Tuesday, March 22, 2011

what in the world is "cheapie dessert"? and a recipe for homemade organic cake mix

as always, it is impossible for me to just answer the question.  i need to tell you a story...so...here goes...

last week was our book club meeting.  i have told you about this group many times...we get together each month to discuss the selected book (we really do discuss the book), but the emphasis always seems to be on eating, drinking, talking and laughing.  this month we read a visit from the goon squad by jennifer eagan.  our hostess, my friend rachelle, sent the following message regarding the food theme:

"To fit in with the "time is a goon" theme, I thought it would be fun if we each brought a dish that played a significant role in either your childhood or in your family's history. OR, if that stumps you, bring something that you would like to make a significant part of your culinary future."

photo courtesy ashley nicole teplin

so i thought about all the dishes my mom is known for and for some reason decided it was time to immortalize her "cheapie dessert".  you would have to know my mom to understand the significance of the name.  let's just say my mom loves deals...and specials...and sales...and coupons.  oh my!  it is not like she is cheap...she is one of the most generous people you will ever meet.  my sisters and i have to fight with her to pay for a meal...we never win.  but tell her about a sale...and her eyes light up.  it is a running joke in my family.  i swear, you could be anywhere in the world with my mom and she will suggest a restaurant for dinner by saying "i just happen to have a coupon for buy one, get one".  she has two freezers and they are always full because she cannot pass up a special at the market.

so, anyway, back to the dessert.  i just found out by prepping for this story that the recipe is actually called dump cake (what a bad name!) and that it is pretty famous.  i had no idea.  when my sisters and i were really little, our next door neighbor mr hartzler taught my mom to make a version of the dessert i am going to share with you...but he never told her the name and we all assumed he invented the concoction.  i have since learned it is called "dump cake" because you dump cherry or apple pie filling into a baking dish, top it with a box of dry cake mix, drizzle a stick of melted butter over the top and bake for a hour.   i know it sounds weird and bad but everyone loves it. 

my mom insisted i tell you that she made it because "in those days you could buy cake mix on sale for 79 cents a box and pie filling for 39 cents so it was really cheap to make".  hence the "cheapie dessert" moniker.  as she says, "it is now much more expensive to make, but people love it so i keep making it".  and, i must admit, it is true...people love it.  i have memories of my now almost 15 yr. old nephews asking for "heapie dessert" when they were two because they couldn't quite pronounce the c.  my mom usually makes everything from scratch...and her cakes, cookies, cream puffs and brownies are amazing...but the "cheapie dessert" remains a mainstay. i think it is because it is so fast and easy.

so...with a name like "cheapie dessert", i knew it would be perfect for book club.  but i decided to give it the napa farmhouse 1885 treatment.  my goal was to reinvent this dish and make it healthy while retaining its easy, fast and delicious reputation.  the fruit part was a no brainer...i make pies all the time, so a mixture of organic apples, with organic citrus zest/juice, seasonings and agave nectar was the easy part.  the cake mix was a bit trickier because i honestly didn't know what was IN cake mix.  after walking the baking aisles of the grocery store and studying the ingredients of a number of brands it seemed like...once you eliminated all the preservatives...the mix was flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and fat.  so i experimented with proportions until i came up with a blend that i really like.  to keep it "cleanse friendly" i have been using vegan "buttery" sticks...i like the brand "earth balance", but regular butter works just as well.  best of all you can actually use this to make cakes!!  but, today..."cheapie dessert"

when i told my mom about the revisions i made to her recipe she said, "diane you are pushing my buttons".  when i told her my next experiment was to tweak it to use extra virgin olive oil and cornmeal with a blueberry filling she said "now you are really pulling my buttons" ?? :)  but don't you think that sounds good?

so...to wrap up this long tale...book club girls loved the dessert, i have a blog story and the world now knows about "cheapie dessert"...  success!  oh, and try the recipe...it really is delicious...kind of a cross between a crisp and a cobbler.  (and my version is not very expensive either...serves 10...maybe not "cheapie"...but reasonable)

did you grow up eating dump cake?  if so, please tell me how you or your mom make it....

connie's "cheapie dessert" my way

cake mix topping
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup vegan "butter", room temperature and cut into small pieces

3 lbs organic apples (i used both granny smith & suncrisp), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
zest of one meyer lemon + 2 tbsp juice
zest of one orange + 2 tbsp juice
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice powder

1/2 cup vegan "butter", melted
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  butter (1 use vegan) a 2 qt shallow baking dish and set aside.

make the cake mix:  combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a mixer or food processor and mix just to combine.  add the sugar and agave nectar and pulse a couple of times.  add the "butter" and pulse until thoroughly incorporated in the the dry mix.  set aside.

make the filling:  add the apples to a large bowl.  add the lemon and orange zest and juice and the agave nectar and stir to combine.  add the cinnamon and chinese 5 spice powder and stir until mixed.

pour the apple mixture into the prepared baking dish.  using a large spoon scatter the cake mix topping over the apple mixture until the entire top is covered.  you want about 1/2 inch of cake mix topping.  **NOTE, you will have leftover mix, save for another cheapie or for baking a cake**,  drizzle the melted butter over the top of the cake mix.  drizzle the grapeseed oil over the butter. 

place on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until topping is golden brown and apples are bubbling.  let sit 15 minutes and serve hot, warm or room temperature.  delicious as is...even better with ice cream.  (note, i have been eating ice cream make with coconut milk and sweetened with agave nectar.  still in the "healthy" catagory...and amazingly good.  i like the brand luna & larry's organic coconut bliss.)  or just use your favorite organic ice cream....

with the best intentions, i brought home a piece of the dessert to photograph the next morning.  i am so not a professional photographer and need the sun for halfway decent photos.  i came into the kitchen to find peter eating the "cheapie dessert" for breakfast...he loved it!  happy about that...but, sadly, no photos of cut pieces for the blog.  if you make the dessert and decide to photograph the filling or a piece of the dessert...please send me a copy and i will add to this post :)

happy spring everyone and, mom...i love you!


diane padoven

napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page
Follow napafarmhouse on Twitter

to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...


Karen said...

Hi Diane,
We never had dump cake growing up but your version sounds interesting. Could I use boxed cake mix instead?

patricia_0815 said...

Hi Diane
Your dessert recipe brought back memories - my mother used cherry pie filling and yellow cake mix with butter of course. I liked your cake mix recipe - wonder if rice or soy flour would work as well.......just might have to do some experimenting.

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi patricia..yes, please let me know if the rice or soy flour works. i love knowing there are other "cheapie dessert" groupies out there :)


napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi karen
of course you can use cake mix...that is the original recipe. i have seen organic and/or gluten free cakes mixes at whole foods. have never tried them..but if you do please let me know how the dessert turns out.