Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's National Chocolate Cake Day!

One would think choosing a Chocolate Cake for National Chocolate Cake Day would be easy. Not so...There are just so many different types of chocolate cake.

Finally after paging through countless cookbooks, magazines and advertisements, I happened across exactly what I was craving; Tunnel of Fudge Cake. What? You've never heard of Tunnel of Fudge Cake? Surely you must have. It won second prize in the 17th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off® in 1966. I may have mentioned it a while back for National Bundt Pan Day. It's the cake that brought the Bundt Pan to new heights.

The theme for the 17th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off® in 1966 was "Hurried and Simplified." The idea was to "Bring back baking from scratch...the shortcutted Pillsbury way."
In 1966, Pillsbury's "Busy Lady" theme featured simplified recipes. Convenience products such as refrigerated doughs, cake mixes, canned meats, frozen vegetables and processed cheese recipes.
And that's just what Houston Texas resident Ella Rita Helfrich did. She invented a cake which mysteriously unwrapped a concealed pocket of luscious "tunnel of fudge" filling as it baked." In a 15 minute process of folding nuts and mixing double dutch pre-packaged frosting into a batter of flour, sugar, butter and eggs she created one of the most recognized Pillsbury creations Ever! Below is a copy of the original recipe. Be forewarned, you're in for an avalanche of gooey chocolate goodness.

Original Tunnel of Fudge Cake
1-1/2 cups soft Land O' Lakes Butter
6 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups Pillsbury's Best Flour
1 pkg. Pillsbury Two Layer Size Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix
2 cups Chopped Diamond Walnuts

Cream butter in large mixer bowl at high speed of mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually add sugar' continue creaming at high speed until light and fluffy. By hand, stir in flour, frosting mix and walnuts until well blended. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool 2 hours; remove from pan. Cool completely before serving.

NOTE: Nuts and Double Dutch Fudge Frosting Mix are essential to success of this unusual recipe. Since cake has a soft fudgy interior, test for doneness after 60 minutes by observing dry, shiny brownie type crust. Ed Note: It appears the nuts are necessary for the tunnel walls to form.
But wait, there's just one teeny tiny problem. Pillsbury discontinued making packaged frosting mix. Uh oh...I read somewhere that packaged frosting is still available in some stores in some parts of the country. Supposedly, Pillsbury got so many complaints from die heart tunnel of fudge cake lovers that they had to head back to the test kitchens and devise a substitute recipe. From most of the comments I've read, it just wasn't the same. Here's the recipe they devised.

New Tunnel of Fudge Cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose or unbleached flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4-6 tsp milk

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan (or a 10-inch tube pan).

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter or margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1& 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate and cool at least 2 hours.

In small bowl, combine glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

Fortunately for all of us, one of the editors of Cook's Country Magazine also had a craving for tunnel of fudge cake. (pictured above) It was her favorite birthday cake since she was eight years old. Thankfully, Bridget Lancaster included her tested revised recipe in the October/November 2007 edition of the magazine.
...To add more chocolate flavor, I switched from natural cocoa powder (which can be sour) to less acidic Dutch processed cocoa. Adding melted chocolate to the batter made the cake more moist and contributed big chocolate punch. As for the tunnel, I knew that slightly under-baking the cake was a big part of it. But even when under-baked, the interior of my cake was still too dry and decidedly nonfudgy.
To add moisture and flavor I swapped out almost half the granulated sugar with brown sugar. But the big key was adjusting the amount of two base ingredients; flour and butter. Cutting back on the flour made the cake much more moist, and using less butter helped the cakey exterior set more quickly; together these changes created the perfect environment for the fudgy interior to form. Finally, after two dozen failed cakes, the "tunnel" was back. And so was my birthday cake.

May I present, the recipe for Cook's Tunnel of Fudge Cake:

Ella won $5,000 and the cover spot of The Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes cookbook as runner up in the contest. The Grand Prize Winner was Mrs. John Petrelli from Las Vegas, Nevada. Her prize was $25,000! Her recipe? Golden Gate Snack Bread.

As for me, I'm feeling much better and, it stopped snowing, for now anyway:)


  1. happy chocolate cake day - chocolate cake is one of my favourite things in the world - would love a slice of your tunnel of fudge cake - just to help you celebrate you understand

    sorry to hear you don't want more snow but I am sure snowy weather is all the better for chocolate cake baking

  2. Okay Louise... where does one find the fudge buttercream? THAT is the problem here. The Knight bemoans the missing tunnel of fudge cake a family friend used to make, but she can't find the fudge buttercream.

