Ever since its debut in the 1950s, the bundt cake pan has become de rigeur in every baker’s equipment stable. Originally a whimsical alternate to the smooth angel food cake tube pan, the bundt mold with its fetching large-lobed flute design transforms a simple tube cake into a gourmet gateaux by visuals alone. The original bundt pan has sold about 40 million pans worldwide, all which are slated for a lifetime plus of use since they never rust or warp. For decades it was the perfect Christmas gift for a baker, and now, with five gorgeous new designs that scream “must-have,” it is once more the perfect gift, even for me.
Like every other man-made invention, the bundt pan was once an idea that has become an icon in a baker’s kitchen due to savvy marketing as much as for its excellent baking capabilities. The rigid, seamless, stamped aluminum pan with the nonstick lining is the creation and handiwork of Nordic Ware, a division of Northland Aluminum Products, Inc. of Minneapolis, situated in the heartland of American baking. Founded in 1946 by the Halquist brothers, the company manufactured beloved traditional Scandinavian kitchen tools such as round ebelskivers and plattar pancake pans for making the crepe-like Swedish pancake, and long-handled rosette irons. With an eye for the future, they became one of the 12 original licensees of DuPont Teflon, the revolutionary nonstick coating for cooking and baking equipment.
Looking like a leftover from old world baking, the Bundt pan is just that–an updated American copy of the old, heavy cast iron and ceramic bund pans (bund is the German word for gathering) so beloved in Northern European wood-and coal-stove baking. The bundt pan was first manufactured when a request to the wife of Nordic Ware’s founder, H. David Halquist, came from the President of the local chapter of the Hadassah Society to reproduce a kugelhof mold sent by her grandmother. The cast aluminum copy with a nonstick lining, called the Bund Pan, was made in a limited amount for Hadassah Society members and local department stores.
In 1960 sales jumped when the Good Housekeeping Cookbook published a recipe for Old Plantation Pound Cake, with photographs of the cake baked in the pan, and with the rise in interest, Nordic Ware registered their pan under the trademark of Bundt®. To this day, thick battered pound cakes are still one of the best recipes, along with beautiful coffee cakes, quick breads, honey cakes, and babkas, to make in a bundt pan. Don’t use the pan for chiffon or angel food cakes; they will stick mercilessly. Use a regular tube pan for these classic cakes.
In 1966, the top winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off used a bundt pan and the pan began to have a national audience. Within 5 years, the pan was named the most popular baking mold in America and Pillsbury decided to design a line of commercial cake mixes to bake in the 12-cup pan. My mom’s first bundt pan was bought just to bake a Pillsbury mix. The cake mixes were a wild success, selling a remarkable $25 million dollars worth of mixes in the first year alone, probably due to the love of a cake called the Tunnel of Fudge, precursor to the now-hot restaurant dessert of individual chocolate cakes with a oozing, under baked center like a thick sauce. My latest version of the Pillsbury Best Desserts Cookbook, published in 1998 by Clarkson Potter, has five bundt cake recipes, most from scratch, including a wonderful fresh Cranberry Orange Pound Cake served with a butter rum sauce (recipe follows).
Within the last 4 years, Nordic Ware has developed the new technology to make plastic laser molds from CAD
digital drawings that are the prototypes for the sand or die casts to make these innovative, intricate pan molds. First was the Festival Party bundt, with a pillar-like design that looks like an ancient Babylon temple, then the peaky Star, and finally the swirling-ridged Bavaria Bundt and the Fleur de Lis (“the Flower of the Lily”), which looks like a more complicated version of the standard bundt rimmed with a stunning pearl bead pattern, are available. These creative pans are remarkably beautiful, as well as functional, looking at home proudly displayed as an heirloom in your kitchen hutch. On a recent QVC show, these new bundt pans sold an astonishing 7,000 units in 8 minutes. In the years following, Nordic Ware has added the very popular rose, chrysanthemum (petals), a star of David, the Elegant Heart (complete with center hole), the Castle, the Stadium, and Heritage Bundts. There are whimsical shapes like the Backyard Bug bundt, Gingerbread House, Beehive Cake, Cornucopia, and many more so you can fill your heart’s desire in baking. The standard Bundt also comes as a half-size 8-inch round with a 6-cup capacity (buy 2 so you can make a large cake recipe and divide in half instead of waiting to bake a second cake in the same pan), which is a great size for a small family or for gift-giving your special cakes.
In the December 1999 issue of Fine Cooking magazine I got my first look at the Star bundt, created in honor of Nordic Ware’s 50th anniversary. Similar to the standard bundt pan in design, it boasted a finely pointed-detailed design that was more rigidly geometric like a tin kugelhof mold, had a slightly smaller center cone, dark outer finish, and new bonded nonstick finish. It is slightly lighter in weight than my old bundt pan, which needs to be lifted with two hands when filled with batter it is so heavy. Dusted with powdered sugar, a cake baked in the Star mold looks like a model of the Alps after a new snow.
Williams-Sonoma carries all the pans including one of their own design, the Cathedral bundt. Their in-house buyer found an antique bund pan with a Gothic arch pattern while on a buying trip to Europe. Chuck Williams sent the pan to Nordic Ware and was returned sample drawings of the concept. Making its debut during a holiday season during the last decade, the Cathedral pan is so evocative it could be the model for a crown. When balanced by its tube on a cup and hit with a wooden spoon, it resounds like an old-fashioned church bell.
