The Bundt Cake: From Bethlehem to Marie Antoinette to Minnesota

A donut-shaped cake with a lot of history

When you think of a Bundt cake, a dense circular cake with a hollowed-out middle comes to mind. The flavors may consist of chocolate, red velvet, vanilla, spiced, or lemon. It might be topped with frosting, a dusting of sugar, glaze, or plain.

There isn’t one recipe or type of cake that gives Bundt cakes their name. It’s all in its appearance and how it’s baked. An authentic Bundt cake is baked in an aluminum pan, made famous by Minnesota cookware manufacturer Nordic Ware.

In 1946, after coming home from WW II, H. David Dalquist, along with his brother Mark, purchased Plastics for Industry in Minneapolis. They dabbled in manufacturing aluminum bakeware for the large Scandinavian population in the area, including ebelskiver pans, krumkake, and rosette irons.

In 1950, Dalquist and his company acquired Northland Aluminum products with a line called “Nordic Ware.” The same year, two local women from the Minneapolis Jewish-American Hadassah Society asked Dalquist if he could replicate a more modern pan for the European dish Gugelhupf. Dalquist created what is now known as the Bundt cake pan.

The cake that started it all

Gugelhupf is traditionally a yeast-based cake derived from Europe. Like its protégé, the Bundt cake, the recipe for Gugelhupf isn’t as important as the shape itself; baked in a ceramic pan to produce a tall, creased cake with a funnel shape in the middle.

Gugelhopf molds | Photo provided by Bernhard Winkelmann | Adobe Stock

The origin is of Gugelhupf is mysterious as its form.

The first known recipe for Gugelhupf comes from the 1581 cookbook “Ein new Kochbuch” (The New Cookbook) by Marx Rumpolt. Rumpolt developed the cookbook after being a cook for the Archbishop Daniel Brendel von Homburg. It was the first large-formatted, illustrated German cookbook. In Austria, Gugelhupf quickly became popular among aristocrats at weddings and social events. Today, it is commonly served in Austria and southern Germany

We just saw Jesus, now let’s have cake!

Another version of this cake’s origination dates even farther back than the 16th century. The birth of Christ.

After returning from Bethlehem the Three Wise Men, or Magi, found themselves in a storm near the small French village of Ribeauville. They knocked on the door of a Mr. Kugel, who invited them into his home for the night.

Besides being one of the first people to see the son of God, the Three Magi were great scholars and exceptional bakers (now that is talent.) As a thank you for his hospitality, the next morning the Three Magi baked a cake for Mr. Kugel in in one of the molds they found in his home. The cake was in the ring’s shape, called Kugelhopf, also known as Gugelhupf, also known as Bundt cake.

Of course, you can’t say Austria, France, and cake without mentioning Marie Antoinette

There is yet another tale of how the first Bundt cakes came to France. While in Versailles, the Vienna-born Marie Antoinette became quite homesick and wanted to taste the delicacies of her childhood. One of those treats was the Gugelhupf. Her mother sent the recipe from the grand Schönbrunn Palace’s kitchen to Marie, who then introduced it to the royal court in Paris. Afterwards she may or may not have said, “let them have Gugelhupf cake!”

The Bundt cake’s rise to popularity

In more modern times, the Bundt cake’s notoriety can be attributed to a Texas woman named Ella Helfrich. After its creation, sales of the Bundt cake pan were slim. But Ella unknowingly would save this Minnesota iconic cake pan. In 1966 she placed second in a Pillsbury baking contest for her Bundt cake, Tunnel of Fudge. After the contest, sales of the Bundt cake skyrocketed resulting in over 200,000 orders. In the 1970s, Pillsbury licensed the name Bundt from Nordic Ware for a short period and sold various cake mixes.

Today, the Bundt cake pan come in various designs. To date, Nordic Ware has sold over 70 million Bundt pans.

Follow Eating Minnesota

Latest From the ‘Gram

Leave a Reply