Do you get pleasantly surprised every now and again at how good some of the most simple recipes turn out? Peach dump cake is one of those surprise recipes in my book, for sure. I am a picky eater and have a tendency to think that more complex and advanced recipes result in more refined and complex flavors, rightly or wrongly. Well, this peach dump cake recipe showed me that it ain't always the case. Like many home cooks out there, I struggled with this simple peach dump cake initially. After some trial and error, it works 100% of the time for me now.
This recipe has become so popular in our family that it's now a regular. The best part is that you can use any fruit or berries with this recipe, and they can be fresh, canned or frozen.
Preparing the peaches
For a smoother texture of the filling I peel the peaches, which should not be hard when peaches are fully ripe. If they are not ripe enough, a quick blanching will solve the problem. Just carefully immerse the peaches in boiling water for about 30-40 seconds, remove and give them a cold shower. Now the skin will come right off.
The cake mix - commercial vs. homemade
Most every dump cake recipe that I've seen out there called for a store-bought cake mix. This technically makes sense. A dump cake is supposed to be easy, hence the name. Who wants to make own cake mix for the dump cake? This kind of defeats the whole purpose, right? Well, not exactly.
A cake mix is just a combination of four basic ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Every home cook will mostly likely have them readily available in the kitchen and it takes minutes to find and mix them together.
As well, in a homemade cake mix you won't be getting all the chemicals, wonders of modern food industry, and the resulting off flavors. The Kitchn wrote an interesting article on commercial vs. homemade cake mixes and concluded that there is virtually no time saving when using commercial cake mixes and that the homemade cake mix wins in taste department hands down.
Making the peach dump cake work
The idea of dumping a few basic ingredients into a baking dish and getting a beautiful peach dump cake half an hour later is so appealing. This explains the multitude of dump cake recipes online. Do they work? I hate to break it to you, but sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. I've had the hardest time making this peach dump cake work. I've had more success making my first mille-feuille than this supposedly super easy dump cake.
What doesn't work?
For some unknown reason most peach dump cake recipes - and other dump cakes out there - emphasize that you are not to stir the ingredients. Why? Beats me. Will stirring make the effort less easy? Absolutely not. It only takes 15 seconds or so. But not stirring the ingredients is the source of the problem, I think.
As I said before, my initial attempts to make a peach dump cake kind of worked some time, but most of the time they did not. I tried close to a dozen different recipes. I tried to stick true to the process - so no mixing. This almost always created a problem - the cake mix would not get fully hydrated during baking and I would end up with a cake that has lumps of dry flour mix. Sometimes I would end up with the whole surface covered with toasted dry flour.
To fix the problem I covered the surface of the unbaked cake with butter pats, which was suggested by a couple of recipes I found online. The crust came out perfectly baked where I had butter pats, with patches of dry flour in between. Darn! I rescued it by covering dry flour patches with more butter pats and baking a bit longer.
Is the butter not covering the entire surface of the mix the problem? The next time I cut butter sticks very thinly to ensure I can cover the entire surface with the same amount of butter. That trick did barely anything to address the problem. The layer of butter too thin? Maybe. But I don't want too much butter in my dump cake.
Then I noticed that where flour mix touched the liquid in the baking dish the mix got hydrated and perfectly cooked. So I increased the amount of peach juice. That did not help much with the flour clumps and resulted in a liquid-y mess at the bottom of the cake. Not a good solution.
I also tried cutting the butter into the cake mix, like you would when making pie dough. I thought it would help, but it absolutely did not. The entire surface of the cake ended being dry, toasted flour. Again, I had to rescue it. I mixed the dry flour with the rest of the ingredients and baked for another 15 minutes. I came out looking messy, but still tasted delicious. I mean, here's what was left of it 8 minutes after I took it out of the oven.
So, why did it work some times? I have no idea. Nor do I care much. If it doesn't work every time, unless you as a chef mess up, it's a bad recipe.
What does work?
When making a dump cake with fresh peaches or other fresh fruit it's important to make sure that the flower mix gets properly hydrated and cooked during the bake to avoid dry flour clumps, we know that already. So, how do we get that? Obviously, dumping a bunch of dry cake mix over fresh peaches and sparsely covering the mix with butter pats doesn't work too well.
Through some experimentation I found that you need several things in place in order to make your peach dump cake work every time. Mix the ingredients then dump!!! That's the only way that worked for me 100% of the time.
If you do know of a way to not mix and get a perfectly cooked peach dump cake every single time, let me know. Otherwise here is how to make the best peach dump cake and it works 100% every time.
