The German Kugelhopf that Spawned the American Bundt Cake


The German Kugelhopf cake that spawned our American bundt cake.


There’s a local cake franchise that’s made it to Cincy this year called Nothing Bundt Cakes.   Founders Dina Tripp and Debby Shwetz are ‘bringing back the bundt’.     Repopularizing a cake straight out of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations sounds like a tall task, but they saw a niche for readily available cakes.  They offer these in the form of the classic bundt cake.   But, they’ve also innovated by offering ‘bundtinis’ or cupcake sized versions of the bundt cake.   So far there are two franchised locations, one in Hyde Park and one in Mason.


The bundt cake has been around in the U.S. since Northland Aluminum Company trademarked the Bundt pan through its Nordic Wares kitchen line in the early 1950s.


The inventor of the bundt pan is Henry David Dalquist (1918-2005), from Minnesota, the Land of the Hot Casserole (see my blog January 5, 2016 – The Hot Dish a Minnesota Threeway).   He began his professional life as a metallurgical engineer for U.S. Steel in Duluth, Minnesota.   But after returning from service during World War II, he founded the Northland Aluminum Company.     In 1950 he was approached by a group of women asking him to design a pan that could make “kugel”, a pudding or cake popular in Europe.


H. David Dalquist, Sr., inventor of the bundt pan.

Also known as Gugelhupf or Kugelhopf, it is a European brioche-like cake which was particularly popular among the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, and Poland. The noodle kugel of American Jewish delis is a cousin of this family of desserts.     Etymology points to the German word hupfen, which means to jump, because the yeast dough literally jumps out of the pan.


Dalquist’s response to the ladies was a fluted cast aluminum pan with a hole in the center.   It evenly cooked the cake or pudding outside and in, creating a firm outer crust and a moist interior.   A 1966 recipe that won the Pillsbury Bake-off, using the pan, launched the bundt pan into American kitchen iconography.     Since then, 45 million have been sold and Dalquist was inducted into the Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame in Boston in 1987.


In Europe, the Gugelhupf consists of a soft yeast dough, which contains raisins, almonds, and Kirschwasser or cherry brandy.   Some are filled with candied fruits and nuts.   Other Eastern European varieties (Czech, Hungarian, and Slovakian) integrate their favorite regional filling – sweetened ground poppy seeds.   It is baked in a special tall circular pan with a central tube, originally made from enameled pottery.


European enameled Gugelhopf pans.



A Czech version of the Gugelhopf, with poppyseed filling.

The cake is also popular in In Northern Germany, where it’s traditionally called bundkuchen, which is where the name bundt derives.       I remember in the 70’s JELL-O tried to ride the coattails of the bundt craze by creating recipes for JELL-O and pudding filled bundts, which were arguably delicious.   We’ll see if Nothing Bundt Cakes can take them out of the Church undercroft and into the mainstream.



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