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The last Bundt pans in America?

As Amy Jones buys, so buys the nation. And Amy Jones is not buying Bundt pans.

From June to December this year, at least two dozen Amy Joneses are getting married around the country. A peek at Internet wedding registries for Target, Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and other regional stores reveals that only three of them deemed Bundt cake tasty enough to ask someone to buy the pan in which to bake it.

"I had a mini-Bundt pan set on my registry but took it off when I rethought what items I would use most," says the Amy Jones who is marrying Seth Taylor on Saturday in Washington state. "I enjoy baking but don't seem to have the time or energy for much of it. Baking is not a priority in my life."

That said, she has asked for a springform pan, a 9-inch round baking pan, a loaf pan, a batter bowl and even a cake decorating set and a glass cake stand.

Wither the Bundt?

The Bundt pan developed by Nordic Ware in 1950 and made famous by a 1969 Pillsbury Bake-Off winner appears to be slipping in popularity. In 1993, 21 percent of American households had Bundt pans; last year that number fell to 15 percent, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks how Americans eat and cook.

Harry Balzer, NPD vice president, says that Americans are embracing cooking without cookware (long live the grill!) and that is partly to blame for the Bundt snub. NPD also notes declines in frying pans, Dutch ovens, double boilers, 1-quart casserole dishes and the broiler pan. The Bundt, though, has fallen furthest.

Nordic Ware's patented Bundt pan, along with knockoffs such as Calphalon's bunt and Wearever's crownburst, needs a smashing good public relations campaign because, truly, the fluted cake pan is the cookware for our hectic times.

Marta Kellam of Dunedin, who married Benjamin Kellam in January, doesn't have a Bundt pan and didn't register for one.

"I would like to have a whole row of copper ones on the wall," she says. "Maybe that would inspire me to bake."

Kellam can score an early copper version of the pan now made of cast aluminum on eBay for sure, but she'll need to know what she is looking for. At least one online peddler is selling a very seasoned angel food cake pan as a Bundt.

And that's another problem. What the heck is a Bundt pan?

Matt McNeill of Asheville, N.C., who married Allison Dent of New Port Richey in May, isn't sure but he's positive that the newlyweds don't have one.

"Yes, she bakes cakes," he says. "She uses the little circle pan."

For Matt's information and others' education, a Bundt is a molded pan that leaves a decorative impression on the cake, something like a Jell-O mold. A high-sided round pan that has a column in the middle, a flat bottom and slightly angled sides is for angel food cake.

Maybe the folks at Nordic, who are quite surprised by the falling figures given the "tens of thousands" of pans they make a year, should coach wedding planners and salesclerks about the Bundt's benefits. Then the Amy Joneses of the world would know that a Bundt is at least as useful as a serrated grapefruit knife.

For instance, a Bundt cake need not be neatly frosted like a layer cake, nor is there any need to align layers. For a fancy fete, dress up a Bundt with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or maybe a sticky glaze that runs down the sides haphazardly.

Cakes baked in 9- by 13-inch pans are easy but aren't much to look at, especially if you've glopped batter on the edges. Invert a Bundt pan onto a plate and you're left with a decorative design that a rectangular, flat cake can't match.

Oh, yes, the Bundt pan has something to offer. Or at least it did way back when.

The beginning Bundt

The story of the Bundt cake begins in Minneapolis, circa 1950. Members of the local chapter of the Hadassah society asked Nordic Ware founder H. David Dalquist to make a pan patterned after the kugelhopf that had been sent to the club's president by her grandmother in Europe. In it, she made a rounded cake with a hole in the middle.

The women called the cake a bund, which means alliance or band in German and for a cake implies sharing with a group. Because of the women's European accents, the word sounded like bundt to Dalquist.

And lucky it did. A pan or cake called "bund" might not have sold well in post-World War II America. Nazi Bund was the name of a pro-Nazi German-American organization of the 1930s. Though the war was over by the time Dalquist manufacturered his pan, many Americans would associate bund with suffering rather than something yummy to eat.

It took 10 years and a Good Housekeeping article that featured a cake made in Nordic Ware's pan before Dalquist applied for a patent. He got it, and the trademark name is still properly written capital "B." The generic description is fluted cake pan.

Still, the Bundt didn't hit its zenith until 1966 when Ella Rita Helfrich of Houston won second place in the Pillsbury Bake-Off for her tunnel of fudge cake.

Marlene Johnson, senior public relations manager for the Bake-Off, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this year that "there was something about that recipe . . . whether it was the chocolate flavor, or the magic of the way that the soft tunnel formed in the cake. It captured America's interest, and as a result, interest was generated in the Bundt pan."

