Bundt Cake History- How did a Gugelhopf become a Bundt?
Everyone loves a Bundt Cake, that familiar round cake with the hole in the middle. .. and we all have our favorite flavors and memories associated with it. As someone who enjoys baking, I appreciate how easy a bundt cake recipe is to bake, and the versatility of the cake. Dress it up with an icing… serve it simply with powdered sugar. Give it center stage at a Kaffeeklatsch, or hand out slices for kids to eat with their hands at the park. But what do you know about Bundt Cake History? Did you know that Bundt Cake Pans are actually an Americanized version of a German Gugelhopf / Gugelhupf pan? That’s right, the History of the Bundt cake is tied up in the need for German immigrants to have a Kaffee Klatsch like the ones they had at home.
Eierlikor Kuchen. Find the recipe here–> Eierlikor Cake
Bundt Cake History
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Bundt Cake is “The Icon Cake of 60’s Comfort Food”*, and that this Bundt Cake Pan is treasured in the Museum of Natural History (granted, it’s not sitting next to Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers or Archie Bunker’s Chair… it’s in another, much smaller room, down the hall.. but it’s THERE). That’s quite a coup for a simple aluminum pan.
You might be surprised to know that the Bundt Pan is a relatively new addition to the American baking arsenal. (Apparently, before the 1950s, if you wanted a hole in the middle of your cake, you had to dig it out yourself. And I suppose, eat that bit without sharing with anyone).
So…Where did the Bundt Cake Pan come from? What spurred its popularity? And why after 60 years, we still reach for a Bundt pan to bake the cakes our family loves.
The History of the Bundt Cake
David Dalquist, a metallurgy expert, and his wife Dorothy owned a Minnesota company that would made Scandinavian Bakeware (Rosette Irons and Ebelskiever pans). In 1950, he was approached by a group of woman from the local Hadassah Society. They asked him if he could recreate the Gugelhopf Pan that they remembered their mothers using in Europe. Since the original Gugelhopf Pans were heavy, made of Cast Iron or a thick Ceramic, they didn’t travel well, and sadly, the pans had to be left behind.
The American cakes of the time were too light and fluffy, and the ladies missed the dense rich cakes of their childhood. Sadly, the recipes from home didn’t work with a standard cake pan… the batter was all wrong for the shape. and the cakes wouldn’t bake through. A pan with a hole in the center would allow the heat from the oven to reach the batter in the center of the cake… baking it evenly.
David Dalquist headed down to his basement workshop, and reproduced the Bundt pan out of cast Aluminum.He added a few extra folds to the pan’s shape, to give it flair.
Why is the Bundt Pan called Bundt?
Bund is German for Club or Group… these cakes were served at club or group gatherings. In fact, in Southern German, the Gugelhopf is also called a Bundkuchen (Bund Cake). Since the women came from their Bund to make the request, he called it the Bund cake form. Then, when it came time to patent the form, he added a T to the end of bund… making it BUNDT, probably because he was tired of correcting people who made the “d” a soft sound. ( Although a cynic might think it was for Trademarking purposes.)
At the time, he made enough for the women, and sold a few extra in the local department store. The original price for the “new” Bundt Pan” was $4.00. They did ok, but did not set the world on fire.
The Original Bundt Cake Pan looked like this one.…. Round with a hole in the middle… and bumpy folds. For the 60th anniversary Nordic Ware re released it’s classic pan.
Spreading the Word About the Bundt
In 1960, the Good Housekeeping Cookbook showed American Housewives how to bake a Pound Cake using a Bundt Pan. More women began to buy them for their kitchens. But still, they were still a novelty. People just weren’t ready to bake a cake with a hole in the middle.
Tunnel of Fudge- The Cake that Lit the Fuse
In 1966, the baking world started paying attention. In 1949 Pillsbury flour company launched a baking contest to celebrate their 80th Anniversary. The only rule, you must use Pillsbury All-Purpose flour. This contest was so successful they decided to hold it every year. The Pillsbury Bake Off contest brought together women from all over the country to show off their baking prowess in the kitchen. Then, in 1966, Ella Helfrich used a Bundt Pan to bake her ‘Tunnel of Fudge’ cake for the bake off.
SHE WON! Well…2nd Place ( but who remembers the Golden Gate Snack Bread?)
Within days, Nordic Ware was inundated with over 200,000 requests for the pan with the hole in the middle. Everyone wanted a Bundt Cake Pan. (Find the Tunnel of Fudge Cake Recipe here)
The Bundt Finds Its Spot in the Kitchen
Recipe books and magazines began publishing recipes specifically or the new Bundt Pan. Although the German recipes for Gugelhupf generally called for yeast, American recipes were simplified and streamlined with Baking Powder. Anyone could make a cake without fiddling with yeast. And overnight, This was no longer just a cake for a German-American Kaffee Klatsch!
Word got out. A Bundt was the perfect cake…. easy to make, versatile, good enough for company, and good for family. The perfect cake for a gathering of friends… or for the kid’s after school snack. (And sturdy enough to transport.)
Added bonus… the Bundt Cake sort of decorated itself. You didn’t have to create frosting or pipe elaborate designs on the cake, just a simple glaze, or a dusting of powdered sugar and done. As long as could long as you could get the cake out of the pan in one piece, you were golden (How many tears have I shed looking at half of a cake on a plate… and the other half stuck in the pan?)
Bundt Cakes another way German Cooking goes Mainstream
When they make lists of all the German foods that we eat everyday in America, you always see hot dogs and hamburgers… even Sauerkraut and Beer. Now, you know that you can add the cake with the hole in the middle to the list. Call it Gugelhopf, or call it Bundt… this German cake is now a part of the American culinary tradition.
Buy Bundt Cake Pans & Gugelhopf Pans
You can buy Bundt Cake pans in fancy shapes. If you are successful at getting the cake out of the pan, the cakes look SPECTACULAR. But I am seldom successful, so I use the simple pans. A heavier pan will last longer and work better (in my experience) than a “light weight” pan. Gugelhopf pans are a little taller and less round than a bundt.
Marmorkuchen or Marble Cake
This traditional German cake recipe works well in a Bundt Pan–> Marmorkuchen
Also, try Oma’s Rhubarb Kuchen–> Rhabarbarkuchen
Or the EierlikörKuchen
And the Schoko-Nuss Kuchen
Bundt Cake Recipes
I love baking a Bundt… the decorating is super simple, and the slices pack well in my daughter’s lunch. Win Win