You know what a bundt cake is, even if you may not have known what they are called. They are toroidal cakes that are baked in special pans with a hollow center so that heat can come up and cook from the center, which is why bundt cakes are so much taller than ordinary sheet cakes. Although many recipes can be baked in a bundt pan, the stereotype is a yellow poppyseed cake with lemon glaze drizzled over the top. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad bundt cake – the thick center helps keep them moist.
The Bundt cake derives in part from a European brioche-like fruit cake called Gugelhupf which was popular among Jewish communities in parts of Germany, Austria and Poland. In the north of Germany Gugelhupf is traditionally known as Bundkuchen (German pronunciation: [ˈbʊntkuːxn]), a name formed by joining the two words Kuchen (cake) and Bund.
Opinions differ as to the significance of the word Bund. One possibility is that it means “bunch” or “bundle”, and refers to the way the dough is bundled around the tubed center of the pan. Another source suggests that it describes the banded appearance given to the cake by the fluted sides of the pan, similar to a tied sheaf or bundle of wheat. Some authors have suggested that Bund instead refers to a group of people, and that Bundkuchen is so called because of its suitability for parties and gatherings.
Because of the topic of this blog, I don’t often talk about what I want to own that there is no compelling reason not to own, things I really may buy for myself someday.
One of those is a toaster oven. I don’t mean those little things that are sold to college students in August; I mean the spacious ones that are often promoted as “second ovens” (in addition to the one underneath the stove I don’t have in my nonexistent kitchen). I could own a big toaster oven as my One Nice Piece. I could cook far more healthy food in it than the chow from the diner across the way. I just have to get rid of more of my stuff to make space for it. No reason not to own one. I don’t mind the smell of baked food getting into my closet.
For years, I have mused on what I can cook in a big toaster oven, ranging from simple chicken and vegetables to olive rolls and brioche. But there is one piece of baking exotica I have wanted for years that I do not think I should own. That is a bundt pan that, instead of being shaped like the usual fluted ring, is shaped something like a cathedral, or, as it looks to me, the Sydney Opera House. (Yes, I guess this is another example of my fascination with tech without moving parts or electricity!)
Nordic Ware, an early and current manufacturer of bundt pans, makes a variety of unusual shapes ranging from a heart, a Star of David, and a rose, to holiday forests and fairytale castles and cottages.
The cathedral bundt pan catches my imagination because it’s pretty, it’s unsentimentally stylish, it’s spectacular, it’s sure to elicit comment wherever I take a cake. Most people have never seen anything like it.
But I do not have much use for one. There’s just me to feed at home. My church buys food for its coffee hours instead of going potluck. I would rather buy my coworkers something really special, New Skete Cheesecakes, once or twice a year, in order to support the nuns there. And if I wanted to carry around a cake, I’d have to get a cake carrier. Suddenly, what seemed amusing seems like a whole lot of storage space for the pan and carrier. And you know how much storage space I have. Cake fantasies aside, this is not a fun idea for me any more.
If you, however, like to bake and have a convenient audience and some storage space, I think it would be lots of fun for you to get at least one of the cleverly shaped Nordic Ware bundt pans and play with them. How un-boring they are! We are getting into good baking weather, when it is pleasant to come indoors to enjoy the warmth and fragrance of baking goods. You can make a few cakes and learn the pan’s ways in time for the holiday season. And then you can make gifts that will always be appreciated, as well as something tasty for you and yours. Yum!