Martha Stewart has created her own design with Nordic Ware technology, a pattern for an updated uber-elegant tall kuglehof that was hush-hush in the food world until she unveiled it on one of her shows. I had trouble finding it under the Martha Stewart line of baking pans, but then lo and behold, there it was for sale on amazon.com. It is a beautiful pan and if you love to bake, a must-have. Elegnt glass fluted tube pans from the Czech Republic are made by Kavalier Glassworks of North American Inc.
Nordic Ware, still owned by the Halquist family, offers four different lines of bundt pans, each differing slightly in their method of manufacture, thickness of the aluminum, and cost. The Color Line is made from stamped sheets of metal and sells for $6 to $9 in venues like Walmart. Mid-way is the Procast Line that includes both a standard and festival shape bundts, bundtlette pans for individual bundts, and 10-inch lobed bundt loaf pan that is great for monkey bread, $15 to $20 in hardware stores and Target. The Heritage is in the Commercial line.
The high-end gourmet line, called the Platinum Collection, includes the “Best” original 12-cup standard bundt, 6-cup baby bundt pans (one standard
bundt cake recipe will bake perfectly in 2 pans with 6 molds, cutting the bake time by 20 to 25 minutes), and all of the new designs, are of the thickest weight die-cast aluminum, offered by King Arthur and Chef’s Catalogs, Williams-Sonoma, and Sur La Table gourmet shops and running about $28 to $38 per pan. All pans are manufactured in the USA and carry a lifetime guarantee for full replacement (how rare is THAT?). Shop on-line at www.nordicware.com and amazon.com has an amazing selection.
Tips for Baking in Bundt Pans
Here are a few tips from Reed Winter, the R&D manager of Nordic Ware, for the best results in working with bundt pans.
• The original, or standard, 10-inch diameter bundt pan has a 12-cup capacity. The Star bundt is also a 12-cup capacity. Up to now all bundt cake recipes have been designed for this size, so you need to pay attention or else you will overfill the pan or have leftover batter. The Cathedral, Fleur de Lis, Festival, Heritage, Kuglehof, and Bavaria pan designs are slightly smaller: 9-inch in diameter with a 10-cup capacity. Recipes without a lot of chunky fruits and nuts will probably work perfectly in the 10-cup pans, but be prepared to experiment until more recipes appear specifically designed for them. Fill the pan no more than 1 to 2 inches from the top with batter, that is about 3/4 full.
• The intricate designed pans work best with thick, smooth batters, such as pound cake and enhanced commercial cake mix batters, in order to get the fine detailing. Slightly undermix your batter, leaving it thick and fluffy. You will use 1 1/2 (18 1/2 ounce) packages cake mix, such as Duncan Hines.
• Grease with a nonstick baking spray, such as Pam or Baker’s Joy. Heavily coat all surfaces, taking care to get in all the nooks and crannies. Turn the pan upside down for 5 minutes (I do this while I am mixing the batter). This way the grease coating will even out and avoid the batter bubbling in the details.
• After pouring the batter into the pan, use a small metal spatula to gently push some of the batter slightly up the outer wall. Do this with a stroke from the center cone out, all the way around, making the outer edge about 1/4 inch higher than around the center cone. In the oven heat, the outer ridge will rise and roll over, naturally filling in the intricate details as the batter expands.
• Bundt cakes are best baked at a lower temperature for a slightly longer time. Most bundt cake recipes specify 350ºF, which is too high, especially for the dark finish pans; the cake domes quickly, but stays raw in the center with a crusty shell. Reduce the oven temperature to 300º to 325ºF (Winter uses 335ºF) and add on 15 to 20 minutes to the baking time. Use an oven thermometer for accuracy.
• After baking, remove the pan from the oven and let the cake stand in the pan for about 10 minutes to allow the cake to firm up slightly and contract from the sides of the pan. Remove from the pan by placing a wire cooling rack on top, then invert the cake onto the rack and lift off the pan. Cool to warm and glaze, frost, or dust with powdered sugar. Store 2 days at room temperature under a cake dome or in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. A bundt cake yields 12 to 20 slices.
Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
Its is just about fresh cranberry season. A classic American duo, cranberry and orange taste especially good at holiday time. The cake and rum butter sauce, old fashioned and charming, can be made up to 5 days ahead–tightly cover each and store in refrigerator. Let cake come to room temperature, and reheat sauce briefly before serving. This is a great cake for a Halloween party, Thanksgiving dessert, or for giving during the holidays.
- 2 3/4 cups granulated cane sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons grated orange peel and/or 1 teaspoon orange oil (I use both)
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 container (8 oz) sour cream (1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw)
Butter Rum Sauce
- 1 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 4 teaspoons light rum, or 1/4 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour Coat six 3/4-or 1-cup mini Bundt molds with cooking spray.
In large bowl, blend butter and sugar together on medium speed 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add remaining ingredients and blend on low speed, 1 minute, scraping bowl often. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, until well blended. Divide batter evenly among the cups.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert onto cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Once the cupcakes are cooled, ice them with lemon cream cheese icing. Refrigerate.(Cupcakes can be prepared 1 day ahead. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.) Makes 6 individual cakelets.
Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
(1 lb. 2 oz.) box sifted powdered sugar
Beat cream cheese and margarine or butter together.
Add lemon zest and juice.
Add powdered sugar until desired smooth consistency is reached for spreading or more milk or lemon juice for drizzling.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.