Kugelhopfs, Tunnels of Fudge, and the Art of the Bundt

Anniversary Bundt Cake Pan

In anticipation of Norway House and Ingebretsen’s collaboration, Nordic Ware – The Art & Science Of The Bundt, happening September 14, 2019 through November 3, 2019 here is an introduction to the Bundt pan history.

Let’s start with the name. “Bundt” is a word invented and trademarked by Dave Dalquist, the pan’s designer. The name was derived from the German word bundkuchen, meaning “a cake for a gathering.” Dalquist added the ‘T’ so he could trademark the name. He thus created a word for a pan that would help make gatherings around the world a bit tastier and cakes a bit easier to bake.

Dotty and Dave Dalquist (from nordicware.com)

Nordic Ware was started in 1946 in a basement by two determined people, Dave and Dotty Dalquist, $500, and some ideas. Basements and garages seem to be auspicious locations in which to start businesses (Apple, Virgin, and FUBU also started from the “ground up,” among others) and it worked well for Nordic Ware, too.

The original focus was on making quality Scandinavian baking items such as krumkake makers, rosette irons, and aebleskiver pans. Family and friends were the early models in print advertisements for the company and Dotty wrote the recipes in the promotional materials. When the company’s booklets said the recipes were “home tested,” they truly were.

The company prospered with its emphasis on Scandinavian baked goods. However, the product that made them a world-wide concern had Eastern European roots. Three members of the Hadassah Society of Minnesota (Rose Joshua, Fannie Shanfield, and Mary Abrahamson), a Jewish women’s group, approached Dave Dalquist and asked if he would make a cast aluminum version of a kugelhopf pan from a reproduction of a pan the Abrahamson family brought to the United States from Germany. Kugelhopf is a rich yeast-risen cake with raisins baked in a ring-shaped mold. Traditionally these molds were ceramic or cast iron and very difficult to find in the United States.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Dalquist rose to the challenge and designed the Bundt pan. It had the desired weight for even baking and the requisite tube in the middle. It worked well and for the early years of the pan’s existence, the primary customers were members of the Jewish community.

Ella Helfrich
(Image from General Mills)

In the now well-known story, the pan’s popularity skyrocketed in 1966 when Ella Helfrich placed second in the Pillsbury Bake-Off with her Tunnel of Fudge cake. Pillsbury received more than 200,000 letters (the real on-paper kind of letters that took time to write) asking where one could buy the pan necessary for making the cake. Bundt pan production kicked into high gear and hasn’t slowed down since. (You can find the recipe here.)

Dotty Dalquist spent hours developing recipes for the Bundt pan. In October of 1969, the Dalquists proposed an idea for a line of boxed Bundt cake mixes to Pillsbury. Dotty baked the cakes for the pitch with two of Pillsbury’s executives, which took place on her their boat on Lake Superior, and it was a successful meeting. Pillsbury launched the line of Bundt cake mixes in 1971 continuing to produce them for fifteen years. Here is a classic ad for those cakes:

The Bundt pan is now a fixture in our kitchens and in our culture. It’s easy to forget that science and art are part of the equation to making the pans that make our cakes look good. Looking at these aspects of the Bundt is the goal of the gallery exhibit at Norway House from September 13 to November 3. A collaboration between Ingebretsen’s and Norway House, the exhibit is for all ages and has hands-on components. There will be classes, talks, tastings and a contest or two.