Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dutch Oven Dump Cake Cobbler, Mastered!

Let me make a confession:  I’ve never really liked to cook dump cake cobblers.

Dump cake cobblers, for the uninitiated, is a Dutch oven tradition.  You put some canned peaches with their juice in the bottom of the Dutch oven, and then you shake a cake mix on top.  Sometimes, you put butter on top of the floating mix.  As it cooks, the juices boil up and mix with the cake mix, and the butter (if there is some) melt down into the bubbling mire.  Cool (just a little) and serve with ice cream.

Let me reiterate:  I’ve never really liked to cook dump cake cobblers.

I’ve been of that opinion for two reasons:  1) EVERYBODY does them.  I mean E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y does them.  And everyone that I talk to about Dutch oven cooking remembers having one once and it tasted soooooo gooooood.  No matter how much I talk about fancy meats and elaborate desserts, someone always says, “Yeah, but can you do a cobbler like that?”

And that leads me to reason 2)  I couldn’t do them!  For some reason, they never turned out the way I wanted them to.  They were either too runny and sloppy, or the cake mix never mixed and you ended up with dried out powder on top.

I figured that there were two issues that were preventing me from getting the perfect dump cake cobbler each time. One was the balance of peach syrup to how much cake mix was on top, and the other was the placement of the heat to make it boil up properly.

Part of the problem in the past was that, since EVERYBODY does these desserts, EVERYBODY does them just a little differently.  So, resolving the issue by research didn’t get me anywhere.  I had to experiment.  Last Sunday, I think I found the balance of all the factors.  The crust on top was an actual crusty cake, but not a dry powder.  The peaches on the bottom were nicely blended in with the cake.  It tasted great!

So, here’s the result:

Mark’s version of the Dutch Oven Dump Cake Cobbler

12” shallow Dutch oven

12 coals below
12 coals above

  • 2 15 oz cans peaches in light syrup
  • 2 boxes yellow cake mix
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • Liberal shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg
  • 1 stick butter

I start (after lighting up some coals) by opening the cans of peaches and pouring them, with the syrup, directly into the Dutch oven.  Then, I open up the boxes and bags of cake mix and sprinkle them over the peaches and syrup.

After many tries, I’ve decided that there should be a 1:1 ratio between cans of syrup and boxes of cake mix.  I also discovered that one box of cake mix is not enough in a 12” Dutch oven.  If I were doing this in a 10” Dutch oven, I would half everything.

Then, I crumble the brown sugar over the top of the cake mix, and sprinkle on the spices.  The final ingredient is to cut the stick of butter into small pieces and scatter that over the crust as well.  Then, the lid goes on, and the it the whole Dutch oven goes on the coals.

Now, if I were baking a normal dessert, I would put more coals on top, and fewer coals on the bottom.  In this case, however, I want more heat on the bottom to get the peach juice boiling up to blend with the cake mix.

I baked it for about 35 minutes before I checked it, rotating it once along the way.  I’m not really certain how to tell, but I thought to let it cook a bit longer than it looked.  I figured it would be hard to burn it, so I gave it another 10 minutes or so.

Then, I brought it in and let it cool some.  This not only kept it from burning my guest’s mouths, but it also gave the boiling syrup and the cake mix even more time to settle together.  Finally, we topped it and ate.  It was exactly as I had always wanted it to be.  A nice crust on top, a little bit runny blend underneath, and delicious peaches as a base  The sugar and the butter added a little crispiness and flavor, and the spices just took it to a new level.  It was great!  And the added taste of victory was especially sweet!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

...It tastes like... Victory! Part 1

This last Sunday, I conquered two of my own culinary hurdles.  These two things had given me all kinds of trouble in the past, ending in one problem or another, always with something that didn’t quite taste or look right.

The sad thing is that they’re both pretty easy.  So, why did it take me so long to get them right?  Who knows.  Maybe it was my own pride. Whatever the reason, I feel more confident today for having come through the battle victoriously!

