Chocolate Delight: Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Tunnel of Fudge cake bakes up tall, with a glossy, brownie-like crust.  Break pieces off and eat it; no one will know.

I’m wrapping up Chocolate Delight week with a bang: a cake that has a built-in Tunnel of Fudge.

The legend of this cake was related to me by Jessica, the author of Pictures of Cake.  This cake won second place at the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-off, losing to ‘”golden gate snack bread,”‘  a yeast bread made with instant flour, processed cheese spread, dry onion soup mix and butter.(source)”  Blech.  The snack bread has been long forgotten, while Tunnels of Fudge lives on.

The Tunnel of Fudge cake was a technical revolution: first, it produced a moist cake with a fudgy, uncooked center, perhaps the ancestor of the modern Molten Chocolate Cake.  Second, it used a Bundt pan.  For a little more information on that, take a look at Jessica’s invitation to her ToF Cake party:

Third, this cake is quite possible the least healthy thing I have ever made.  It contains approximately 60 eggs, 1 millions pounds of butter, and 20 cups of sugar.  Originally, it was made with a pre-packaged, powdered frosting mix called Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream.  

Tunnel of Fudge Cake(original recipe)
1 1/2 cups soft Land O’ Lakes Butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups Pillsbury’s Best Flour (Regular, Instant Blending or Self Rising*)
1 package Pillsbury Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix
2 cups chopped Diamond Walnuts

Oven 350° [ed. 350 F / 175 C]
10-inch tube cake

Cream butter in large mixer bowl at high speed of mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually add sugar, continue creaming at high speed until light and fluffy. By hand, stir in flour, frosting mix, and walnuts until well blended. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan or 10-inch Angel Food tube pan. Bake at 350° for 60 to 65 minutes. Cool 2 hours, remove from pan. Cool completely before serving.

Note: Walnuts, Double Dutch Fudge Frosting Mix and butter are key to the success of this unusual recipe. Since cake has a soft fudgy interior, test for doneness after 60 minutes by observing dry, shiny brownie-type crust.

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After the frosting mix was discontinued, Pillsbury developed a modern recipe which you can find here. This is the recipe I baked from, with a few minor changes that I will include below.

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Tunnel of Fudge Cake, REMIXXXX

Adapted from Pillsbury.com and
The 17th Annual Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Cookbook, 1966

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups  (2 and 3/4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
6 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups chopped walnuts (the recipe notes that “Nuts are essential for the success of this recipe.” ha!)

1. Grease a bundt pan and dust with additional cocoa powder.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3. Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about three minutes at medium speed.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one.

4. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients.  Scrape bowl, then mix until combined.

5. With a spatula, fold in walnuts.  Spoon batter into bundt pan; bake 45 minutes or until top has a dry, shiny brownie-type crust.  Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours.

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Can someone please tell me how to get a cake out of a bundt pan?  Mine always comes out in broken, shameful pieces.

When I cut my cake, it wasn’t puking out fudge like in the 1966 photo; but, running down the middle was a dense spine of goopy fudgeness.  My oven tends to run a little hot, so I think the cake was slightly over-baked: ten minutes less would have allowed a much thicker fudge vein.

The cake was good; the walnuts were a nice break from what would have been a total chocolate assault.  But the cake also had a greasy mouth-feel thanks to the million pounds of butter.  And it’s sooooo swweeeeeet.  I even made it with a cup less sugar than the Pillsbury recipe calls for.

I don’t know.  I’d be curious to have more people give this bizarre chocolate cake a whirl and tell me what you think of the final results.

19 Responses to “Chocolate Delight: Tunnel of Fudge Cake”


  • Yes. This stuff. Wilton Cake Release. I have the Nordicware Daisy pan (more nooks and crannies than you can shake a stick at) and it’s the only thing that works.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-702-6016-Cake-Release/dp/B00006G933/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1297795131&sr=8-1

    I have been so curious about this cake. Thanks for making it!

  • Yes! I just put it on my Amazon Wish List!

  • It is an awfully sweet cake. I wish they still made the frosting mix so that the original could be compared to the update.Thanks for posting about how it turned out for you (as well as for the link)!

    • I’m going to keep my eyes out for some sort of powdered-frosting equivalent. My friends and roommates have like this cake a lot, but it’s just a little..tooo sweet for me.

      • Try the following workaround for the “problem” of the now defunct powdered frosting mixes:

        Try a large canister of powdered breakfast drink or hot cocoa mix (main ingredients should be cocoa powder, sugar, and powdered and/or nonfat dry milk).

        Carnation Instant Breakfast (regular, with sugar), 17.7 ounces
        equivalent to 14 servings/individual packets

        Swiss Mix hot cocoa mix, 18 ounces (I believe)

        3 1/2 cups homemade cocoa mix made with cocoa, sugar, and
        nonfat dry mix (you may have to adjust the cocoa to get a
        deeper chocolate taste – will be slightly mild like a good
        German’s Chocolate Cake taste. (Make up the desired amount
        of cocoa mix BEFORE mixing up the cake.) You may have to
        adjust the proportions of the ingredients to get the desired
        “chocolatiness”.

