The Sweet History of the Famous Bundt Pan
America's favorite cake pan has Scandinavian roots.
The Bundt cake, with all its ridges made for catching a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a drizzle of glaze, is a beloved dessert. Dare we say, iconic? But what's almost as fun as having a slice of cake baked in the famous pan is learning the fascinating history behind it from Jenny Dalquist, the executive vice president of sales and marketing and third generation member of the family that created the brand Nordic Ware, the makers of the Bundt pan. With Nordic Ware celebrating 75 years of business this year, it only seems right to do a deep dive into their most famous contribution to the baking community.
The Love Story That Started It All
Dave and Dotty Dalquist, the founders of Nordic Ware, met right outside the Chicago Art Institute. Dotty and a friend were attempting to take a picture together in front of the museum and Dave, a Navy sailor, stepped in to help.
As their visits in the Windy City continued, Dave and Dolly kept bumping into each other at various art exhibits, and, as Jenny says, "The rest is history!" After World War II, Dave returned from his position as a radar technician and promptly married Dotty. They then settled into life in Minneapolis, Dave's home town.
And Then There Was Nordic Ware
The newlyweds wanted to a start a business together. Dave had a chemical engineering degree and background in metal working thanks to past positions in northern Minnesota steel mills. Dotty, the daughter of recent Danish immigrants, was well versed in Scandinavian baking. With these unique sets of skills, the duo decided to create the only thing that made sense: specialty bakeware.
They named the company Nordic Ware and soon began producing products they'd grown up using, like rosette irons, krumkake makers, and ebelskiver irons. Minnesota has a large concentration of people with Scandinavian heritage, meaning they had a built-in market of customers looking for bakeware similar to that of their home country. The company also worked on introducing these relatively unknown products to the rest of the American population, though there was modest interest at best.
The Birth of the Bundt Pan
The Bundt pan wasn't part of Nordic Ware's initial line of products. Its creation came about because a local group of Minneapolis women who were members of Hadassah, a women's Jewish organization, requested it. They approached Dave to ask if he could manufacture a cake pan similar to one they used back in Europe, called a Kugelhopf or Gugelhupf pan. The original design is clunky and heavy, often weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds, with a cone in the center to conduct heat into the batter for quicker baking. Nordic Ware's version improved upon the design, using cast aluminum for a lighter weight and better heat conducting. Dave trademarked the pan's name as Bundt, a loose play on the German word "bund," which means a gathering of people.
The Bundt pan's popularity didn't take off in the first decade or so that it existed. Americans weren't use to this style of cake, instead opting to use pans they already recipes for. It was almost discontinued in the early 1960s, but all of that changed in 1966 thanks to the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. A local Texas woman used a Nordic Ware Bundt pan to create her "Tunnel of Fudge Cake" recipe, which had a rich filling of frosting. She ended up winning second place in the national contest, quickly causing an uptick in interest for the Bundt pan from households across the country.
Nordic Ware Today
With 75 years in business, Nordic Ware is still a family-owned company, with three generations currently involved with the business, and the Bundt pan remains a household baking staple. They still manufacture the majority of their products in Minneapolis and have since expanded beyond just bakeware to more modern innovations like grilling accessories and microwave products.
The creation process for aluminum products has remained steady since the mid 1960s, using the technique of die casting, and Jenny estimates a dozen pairs of hands touch each pan before it's ready to be sent to the customer. Indeed, Nordic Ware still keeps true to their original intention when founded, making high-quality pieces that are worth being passed down from generation to generation.