Make Ahead

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

May 11, 2021
4.3 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. My mother used to do all of her baking late at night, after we were in bed. Around 1 in the morning, the aroma of this cake would begin wafting up to our bedrooms. Then we’d watch her frost it while we ate breakfast. My mother kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold. I wrote about this cake in my second book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, but wanted to celebrate it here on food52, as well. —Amanda Hesser

Watch This Recipe
Chocolate Dump-It Cake
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 10
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)
  3. When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.)
  4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good.
  5. Cut the cake into two layers. Lay the top layer, top-side-down onto a cake plate (or whatever serving platter you like). Spread with icing. Top with the bottom layer, setting the bottom-side-up. This will give you a straighter edge (see photo of finished cake). Ice the top, sides, and center. (If you like a lot of icing, use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

392 Reviews

Hannah February 16, 2022
We loved the cake which was on the denser side. But we did not enjoy the sour cream frosting. If I make the cake again, I’ll be using a traditional fudge frosting instead.
Jodi P. February 5, 2022
Unfortunately, the “helpful” cooking videos with adds that F52 forces on patrons now made this recipe page too distracting and irritating to want to consider baking this particular cake recipe - hard pass.
Stephanie G. February 5, 2022
The cooking videos and ads are off to the side and don't interfere with the page and I just mute their sound. It's not like that for you?

Seriously, this cake is super yummy! You should give it a try!!
Sara G. February 12, 2022
You can simply select “jump to recipe” which appears at the top of the page
Steele226 January 22, 2022
Have you ever made this with white chocolate?
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 22, 2022
I haven't but could be fun to try. You might need to make some alterations because white chocolate is just cocoa butter and sugar and unsweetened chocolate, which the recipe calls for, is a mix of cocoa solids and cocoa butter and does not contain sugar. I might cut back the sugar in the recipe by 1/2. Not sure what the absence of cocoa solids will do to the cake but worth experimenting!
Judi L. January 12, 2022
Very nice cake but needs a much nicer frosting.
Melissafitz January 2, 2022
My attempt at this cake was last minute so perhaps the result was adversely affected by that — the cake is tasty but a little dense and not very tall. Maybe I didn’t mix the flour in enough? (The pot I mixed it in was a bit too small, so my mixing ability was limited). Also I’m not 100% sure the oven got to temp before I started the bake. Anyway — it’s yummy so I’ll give it another try and will keep my past mistakes in mind! Thanks, Amanda!
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 2, 2022
Thanks for trying it out! It is a denser cake but a couple of tips may help: 1.) measure your flour by spooning it into your measuring cups and leveling off with a knife; if you measured another way, you may have had too much flour in the cake, which will make it dense. 2.) if your pan is too small, you can always pour the wet mixture into a large bowl before adding and folding in the dry ingredients. And agree with you that the oven temp is key. Hope this is helpful!
Melissafitz January 2, 2022
Thank you so much for your thoughts!! I measure by weight — 140gr per cup. My oven has been taking longer to preheat lately, so I’ll be a bit more patient next time. Meanwhile, it is a delicious cake and was a lovely breakfast! :)
Judi L. January 12, 2022
1 cup all-purpose flour is 120-128 grams.
Sophia September 19, 2021
We love this cake! It’s my son’s new favorite and has requested it for his birthday. How far in advance can I prepare it?
Author Comment
Amanda H. September 27, 2021
Up to two days if covered and refrigerated; let it come to room temperature before serving. Alternatively, I sometimes bake the cake a day ahead and ice it the day of serving.
KoraAdam June 10, 2021
Wondering if you think this could work in a 9 x 13 pan? I’d like to make it for a family party, but temps in the 90s with high humidity here, so would love to keep it simple and a bit sturdier in the pan…
Author Comment
Amanda H. June 13, 2021
Hi KoraAdam -- I haven't tried it but based on comments that people have left, it seems like the cake is pretty flexible and works in different pans. You may need to adjust the baking time tho! Hope it goes well!
mdt February 8, 2022
It works well in two 8" rounds and I had no issues removing it. Don't see why it wouldn't work in a 9x13. You might need to be a little careful removing it.
Sonia May 16, 2021
Hi! I've made this cake about 6 times, and every time, it gets rave reviews! Thanks for sharing your family recipe.
I have now been asked to make it in cupcake form. How much batter should I use for each? Would filling the molds halfway up the sides be too much? Thank you!
Author Comment
Amanda H. May 17, 2021
Hi Sonia -- happy to hear this! For cupcakes, I'd suggest filling the cups 1/3 to 1/2 full but no more or I think they'll run over -- and I'm not sure how long they'll take to bake; I'd check after 10 min. You may want to bake off a single cupcake first as an experiment before doing the rest. Also, then you have one to snack on while you bake the rest. :)
Sonia May 19, 2021
Thank you your advice! I will definitely bake a test cupcake first...strictly in the interest of making sure it doesn't run over! In fact to make extra sure, I might make a second!! ;-)
LYNNL May 16, 2021
I have a question about tube pans. Two piece tube pans drive me nuts. Always leaking. Do you use a one piece tube pan? Or do you have a great hint for no leaking in a two piece pan?
Author Comment
Amanda H. May 16, 2021
Lynnl -- one thing I do if the pan is leaky is place it on a sheet pan before putting it into the oven. This way you limit the damage. However, I will say that shopping around for a sturdier tube pan is worth it. I have one that I picked up 10+ years ago and it's never leaked.
LYNNL May 16, 2021
Thank you for replying. Is your a two piece or a one piece?
Author Comment
Amanda H. May 16, 2021
A two piece!
Windischgirl May 16, 2021
I’ve wrapped the outside bottom of my two piece pan in foil AND placed it on a baking sheet. Note the foil can affect the baking time, so keep an eye on the cake and test it early for doneness.
Vjean April 13, 2021
The cake did not rise evenly and sank a bit, but once finished (upside down!) looked fine. Could high altitude cause the rising problem? Used a tube angel food cake pan. The icing started to solidify when I was making it, but I heated it over a pan of hot water, added some milk and got it back to the right consistency. My dump cake does look dumpy! Will try it again sometime.
Vjean April 14, 2021
... the cake is delicious
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 15, 2021
So glad you like the flavor! :)
scrickmore April 4, 2021
I’ve made this twice....both attempts failed. First time my pan was too small and batter oozed over the top. My mistake.

