What easier way to welcome fall than with a hearty bowl of Apple Dump Cake? This recipe, with warm spiced apples layered under a buttery cake crumble, is friendly even to people that say they “can’t bake.”
Who anticipated they would still be searching for therapeutic outlets, well into October, from a global pandemic? I assure you, not this girl! Quarantine has got me baking more than ever, and I’m falling in love with the process.
But as someone who identifies more as a cook than a baker, I had to ease my way into baking. This recipe for Apple Dump Cake is the perfect blend of semi-homemade deliciousness to make you feel like a pastry chef. We all need a few wins right now, and this easy to throw together cake had me on cloud nine.
There are tons of recipes for Apple Dump Cake out there that call for apple pie filling, which is a fine substitute and, as you would imagine, a good shortcut to save time. I tested both fresh and canned apples, and I can’t lie—fresh apples absolutely stole the show. There is a significant improvement in taste and texture.
I used Honeycrisp apples for their balanced sweet-tart personality and sturdiness when baked. They are also incredibly juicy and, once cooked, those juices release, creating a syrup around the apples. For something more tart, I would recommend Granny Smith apples because they too are known for holding their structure in the oven—and they’ll also save you a pretty penny compared to Honeycrisp.
When making a dump cake with fresh apples, it’s best to chop versus slice them. I tried both methods but, when I sliced the apples, it created huge gaps in the foundation of the cake. With smaller chopped apples, you can fill those gaps better, kind of like playing Tetris.
Once the apples are in the skillet, you’ll add the cake mix (that’s the "semi-" in semi-homemade). If you can’t find spice cake mix, it’s okay to use yellow cake mix; just whisk in 2 teaspoons of apple pie spice. Then you’ll add the butter (or, as I like to say, butta). Like the apple layer, you want the cake mix layer to be evenly spread out. When adding the butter on top, there are two common approaches: melted butter and pats of butter. I do the latter. Again (you see I really tried here) I did both methods and, when using fresh apples, there was no way to get the melted butter evenly across the top layer. However, with the patted butter I got a perfectly even golden brown crust. Bingo!
Freezing the butter for about 10 minutes before slicing, with either a knife or vegetable peeler, is a surefire way to get really thin slices (at least 20 pats per stick!), which ensures the top gets completely covered.
In the end, it takes just three easy steps to achieve what I deem a superior Apple Dump Cake: 1) Fill skillet with seasoned, chopped apples evenly. 2) Layer cake mix evenly. 3) Pat top with thin slices of butter evenly.
Obviously there is a theme here, but I assure you: Even layers make all the difference in this sweet treat. Serve it up warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be on cloud nine too. —Meiko And The Dish
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
- Serves 8
medium Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
light brown sugar
apple or pumpkin pie spice
freshly squeezed lemon juice
(15-ounce) box of spice cake mix
(2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen and thinly sliced
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray. (If you don’t have one, you can use a 9x13-inch baking dish instead.)
- Stir the apples, honey, brown sugar, pie spice, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl until the apples are evenly coated. Pour this mixture into the prepared skillet. Use the back of your wooden spoon to press down the apples into an even layer, preventing large gaps.
- Pour the cake mix on top of the apples and use a spoon or flexible spatula to smooth into an even layer, all the way to the edges of the skillet. Evenly distribute the sliced butter on top, covering completely.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you see the juices bubbling around the edges of the skillet.
- Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.