Baked without mixing.
The modern dump cake, like the one on this card, involves sandwiching dry cake mix between layers of canned fruit and butter, then baking. What comes out is a sweet, rich, cobbler-like preparation with minimal mess.
This kind of recipe dates to about the 1960s–here’s a mention from the February 26, 1967 edition of the Jefferson City (Missouri) News And Tribune:
1 large can crushed pineapple
Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and put in the pineapple. Then spread on the pie filling, add the dry cake mix, sprinkle on the nuts and dot with the butter.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Top with whipped cream or topping, or ice cream.
Of course, to have a dump cake with that recipe, you need to have cake mix, and cake mix showed up on the shelves in the late 1920s. There was an entirely different dump cake before then, which got the name for the ease of mixing.
Here’s one from the January 6, 1912 edition of the Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call:
Dump into a dish all together the following articles: One cup butter, two cups sugar, three eggs, four cups flour, one pound chopped raisins, one teaspoon soda in a cup of cold water, two teaspoons cream tartar. Any spice you choose. Mix well. Bake in two deep pans.
And before either of those, there was an earlier, more mystical version. Here’s an explanation from the October 28, 1899 edition of the Greencastle (Indiana) Star-Press, from a story about activities for Halloween get-togethers:
By baking a “dump cake” It can be learned which of a party of young women will be married first. The sterner sex is banished. A cake is mixed in silence. If anyone speaks she is thrown out of the charmed circle. She will be the last to be married, and will make a poor match at that. When the cake is finished and set in the oven the door will open. A man will walk into the room. The girl upon whom his eye first falls will be the first led to the altar.
From the box of L.R. from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
1 large can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 large can cherry pie filling
1 box yellow butter recipe cake mix
1 cup pecan pieces
1 small can coconut (optional)
1 cup margarine
Dump pineapple into 9×13 pan. Layer cherry pie filling over pineapple. Sprinkle cake mix over filling, covering completely. Sprinkle nuts and coconut over cake mix. Dot margarine as top layer. Bake 350 for 1 hour. Serve hot or cold from pan.