Thursday, April 1, 2010

If eating is my hobby, exercise has to be my other hobby

posted Fri, 08 Sep 2006

In my latest issue of Real Simple magazine, there is a short article on the glories of dump cake. Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap (read it), writes about “The Dolly Parton Dump Cake.” Of course, the cake has nothing to do with Dolly.

Nothing against Dolly. She’s a wonderful singer and songwriter and I can’t believe that junkie Whitney Houston got all the credit for “I Will Always Love You” when it was Dolly who wrote that song in the early ‘70s and sang it again almost ten years later in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Dolly sings the song much better than Whitney did. (I used to drive past that place, by the way, on my trips from Houston to Austin, only I didn’t know there was a famous bordello there.)

But dump cake is not a southern thing. It’s an up-north thing, kind of the same way hot dish, sugar in the cornbread and macaroni in the chili are up-north things. And Dolly is a Tennessee mountain girl. I don’t know if that puts her in the south, but it sure takes her out of the north. I made dump cake and took it to work once here – now, I am in the Tennessee Delta, which is not – repeat, not -- to be confused with the Tennessee mountains, but no one had ever heard of it. No one. I don’t think dump cake is a southern thing or a Tennessee thing.

The first time I ever heard about dump cake was on “A Prairie Home Companion.” My mom, my brother, my sister and I were driving from Wisconsin to Colorado sometime in the mid-70’s and listening to the radio. In a flat Minnesooota accent, a woman gave the recipe for dump cake. The only part I remember is – and these were her exact words –

Take two cans of pineapple, crushed.

For years, I thought dump cake was a bizarre creation of Garrison Keillor’s twisted mind.

Then I moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (One of the nicest places I’ve ever lived, for those of you who do not know the truth about Iowa. I’d move back in a second.) Someone was always bringing food to the factory. I was always sampling. I didn’t want the baker to feel bad. I felt awful that no one wanted my brownies at the Big Fish Fry last month, but then, it was my own stupid fault. I baked them on Wednesday and left them in the pan, thinking it would be easier to transport them that way. I didn’t cover them with saran wrap. By Saturday, they were dried out. The rhubarb bars were fine – a lot more butter and a lot more fluid. They got eaten. But no one touched the brownies.

Far be it from me to make someone else feel bad by leaving their baked goods untouched. I’m all about other peoples’ feelings, you know. So the day Barbara in accounting brought in the 9x13 with the buttery crumbly topping and the cherry pineapple filling, I was intrigued. “This is delicious!” I gasped between bites. “What is it?”

“Dump cake,” she said in an offhand tone. How could I not know? Didn’t everyone know what dump cake was? Sheesh. What an idiot. Only she was way nicer than that because we were in Iowa and Iowans are very nice people.

It wasn’t a myth. Dump cake actually existed. How very odd. But how wonderful – because this was divine.

I would make dump cake right now except it has the dread word “cherries” in it. Cherries are bad enough in and of themselves. They also rhyme with “berries,” which shall not be eaten. They look like small persimmons, also on the “SH Do Not Eat” list. Bananas are on the list because – I’m not sure. SH will, however, eat tripe, tendon, okra and raw oysters. Go figure.

So if I made a dump cake, I would have to eat it all myself and then I would know I had consumed all the calories myself. If SH would eat some of it, I could eat as much as I wanted but could blame most of it on him. See how that works? That’s why I make desserts only when he’s around.

But you who are not constrained by The Foods That Shall Be Uneaten, you may make a dump cake. Here is Adriana’s recipe. It’s a little different from the one I’ve used before, but I’m sure it’s just as good. I think you can add another stick of butter without doing any harm, either.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can blueberry pie filling
1 stick butter

Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Put the yellow cake mix at the bottom. Pour the pineapple, with the juice, over the cake mix. Pour the cherry pie filling over this, then the blueberry over top. Thinly slice the butter and scatter over everything. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

An alert reader tested this recipe and informed me that the cake mix remained dry. I found another recipe. Here it is:

In a 9x13 inch pan mix cherries [and blueberries] and pineapple. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pineapple and cherry mixture; stir until just combined. Drizzle top with melted butter.

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