The interest was so massive that Pillsbury developed Bundt cake mixes.

The Bundt mixes are long gone, and in their place is a generation of young couples who buy cakes at the grocery store bakery. Perhaps that's what they will put on the cake stands they ask their wedding guests to buy. (Target reports that its glass cake stand with dome cover is among the top 25 items on its wedding registry.)

The most recent pop culture reference to the Bundt was Lainie Kazan's attempt to pronounce it in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

That's not likely to spike sales.

New generation

Nordic Ware, though, is not playing dead. The company extols the health virtues of the Bundt to a diet-obsessed country. No icing means less sugar, they say.

"The Bundt pan remains the most popular baking mold in America," says Claudia Ross, an executive assistant at Nordic Ware. "I think it may have been true in the past that people weren't cooking, but 9/11 has had a whole effect on people baking. People are staying home and doing things with family and friends."

Ross says that Nordic's affiliation with Williams-Sonoma, purveyor of all kitchen things upscale, has been fruitful. The cake pans Nordic developed for the company are selling well, she says.

Those molded pans turn out cakes in the shapes of sunflowers, cathedrals, stars and roses. Fleur-de-lis are made with one pan. There are even Bundtlette pans, 3-inch mimics of the big guys.

Besides cakes, Ross says, Bundt pans can be used to make breads, molded salads and even meatloafs. The mini-Bundts can be used to make candles.

One woman stopped by Nordic Ware to entertain employees with a Bundt musical, Ross says. She found that different shapes made different sounds when banged on, and filling them with varying levels of water changed the tones.

Did anyone tell Amy Jones that?

The Amy Jones who is marrying Michael Yetter on July 19 in New Hope, Pa., knows all about Bundt cakes. She has a traditional fluted pan and registered for the rose mold from Williams-Sonoma.

"I decided on (the rose pan) because it is more festive. The other type is older, and this one ends up as a conversation piece as well," she says.

Maybe this Amy Jones needs to join with fellow Bundt-registrants Amy Jones of West Virginia and Amy Jones of North Carolina to spread the word.

It would be a shame if they are the last three brides in America who know how to lay down a Bundt.

Black Russian Bundt Cake

1 18.25-ounce yellow cake mix (without pudding)

{ cup sugar

6 ounces instant chocolate pudding

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

\ cup vodka

\ cup coffee-flavored liqueur

} cup water

For glaze:

{ cup powdered sugar, unsifted

\ cup coffee-flavored liqueur

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For cake: In large mixer bowl, combine cake ingredients. Mix at low speed about 1 minute; beat at medium speed 4 minutes.

Pour into greased and floured 10- to 12-cup Bundt or other molded cake pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Cake is done if toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.

Let cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto rack or plate. Poke holes in cake with tines of fork; slowly pour glaze over. Cool completely; dust with powdered sugar.

For glaze: Combine powdered sugar and liqueur. Blend until smooth.


Lemon Bundt Cake

1 18.25-ounce package lemon cake mix

1 3.4-ounce package instant lemon pudding mix

} cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10- to 12-inch Bundt or mold bake pan.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix, then stir in the oil. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in lemon-lime soda.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in pan and then invert onto a plate.


Blueberry Bundt Cake

1 18.5-ounce yellow cake mix

3 eggs

{ cup applesauce

1 cup (8 ounces) low-fat lemon yogurt

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons flour

\ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

\ cup chopped nuts

Whipped topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cake mix, eggs, applesauce and yogurt in a large bowl; mix well. In a small bowl, toss blueberries in flour to coat. Add 2 cups batter and mix well. Pour { of batter into greased and floured 10- to 12-inch Bundt or molded cake pan. Top with remaining blueberries.

Combine sugar, cinnamon and nuts in small bowl; mix well.

Sprinkle mixture over blueberries. Top with remaining batter. Bake for about 1 hour. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cool completely. Cut into slices and serve topped with whipped topping, if desired.


Tunnel of Fudge Cake

1} cups (3{ sticks) butter or margarine, room temperature

1} cups granulated sugar

6 eggs

2} cups powdered sugar (divided)

2\ cups flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (divided)

2 cups chopped walnuts (see note)

1{ to 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup fluted tube pan.

In large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour, } cup cocoa powder and nuts. Mix until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.

Bake 58 to 62 minutes. Cool upright in pan on cooling rack 1 hour; then invert onto serving plate. Cool completely.

For glaze: In small bowl, combine remaining } cup powdered sugar, remaining \ cup cocoa powder and milk. Mix until smooth. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

Note: Nuts are essential for the success of the recipe. Because this cake has a soft tunnel of fudge, the ordinary doneness test cannot be used. Accurate oven temperature and baking time are critical.