        I have tried this method a couple of times and it seems to work pretty well – you get more of a soft fudgy tunnel that stays soft/fudgy/puddinglike both at room temperature and after refrigerating (tastes good out of the oven so it might not last long enough to find that out). There are also very good recipes that use chocolate instead of cocoa but that would add the step of having to melt it and using the chocolate may make the tunnel solidify when it cools and you would have to warm it to get the same effect (although warm chocolate is not a bad thing … if you really want that extra heavy dose of chocolate, just buy some truffles or chocolate chips and throw them in there …).

        For those who would like to reduce their sugar/calories, I understand that you can use an equivalent amount of Splenda to replace the sugar (instructions are on the Splenda website and on
        their product packaging) so you can use it in both the cake and the
        cocoa mix if you want to reduce the calories; however, the texture
        of the cake and the amount it rises may be different. This would also let you not have to use granulated white sugar in the cake portion of a recipe and confectioners’ sugar for the filling/tunnel portion of the cake.

        I have also found that the butter needs to be REALLY REALLY VERY VERY soft (DO NOT melt it) – this makes it easier to mix the ingredients by hand.

        You could also try using Nesquik chocolate drink powder, which also comes in canisters, but you may have to add some powdered milk. Ditto for Nesquik strawberry powder except that you will get a strawberry cake with a strawberry tunnel. I have not tried this but have seen similar variations for the tunnel cake using both from scratch recipes and cake mixes, both with pudding mixes and/or cream cheese – both of these methods would let you have tunnel cakes of flavors other than chocolate and/or cakes of one flavor with a tunnel of a different flavor.

      • Trader Joe’s sells a DRY Chocolate Frosting Mix.

      • USE JIFFY BRAND FUDGE FROSTING MIX IN THE BOX. USE TWO BOXES TO MAKEUP FOR THE TWO LAYER PHILLSBURY FROSTING THAT IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.

      • I use jiffy when I can find it. It’s called fudge frosting mix. I love this cake. Started with it in the seventies when a neighbor made it for a auction

  • I’ve done coffee cakes in bundt pans for years and they are a bit tricky. The secret is to grease and then flour. I find the best way to make sure you get every surface is to forego the spray and to rub butter or Crisco on with a paper towel. That way you get all of the little crevices. Then roll around a little flour till it’s all coated (this also lets you see any spots you missed) before putting the batter in the pan. Once your cake is done, let it sit in the pan for about 5 minutes, run a little knife or spatula down into the curves to make sure everything’s nice and separated (it should be if you greased and floured well), then invert. The extra time also allows the steam from the hot cake to help make sure it’s good and separated.

    • You might also try leaving the cake in the pan longer than the 5 minutes stated above – I tried 30 minutes and it was okay but could have used even a little longer. The original recipe calls for leaving the cake in the pan for up to 2 hours but I don’t know if it really needs that much.

  • I usually cut the sugar in half in recipes…too sweet! I saw this recently and thought you might enjoy the results: http://www.cookscountry.com/pwlogin.asp?did=4576&area=recipe&iseason=

  • Wow, this took me back to my college years! My sophomore year, 1967, my physics professor invited a bunch of us students to dinner at his home, and his wife baked a tunnel of fudge cake. we were totally impressed! It was the most delicious tasting, and “coolest” looking thing we’d ever seen. Now, I admit that we were weary of the campus dining room food, where “mystery meat” was often the fare, but we thought it was very special to be invited to dine with our professors. And before you cynics out there get weird, this was a very fine women’s college, and nothing creepy was going on. It was a huge honor to be invited to dinner with a professor’s family, and we always were in groups. Ahhh, loved the original Tunnel of Fudge cake. It was the forerunner of the chocolate lava cake, and clearly one of the most innovative things to eat at the time. Thanks for the memories. Love your blog!

  • I make this every year for my daughters birthday. You can still find the powdered frosting mix if your part of the country sell “Jiffy” products. They are best known for their Jiffy corn muffin mix. They also sell single layer cake mixes and single layer dry frosting mixes. You will need to buy two pkgs. and I add a bit more cocoa as I like the cake to be very chocolatey.

  • Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s now carry a chocolate frosting mix and if you add 1/2-2/3 Cup Cocoa powder, you can make the ORIGiNAL and BEST Tunnel of Fudge Cake!

  • I have been trying to remember how we made this Tunnel of Fudge cake for a long time, so I am extremely happy to see this recipe!

  • I was so excited to see your blog about this memory-making cak!. I have been a follower of the Pillsbury Bake-Off since I was 10 years old–over 50 years ago. I remember when this iconic recipe was published and had made it way back when. It was great and so unique! Kudos to Ella Helfrich who created the recipe and entered it in the bake-off!! I was so disappointed when the frosting mix was discontinued and am delighted to know of the ingenuity of the substitution to get that fudgey chocolate tunnel inside this cake.

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