Jiggling molds of pink salmon mousse? Blech. Jell-O salads topped with mayonnaise? Yuck. Tang instead of orange juice? It seems our astronauts deserved more.
But there’s one food spawned by the Me Decade that I’ve really missed lately.
It’s the Bundt cake. Fifty years ago, these fluted, ring-shaped cakes were a staple at many potlucks, picnics and Tupperware parties. They contained all sorts of welcome surprises — a hidden center of lemony pudding — and some not-so-welcome surprises: bizarre ingredients such as asparagus, tomato soup and — urp — white beans.
Today, it’s estimated that 70 million U.S. households have a Bundt pan, and it has even earned a place in the National Museum of American History. It’s fair to guess that pan wouldn’t have been nearly so popular if it had been known by the original cake for which it was molded: the Kugelhopf.
Yes, food historians trace the modern Bundt cake to a European brioche-like cake called Kugelhopf, which is known in some areas of Germany as the Bundkuchen.
H. David Dalquist, who, along with wife Dotty launched Minnesota’s Nordic Ware company, agreed to custom-cast the pan for a group of women in the Minneapolis Hadassah Society who wanted to make a Kugelhopf like their mothers did.
In lieu of the unwieldy name, Dalquist started out calling it a Bund pan, but eventually added the “t.”
The pan saw lackluster sales until 1966, when it rocketed to stardom. That was the year Mrs. Ella Helfrich placed second in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-off with her decadent Tunnel of Fudge Cake.
Helfrich may have missed the gold medal, but she won the hearts of American housewives with what became one of Pillsbury’s most-requested recipes. Over 200,000 letters poured in to request the recipe, prompting Dahlquist to put the factory into round-the-clock production to meet demand.
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