Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tunnel of Fudge Cake — No Ifs Ands or Bundts About It

Amy & Tunnel of Fudge birthday cake, with fiancee Trevor. 
Today I made a Tunnel of Fudge cake for my daughter's 22nd birthday. Amy has a thing about Tunnel of Fudge cake, ever since I introduced it to her while exploring bundt cakes and winning recipes from the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  

The Tunnel of Fudge Cake proves the point that sometimes maybe the judges aren't always right.  In 1966, the Pillsbury Bake-Off winner was Golden Gate Snack Bread, flavored with cheese spread and onion soup mix. The Tunnel of Fudge Cake, made by Ella Rita Helfrich, took second place.  But  the cake with the molten fudgy center captured America's interest, and brought the bundt pan from obscurity to booming sales almost overnight.

"The cake made a diminutive Houston mother of five a celebrity, changed the fortunes of a small company in Minneapolis, and made a little-known European pan a mainstay of nearly every American kitchen," wrote Amy Sutherland in "Cook-Off: Recipe Fever in America."

In fact, most households have a harvest-gold or avocado-green Bundt pan from that era still tucked away in a cupboard. 

Bundt pans are known for their decorative fluting, the center tube that conducts heat and the very dense, moist cake that results.

Helfrich submitted 30 different recipes to get into the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off, according to Sutherland's "Cook-Off." Helfrich tried stirring Pillsbury's dry-frosting mixes into cake and brownie batters. Her final creation used a Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream frosting mix. To bake it, she used the specialty tube pan that her kids had given her for Christmas. 
She received the second grand prize of $5,000 from masters of ceremonies Pat Boone and former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur. 
Soon after the contest, the Tunnel of Fudge recipe spread across America.   It was easy to make, yet the impressive appearance and lava-like middle gave it an elegant cachet. Grocery stores couldn't keep the frosting mix in stock. Nordic Ware began making Bundt pans around the clock, seven days a week, to meet the demand. In 1970, Nordic Ware and Pillsbury collaborated on a line of Bundt cake mixes.
They were very popular through most of the '70s and part of the '80s, until people lost interest in baking, according to a spokesperson from Nordic Ware. 

Dry frosting mixes also waned in popularity and were replaced with ready-made frosting. With Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream frosting no longer on the market, today it's impossible to make the original Tunnel of Fudge cake recipe. But Pillsbury and Nordic Ware have a substitute recipe that uses powdered sugar, cocoa powder and a little more butter. Nordic Ware also sells a Tunnel of Fudge cake mix (
For me, the hardest part of this recipe is getting the cake out of the pan intact. You need to grease and flour the pan generously, even if you have a nonstick pan as I do.  I've tried lining the pan with aluminum foil to keep the cake from sticking, but you lose some of the detailed fluting from the pan. Make sure to let the cake cool at least an hour before turning it out onto a serving plate. If there are cracks or holes, use the glaze to glue the pieces back together and cover them.  
Don't bake the cake too long, or the fudgy center will bake and become just another cake.  To insure a fudgy center, I pour about 2/3 of the batter into the pan, and then arrange a ring of chocolate chips top of the batter. Then I pour the rest of the batter on top and bake.   This isn't something in the original Bake-Off recipe, but it works for me!
1 3/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (for Utah's altitude, add 3 more tablespoons)
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
For cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a large bowl beat margarine and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon 2/3 of the batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Arrange about 1 cup of chocolate chips on in a ring on top of the batter.  Top with remaining batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cake will have a soft middle. Cool upright in pan on cooling rack 1 hour or more before inverting onto serving plate.
For glaze: In small bowl, combine glaze ingredients and microwave about 1 minute. Stir until well blended. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down 
sides. Store tightly covered.

— Adapted from Nordicware and Pillsbury Bake-Off

No comments: