Apple Dump Cake

Apple Dump Cake made with fresh apples, cake mix and a handful of pantry staples, makes for a scrumptious, easier-than-pie, go-to dessert! 

You won’t be able to stop eating this Apple Dump Cake!  It’s a delectable mashup between apple cobbler and apple cake to create an easy, stress-free dessert that will disappear in a flash.  Best of all, this recipe uses fresh apples for superior flavor and texture AND can be assembled ahead of time.  To make this Apple Dump Cake recipe, thinly sliced Granny Smith Apples are enveloped in a brown sugar, cinnamon coating, topped with yellow cake mix, melted butter and pecans then popped in the oven to bake to tender apple, buttery cake perfection.  It’s a must bake dessert this season!

The Fall screams apple dessert recipes!  Don’t miss apple oatmeal cookies, mini apple pies, apple dumplings, apple crisp, apple cheesecake bars and of course this apple dump cake recipe.

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how to make apple dump cake video

up close of apple dump cake on a plate with a scoop of ice cream

APPLE DUMP CAKE RECIPE

This easy Apple Dump Cake recipe will quickly become a go-to Fall dessert because it’s easy AND delicious!  Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Easier than pie!  Apple Dump Cake doesn’t require breaking out the mixer or food processor or hours of chilling pie crust, etc. Instead, the ingredients can all be dumped into a 9×13 pan with only one dish to clean.
  • Everyone loves it!  Everyone from toddlers to grandparents adore this warm, satisfyingly cozy dessert– which means they adore you for making it. 
  • Fresh apples!  Instead of using canned apple pie filling that can bake up bland or even worse…mushy, this recipe uses fresh apples mixed with the caramel-like sauce! 
  • To live for apple filling.  Brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a pinch of salt, splashes of lemon juice, vanilla and a few tablespoons of flour are mixed with the apples to create a sweet, creamy caramel-y sauce as the apples bake.  Incredible.
  • The cake topping.  The topping is slightly crunchy on the top giving way to a soft, cakey layer that is swoon worthy mixed with the apples.  And all you have to do is pour a cake mix on top!

Apple Dump Cake Facts

What is a dump cake? 

If you’ve never sunk your teeth into a dump cake you may be wondering what the fuss is about?  Apple Dup Cake is made of a fresh fruit or canned fruit pie filling topped with a layer of dry cake mix followed by pads of butter. As the dessert bakes, the cake mix mingles with the butter to create a soft, cakey topping overtop the tender fruit.  It should be noted that dump cake is more similar to a cobbler with its layers of fruit and topping than an actual cake in which the fruit and cake are combined in one.

Why do they call it dump cake?

The dessert gets its name because there is no mixer involved.  All of the ingredients are dumped into a 9×13 baking dish then baked together.

What ingredients are in Dump Cake?

Dump Cake can be as simple as 5 ingredients:  canned pie filling (any flavor such as cherry or apple), a box of yellow cake mix, chopped nuts, and butter. In this recipe, the pie filling is made from scratch with fresh apples, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice and seasonings to deliver a far superior result.  But don’t worry, you will still just dump all of the ingredients together in the baking dish!

What is the difference between a dump cake and a cobbler?

Dump cakes and cobblers are very similar.  They both begin with a base of fruit filling and are topped with a type of crust.  In a cobbler, the topping can be a biscuit or pie crust topping.  In a dump cake, the topping is always a cake mix topping which naturally bakes up softer and more cake-like than a cobbler topping.

When did dump cakes become popular?

Dump cakes become popular in the late 1960s in America as various recipes began being printed in newspapers across the country.  In 1969, a Jacksonville, Florida paper reported that it seemed like everyone was talking about this “delicious” dessert.  The article recalled how the newspaper was inundated with angry readers after it printed the recipe for the first time, demanding the recipe be printed correctly.  The readers couldn’t believe the recipe called for just dumping the ingredients without any mixing.  Word quickly spread, however, that this magical dump cake was indeed easy and delicious.

Do you have to refrigerate Apple Dump cake?

