CAN’T HELP MYSELF

Next Stop on the Throwback Tour: Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake

Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Winner, 1966

fudge bundt cake
Photo by Douglas Lopez on Unsplash

With a bit of time to myself lately, I’ve been making throwback cakes. Three so far — all from the 70s — chocolate snack cake, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and strawberry poke cake.

Or, if we want to rank them yummiest to yummy-ish:

  1. Carrot cake
  2. Strawberry poke cake
  3. Chocolate snack cake

Bundt stunts

The original retro Bundt cakes had a surprise filling. Some had deliberate layers of cake and filling, like a scrumptious Twinkie Bundt with a fluffy marshmallowy cream. Others formed their own fillings — cheesecake, custard, fudge — as they baked.

This Tunnel of Fudge Cake is a form-your-own filling kind of Bundt. A rich chocolate cake that magically forms a tunnel of fudge as it bakes. So good, it won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1966.

Magic Bundt cakes may have debuted in 1966, but the genre had staying power all the way through the 70s and 80s.

This recipe is curious. It calls for ingredients you don’t typically see in a cake recipe. Confectioner’s sugar in not just the glaze but also in the batter. Extra eggs — a whole half dozen, so don’t plan on also bringing devilled eggs to the potluck if you make this. Mandatory walnuts. The cake also does not call for any leavening agent like baking powder, so it has to rise on the air whipped into the batter as it expands in the hot oven. Air. And a prayer.

Look what I made, Ma!

I really did plan to follow the recipe as written, but I just couldn’t. I whipped in a lot of air at every stage of preparation and maybe that would have been enough for a tall, fluffy cake. But, since luck favors the prepared, I tossed in an unauthorized teaspoon of baking powder just before I put the batter in the pan.

Bundt cakes can be intimidating. It’s that whole “will it come out of the pan in one piece” thing. If you’ve ever had a cake, loaf of bread, or muffins crumble out of a pan in soggy chunks when you want them to neatly pop out whole, you’ve felt that pain.

Not that it would sour you on baking for, maybe, 50 years or so. Nah.

Delivering a healthy Bundt

A few midwifery tips to make sure your Bundt cake comes out perfectly formed:

  1. Thoroughly grease every nook and cranny of the pan with butter or cooking spray. If you use cooking spray and the spray can feels light, toss it and open another can. Better yet, use butter. Slather it on.
  2. Flour the pan. Make sure the flour covers every inch of the pan.
  3. Then flour it again, just to be sure. But tap out all the excess unless you want a floury cake. This isn’t pizza dough.
  4. Don’t underbake the cake. Bake it until it is firm on top and has pulled away from the pan.
  5. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for at least two hours or until it no longer feels warm.
  6. Check that the cake is not stuck to the pan anywhere. You may have to run a slim knife around the edge, carefully.
  7. Cover the pan with a baking rack. Then take a deep breath, and flip.
  8. No, I meant flip the cake.
  9. Hold your breath and very, very, very slowly lift the pan from the cake. Voila! A Bundt cake. Or…
  10. Shit. A pile of soggy chunks.

No worries, just reassemble it as best you can and try to hide the seams with icing. Let it cool a bit more on the rack.

When you’re ready to glaze the cake, make a simple chocolate glaze of cocoa and confectioner’s sugar in a 1:3 ratio with enough milk to make it glazy, then drizzle away. A piece of parchment paper you put under the cake makes a handy disposable drip tray for the extra drizzle.

Now plate the cake.

Mine came out whole. My year? Made. Photo by author — all rights reserved.

The taste test

I sliced off a wedge about two inches wide, and took a close look. Surprise! It really does have a fudge ribbon running through it!

Mine came out dry as I overbaked it in my zeal to get it out of the pan in one piece. And because I was in the middle of a work call when the timer went off and I couldn’t get to it for at least five minutes.

If I bake it again, I’ll make sure I don’t ignore the kitchen timer. Still, it’s nothing a little mint chip ice cream won’t fix. Well, technically, mint chip frozen yogurt pop, because that’s all I can find in the freezer, but close enough.

Plated. Photo by author — all rights reserved.

It’s good. It’s not exactly cake, more the taste and consistency of a chocolate walnut fudge brownie. Or a chocolate glazed cake donut with nuts.

Overall, I’d call this a successful bake, but it’s not my favorite of the four nostalgia cakes I’ve sampled so far. But since I still have that Bundt pan, I’ll be trying some more.

I’m still dreaming about that Twinkie cake.

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Barbara Andres

Barbara Andres

Muddling through, one story at a time. Grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair. In a former life, I called myself grain of infinity.