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Baking history that's rich and chocolatey

"Tunnel of Fudge Cake" has long been a favorite cake that was a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner!
"Tunnel of Fudge Cake" has long been a favorite cake that was a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner!

It's well known that Pillsbury, the company famous for their baking products, sponsors a Bake-Off Contest every two years. It's been called "the Olympics of Bakers", in which cooks from all over the country compete for a million dollar grand prize to see who can create the best recipe using Pillsbury products. Pillsbury's website, has many recipes from the contests, dating back to the early days of the Bake-Off up to present time. Many have become among the company's most requested recipes.

One cake recipe stands out as a true classic. In 1966, a lady named Rita Ella Helfrich from Houston, Texas, developed a "Tunnel of Fudge Cake" recipe that called for a box of Pillsbury's Double Dutch Fudge Frosting Mix that was actually mixed into the cake batter. This, along with chopped nuts, created a soft center in the cake, which was how the name "tunnel of fudge" was coined. Topped with a light confectioner's sugar glaze, it was indeed a chocolate lover's dream. The cake won Mrs. Helfrich the contest's Second Place Prize of $5,000.

In addition, the recipe called for a pan that was then unfamiliar with many cooks: the Bundt pan. Due to the extreme popularity of the recipe, bakers across the country cleaned out the stores stocking Bundt pans. The Mirro Company, who at that time made the pans, went into 24/7 production to manufacture the pans to keep up with the demand of stores wanting to stock them.

Unfortunately, as time passed, Pillsbury eventually phased out their dry boxed frostings, going only to canned frostings. This left many devoted fans of the cake unable to make it. Pillsbury then reworked the original recipe and came up with one that very closely resembles the classic.

There are some rules to follow about making this cake: first, the nuts called for in the recipe are a MUST! The nuts not only provide flavor, but this gives the cake's tunnel its structure. Also, typical doneness cake tests, such as inserting a toothpick into the cake, cannot be used due to the soft center in the cake. Look for a dry, shiny crust, much like that of a brownie. It's much better to underbake this cake than to overbake it, as overbaking it will make the finished product dry and crumbly. When the recipe if followed carefully, it's really a marvelous cake!

I recently gave another chocolate recipe for a "Chocolate Fudge Cake" that's baked in a 9x13 inch pan, so if you don't have a tube pan of any type, you can make this one! Here's the link to the recipe:

So, let's splurge and enjoy a piece of baking history and join me tomorrow for another special cake recipe!


  • 1-3/4 C. Butter, softened (3 1/2 sticks)
  • 1-3/4 C. Sugar
  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 2 C. Confectioner's Sugar
  • 2-1/4 C. All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 C. Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 2 C. Chopped Nuts, either Walnuts or Pecans


  • 3/4 C. Confectioner's Sugar
  • 1/4 C. Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 4-6 Tsp. Milk

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan or 10 inch tube pan and set aside; in a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy; add the eggs, one at a time, beating completely as they're added; gradually add the confectioner's sugar and blend well; by hand, stir in the remaining cake ingredients and blend well; spoon into prepared pan and spread evenly; bake 45-50 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and top is set (look for a dry, shiny brownie-type crust); let cool upright in the pan 1-1/2 hours before removing from pan; then let cool at room temperature at least 2 hours.

In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients with just enough milk to make a glaze of desired consistency and drizzle over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Store tightly covered.

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