No, you do not have to refrigerate Apple Dump Cake.  It can be safely stored at room temperature for up to 2 days in an airtight container.  I suggest refrigerating the dump cake, however, to prolong its freshness.  Refrigerated dump can stay fresh for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

top view of apple dump cake recipe in a baking pan with a serving spoon

WHAT ARE THE BEST APPLES FOR APPLE DUMP CAKE?

For this Apple Dump Cake recipe, we are going to use fresh apples. You may sub them for canned apple filling if you wish, but it won’t be quite as good.   

For this recipe, please only use Granny Smith Apples. The type of apple is critical because it affects the flavor and texture of the filling. Granny Smith apples are a sturdy baking apple that will bake up beautifully tender and not turn to applesauce.  More importantly, Granny Smith apples are slightly tart which perfectly offsets the sweetness in both the filling and the crumb topping.  If you use a different apple, your Apple Dump Cake will be too sweet, not balanced or as flavorful.

SHOULD I PEEL the apples?

Yes, please do! If you don’t peel your apples first, you’re left with an unpleasant tough texture as the skin doesn’t break down enough when baking.

APPLE DUMP CAKE RECIPE INGREDIENTS

You probably have everything you need to make this Apple Dump Cake recipe in your pantry right now except for the apples!  In addition to Granny Smith apples, you will need:

  • Cake mix: use a yellow cake mix because it boasts a butterier flavor than a white cake mix. You will pour the cake mix directly onto the filling – don’t add any of the ingredients on the cake box!  
  • Butter:  is used in both the apple filling and the topping.  Use unsalted butter so we can control the salt. If you only have salted butter, then omit the salt in the filling.
  • Flour:  apples release a lot of moisture when baked so we need flour to help thicken the filling back up. I went conservative on the flour because nothing is worse than a gummy filling!
  • Lemon juice: the slight acidity helps balance the sweetness.  The lemon juice also keeps leftover Apple Dump Cake (should you be so lucky) from turning brown.
  • Brown sugar:  use light brown sugar so the molasses flavor isn’t too strong. 
  • Vanilla extract: adds an extra oomph of flavor.  Use quality extract for the best flavor.
  • Spices:  cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt enhance the flavors and balances out the sweetness.
  • Pecans:  are optional but definitely recommended otherwise the Apple Dump Cake is soft on tender without any contrasting crunch.
up close of a spoonful of apple dump cake

HOW TO MAKE APPLE DUMP CAKE

Apple Dump Cake is a beloved dessert not only because its DELICOUS but is made in three easy steps: 1) Prep Filling, 2) Add Topping, 3) Bake.  Here’s how:

STEP 1:  MAKE THE FILLING

  • Whisk together the brown sugar, melted butter, flour, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and salt directly in the 9×13 baking dish.  No need to dirty another dish!
  • Add the apples and gently stir until apples are evenly coated.  The mixture will be thick but will loosen as it mixes with the apples. Coating the apples in the flour/sugar mixture draws out the juices and eliminates the need for the extra water in the recipe.
a collage showing how to make apple dump cake recipe by adding apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to a 9x13 baking dish, tossing to coat then spreading the apples in an even layer

STEP 2:  ASSEMBLE

  • Evenly spread the dry cake mix over the apples.
  • Line the thin pads of butter over the cake mix.
  • Top with pecans.
showing how to make apple dump cake recipe by adding thinly sliced pads of butter on top of the cake mix followed by pecans

STEP 3:  Bake

  • Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges.
  • Dig in!
up close of a scoop of apple dump cake recipe with apples, cake mix, butter and pecans

HOW TO SERVE APPLE DUMP CAKE

The BEST Apple Dump Cake recipe is served warm, fresh from the oven.  It becomes exponentially more delicious with a big, cold scoop of vanilla ice cream to cut through the richness.  The cold, silky smooth ice cream mingled with the warm, sweet, tender, cinnamon apples is heavenly!   

I also love a drizzle of Caramel Sauce – because caramel makes everything better – but honestly this Apple Dump Cake doesn’t even need it!  You could also try serving it with fresh fruit such as raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries.