- Mix the ingredients
- Reduce the amount of cake mix. Less cake mix means better hydration during baking. And fewer calories needed to be burned in the gym later. Most of the recipes I've seen call for about 4 cups of flour (one box of yellow cake mix). That's insane. Two cups are plenty enough.
- With fresh peaches you need additional liquid. You see, canned peaches, often used to make peach dump cakes, come with a fair amount of liquid, which you don't discard and use in the cake, and that liquid is what helps moisten the cake mix and ensure proper cooking. As a result, when using fresh peaches you need to add a little bit of liquid. What works for me is adding about 1/2 cup of peach juice, or mango juice, or any other juice I have on hand.
- 8-9 peaches fully ripe medium size; peeled, pitted and cut in halves
- 3 Tbsp cane sugar or brown sugar; optional
- 1 Tbsp brandy or cognac; optional but HIGHLY recommended
- 1/4 cup peach juice or any other juice such as mango
- 1 stick butter unsalted; melted + 1 Tbsp for greasing
- 2 cups cake mix see notes
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter.
- Place the peach halves with the brandy and sugar in a large bowl and mix.
- Add the melted butter, the juice and mix.
- Add the cake mix and stir gently so as not to break the peaches, until there is no dry flour left.
- Dump the batter into the greased cake pan and spread evenly, keeping the peach halves cut side down.
- Bake in the preheated oven until top of cake is golden brown for about 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven. You may want to check for doneness at 30 minutes.
- Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
- 1 1/3 cup cake flour (all purpose flour will work just fine, I do it all the time)
- 2/3 cup fine sugar or powdered sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
When making dump cakes or crisps, I always add the juice of one lemon. It reduces the sugar taste and provides juice for the crisp as it bakes. I guess if the fruit is not juicy enough (or ripe enough), I might add fruit juice as you suggest in your recipe. I agree less commercial cake mix or homemade cake mix is better than the whole box or recipe. I also check on my crisp before it is done to be sure all the dry mix has butter because, I also, use less butter than most dump cakes call for. When I see the dry mix, I melt a little butter or move some butter in the pan to the dry spaces. It doesn’t take much additional butter to do this…maybe a tablespoon for all the dry spots. I think mixing creates a cobbler, not a crisp.
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
Good tips, Jeannine. Thank you.
Hi Victor, recipe sounds great! Do you think letting the fruit macerate for a while with the sugar will produce enough liquid to leave out the additional juice?
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
That will work, I've done it myself. If the peaches are very juicy, they will release quite a bit of juice. You can always add a splash or two of water if needed.
I am so happy I found this recipe. I had been having the same problems. I did do a substitute though. I have always liked almond flavoring with peaches so in place of the brandy & peach juice, I used 1/4 cup Amaretto. Soooo good!
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
Happy to hear that, Linda. We've made this cake three times this season already. SImple and so good!
Sheila in MD
I have some sliced and blanched frozen peaches from last summer (that I picked!) and would like to use them...wondering if you have any thoughts on if I should a. Defrost first and b. Perhaps decrease liquid a bit. I realize you may not have tested with frozen so just looking for a general thought! Thanks much!
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
Hi Sheila, I have not tested with frozen ones. I would defrost them first otherwise it would be a big guess on the amount of liquid.
Can you use canned peaches?
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
I've always made this recipe with fresh peaches but I don't see why not. I would drain them well and add a 1/4 cup of juice as in the recipe to make sure that the consistency of the batter is similar.
If you were to use blueberries or other fresh fruit would you simply add more liquid?
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
Sorry for the delayed response, Patty, lost your message was thrown in a pile of spam. To answer your question with 100% confidence I would need to do some testing. However, I would start with the same amount of liquid as otherwise you will be running the risk of making the batter too liquid. See how that works. I think it will be just fine. If you feel more liquid is needed, add more next time.
Catherine A Godwin
I have never liked dump cakes for the same reason, but I have been canning peaches for 4 days now and just wanted to use some for my family. I used:
4 cups of sliced peaches
1 box yellow cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of butter (I never cut back on butter)
1/2 cup of fresh peach freezer jam
Mixed all the ingredients together and smashed it all in a 9 x 13 cake pan. My peaches were not on the bottom since they were sliced, they were throughout the batter. (This actually took less time than trying to slice and place all those pats of butter.)Baked it as you instructed and IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! It turn out beautiful with some of the peaches on the top and the beautiful golden brown crust on top. I will definitely be making this one again. I can't wait to try out other fruit and I won't have to since this one is disappearing rapidly.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
You are very welcome, Catherine. Glad to hear about your success and the fact that this recipe changed your mind about dump cakes.
