• American Bundt cakes are descended from the European kugelhupf. (Alan Benson)
Beautiful Bundts may be the It Cake social media pin-ups but they have origins in the homely European kugelhupfs.
By
Anneka Manning

3 Aug 2017 - 5:53 PM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2017 - 1:08 PM

Simple, classic and undoubtedly impressive the Bundt is the quintessential American cake.

It all began in Minnesota in the early 50s. Local bakeware company Nordic Ware was asked by Jewish immigrant women to produce a cake tin to enable them to bake cakes reminiscent of the European kugelhupf from their homelands. They were known as “bund” cakes, which translates to “association” and referred to the tradition of serving them when you had company.

Nordic Ware had the foresight to add a ‘t’ to create their own name for the pan (and in turn the cakes it baked), signifying the beginning of a whole new style of cake – one that not only was shareable but also striking thanks to the unique pan.

American-Jewish women wanted a cake tin to bake cakes reminiscent of the European kugelhupf from their homelands.

However, it wasn’t until the mid 60s that the Bundt cake started to become popular, and it was almost by mistake that it did. In 1966, when trying to find a new way of utilising­­­ her gifted Bundt pan that had been sitting idle in her cupboard, a Texas women entered her ‘tunnel of fudge cake’ into the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off. Everyone went crazy for the recipe and Bundt pans became the must-have piece of bakeware in kitchens across America.

Millions of Bundt pans were sold through the 60s and 70s with another resurgence in the 90s and again, more recently, thanks to their popularity of this style of cake on Instagram and Pinterest.

The Bundt cake is now firmly embedded in the American baking tradition with a variety of striking and highly decorative styles and designs to choose from.

There are no real rules when making Bundt cakes but there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure success:

1. Bundts like to be the centre of attention (in your oven)

Bundt cakes are best baked in the centre of your oven, so make sure your oven racks are placed appropriately before preheating the oven.

2. Rock out with heavy metal

Generally, I avoid silicone pans when baking a Bundt cake as their sides aren’t ridged enough to create a defined pattern. They don’t have the ability to transfer heat as metal does to create a beautiful golden crust synonymous with Bundt cakes. I find that relatively heavy, metal, non-stick pans give the best results.

3. Grease your pan, even if it’s non-stick

Bundt cakes are notorious for sticking to their pans, especially if they have a particularly intricate design! Non-stick pans are preferable to help prevent this but you also need to take the time to prepare your pan well to help the cake release. I’ve found the best way to do this is to make a mixture up of melted butter and flour (15 g butter and 1 teaspoon of flour is a good ratio) and then use a natural-bristled pastry brush to carefully brush the inside of the pan, including the centre tube, paying special attention to intricate designs – you need to coat the pan thoroughly but not thickly. This will create an extra non-stick coating between the batter and the tin. Alternatively, you can brush the tin thoroughly but evenly with melted butter, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to the tin, cover the top of the tin with plastic wrap and then shake the tin until the inside is coated evenly with flour. Then tap the tin, open-side down, firmly on a benchtop to get rid of any excess flour so only a thin layer remains.

4. Not all cake batters are destined to be Bundts

When it comes to cake batters, the light fluffy types such as sponges won’t give you great results – they are just too fragile and light to hold the shape and intricate designs of a Bundt pan. Pound- and buttercake-type batters with just a little leavening that are slightly denser in texture give the best results.

5. No domed bottoms, thanks

Depending on the consistency of your batter, either spoon or pour it into the tin carefully so it fills evenly. If the batter is thick and a spooning consistency, make sure you use the back of a metal tablespoon to press the mixture into the tin and spread it evenly as you go. To prevent thick batters from doming too much, it’s a good idea to also use the back of the spoon to also create a ditch around the inside tube after you have tapped it on the bench (see point below).

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6. Fill to three-quarters only

A good rule of thumb is to fill them about three-quarters full to make sure you not only take full advantage of the whole decorative pattern but also to prevent the cake batter overflowing during baking.

7. Get rid of air pockets

Just before you put your cake into the oven, tap it deliberately and firmly on a cutting board 3–5 times. This will help settle the mixture into the nooks and crannies of any detailed designs and get rid of any large air pockets that may show up on the outside of the cake when baked, potentially distracting from the look of your final cake.

8. Cakes need a 10-minute cooling off period

Make sure you stand your cakes in the tin for at least 10 minutes (or 5 minutes for individual cakes) after baking. This will allow the cake to settle and pull slightly away from the sides of the tin. Then use your fingertips to loosen the cake from the tin around the edges and centre tube before placing a cooling rack on top and then turning out. If it doesn’t release easily, let it sit for another couple of minutes and repeat this process again.

9. Love your pans

Make sure you look after your pans as a scratched non-stick surface can play havoc with removing your cake from the pan in the future. Wash it by hand in warm soapy water with a non-scouring brush or cloth and then dry in a low oven.

There is no denying that Bundt cakes are all about the look. But no matter if you are soaking yours in syrup, dusting with icing sugar or drizzling with glaze, don’t forget about the actual cake itself ­– because Bundts are best when shared in person rather than on Instagram!


Bake Anneka's Bundt cakes

1. Brown-sugar ripple buttermilk Bundt cake with wine-roasted pears and caramel

The heavenly combination of brown-sugar rippled cake, wine-roasted pears and a decadent caramel sauce (that’s not too sweet thanks to the addition of a little dry white wine) makes this an elegant dessert perfect for mid-winter feasting.

2. Orange-pistachio Bundt cake with saffron syrup

This cake falls into that category of “less is more”. The cake itself is a simple one-bowl mix whipped up in the food processor, but when baked in a decorative Bundt cake tin and infused with an almost fluorescent saffron syrup, it is one that will definitely impress.

3. Zebra cake with chocolate fudge glaze

This is such a fun cake – the weight of alternating spoonfuls of mixture dropped on top of one another cause it to spread in the tin and create a wonderful ‘zebra’ stripped pattern that will be revealed when cut.

4. Marsala chai Bundt cakes with honey drizzle icing

These cakes capture the true essence of an aromatic, soul-warming Indian marsala chai (or chai tea). Finished with a honey drizzle icing, they really are the perfect afternoon-tea cake… especially when baked in such pretty, high-tea perfect Bundt tins!

Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Nick Banbury. Creative concept by Belinda So.

Baked a Bundt? #ShowUsYourBundts on social. 

View previous Bakeproof columns and recipes here: 

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Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.