Jiggling molds of pink salmon mousse? Blech. Jell-O salads topped with mayonnaise? Yuck. Tang instead of orange juice? It seems our astronauts deserved more.
But there’s one food spawned by the Me Decade that I’ve really missed lately.
It’s the Bundt cake. Fifty years ago, these fluted, ring-shaped cakes were a staple at many potlucks, picnics and Tupperware parties. They contained all sorts of welcome surprises — a hidden center of lemony pudding — and some not-so-welcome surprises: bizarre ingredients such as asparagus, tomato soup and — urp — white beans.
Today, it’s estimated that 70 million U.S. households have a Bundt pan, and it has even earned a place in the National Museum of American History. It’s fair to guess that pan wouldn’t have been nearly so popular if it had been known by the original cake for which it was molded: the Kugelhopf.
Yes, food historians trace the modern Bundt cake to a European brioche-like cake called Kugelhopf, which is known in some areas of Germany as the Bundkuchen.
But it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that a cast aluminum pan was created as a more practical substitute for the heavy, cast-iron or ceramic Kugelhopf pan.
H. David Dalquist, who, along with wife Dotty launched Minnesota’s Nordic Ware company, agreed to custom-cast the pan for a group of women in the Minneapolis Hadassah Society who wanted to make a Kugelhopf like their mothers did.
In lieu of the unwieldy name, Dalquist started out calling it a Bund pan, but eventually added the “t.”
The pan saw lackluster sales until 1966, when it rocketed to stardom. That was the year Mrs. Ella Helfrich placed second in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-off with her decadent Tunnel of Fudge Cake.
Helfrich may have missed the gold medal, but she won the hearts of American housewives with what became one of Pillsbury’s most-requested recipes. Over 200,000 letters poured in to request the recipe, prompting Dahlquist to put the factory into round-the-clock production to meet demand.
My favorite Bundt has always been the Harvey Wallbanger Cake. It was named after the very ’70s cocktail, which was basically a screwdriver spiked with Galliano liqueur.
Galliano is steeped with all kinds of herbs and spices — juniper, anise, vanilla, lavender, peppermint and cinnamon — and always reminded me of a boozy root beer. It comes in a tall, skinny, tapered bottle (imagine Mrs. Butterworth after a year of spin class and intermittent fasting), which is probably still gathering dust in the back of my parents’ liquor cabinet because who even drinks Harvey Wallbangers anymore?
The H.W. Bundt has a citrussy, sharp-sweet taste and is incredibly moist, as long as you don’t overbake it. (Then you get Harvey Wallbreaker cake.)
Everything about this dessert is very ’70s, from the psychedelic pan and the Robert Goulet-worthy drink that inspired it to the fact it condoned spiking a baked treat with 84-proof liqueur and then proudly serving it to your kids.
You can take some comfort in knowing most of the alcohol will bake out of this cake. The frosting, however, is served neat. No ice.
If you wish to make a more family-friendly Harvey Wallnudger version, replace the alcohols with fresh-squeezed orange juice, which isn’t as hyper-sweet as concentrates. Or simply use water, along with orange zest and a teaspoon or 2 of nonalcoholic orange extract.
Did Mom’s original Harvey Wallbanger Cake recipe contain vodka? I don’t remember it, but it still had a sharply sweet, root beer-and-orange flavor. Tammy Swift / The Forum
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1 box yellow cake mix
3-ounce package vanilla instant pudding
½ cup cooking oil
4 large eggs
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup Galliano liqueur
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon Galliano liqueur OR fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vodka OR fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
Place cake mix, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup Galliano, vodka, pudding mix and 3/4 cup orange juice into a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Pour cake mixture into pan. Bake 45-50 minutes or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do NOT overbake.
Let cake rest for 10 minutes. Gently loosen edges of cake with a butter knife. Invert cake onto platter.
For frosting, mix powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon orange juice, 1 tablespoon Galliano and 1 teaspoon vodka until mixture is smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake while it’s still slightly warm; let cool to room temperature for glaze to set.
Tammy Swift is a business reporter and columnist at The Forum. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.