This is a very simple recipe with wonderful flavors: caramel, cinnamon, and apples. Also called apple cobbler with cake mix, it has a layer of sweet pie filling and the easiest 2-ingredient topping for an easy dessert everyone will rave about.
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I don't know about you, but in this house, when apple season hits, the combination of apples and caramel is something we consider to be at the top of our list.
This is the perfect dessert to tackle those cravings, and a great recipe we make often.
What is a dump cake?
Dump cakes are one of the easiest desserts that consist of a layer of fruit pie filling and a topping made with boxed cake mix and butter. All pantry staples. And very, very delicious.
The original recipe calls for opening a can of pie filling and 'dumping' it on a baking dish, sprinkling over it the content of a purchased cake mix, covering it with thin slices of butter, and then baking it until the top is baked to a golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.
There are many flavor combinations possible, and let's just say that an apple caramel version was waiting to happen and that we plan to eat it regularly here, probably warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, mind you.
About this dessert
- Easy to make: making the apple pie filling from scratch is quite simple, but you can use the canned type to make your life easier. Especially if you already use a brand you love.
- Make ahead: just like a cobbler or an apple crisp, you can make this dessert a few days ahead of when you're planning to serve it and keep it refrigerated. Or even frozen for a few weeks. Simply defrost and warm it in the oven before eating it.
- Perfect for a crowd: if you have guests or a large family, it's a very easy apple dessert to put together that can be easily doubled, and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
This caramel apple dump cake is all about simple ingredients, many of them pantry staples.
- Dry cake mix: the type you find in the supermarket or grocery store, also called box cake mix. Whatever brand you want. I tend to use a yellow cake mix, but a white cake mix works very well too.
- Butter: use unsalted melted butter, whatever brand you use regularly.
- Homemade apple pie filling:
Brown sugar - works very well with apples and adds to the caramel flavor. You can use white sugar if that's all you have.
Apples - the best for this dessert are granny smith apples because they are acidic and balance out the richness and sugar from the rest of the ingredients.
Cornstarch - it thickens the filling.
Lemon juice - enhances the flavors.
Cinnamon - the one you normally use works fine. I like Frontier Vietnamese cinnamon and Simply Organic Ceylon cinnamon.
Vanilla - I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
- Store-bought apple pie filling can also be used.
How to make it
Apple pie filling
- Canned: simply open the can and dump its contents on the baking dish. You can sprinkle with additional cinnamon if you want a stronger flavor.
- Homemade: I like to make my own because I can adjust the flavor and thickness.
Apple wedges - slice them as thick or thin as you want, but consider that thicker wedges will keep their shape more, especially if you cook them first.
Should you cook the apples first? Use raw apples or lightly cook them first in butter and sugar. I like the second option because it adds a lot of flavor as the apples caramelize a little.
Apple layer: the apples are dumped onto the baking dish, sprinkled with cinnamon, and drizzled with cornstarch, lemon juice, and water. If you use raw apples, add sugar at this point.
Cake mix topping
This is the simplest part, making a dump cake so convenient and easy to put together.
Put the cake mix in a large bowl and add the melted butter.
Mix both ingredients until crumbly. It will have some floury spots.
Spread over the prepared apples, not covering them completely. You want to leave some spots uncovered for the juices to bubble and the topping to bake faster.
The baked dump cake is golden and bubbly. Let it cool down on a wire rack until warm enough to serve.
Vintage Kitchen tip: make sure the topping is fully baked. It might be golden and dry but still a little raw inside. So lift it carefully here and there and make sure it's not wet.
Family style desserts
What type of dish to use
Choose a nice baking dish you like to showcase on the table.
For me, ceramic ones are the best (I use my favorite Emile Henry ceramic rectangular dish whenever possible). There are several rectangular ceramic dishes, porcelain bakeware sets, glass baking dishes, or round ceramic baking dish that work.
Also, a cast-iron skillet fits this type of dessert if you like the Southern way.
A drizzle of it rounds up this incredible dessert.
- Homemade caramel sauce: until I post my favorite recipe, you can buy the topping online, like Ghirardelli caramel-flavored sauce, or make your own following this caramel sauce recipe.
- Dulce de leche: if you never tried this delectable sweet jam, you certainly should! I use it regularly since it's our most popular spread here in Argentina. I use my homemade dulce de leche recipe for this recipe, but you can easily buy it online. Links are in the Notes section of the recipe card below.
