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My son recently returned home from a campout, laden with muddy laundry, outdoor horror stories, and a recipe for a fireside delicacy known as Dump Cake, cooked in a Dutch oven on a bed of coals. My first thought was to praise heaven for the flu that spared me from that campout. My second thought was, if you can make cake in a cast-iron pot, can you do it in a slow cooker?

Can You Do It in a Slow Cooker?

We on the Slow Cooker Odyssey know that anything that can be cooked can be slow-cooked, but we also know that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. (Repeat after me: Just because we can eat a sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting . . .) So, I asked myself: what would be the advantage of slow-cooking a cake?

No sooner had I posed the question than my sister-in-law answered it. She and I were hosting an engagement party for a beloved nephew, and we needed dessert for fifty. As a thoughtful nod to the Slow Cooker Odyssey, she suggested we enlist my Hamilton Beach to cook a cake. I pointed out that, while HB is indeed a mensch, he’s not exactly up to feeding such masses. But my SIL quickly drafted slow reinforcements, including her other SIL’s Cuisinart and my mom’s classic avocado-green Rival Crock-Pot.

We placed the three vessels throughout the downstairs, which made the house look vaguely like the final hours of an estate sale, while providing invaluable ice-breakers for soon-to-be-kin strangers, who, when they ran out of small talk, could at least say, “Is that cake?! In a slow cooker?! What kind of family is this?!”

An hour before go-time, we poured in the batter and resumed our last-minute hostess chores. We never touched the slow cookers again, except to turn them off.

When the future bride and groom arrived, warm cinnamon and ginger welcomed them at the door.

After dinner, guests helped themselves to piping-hot dessert throughout the house, which provided dramatic flourish—with zero drama.

Choose Your Vessel

Working with a fleet of different slow cookers offered valuable comparisons: A retro round 3.5-quart Rival does not need to cook as long as the newer 5-quart ovals. It yields a deeper cake that is less consistent throughout. (Think crisp edges and molten center.) Finally, we were able to invert the round vessel, to serve cake on a platter, while the shallow oval worked better for scooping.

So, if you want a freestanding cake on a platter, go with the round. But there are times when scooping from the crock makes sense. If you go that route, take full advantage of the technology: Time your slow-cooking so you can lift the lid to a fluffy, steamy confection à la minute. For maximum dazzle, start slow-cooking 1 hour and 40 minutes before serving.

It actually bakes! It is not pale!

Plate with ice cream or whipped cream, with a cherry on top, and even a drizzle of your favorite liqueur.

(When it comes to cherries on the top of desserts or the bottom of cocktails, my SIL and I have diverging theories. She loves the fluorescent-red ones from childhood; I prefer dried Montmorency cherries soaked for a week in Luxardo maraschino liqueur. While this kind of schism could tear a food-and-cocktail-loving family apart, my SIL and I have reached detente. She humors the prissy overkill of my wannabe-hipster cherries. Meanwhile, she is a natural-born cook and beloved restaurateur, who raises chickens at home and organic herbs and vegetables on her restaurant premises, so I respect her nostalgic peccadillo—even though her Day-Glo cherries are weird and totally gross.)

Moist, tender, addicting.


Slow-Cooker Apple Spice Cake


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1⅓ cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs room temperature

2 cups applesauce (or canned pumpkin)

N.B. The recipe works equally well with applesauce from a jar or with equal volume of roasted and pureed apples. We have also used a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. We look forward to substituting roasted-and-pureed sweet potatoes and squashes of all sorts, just to mix things up, because this recipe is so doggone easy, we’ve been preparing it a lot. Feel free to tinker with the spices, by adding nutmeg or allspice, for example.


Coat slow cooker with vegetable oil, turn to “high.” (We use 5-quart Hamilton Beach; cooking times will vary with size.)

1. Combine first six ingredients in a mixing bowl.

2. Beat sugar and butter in large bowl with electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add applesauce, blend well.

3. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet and beat until smooth.

4. Pour batter into slow cooker and cover.

5. Cook on high 1 hour 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center emerges clean.

6. Let cake stand uncovered 10 minutes before inverting. Or scoop directly from crock.

7. Top with whipped cream or ice cream and a cherry.

Bowl BY nashville maker Christina Cohn Ceramics. Cat: incorrigible.


Looking for more slow cooker ideas? Lots of conversation over in The Lounge: “Join the Slow Cooker Odyssey.” 

About The Author

Carrington Fox has been many things: art history major, MBA, food critic for the Nashville Scene, novelist, raiser of sons, chickens, and general joy. At the moment, she is a middle-aged mom in construction school, chronicling her experience at Build Me Up, Buttercup. She and her husband David are both fifth-generation Nashvillians.


  • LOVE those day-glo cherries. Can never get enough. And that makes me wonder: Would it be possible to do slow-cooker FRUITCAKE? 😉

    Really enjoying this series, Carrington. Thank you!