  3. Louise, I was just about to bake and you share it is National Chocolate Cake Day. Now, I have to be a martyr and make a chocolate cake. How hard that will be......

    I would love to make this cake. I remember when it was famous although I never made it. Now, I should take advantage.

    On the other hand, I have baking to do for certain baking groups. Does a chocolate bread count? I won't make a loaf and it will look like a cake.

  4. I'm glad you're feeling better. Chocolate cake makes things right!

  5. My kids want desperately to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day. But it won't be with the tunnel of fudge cake. sorry, guys!

    And it didn't snow here today at all. We only got a dusting yesterday, although Scranton (10 miles south) got 1", Wilkes Barre got 2" and Hazleton got 6". Imagine that differential in only 50 miles!

  6. This is one Great Blog!
    I am very glad that you gave us all this fascinating ideas. Thank you, for everything.

  7. Oh, that cake looks heavenly! I'm going to have to try this recipe out! Thanks for sharing it. :0)

  8. Louise this chocolate cake look amazing and delicious, beauty pics! gloria

  9. I had heard about this cake and was so intrigued! so glad you are presenting it today!

  10. I'm sure I would love this chocolate cake but I'm also absolutely sure that there was never fudge buttercream in Germany, what a pity. My favourite birthday cake as a child was "Frankfurter Kranz", a white bundt cake without chocolate but with lots of buttercream :)

  11. I love Tunnel of Fudge Cake, one of my favorites! Well, it's chocolate.. and it's gooey! Fabulous post!

  12. The snow is never ending here too! Tunnel of Fudge Cake is exactly what is needed! I have wanted to make this ever since I saw it on the Test Kitchen tv show. It looks so insanely good!

  13. Don't you love those old Pillsbury books Louise? I used to have them all. Finally gave them to my DIL. But I copied all my favorites first. I still check their website.

    For once, I am right in line with National Chocolate Day! Hurrah!

  14. Thank you for posting this. It was and is a delicious cake, but I love it when the crew at Cook's gets their hands on a recipe. Good becomes great and, better still, the results become consistent. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  15. Snowy weather has definitely become baking weather around here, Johanna. I just baked a cheesecake! I can't guarantee I'll be fitting into any of my summer clothes if this keeps up. More snow on the way and lots too!!!

    I may have run into some at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods online. I'm sorry I can't remember, Channon. We have neither here in rural PA. I'll check Wegmans if I can get there this week. If I find it, I'll happily send it your way. The Knight certainly deserves his cake. He's such a sweet "papa. "Perhaps, your friend could give the Cooks recipe a whirl. I hear it's really good!

    Hi Bizzy! Thank you so much for visiting. You have a lovely blog. You can always make a chocolate cake on February 2nd, it's Ina Garten's birthday!!! (Barefoot Contessa) BTW, I adore chocolate bread too:)

    Yes it does! duckie Yes it does!!!

    Do I see a chocolate sheet cake on the horizon, Marjie? Where the heck are you that you didn't get any snow? You lucky girl. They say we have more on the way. About 6 inches. My son lives in State College and he got more than us. Of course, I guess I should count my lucky stars, I hear New York has tons!

    Thank you so much for the kind words Anon. Do drop by anytime. The latchstring is always opened:)

    You are more than welcome, Lisa. Enjoy:)

    Thank you Gloria. I have a GREAT scanner, lol...

    Magical Joumana and delicious too!!!

    Hi Petra! I'm having the darndest time trying to get to your blog. Is everything Okay. Email me:) I'd love to hear about your favorite birthday cake.

    Mine too Janet. You should bake one up in February. Isn't it National Chocolate Month?

    Every review I read said the Test Kitchen recipe is as good as it gets, Reeni. You really should try it. The anticipation alone is almost worth it. Of course, the cake itself, takes the cake!!!

    It's kinda funny Barbara, I gave most of my Pillsbury and Betty Crocker books away too. I'm running out of space, lol...

    I'm almost ashamed to say I've only discovered Cooks in the last few years and I totally agree Mary, the editors seem to create wonders. The dollops of historic tidbits are an added bonus!!!

  16. That Ella Rita Helfrich was a creative genus and I have to say I love the idea of a Tunnel of Fudge Cake about now.

  17. She sure was, OysterCulture. Some say she took the money and bought a new car!!!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise