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Chocolate Dump-It Cake

April 30, 2010

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

- Amanda

My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. My mother used to do all of her baking late at night, after we were in bed. Around 1 in the morning, the aroma of this cake would begin wafting up to our bedrooms. Then we’d watch her frost it while we ate breakfast. My mother kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold.

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I wrote about this cake in my second book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, but wanted to celebrate it here on food52, as well.

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Adapted from Judith Hesser

Serves 10

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/ 4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/ 2 cups Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/ 2 cups sour cream, at room temperature

 1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)

3. When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good.

5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette. 


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doctorkelly June 28, 2020
I just saw you make this cake on Instagram. I’ve been experimenting with 4x3 cake pans. Do you have any suggestions with bake time, etc?
allie May 3, 2010
This has become our standard birthday cake -- though I frost it with glaze (made from dark chocolate and milk or cream) and go light on how much I use - my family didn't like the sour cream tang. I did, but in cooking for the kids one makes compromises (and also the cake is so good that a light glaze is adequate -- and sometimes I just dust with powdered sugar). It's always covered in sprinkles for the kids. I also add some coffee when it's an adult cake.
Amanda H. July 31, 2010
Love hearing how you've adapted it!
Veronica May 2, 2010
Amanda, shortly after Merrill started working for you she made this cake for Michael's birthday. It was a GIGANTIC hit but there were only 4 of us...so...I froze the remainder and secretly finished it off over the next 6 months! Thank you so much--it is the best chocolate cake ever. And now, how about getting YOUR mother up here to do a video with you? xoxoxo
Amanda H. July 31, 2010
Nice work -- and didn't know it could be frozen, so thank you for the tip!
Rhonda35 May 2, 2010
I have several comments regarding this cake. My first is that, in hindsight, I realize Mom was a proponent of eating seasonally/locally well before it was trendy. Our brother, Dean, always wanted Mom's strawberry shortcake for his January birthday, but got chocolate dump-it cake because strawberries were not in season. I, however, always wanted this chocolate cake, but got strawberry shortcake because I have a May birthday and our strawberry patch was overflowing in May. Funny how he and I both came to love our "assigned" cakes over the years!
Secondly, I disagree with the need to use a tube pan. For years, I have made this cake by baking it in two 9-inch rounds. I add about 5 minutes to the baking time and test for doneness with a toothpick.
The cakes freeze really well, so I usually have a few extra layers in the freezer, allowing me to produce a delicious cake in the time it takes to make the frosting and ice the cake. The cake defrosts as I ice it.
I just made this cake for a catering gig on Friday - a TexMex party - I changed up a couple of things and it was out of this world! Instead of using water to melt the chocolate and sugar, I used strong coffee and added a tsp of espresso powder for good measure. I also added 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1-2 tsp chili powder to the dry ingredients. When I iced the cake, I filled the layers with some of the icing (in accordance with the original recipe) and then drizzled a healthy amount of dulce de leche over that filling before topping it with the second layer. Iced the outside of the cake with the rest of the sour cream-chocolate frosting and made cinnamon whipped cream to serve with the cake slices. Really, really good!
dymnyno May 2, 2010
I meant to say that we read ALL the columns. It was our favorite...a little peak into your life and with recipes! My husband bought me your book when it first came out .
Amanda H. July 31, 2010
Somehow I missed all of these comments back when I wrote the post -- thanks so much!
auntiefruf May 2, 2010
How yummy - all the essential ingredients: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and sea salt. I'm going to make this for myself for Mother's Day - and I just might share it with my family. Now I'm off to the bookstore to pick up Cooking for Mr. Latte for more! Thanks for sharing this again, Amanda.
Kitchen B. May 2, 2010
I'm kicking myself on many counts - not reading the NY Times and hanging with the food section of Timesonline.co.uk; and not knowing you were an author of more than one book! Kick me....or send me some cake. The latter preferably. And when I read about grains of paradise, I laughed. In Nigeria we call it Alligator pepper and it is a wonderful remedy for colds and the flu. I never thought of it as part of any cooking repertoire. Its things like these that make me want to go back home and re-explore food with new eyes. Thanks
Amanda H. July 31, 2010
Didn't know it was called Alligator pepper -- thanks for that info. And for your nice note!
Aliwaks May 1, 2010