    • Fruitcake, 1000 times yes. The end result is so moist, almost steamed. It seems like that would be a perfect application. Meanwhile, I’m thinking more along the lines of dropping a bag of chocolate chips into the pot.

  • Yikes. We rarely use our slow cooker (because we don’t cook much at all) but we do make some killer candy every Xmas (check out the recipe on Loopy Ewe’s blog Crockpot Christmas Crack). This cake recipe may join that one as a use for the cooker. It looks delicious. I love the idea of crockpots all over the house. Thanks!

    And OMG Fruitcake?! Please, someone, try it and get back to us!

  • This reminds me of my Grandma. She had a metal insert for her slow cooker that she used to make a gingerbread that was moist and rich and magical. I haven’t been able to figure out how to replicate it, but this will bring me closer. Grandma would approve, or she would say “phooey” and go do yardwork.

  • Omg. If I wasn’t in a whole30 regime I would make this right now. Oh the pain.

  • Love how knitting goes well with so many topics. With your new venture, will you be building a tiny house??

    • Yes, our class is progressing toward a tiny house. After graduation, that is a long-term goal for me too.

  • I am multi-craftual and belong to my local quilt guild. We have several open sewing days throughout the month, and it is customary that if your birthday falls in that month, you will bring some kind of treat to share. (Kind of like third grade. . . ) This would be a wonderful treat—toting in the crockpot would be kind of a drag, but this would smell wonderful while it is cooking, and I love the idea of serving something warm on a cold, blustery March day.

  • Next time, bring a slice over to moi!! I can almost smell it just reading this.

    • We can drizzle your homemade yogurt & honey on it

  • Yum! And just in time, 3 snowstorms headed our way! I’ll be eating lots of cake this weekend and I bet it would be good toasted with cashew butter, ohhhhh!

  • Wondering if a 6qt oval is too big and the cake will be too thin? Or do I just cook for a shorter time?
    This looks so delish, and I love that it’s adaptable to other flavors and mix-ins!

    • Totally guessing, but based on my experience, a shorter cooking time should work out OK. How much shorter, I don’t know. I guess you’d have to watch it, which kind of changes the concept of effortless cake-baking. Then again, I kind of like watching things bake. Bring your knitting and settle in!

    • Hm, I haven’t experimented with that size. I wonder if you could top it with a bunch of blueberries or peaches or apples, to add some volume, then think of it like a fluffy cobbler. I might try that myself, come to think of it.

      • Or double the recipe?

      • Yum! Cobbler!

  • Hmmm, I believe there is a two cup container of homemade applesauce in the freezer. Excuse me while I go check…

  • Oh my gosh, I just read your bio and discovered a fellow art history major! I ended up going back to school, majoring in accounting (math is my first love), and became a CPA. But weren’t art history classes the most fun? Sit and look at slides of great art ::sigh::

    • Sorry to be late responding to this note. Yes! Art history. Seems like so many lifetimes ago that we sat in the dark and looked at slides of paintings pictures and buildings (often black and white), then went to a “photo-study room” to memorize the details with classmates. I wonder if college art history is as much fun in the days of Internet?

  • I’m going to give this a gluten-free try!

  • Okay, I made this on Sunday. And had 3 pieces and had to hide the rest in the fridge. It is that good.

  • I have this in the crock right now, alongside an overflowing crock with your “feed bag” chili. Yum!
    We’ll see how this turns out due to my changes… i had to go with substitutions due to allergies (gluten free flour blend, flax eggs) and then the batter looked to be too little for my big crew, so i mixed up some more batter to the bowl. I had to melt the butter to clarify it, so i didn’t follow your mixing instructions due to time constraints…. The batter is delicious!! Whether it sets or not, I think they’ll love it!
    Thank you for another easy recipe!

    • Update, this is DELICIOUS! It set perfectly and while still soft it turned out onto a plate easily. I had to substitute a lot due to diet restrictions (gluten free, flax egg, no ginger, stevia instead of sugar, clarified butter) and mixed it all in one bowl. I probably doubled the recipe which was good for 7 of us with about 1/3 left over. I bet it’s delicious the next day too! It cooked for about 3 hours on high since it was so deep. I will definitely make again for an easy dessert! (This would be great with coffee for brunch too!)

  • And I thought that I had died and gone to heaven when I discovered the cake made with whipped cream and chocolate wafers = refrigerator cake years ago

    • And I didn’t discover refrigerator cake until I was 28 years old and a new bride ! It became my children’s favorite

  • This worked perfectly in the slow cooker. I did use pumpkin (puree from my roasted pumpkins) and it was delicious. I also made vanilla ice cream. Yum. This makes a lot so half is frozen and will use at other holiday dinners.

  • Looks wonderful. And I have a 40 year old classic Rival needing to be put to good use. Thanks for the recipe!

  • I have the old style tall cooker. One half recipe cooked beautifully. Used drained home canned peaches.

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