Make Ahead

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

April 26, 2021
50 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

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

Watch This Recipe
Chocolate Dump-It Cake
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • 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
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F, 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 completely, 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.)
  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. Cut the cake into two layers. Lay the top layer, top-side-down onto a cake plate (or whatever serving platter you like). Spread with icing. Top with the bottom layer, setting the bottom-side-up. This will give you a straighter edge (see photo of finished cake). Ice the top, sides, and center. (If you like a lot of icing, 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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Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

367 Reviews

Vjean April 13, 2021
The cake did not rise evenly and sank a bit, but once finished (upside down!) looked fine. Could high altitude cause the rising problem? Used a tube angel food cake pan. The icing started to solidify when I was making it, but I heated it over a pan of hot water, added some milk and got it back to the right consistency. My dump cake does look dumpy! Will try it again sometime.
Vjean April 14, 2021
... the cake is delicious
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 15, 2021
So glad you like the flavor! :)
scrickmore April 4, 2021
I’ve made this twice....both attempts failed. First time my pan was too small and batter oozed over the top. My mistake.

Second time I used a bigger pan. I checked doneness at 30 minutes. Looked good, but not done, went back to check and caked had collapsed/caved in. What went wrong? Why did it collapse?
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 4, 2021
Hello! Sorry to hear this -- was your second cake made in a tube pan? While the cake can be made in two regular cake pans (one for each cake layer), it's best made in a tube pan so the heat surrounds more of the cake. Let me know!
scrickmore April 6, 2021
Yes, the second cake was made in a tube pan.
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 11, 2021
I'm sorry -- I'm a bit stumped by this. Is there any chance your baking soda or baking powder are old? Another potential cause could be if you dip and sweep your flour, you might be doing it *so* well that there's not quite enough flour -- but this seems like a long shot.
Jenny T. March 25, 2021
I was wondering, since I do not have a tube pan, can I use a regular pan for baking this cake and if so what size pan and does the cooking time remain the same or not? I want to bake this for my husband's birthday. Thank you!
Author Comment
Amanda H. March 28, 2021
If you use a regular 9" pan, I recommend using two (one for each layer), because they will bake better. If you do this, the baking time will be shorter; I'd check after 15 minutes and then keep checking every couple of minutes if they're not done at 15 min. Hope this helps!
Lesparnes February 20, 2021
Great cake. Just wondering what the vinegar does?
Made it in a Bundt and didn’t make 2 layers, just made less yummy frosting .
Added a bout a tablespoon of instant espresso. Learned that from Ina Garten.
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 21, 2021
The vinegar helps the milk curdle to replicate sour milk, which is what the original recipe called for. And thank you for the instant espresso tip!
Danielle C. February 16, 2021
do leftovers (if there are any!) need to be refrigerated? thanks
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 16, 2021
You have leftovers? :) Technically, yes you should refrigerate the leftovers because the icing has sour cream in it. Let it come to room temp before eating!
Pmclancy February 15, 2021
Hi we loved the cake but as others noted the icing was too tangy for us. Any suggestions on cutting back the tang - maybe use half the sour cream or substitute something else?? Thx
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 15, 2021
Hi there -- yes, you can cut the sour cream with Greek yogurt.
Jill S. February 14, 2021
I made this cake today for Valentines Day. Love it! I actually made 2 nine inch cakes and used 2 cups sour cream and 2 cups cc for icing. Now I had to sit on my hands so not to mix the frosting early lol. I love the tanginess the sour cream gives the frosting. Now doubt I will make this again.
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 14, 2021
So glad you like it!
Amy February 14, 2021
I used the same pans! 22 min at 375 in my oven. I actually waited too long for mixing frosting ingredients and the chocolate chips were solid lol! Had to re-warm but then it mixed beautify. Frosting a bit tangy for my family but overall a tasty cake. Thank you!
Amy February 13, 2021
Has anyone tried darker chips for the frosting? Making tomorrow for Valentine's Day! Thank you :)
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 13, 2021
I’ve done darker chocolate and it works well!
Stephanie G. February 4, 2021
This cake is super yummy! It’s really chocolate-y and moist.
I wasn’t patient enough with the icing and the chocolate seized up. I ended up going ahead and mixing in the sour cream and then microwaving for 10 seconds then mixing, I had to repeat that at least 4 times - but it turned out perfect! I will definitely be making this cake frequently!!
Judy January 31, 2021
Love the cake but I am curious why you left the 1 cup of water out of the ingredients list. I knew I saw water when I saw the video, had to check back into the directions to find out where the water went.
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 31, 2021
Great question -- it's just a recipe writing style rule we follow, where water is never listed as an ingredient (because it's not something you have to shop for) and is instead just included in the instructions.
Smaug February 4, 2021
Personally I'd rather see it in the ingredients, especially in that quantity, as it would help in getting a clearer view of the recipe from the ingredients list (not that you shouldn't read the instructions before starting). Besides, I never have to shop for tomatoes, peppers, most herbs etc.; I still think they need to be included in recipes.