- How much should you add? Oh, as much as you want, probably! I drizzle about half a cup on top of the cake and then pass a small jar with more sauce so everyone can flood the bowl with as much caramel or dulce de leche as they want.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Cake mixes: white and yellow cake are the most common flavors for topping an apple dump cake, but you can also use a spice cake mix or even a chocolate one if you're a little more adventurous (like with the chocolate apple crisp recipe).
- Butter: the original recipe calls for putting thin slices of butter on top of the cake mix. After several tries, I find that melted butter is the best option to fully moisten the cake mix resulting in a doughy and crumbly topping. If you want to go the original way, there are images in the chocolate cherry dump cake post.
- Store-bought filling: this is the original idea, dumping a can of apple pie filling on a baking dish, so do take advantage of this alternative if you have a favorite one you love. It is, after all, an easy apple dump cake recipe.
- Flavorings: we use a mix of ground cinnamon and vanilla extract, but feel free to use apple pie spice mix. Also, a grating of lemon or orange zest in the filling will add an extra citrus tone if that's your thing.
- Serving it: we are partial to eating it warm with a scoop of ice cream (or whipped cream) and a heavy dose of caramel sauce or dulce de leche. But you can eat it at room temperature or warm with only the sauce on top.
Related recipes you might like:
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For the topping: (see Notes, below)
- 2 cups white cake mix (half an 18oz box)
- ½ cup butter, melted
For the apples:
- 4 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 10 medium)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons white or brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup of water
Caramel sauce or dulce de leche, for serving
- Have ready a rectangular 11x7-inch ovenproof dish in which you will serve the pudding. I like a ceramic dish, but glass also works. Remember the bread pudding will be served directly from the baking dish, so choose one that you like to put on the table.
For the apples:
- Peel, core, and cut the apples in wedges.
- Choose one of the two options below:
Raw apples: mix the wedges in a bowl with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Heavily butter the dish (use the amount in the ingredients) and arrange the apples.
Partially cooked apples: melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sprinkle sugar on top. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula and cook for about 3 minutes, until they begin to brown and caramelize here and there. Do not let them turn too dark or too soft. Remove from heat, add the cinnamon and lemon juice and arrange them in the prepared dish.
- Mix cornstarch with the water in a small bowl until no lumps remain and pour over the apples (for both options). It will not cover them completely, at all. You can mix everything lightly before adding the topping.
For the topping:
- Mix cake mix with the melted butter until you have a crumbly mixture.
- Top the apples with this, spreading it out slightly. It will not cover the filling completely and it will be very rustic-looking, and that is fine. Don't stir it and mix it with the apples, simply smooth it out a little.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden and dry, checking close to the end of the baking time by lifting the topping here and there, making sure it's completely baked inside. Bake it more if necessary, until the top is dry and the filling bubbles around the edges.
- Serve warm drizzled with caramel sauce or dulce de leche (find links below) or with whipped cream/scoop of ice cream in addition to the sauce.
- Refrigerate leftovers, covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Topping: if you want more topping than filling you can use 3 cups of cake mix and ¾ cup of butter, melted. You might probably need a longer baking time, so check at 45 minutes and see how it's going.
Cake mixes: white and yellow cake are the most common flavors for topping an apple dump cake, but you can also use a spice cake mix, a french vanilla cake mix, or even a chocolate one, like devil's food cake mix if you're a little more adventurous (like with the chocolate apple crisp recipe).
Butter: the original recipe calls for putting thin slices of butter on top of the cake mix. After several tries, I find that melted butter is the best option to fully moisten the cake mix which results in a much crumbly topping. If you want to go the original way, there are images in the chocolate cherry dump cake post.
Store-bought apple pie filling: this is the original idea, dumping a can of filling on a baking dish, so do take advantage of this alternative if you have a favorite one you love. It is, after all, an easy apple dump cake recipe.
Flavorings: we use a mix of ground cinnamon and vanilla extract, but feel free to use apple pie spice mix. Also, a grating of lemon or orange zest in the filling will add an extra citrus tone if that's your thing.
Serving it: we are partial to eating it warm with a scoop of ice cream (or whipped cream) and a heavy dose of caramel sauce or dulce de leche. But you can it eat at room temperature or warm with only the sauce on top.
Dulce de leche: I have the best dulce de leche recipe in this blog, but you can also buy it online. I like Dulce de Leche Cachafaz warmed with a few teaspoons of milk/water before using it, so it's more fluid. You can also buy a dulce de leche sauce like La Lechera.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Desserts
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: ⅛
- Calories: 565
- Sugar: 56.6 g
- Sodium: 362.6 mg
- Fat: 24.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 84.5 g
- Protein: 3.1 g
- Cholesterol: 55.6 mg
Keywords: apple dump cake