Cook the Book: Tunnel of Fudge Cake, Plus a Brief History of the Bundt Pan

Cook the Book: Tunnel of Fudge Cake, Plus a Brief History of the Bundt Pan

The Bundt pan was invented in the 1950s by a man named H. David Dalquist. The pan was based on a traditional ceramic dish with a similar ringed shape. Though Dalquist's version was lighter and easier to use than the clunky previous version, sales were disappointing.

Then, in 1966, a woman named Ella Helfrich took second place in the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off with her recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake. The walnut-filled, chocolate-glazed cake had a ring of gooey fudge at its center. Eating a slice was reminiscent of indulging in under-baked brownie batter. Helfrich's cake was an overnight sensation. Pillsbury received more than 200,000 requests for the pan she used, and Dalquist's company went into overtime production. Today, more than 50 million Bundt pans have been sold around the world.

Today's recipe, excerpted from The Cook's Country Cookbook, is for an updated version of the classic Tunnel of Fudge Cake. The bakers at America's Test Kitchen made two dozen cakes before arriving at this rendition, which includes melted chocolate in the batter, and swaps half of the granulated sugar for brown sugar.

When testing this cake for doneness, do not insert a toothpick (the tunnel of fudge will always look underdone). Instead, look to see if the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan. When pressed, the top of the cake should feel springy.

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  • Yield:1 cake, about 12 servings


  • For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • For the glaze:
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, hot
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt


  1. 1.

    For the cake: adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan by brushing the interior with 1 tablespoon of melted butter plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

  2. 2.

    Whisk the boiling water and chocolate together in a small bowl until melted and smooth; let the mixture cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, nuts, confectioners' sugar, cocoa, and salt together.

  3. 3.

    In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the chocolate mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.

  4. 4.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Wipe any drops of batter off the sides of the pan and gently tap the pan on the work surface to settle the batter. Bake the cake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top feels springy with pressed with a finger, about 45 minutes.

  5. 5.

    For the glaze: Meanwhile, whisk all the ingredients for the glaze together in a medium bowl until smooth and thickened.

  6. 6.

    Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip it out on a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours. Drizzle the chocolate glaze over the top and sides of the cake. Let the glaze set, about 25 minutes, before serving.