Open up your kitchen cabinets. Among the sheet pans, stock pots, and cooling racks, you’ll find a circular aluminum pan that you can rely on to make a stunning cake or savory bread. It’s the Bundt pan. And though this item is a staple in kitchens across America now, it was once in danger of being discontinued for good… until one cake stepped in and saved the day.
The Bundt pan was introduced to the American marketplace in the early 1950s by Nordic Ware, a Minneapolis-based company. The shape was based on the German cake Gugelhupf, and it was not a success by any stretch of the imagination. The Bundt pan was actually in danger of becoming extinct. Then the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest happened. The Tunnel of Fudge Cake, a chocolate cake with an indulgent fudgy center, came in second place and helped make the Bundt cake a must-have kitchen accessory.
In an email interview, Jessica Faucher, the corporate archivist and historian for General Mills (which now owns Pillsbury), revealed that Pillsbury fielded “thousands of requests to locate the ring-shaped Bundt cake pan that was used for the recipe.”
“It was clear that consumers were interested in the recipe and the Bundt pan,” she said. “That recipe continued in popularity and became one of the first 10 recipes into the Pillsbury’s Bake-Off Contest Hall of Fame.”
Today, Nordic Ware has sold over 70 million Bundt pans, and because that company holds the trademark on the Bundt name, the signature tube shape has been repeated by other manufacturers under a more generic term, such as “fluted tube pan.” But you might not be able to have that airy, circle-shaped cake under any name if not for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. And if you didn’t know that, you probably don’t know these other facts about this legendary baking competition.