Second time I used a bigger pan. I checked doneness at 30 minutes. Looked good, but not done, went back to check and caked had collapsed/caved in. What went wrong? Why did it collapse?
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 4, 2021
Hello! Sorry to hear this -- was your second cake made in a tube pan? While the cake can be made in two regular cake pans (one for each cake layer), it's best made in a tube pan so the heat surrounds more of the cake. Let me know!
scrickmore April 6, 2021
Yes, the second cake was made in a tube pan.
Author Comment
Amanda H. April 11, 2021
I'm sorry -- I'm a bit stumped by this. Is there any chance your baking soda or baking powder are old? Another potential cause could be if you dip and sweep your flour, you might be doing it *so* well that there's not quite enough flour -- but this seems like a long shot.
Jenny T. March 25, 2021
I was wondering, since I do not have a tube pan, can I use a regular pan for baking this cake and if so what size pan and does the cooking time remain the same or not? I want to bake this for my husband's birthday. Thank you!
Author Comment
Amanda H. March 28, 2021
If you use a regular 9" pan, I recommend using two (one for each layer), because they will bake better. If you do this, the baking time will be shorter; I'd check after 15 minutes and then keep checking every couple of minutes if they're not done at 15 min. Hope this helps!
Lesparnes February 20, 2021
Great cake. Just wondering what the vinegar does?
Made it in a Bundt and didn’t make 2 layers, just made less yummy frosting .
Added a bout a tablespoon of instant espresso. Learned that from Ina Garten.
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 21, 2021
The vinegar helps the milk curdle to replicate sour milk, which is what the original recipe called for. And thank you for the instant espresso tip!
Danielle C. February 16, 2021
do leftovers (if there are any!) need to be refrigerated? thanks
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 16, 2021
You have leftovers? :) Technically, yes you should refrigerate the leftovers because the icing has sour cream in it. Let it come to room temp before eating!
Pmclancy February 15, 2021
Hi we loved the cake but as others noted the icing was too tangy for us. Any suggestions on cutting back the tang - maybe use half the sour cream or substitute something else?? Thx
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 15, 2021
Hi there -- yes, you can cut the sour cream with Greek yogurt.
Jill S. February 14, 2021
I made this cake today for Valentines Day. Love it! I actually made 2 nine inch cakes and used 2 cups sour cream and 2 cups cc for icing. Now I had to sit on my hands so not to mix the frosting early lol. I love the tanginess the sour cream gives the frosting. Now doubt I will make this again.
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 14, 2021
So glad you like it!
Amy February 14, 2021
I used the same pans! 22 min at 375 in my oven. I actually waited too long for mixing frosting ingredients and the chocolate chips were solid lol! Had to re-warm but then it mixed beautify. Frosting a bit tangy for my family but overall a tasty cake. Thank you!
Amy February 13, 2021
Has anyone tried darker chips for the frosting? Making tomorrow for Valentine's Day! Thank you :)
Author Comment
Amanda H. February 13, 2021
I’ve done darker chocolate and it works well!
Stephanie G. February 4, 2021
This cake is super yummy! It’s really chocolate-y and moist.
I wasn’t patient enough with the icing and the chocolate seized up. I ended up going ahead and mixing in the sour cream and then microwaving for 10 seconds then mixing, I had to repeat that at least 4 times - but it turned out perfect! I will definitely be making this cake frequently!!
Judy January 31, 2021
Love the cake but I am curious why you left the 1 cup of water out of the ingredients list. I knew I saw water when I saw the video, had to check back into the directions to find out where the water went.
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 31, 2021
Great question -- it's just a recipe writing style rule we follow, where water is never listed as an ingredient (because it's not something you have to shop for) and is instead just included in the instructions.
Smaug February 4, 2021
Personally I'd rather see it in the ingredients, especially in that quantity, as it would help in getting a clearer view of the recipe from the ingredients list (not that you shouldn't read the instructions before starting). Besides, I never have to shop for tomatoes, peppers, most herbs etc.; I still think they need to be included in recipes.
MeghanSK January 31, 2021
This has been a favourite recipe of mine since reading Cooking for Mr. Latte! I am living outside the US now and not sure where to find unsweetened chocolate. I do have 72% chocolate... is there anyway I can substitute the unsweetened chocolate with that? Perhaps by using a less sweet sugar like coconut sugar? Or perhaps a 50/50 mixture of cocoa powder with vegetable oil & the 72% chocolate?
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 31, 2021
Hi Meghan, 72% chocolate isn't super sweet, so I'd just cut back on the amount of sugar you use. I'd do 1 1/2 cups rather than 2 cups.