TIPS FOR MAKING APPLE DUMP CAKE RECIPE

  • Use Granny Smith Apples. As previously discussed, Granny Smith Apples create the perfect tender apples without becoming mushy.  Their hint of tartness also balances the sweet filling and topping so your Apple Dump Cake isn’t too sweet.
  • Room temperature apples.  If you’ve been keeping your apples in the refrigerator, make sure you take them out a couple hour before baking. Room temperature apples will bake more evenly.
  • Kitchen gadgets.  Peeling and slicing the apples take the majority of prep time in this recipe but if you have an apple peeler and corer and/or food processor (with attachment) for slicing the apples, your prep time can be cut in half.
  • Slice apples uniformly.  Slice your apples between 1/4-1/2-inch thick, measuring half inch at the widest part.  Do not slice the apples any smaller or they will become very soft.  Uniform thinly sliced apples ensure you beautifully tender apples throughout without some crunchy ones mixed in.
  • Spread the cake mix evenly.  Make sure the cake mix is evenly spread over the apples without any clumps (use a fork to break up any clumps) so that it bakes evenly.
  • Use real butter.   If you want the BEST Apple Dump Cake recipe, you must use real butter, margarine won’t have the same effect.
  • Thinly slice the pads of butter.  We want the pads of butter to cover as much of the topping as possible so the cake mix is moistened evenly as it bakes.
  • Watch for a bubbling filling.  It’s important to bake the dump cake until the topping is golden and you see syrup bubbling up all around the edges of the pan.  This is a sign the filling has thickened in the middle.  If you skip this sign, then the filling will be runny beneath the cake.  If this happens to you, pop the dessert back in the oven and cover with foil if the topping is becoming too dark.
  • Let Apple Dump Cake stand 15 minutes before serving. This will give the sauce a chance to thicken a little more as it cools.
  • Serve warm. This Apple Dump Cake recipe can be served cold, warm or at room temperature but we are super fans of warm dump cake.
showing how to serve apple dump cake by adding it to a plate with caramel and ice cream

APPLE DUMP CAKE RECIPE VARIATIONS:

My favorite easy Apple Dump Cake is this classic recipe – but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up!  Here are some Apple Dump Cake recipe variation ideas:  

  • Use canned pie filling.  For 5-minute prep Apple Dump Cake recipe, swap the apple filling ingredients for two 21-ounce cans apple pie filling.
  • Omit nuts.  The pecans add a nice crunch to the top of the cake so I highly recommend them. Only omit them if you must.
  • Swap nuts.  Use chopped walnuts or almonds instead.
  • Add pears.  You can use half pears and half apples.  Pears bake more quickly than apples, so you will want to slice them thicker.  Pears are also sweeter than Granny Smith Apples, so reduce the sugar slightly.  
  • Add cranberries.  Cranberries and apples are heavenly together!  Try replacing 1 ½ cups sliced apples with 1 ½ cup fresh cranberries.  Don’t use frozen cranberries because they will release too much moisture.
  • Add caramel.  You can easily make this Caramel Apple Dump Cake by reducing the sugar in the filling to ¼ cup then drizzling the Apple Dump Cake all over with caramel sauce.
  • Make gluten-free Apple Dump Cake.   Swap the flour in this recipe with gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour and use your favorite gluten free yellow cake mix. 
  • Make vegan Apple Dump Cake.  Replace the butter with vegan butter in both the filling and the topping.  Double check that the cake mix ingredient are vegan.

HOW LONG IS APPLE DUMP CAKE RECIPE GOOD FOR?

Apple Dump Cake is the very best fresh from the oven but can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.  Allow the dump cake to cool completely at room temperature. Once cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or transfer to an airtight container.  Refrigerated Apple Dump Cake is good for 3-4 days.

HOW TO REHEAT APPLE DUMP CAKE?

  • Microwave:  microwave servings for 45 seconds then at 20 second intervals until warmed through.   
  • Oven:  cover and reheat the baking dish at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until heated though.  You can also transfer smaller portions to a smaller baking dish or cast-iron skillet to reheat.

CAN YOU MAKE APPLE DUMP CAKE AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes, you can prep Apple Dump Cake ahead of time but keep unbaked apple filling and the topping separate. 