Funny I thought of Cooking for Mr. Latte the other day watching Grilling with Bobby Flay (or something like that) on the food network, this guy who works at wd-50 was the guest and he was using grains of paradise in place of pepper in his jerk sauce, and Bobby Flay was all "what is grains of paradise , I've never even heard of it" , I was thinking well, Bobby, Amanda wrote about them years ago, shame on you for not reading the NYTimes!, but maybe he just forgot.
Amanda H. May 1, 2010
So funny -- I had high hopes for grains of paradise. No luck.
dymnyno May 2, 2010
I love grains of paradise...a friend of mine manages the store at the CIA and she turned me onto the spice years ago. I substitute it for pepper sometimes.
mariaraynal April 30, 2010
I read the book shortly after it came out while on vacation and have come back to it often over the years -- both as a source for recipes and because it was wonderfully written. Amanda, I love how it serves up little slices of your lives through cherished recipes and memories within the larger story of your relationship with Tad. It changed how I looked at food, inspired me to become a better cook and got me all smitten with Meyer lemons.
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
Wow -- thanks for your note. And glad to know my secret plan to get everyone addicted to Meyer lemons is taking hold.
drbabs May 1, 2010
Before a few years ago, whenever I traveled to California in the winter I would come home with bags of Meyer lemons. Amanda, I think you're responsible for the fact that I can now get Meyer lemons at Trader Joe's.
drbabs April 30, 2010
I loved your book--read it on a trip to Paris and bought grains of paradise and fleur de sel there to bring home.... I thought the Mother's Day week was so much fun--like we really got to know each other a little through our histories and photos. Thank you to both you and Merrill for creating this forum.
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
Thank you -- hope you've enjoyed the grains of paradise. Wish they'd catch on more. We, too, really loved the Mother's Day recipes and photos -- those photos made me so weepy!
TheWimpyVegetarian April 30, 2010
This looks wonderful! And perfect for my husband's birthday this year. I particularly love the icing with the sour cream. Thanks for posting this.
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
The sour cream adds just the right amount of tang -- and people never guess that the icing is made with chocolate chips.
mrslarkin April 30, 2010
Yummy cake! Amanda, in step 5, when you cut the cake in layers, are you still baking it in a tube pan? And I'm pretty sure you still write for the NYT, or was it just another one of my food52 dreams?
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
Ha! Yes, I do (cue foot stomping)! And about the cake -- I always bake it in a tube pan. It's a wet, heavy batter do it doesn't bake as well as a full layer.
dymnyno April 30, 2010
I think I have the original column from the New York Times with this article...my husband and I always read you column right after "Vows". I wish that you had continued your life with recipes in that newspaper! The cake sounds delicious.
MrsWheelbarrow April 30, 2010
Since first reading this recipe in Cooking for Mr. Latte, it's a favorite dessert when friends show up for dinner. Thanks for repeating it on food52 - my favorite online, portable cookbook.
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
Thanks Dymnyno -- and sorry you missed the earlier columns. After a year and a half, I tired of the personal diary format and got back to regular reporting. And MrsWheelbarrow, didn't know you were familiar with this cake -- cool!
mtrelaun April 30, 2010
I've always been intrigued by this famous recipe of your mother's. Is the texture similar to that of KelseyTheNaptimeChef's Chocolate Bundt Cake?
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
It's definitely in the same family of cakes as KelseyTheNaptimeChef's, but her's has a finer, lighter texture. This is a little more hefty. Both are great cake recipes!
shayma April 30, 2010
Amanda, I fell in love with your work when I read this book- I had just moved to Rome and my sister had brought it for me as a gift- when she left I was sad and buried myself in your book. I remember this recipe well.
Amanda H. April 30, 2010
That's so sweet -- thanks. Glad you found it consoling.