Kugelhopfs, Tunnels of Fudge, and the Art of the Bundt
09.03.2019 | Carstens Smith
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.
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.
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 æbleskiver 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.
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.
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. While the display is in an art gallery and the pans are a work of art, this is a hands-on exhibit for all ages. Join us! (And there will be lots of Bundt cake samples, too!)
Whether it was baking with Grandma or a grandchild, surprising a roommate on their birthday, catering a friends’ wedding in the ‘70s with a granola cake made from whole wheat flour, or having a favorite pan that you’ve kept for decades that you rarely use but will never discard – you have a Bundt story and we want to read it!
As part of the exhibit, Norway House wants stories about your your favorite baking moments with Bundt pans.
We are calling everyone. You can be of any age, any level of baking skill, or have your skill be consuming Bundts. Your story can be short and sweet – just a few sentences – or a bit longer, up to 250 words. Please use the submission form below and write your one story in the text box.
Need a little prompt before writing? Possible ideas include:
Favorite food-fad cakes you still love – did your family get a Bundt pan in 1966 so you, too, could make a Tunnel of Fudge cake? Or are you a 90s child with happy memories of funfetti?
What about holiday baking? Gingerbread Bundts for Christmas? Kugelhopf for the High Holidays?
Do you have a favorite good-luck ritual that you perform before turning the pan over and hoping that it releases your cake cleanly and crisply? Tips for success that you want to share?
What’s your favorite way to decorate a Bundt cake?
What’s your greatest success or most ignominious failure?
We’re collecting our favorite Bundt recipes! Check back soon for weekly Bundt Recipe updates! In the mean time, visit Nordic Ware’s recipe blog for tasty seasonal Bundts!
Nordic Ware Bundt Pans are sold directly from Nordic Ware’s website, or by local and national retailers like our very own Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace. Visit Ingebretsen’s in Minneapolis and check out the Nordic Ware Factory Store near Saint Lewis Park.