P.S. We went to a farmer's market yesterday and grabbed two half bushels of what seems to be the last peaches this season. This year - at least this one particular farm's - peaches are exceptionally juicy and flavorful. It goes without saying that I am making a peach dump cake this afternoon.
Thanks for a great recipes and the helpful hints. I marinated the peaches (from the farmer's market) in Peach Schnapps. Added vanilla and cinnamon, about 1/2 t each. For my oven, 375 degrees was too hot as the butter was getting very brown but the cake wasn't cooked. Lowered temp to 350 degrees, halfway thru. Next time I'll set oven temp for 350 degrees.
That's very interesting, because, as I mentioned above, last weekend my daughter made this peach dump cake and we had a heck of a time getting it to brown for some reason, and the dough was under-baked of course. We ended up extending the time and bumping the temp up to 425F in the end, that did the trick. This never happened before, and we make this cake at least half a dozen times each peach season. It so true how they say that everyone's oven bakes differently. Mine seems to have acquired a mind of its own, lol.
Thanks for being so specific and for all the helpful hints. Baking is really a science project. I enjoy using fresh produce from our local farmers markets and you often end up with too much produce that you need to use quickly.
You are very welcome! We went to the local farmer's market last Saturday and came back with half a bushel of wonderful peaches. My daughter immediately made a fresh peach dump cake using this very recipe. It turned out great, although it took a little longer to brown than usual. Still, in the end it tasted great. We served it topped with vanilla ice cream - oh, what an indulgence!
Can this recipe be made in the slow cooker?
Victor @ Taste of Artisan
I doubt it, though I've never tried.
This looks like a great recipe! Is it best to make it the day you're planning to serve it, or can it be made the night before?
It depends on your taste I suppose. I like it chilled, from the fridge the next day. My wife likes it fresh and warm, or warmed up the next day. Either way it tastes very good.
I just made this last night and it was the perfect recipe to use up the last of my fresh peaches. I didn't have the alcohol or the fruit juice so I sliced up the peaches, added the sugar, mixed it up and let it sit. This provided a good amount of juice so there was plenty of liquid with the butter to mix with the cake mix. Turned out amazing! Thanks so much for the recipe.
We made this dump cake three times this year during peach season. The recipe is super simple and the cake came out perfect every time. I've also had problems with 'no mixing required' recipes but never with this one. Good job!
Terrific idea to hydrate the mix! I'm about to try this peach recipe but have often had the same "dry flour on top" with the fresh apricot cobbler I make every season. Sometimes it comes out perfectly - but often it doesn't and I think you've nailed the problem. Bravo!
Thank you for your comment, Lyra. Much appreciated. Consistency is key, and mixing only takes 20 seconds. Makes you wonder why many recipes still insist on not mixing.
Looking forward to trying this! Making it for an office event though so REALLY cannot use any alcohol. It did say "optional" but is there a nonalcoholic option you would substitute? Thanks!
Lol, there is no substitute for the good stuff. If there is a good reason not to use alcohol (most of it will evaporate anyway only leaving nice aroma behind), skip it or try adding your favorite food essence. I don't use them, but my friend has a drawer full of essences that she loves using for baking.
I'm going to try to slice the cling peaches that I have and do the usual dump cake thing. Maybe since they are sliced it will make enough juice with the butter on top. If not I'm going to dump some pineapple juice on it and bake more. Enjoyed reading all the comments by others but yours at the beginning. Very interesting and fun to read.
Can you use other fruit with this recipe? Can you use canned fruit? I'm making peach tonight!
Other fruit is perfectly fine. I've used pears, apples and pineapples with great results. Canned should be fine too, though pay attention to the amount of liquid.
I am trying this right now. I melted butter and poured overdry cake mix. I also added some 7 up for juice because that's what I had. I will let you know.
I see you decided not to mix the ingredients... Hope it works. Do let me know how it turns out.
Mine too. I never could get a decent peach dump cake, always had patches of dry flour. Saw your recipe and decided to give it a try again. What a difference! Everyone loved the cake.
Glad to hear that, Lisa. Enjoy!
SOLVED MY PROBLEM
Glad I could help. Who would have thought that a recipe that is supposed to be one of the easiest on Earth would turn out so challenging and frustrating.