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Have you ever made such an artsy Bundt cake? One of those round cakes with a hole in the middle, often with a lot of intricate designs? Which can be a hassle to get out of the form if you don’t get it right?
Ever realized that the name Bundt is actually a trademark and has somehow become quite generic over time?
There’s quite a bit to talk about when it comes to Bundt cakes. Not just the name and how to release it properly, but on where it comes from and why it bakes so quickly.
History of the American Bundt pan
Before we dive into some history, it’s good to know that the term Bundt cake is an American name for this round cake with a hole in the middle. It seems to have its several centuries back though in Germany & Austria, where similar cakes were called Gugelhupf or Bundkuchen (here‘s a great bit of history, written in German). In the Netherlands these types of cakes are called ‘tulband’ which translates as turban in English.
Why and when the Americans started calling these tall cakes with a hole in the middle Bundt (note the extra t) cakes isn’t well known. As is the case with a lot of food facts/discoveries, there isn’t a specific time it was ‘invented’. We do know it was used in several cookbooks in the early 20th century.
At the time though, the term Bundt can’t have been that widely used since a company called Nordicware managed to trademark the term for their Bundt pans. Generally, companies aren’t able to trademark generic terms since they aren’t unique. It would be strange if someone could nowadays traemark the term ‘hamburger’ or ‘house’ since it clearly refers to a specific generic term.On March 24th, 1966 though Nordicware managed to trademark the Bundt pan.
Why a Bundt cake cooks quickly
When you bake a cake the whole batter in your cake pan needs to raech a certain minimum temperature for it to be cooked through. At this temperature proteins coagulate and starch cooks. The limiting factor in baking time is the fact that the heat from the oven needs to travel through the cake into the center. It takes time for the whole cake to heat up and the outside heats up first. Over time the heat travels through the cake.
The shorter the distance the heat has to cover, the quicker the cake bakes. This is why muffins cook a lot faster than a huge cake. It is also a reason why layered cakes are often baked separately instead of baking one large cake which is then cut into pieces. The large cake just takes a lot longer to bake.
So some smart people came up with the great idea to just make it easier for the heat to reach the whole cake. They made a hole in the middle of their cake pans. Whether this was actually done for speed, or had a completely different reason, I wouldn’t know, but it certainly does speed up cooking time.
How a Bundt pan is made
While researching the history of pan I started wondering how these are made. Of course, this depends quite a bit on which brand of pan you’ve bought. Since we just discussed Nordicware pans though, we’ll stick with those for now (especially since there’s a great YouTube video, see below, which shows their production process).
Most manufacturers will tell you what the pan is made of and in some cases it will tell you how it’s made. In the case of our Bundt pans, it states that they’re made from cast aluminium. Quite a lot of baking pans are made of aluminium since aluminium conducts heat very well. Steel is often used in combination with aluminium since it helps to strengthen the pan.
You will notice that cast aluminium pans are very sturdy and not flexible at all. This can be achieved thanks to the casting process. You can see it in the video below, but essentially you melt aluminium and pre this under a high pressure in a mold. This is done at very high temperatures, about 650-700C (1200-1300F). The mold itself exists of two parts, a bottom of a top. Once the aluminium has been casted and cooled sufficiently, these two sides release and the pan can be taken out.
Finishing it off
Once the pan has cooled down it is smoothened on the sides and any excess aluminium is removed. They can then spray it with a non-stick coating. The coating is dried at high temperatures to stabilize and strengthen it and then the pan is ready for use!
How to release a bundt cake
The way these Bundt pans are made allows for a lot of variations in designs, some more intricate than others. However, these intricate designs look best when the cake comes out easy and smooth. You can’t really line these pans with parchment paper, so how to you release them properly?
We tried a few ways and ended up with the following recommendations:
- Give your pans a generous brush of butter. We would normally not put on as much, the pan shouldn’t turn white, but you should cleary see the butter.
- We tried dusting the buttered pan with flour, however, that did not work any better for us. Intead, the cake turned out a little white (due to the flour) and still didn’t release that well. Just stick with butter.
- Do not fill the pan until just before you’ll be putting it in the oven. If the batter is in the pan for too long it seems to destroy those layers you put on to prevent it from sticking.
- Don’t try to take out the cake straight from the oven. At this point it is still a little weak and prone to breaking apart. Wait some 5-10 minutes before turning it over.
- Don’t wait too long either though. Once it has cooled down the moisture will start condensing and it might stick to the tin again.
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United States Patent & Trademark Office: the registration for Bundt by Nordicware, link
Culinary Lore, What happens when trademarked food names become generic, Nov. 12, 2015, link
The national museum of American history, Bundt pan, link
Washington Post, Marcy Goldman, The birth of the bundt (pan with a past) 1997, link
Some quick facts about aluminium casting.