TO PREP AHEAD:

  • Prepare filling according to recipe directions in a 9×13 pan.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to one day.
  • Slice the pads of butter and refrigerate.  Chop the pecans and store in an airtight container. 
  • When ready to bake, sprinkle topping evenly over filling, add butter and pecans.
  • Bake according to directions, adding an extra 5-10 minutes due to the cold start.

CAN YOU FREEZE APPLE DUMP CAKE?

Yes, baked Apple Dump Cake can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container but be aware the topping will be even softer once thawed. Thaw the frozen dump cake in the refrigerator overnight then reheat per above method.

up close of apple dump cake with ice cream and caramel in a bowl

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Apple Dump Cake

You won’t be able to stop eating this Apple Dump Cake!  It’s a delectable mashup between apple pie and apple cake to create an easy, stress-free dessert that will disappear in a flash.  Best of all, this recipe uses fresh apples for the best flavor and texture AND can be assembled ahead of time.  To make this Apple Dump Cake recipe, thinly sliced Granny Smith Apples are enveloped in a brown sugar, cinnamon coating, topped with yellow cake mix, melted butter and pecans then popped in the oven and baked to tender apple, buttery cake perfection.  It’s a must bake dessert this season!
Servings: 8 -12 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

FILLING

  • 8 cups/3 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, sliced (1/4-1/2”)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (see notes)*
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp EACH ground ginger, ground nutmeg, allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

TOPPING

  • 1 15.25-oz. yellow cake mix (do not prepare)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1 /2 sticks) unsalted butter, sliced into thin pads (about 18 slices)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9×13 baking dish or spay with cooking spray.
  • Add all of the Filling ingredients except the apples to the 9×13 pan and whisk to combine. Add the apples and gently stir until apples are evenly coated. The mixture will be thick but will loosen as it mixes with the apples. Spread the apples into an even layer.
  • Evenly spread the dry cake mix over the apples followed by the pads of butter. Top with pecans if using.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around the edges. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Video

Notes

*If using a sweeter cake mix like Betty Crocker Sweet Yellow Cake Mix only use ½ cup sugar.  

HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT

  • To store: refrigerate covered or in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • To freeze:  transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.  Be aware the topping will be even softer once thawed.
  • To reheat in the microwave:  microwave servings for 45 seconds then at 20 second intervals until warmed through.   
  • To reheat in the oven:  cover and reheat the baking dish at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until heated though.  You can also transfer smaller portions to a smaller baking dish or cast-iron skillet to reheat.

PREP AHEAD

  • Prepare filling according to recipe directions in a 9×13 pan.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to one day.
  • Slice the pads of butter and refrigerate.  Chop the pecans and store in an airtight container. 
  • When ready to bake, sprinkle topping evenly over filling, add butter and pecans.
  • Bake according to directions, adding an extra 5-10 minutes due to the cold start.

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6 Comments

  1. Karen says

    Hey Jen! I’d like to try this recipe as it looks like it could be a bit of a timesaver. Question for you: what brand of yellow cake mix do you use? I’m not trying to be difficult but so many boxed cakes, brownies and other “quick” treats taste artificial. (Didn’t realize this until I started baking from scratch). Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Karen, I used Betty Crocker Sweet Yellow Cake Mix. Enjoy!

  2. Gail Wilson says

    Jen,
    I made this apple cake for a get together on Sunday. Needless to say it was amazing and there were no leftovers! I just put another cake in the oven. This one is for the family and everyone has been in the kitchen, very excited about desert, and sniffing the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and apples baking. Thank you for another great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Gail. I love hearing this recipe was such a huge hit!

  3. Stephanie says

    This dessert was SOOO GOOD! This apple dump cake was so yummy and so easy for my 11 yr old to make. We don’t care for the traditional dump cakes which are just too goopy & too sweet. The pecans gave perfect crunchy texture and a scoop of vanilla ice cream is a must for this recipe! Thanks Jen!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Stephanie, I love hearing this recipe was such a hit and that is awesome your daughter made it! I’m so pleased it was both easy and delicious!

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