The two problems?  Turkey gravy and a peach cobbler.

I know, right?  These are like the simplest things ever!  My gravy would turn out lumpy or runny.  My cobblers would be dry and powdery or gloopy mush.  It was tough to make them just the way I wanted them.

So, these next few posts are all about this victory!

Bacon-Draped Turkey with Gravy

14” deep Dutch oven

14-16 coals below, same above

The Brine

  • 1 10-12 lb turkey hen
  • ~2 cups brown sugar
  • ~2 cups kosher salt
The Turkey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1lb package of slice bacon
  • 3-5 medium to large potatoes
The Gravy

8" Dutch Oven

~10 coals below
  • Some of the Turkey Broth
  • ~2 tbsp flour
  • enough water to make it runny when mixed

I had planned on cooking the Turkey on Sunday, so on Friday night I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge.  That gave it a little bit of thawing time before the brining, the next day.

On Saturday night, I got down our big orange drink cooler (the perfect size and shape for a turkey) and washed it out very thoroughly.  I dumped in the sugar and the salt.  I put in about four inches of water and stirred it all up until everything was pretty much dissolved.  Then I opened up the turkey package and put it in the cooler.  I filled it up with enough water to pretty much cover the turkey (it floats a bit), and had it been summer, I would have put some ice in the cooler, too.  Since it was winter, I just put the whole thing out in my garage, where temperatures were forecast to be in the low 30’s.

After church on Sunday, I lit up some coals.  I got out the turkey and put it in the bottom of the 14” deep Dutch oven.  My initial intent was to put a layer of potatoes under it so that it would be up above the liquid drippings, but the turkey was too big to allow that.  So, the potatoes came out and the turkey went in, right on the bottom.  I rubbed on some salt, pepper, and paprika.  Over that, I drizzled half of the honey.

Then, I opened up the package of bacon and started laying the strips in a sort of weave pattern across the top of the turkey.  When it was all spread over, I poured the rest of the honey on top and let it seep in between the bacon strips.

This went out on the coals for a good 3 + hours.  While that was cooking I cubed up the potatoes into 1” chunks.  These went in the pot around the turkey.

I maintained the coals in the side fire to keep the Dutch oven hot.  I suspect that the turkey wasn’t totally thawed when I put it in, so I let it cook to past 180 degrees.  By the time the turkey was done to that point, the bacon was pretty much crispy, too.  I had worried that it wouldn’t be, because of the moisture in the dutch oven, but it crisped up great!  In the future, I would have some extra honey on hand to pour on toward the end of the cooking as well.

As the end approached, I got out my basting syringe and sucked up a lot of the juices from the bottom of the Dutch oven.  This, I put into my 8” Dutch oven, and put on some more coals.  I put the lid on, but kept only bottom heat.  My intent was to get it simmering.

With the lid on, it didn’t take long to simmer.  I mixed about 2 Tablespoons of flour with a bit of water, enough to blend them together, but to keep it very runny.  I poured some of the flour mixture into the simmering broth, and whisked for a few minutes.  I watched the thickness carefully.  Sometimes, I’ve added too much flour and it has cooked into a gel.  I kept adding and stirring, adding and sirring, waiting several minutes in between each pour, to watch for results.  Before long, it was the right consistency.  Thick, but still fluid, and not clumpy.  I didn’t add any seasonings, as I felt that the turkey broth itself already carried much of that.

When my guests had arrived, and the turkey was done, I brought it in and let it settle for a few minutes.  It was tricky to carve, because the bacon was crispy, and it crumbled.  Next time I do this, I’ll pull the bacon off first, carve the meat onto a serving plate, then crumble the bacon bits onto the turkey pieces.

I served the potatoes as is on the side.  It would have been very easy to make them into a mashed potato dish, too, but I didn’t this time.

In the end, it was yummy.  I’m not sure that it was the best turkey I’ve ever done, but I still liked it.  The victory of the gravy poured over the meat and the potatoes was particularly delicious, though!


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.


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