MeghanSK January 31, 2021
This has been a favourite recipe of mine since reading Cooking for Mr. Latte! I am living outside the US now and not sure where to find unsweetened chocolate. I do have 72% chocolate... is there anyway I can substitute the unsweetened chocolate with that? Perhaps by using a less sweet sugar like coconut sugar? Or perhaps a 50/50 mixture of cocoa powder with vegetable oil & the 72% chocolate?
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 31, 2021
Hi Meghan, 72% chocolate isn't super sweet, so I'd just cut back on the amount of sugar you use. I'd do 1 1/2 cups rather than 2 cups.
Dorte January 31, 2021
How much is 1 cup ? Gram ?
Laurendiane January 31, 2021
Cups Grams
1/2 cup 64 g
2/3 cup 85 g
3/4 cup 96 g
1 cup 128 g
I hope this helps. Please let me know.
Elisa V. January 27, 2021
I loved it! The cake is so light, moist, and fluffy! Yum. I loved the frosting but my family had mixed feelings on it. For future reference, any offer suggestions for frosting or icing for this cake? Thanks!
Penny G. January 10, 2021
I'm about to take this cake out of the oven. I saw the video on Facebook one evening, and found the recipe intriguing. After reading the comments whilst waiting for it to bake, I was a little worried that when I checked it at 27 minutes, I might find a soupy mess! However, while it does need just a few more minutes to finish baking, it's not soupy at all, has risen beautifully, and I am super excited to try that unique frosting, as well! I think I am going to wait until morning, or at least very late this evening, to even attempt to frost it. I chuckled Amanda, as you said that you worry every time because of how loose this batter is...and then, when it was mixed, I understood-perfectly! Thank you so much for sharing an heirloom quality recipe with the rest of us! My little house smells divine, and I can hardly wait to try this!
Robin L. January 10, 2021
I made this a second time yesterday. Turned out great! The only thing for me that is a good challenge is the frosting. Getting them both at room temp just takes time, no rushing that. I’ll make it again I’m sure.
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 10, 2021
Yes -- and because I'm impatient, it took me years to learn my lesson and wait to get it right!
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 10, 2021
So glad you gave it a try -- enjoy!
Penny G. January 10, 2021's DELICIOUS!!! Turned out perfectly!! Thank you!!
Robin L. January 10, 2021
Lolol.. I hear ya on that!
Penny G. January 10, 2021
I didn't wait, LOL! The cake was completely cool...the frosting IS a little tricky, but luscious! Absolutely worth making! And...the picture I took of it...that's food porn, friends!!
priya December 31, 2020
I have this cake in the oven in a Bundt pan. Since the pan makes cakes with decorative edges, is there a way to thin out the icing so it’s more pourable? Maybe with buttermilk, or stirring in the sour cream while the chocolate is still warm?
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 1, 2021
Priya, I'm sorry I didn't see your message until now. I think adding room temperature milk or buttermilk would be the way to go. Hope all turned out well -- let me know!
priya January 1, 2021
I used buttermilk and it worked perfectly! It was pourable enough to drizzle a little down the sides and then harden.
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 1, 2021
So glad you followed your instincts and it worked out! Thanks for letting me know!
Addie K. December 30, 2020
I've made this a couple times very successfully, but the last few times I made it my dry ingredients aren't incorporating well and it's lumpy - would this perhaps be because I am not allowing the wet to cool enough? Any tips on how to avoid this would be appreciated, I love this recipe!
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 1, 2021
I don't think it has to do with temperatures. Have you tried adding the dry ingredients more slowly -- say, in 1/3 cup increments? That may help. Also, if you're using a spatula to fold in the dry ingredients, try using a large whisk, which will help break up the lumps.
EatPrayandEatAgain November 12, 2020
My children absolutely loved this cake, and it was easy to assemble. So moist and decadent. Thanks for sharing.
Author Comment
Amanda H. November 12, 2020
Great to hear! Thank you!
Ginger S. November 2, 2020
OMG, I am so very glad I came upon this moist firm beyond tasty Dump It cake recipe! It turned out better than expected. I’m a bit weird regarding texture and so pleasantly surprised because it is firm moist bouncy!!!!LOL. You have to make it to understand how really special it is! Thanks Amanda.
Author Comment
Amanda H. November 2, 2020
Glad you gave it a try!
Ginger S. November 9, 2020
So, the first cake disappeared in 2 days made it again today...same ingredients yet, yet the finished cake too fluffy, first one was firmer, but still moist?
Only thing I did different was cook 8 more minutes as center was too wet???Hmpf!!!
Lorraine October 26, 2020
I made this cake for my sisters birthday and now I have a request to make it again for Halloween, and because I can’t leave things alone as perfect as they are, I want to add 1/2 cup of chopped almonds and half a cup of chopped dried prunes. Do you think it will work?
Author Comment
Amanda H. October 26, 2020
Sure, why not! Happy Halloween!
Lorraine November 3, 2020
I added one cup of toasted almonds and chopped prunes and apricots, it was just delicious. love this cake
Author Comment
Amanda H. November 3, 2020
Great to hear this!
Corinne C. October 24, 2020
I came across your facebook page making this cake and loved the name, ha. Loved that you are your authentic self, keeping it real. I made this for a birthday celebration last night and it was a huge hit. Huge! Even my worst critic (family :)) loved it and had 2 slices. We don't care for american frosting (too too sweet) and this frosting was perfection. The cake was everything you want it to be, moist, perfect crumb, spongy dense. And for me the best part is that it is so easy and like you said, no one will ever think it is not a fancy cake. It's my go to now. Making it again for a birthday celebration next weekend. Thank you for generously sharing your Mum's recipe. Cheers.
Author Comment
Amanda H. October 24, 2020
So glad you liked it. And I agree with you about most American frostings being too sweet!