Dump cake – because rules are made to be broken

I’ve been on weight watchers since, oh, October, I guess and so far have lost thirteen pounds, just ever-so-slightly less than one pound a week, which my online tools kit assures me is a healthy and maintainable way to lose but I suspect faster progress is hindered by the occasional wedge of brie, 1/2 bottle of wine and bowl of seafood pasta…you get my drift. Whatever – weight loss is not a race for me and I am now at the point where I’m sort of unsure how much more I want to lose. More, surely. But I am fast recognizing that more vigorous toning work may be necessary because while certainly I’m getting smaller I still look flabby.

This is not the point of this post.

But weight watchers works, it really does – want mussells, pomme frites and a white beer for dinner one night? You can! You just can’t then have, say, pad thai the next. Hurrah!

ANYWAY.  When I decided to pay an actual organization to help me do something I should be able to do on my own, I told myself that I would not waste a whole bunch of time messing with it. So, if I hit a stall for even one week, I had to make a significant change in my habits.  So, over the course of my weight watchers journey, I’ve made the following changes:

No artificial sweeteners (au revoir, diet coke)

No high fructose corn syrup

The halving of all restaurant portions, never snacking

No drinking my calories

Sometimes I don’t manage to stick with the above changes – I had a diet coke a few days ago, and a regular one a week before that. I’m pretty good about avoiding the HFCS and not snacking, but there are days when I screw up. Still, for the most part, I am proud and happy with where I am, back around my college weight, which is still too high for my smallish frame, but not, you know, grossly high. It’s amazing, the difference of 13 pounds and regular yoga.

BUT. Sometimes a desire just takes hold, and earlier this week I wanted nothing more than to make my grandmother’s dump cake to take to K.’s for dinner.  Dump cake should probably be the scourge of the cake world…it has sugar and HFCS and cake mix instead of homemade cake and very little redeeming value beyond it’s utter deliciousness. Many of us have come to understand just how terrible processed food is for our bodies, and like so many of you, I have worked diligently eat fresh foods, to eat locally. But I always like what my dad has to say about all these canned and boxed foods, which is just how liberating they were for my grandmother, an English teacher. Suddenly, instead of making everything from scratch, she could come home and whip up a hot and satisfying meal in minutes, obstensibly leaving her more time for her family. Now, she happened to be wicked into cleanliness, so she used this additional time to iron the sheets and scrub the floor, but you get the idea. And I’m sort of charmed by the idea of my grandma making this cake, opening the cans and boxes that liberated her just the tiniest bit.

And, the cake is damn good, too.

Dump Cake

1 20 – ounce can cherry pie filling

1 – 20 ounce can crushed pineapple

1 yellow cake mix

1 ½ sticks of butter, cut in pieces

1 cup coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

 Layer ingredients in the order given in an ungreased 13 by 9 pan. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350. Serve with coolwhip.

I took this over to K.’s this week, and still had a tremendous amount leftover. So I cut it up and froze individual pieces for breakfast. The near-coffee cake consistency makes it a nice breakfast if microwaved in the morning. A. and I had a discussion about dump cake and it turns out her family simply uses canned fruit, cake mix and butter without all the other hooplah. We were trying to decide if you combined cherries and chocolate cake mix…would it work? I love the idea conceptually and will probably try it at some point, but I wonder if the chocolate cake mix would be too bitter.

This is the first recipe from my mothers and grandmothers. I’ve finally given in and started my own recipe book on my computer because I  continuously lose recipe cards, no matter how much I love them. I’ve taken to putting the recipe cards written in my mother and grandmothers’ hands in a scrapbook  instead. My boss and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about just how important it is to learn to cook the recipes of our mothers and our grandmothers while they are still with us. It’s a project I’m going to spend the year working on, as it really shouldn’t take much longer than that. One thing I’ve noticed – my grandmothers and my mother had a repetoire of dishes that, while delicious, wasn’t particularly varied. I really don’t have many to master! I’ve already filed away my maternal grandmother’s beef stroganoff recipe (this version uses sherry) but if you would like it let me know and I’ll post it as well.

S. and I are off soon to apartment hunt in Pittsburgh – we see five places tomorrow. Wish us luck that it’s easy!

Edited to add: My mother is still alive. i just made it sound like she’s dead by screwing up the tense but some quirk in wordpress isn’t allowing me to edit right now, just add text.


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9 Responses to Dump cake – because rules are made to be broken

  1. Kerryn says:

    Good luck with the apartment hunt. I hope you come back from Pittsburgh having found the perfect place for you and S.

    My mother has a book of recipes, all handwritten, that was given to her when she got engaged to my father. They are her mother’s recipes and have featured in our family meals since forever. One day I am going to sift through that book (or perhaps run away with it) and adopt some of those recipes. I love the idea that cooking the same recipes, following the same methods, creates a connection with those that have gone before. It’s easy to forget that our mothers and grandmothers faced similar struggles — finding the time to cook the evening meal, having to stretch budgets and provide healthy & tasty (although dump cake may have been an answer to the tasty question rather than the healthy) meals and treats for their families.

    Post the stroganoff recipe please — I’m always on the look out for a new, good recipe for that particular dish.

  2. yogamum says:

    That sounds like something my grandmother would have made.

    Frighteningly, I have all of the ingredients in my pantry right now. I bought cake mix when it was on sale for $1 even though I never use cake mix. Actually, I don’t have cherry pie filling, but I have a can of pie cherries. I wonder if that would work?

  3. LK says:

    Wishing you luck on the apartment hunt.

    I lost 60 pounds on WW (okay, gained 20 of it back, but I’ve stayed steady there now for almost 3 years). There are some good, sound principles they offer. And don’t worry about taking your time – you are right, it’s not a race. It’s a lifetstyle change.

  4. Amy says:

    FYI to everyone, her stroganoff recipe is DELICIOUS!

  5. I have also been a WW user in my time – it helped me lose the baby weight, three times. Their principles are excellent, and you never feel deprived. The hardest thing for me is no snacking, especially being at home with children who want to snack all the time.

    Good luck with the apartment hunt!

  6. Katie says:

    Oooh yum! Thanks for the recipe.

  7. bloglily says:

    Oh my goodness! That sounds really good. And what a fabulous thing, to be losing weight in that realistic way. You are on such a roll, Courtney!

  8. Emily Barton says:

    Ahhh, thank you so much for providing a recipe for dump cake. Believe it or not, I was just thinking about this the other day, as it was something that the members of our old church used to make quite often, but no one in the current church does (we get a lot of coconut cake in the new church, though — my personal favorite next to Devil’s food — though, so I don’t feel deprived). The members of our new church also make Devil’s food cake with a peanut butter icing, something I’d never had before moving here, that is out of this world. After living down here for a while, you may be able to tell that I just might need WW again!

  9. Samuel Waterson says:

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