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:)