcake Wars,” and bakers outdid themselves trying to come up with ever more fantastic versions of cupcakes. Cupcakes were no longer kid food, they were the sophisticated dessert for every occasion. They are now fast becoming passé.
Another great example? Dump cake. That’s right, for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, dump cake appeared on the scene sometime in the 1970s, and it was all the rage. Everyone and anyone could make a dump cake (and most did) because it was insanely easy to do yet could be made in virtually dozens of variations. It was one of my favorite cakes then because I was a working mom with very little time available for “true” cake baking. All I had to do was hit the supermarket for a couple of cans of pie filling, fruit, and a packaged cake mix, and I was set to make dessert for the in-laws arriving for the weekend, the school birthday party, a potluck. Whatever the occasion, I could produce a delicious cake in no time at all.
Why was it called a dump cake? Probably obvious: you just dumped everything into a cake pan (or mixed it first in a bowl then dumped it in the pan), tossed it in the oven for an hour or so, let it cool and it was ready to serve. You could spoon it out, top it with ice cream or whipped topping, or you could turn over the pan and dump it out onto a serving tray and frost, glaze or drizzle it, cut it into whatever serving size pieces you wanted. Couldn’t have been easier — even little kids could learn to make a dump cake.
But, dump cake was everywhere and everyone was making it so, human nature being what it is, we soon left it for whatever Julia Child or Jacques Pepin, or their counterpart, introduced us to as “the latest thing in cakes,” which at that time was German sweet chocolate cake, a far more complicated bit of kitchen prep. I haven’t seen or made one of those for a very long time.
But, guess what? Dump cake is back, just like those wedgies. I’ve now been served dump cake at two parties — one a birthday, another a family gathering luncheon where the niece who brought it was going on and on about this great new cake recipe she’d discovered, and how easy it was to make. So, I’m now happily re-visiting my file of dump cake recipes, (which took me quite a while to find among my many boxes of old recipes), because not only is the annual family Fourth of July potluck coming soon, I’ve also offered to provide dessert for a get-together of old school friends.
Dump cake: it’s a cinch.
RECIPES: You may have your own versions of dump cake, but in case not, here is one basic dump cake with a couple of variations. Keep in mind that, once you get the hang of it, there are dozens of possible combinations.
BASIC DUMP CAKE
1 can (21 oz.) pie filling (cherry and peach were very popular back when)
1 can (15 oz.) crushed pineapple (don’t drain it)
1 yellow cake mix
1 cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups coconut
1. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Spread the pie filling in the prepared pan. Spread the crushed pineapple evenly over the pie filling. Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over that, then spoon the butter evenly over all. Sprinkle on coconut until cake top is well covered. Place in oven and bake for about 1 hr., or until lightly browned; depending on your mixtures it could take a bit longer.
3. Allow cake to cool to room temp., then you can either spoon out servings into bowls or onto plates and top with ice cream or whipped cream, or you can place a serving tray or platter upside down over the cake pan and, holding both firmly, turn the cake pan over and “dump” the cake out onto the tray.
DUMP CAKE; CHERRY VARIATION
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple (don’t drain)
1 can cherry pie filling
1 pkg. yellow cake mix (or use white, lemon, chocolate or whatever you think might work well)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup butter
1. Lightly grease a 9×13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump pineapple into the pan, spread evenly. Dump pie filling into the pan, spread evenly. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over the top, then sprinkle nuts evenly over all. Dot with butter cut into small pieces. Bake about 50 min., or until top is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temp. (See above serving suggestions.)
DUMP CAKE; PUMPKIN VARIATION
1 can (29 oz.) pumpkin puree
½ cup brown sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
¼ t. ground cloves
½ t. salt
1 pkg. spice cake mix
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup melted butter
1. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan; preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients, then stir in the spices and salt. Dump into the prepared pan. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over the top then sprinkle the pecans evenly over the cake mix. Drizzle butter over all. Bake about 50 min., or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temp., then serve as suggested above.