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Martha Stewart’s Pear Spice Bundt Cake

         This past weekend, Andrew finally made it out to the Beach for the weekend.  The Real Estate selling season in New York has made it just about impossible for him to take time here since President’s Day.  To Andrew, a weekend in the country means a chance to bake.  And Saturday he chose to make a cake that would make a wonderful addition to a Passover Seder or an Easter Dinner table. I know I’m too late for Passover but this is in time for Easter.  Ripe pears are combined with a set of spices to create a lushly moist, honey and brown-sugar cake that’s then topped off with two toppings: A cream cheese glaze with a hint of lemon and pear ‘chips’ that are as pretty as they taste.  It’s from “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook” (Clarkson Potter), her 2005 ode to all things sweet.


Our 30year old Bundt Pan

This is a Bundt cake, which means it automatically looks flawless with its well-defined shape molded in the Bundt pan.  The Bundt cake’s heritage can be traced back to a fruit cake called a Gugelhupf which was popular in Jewish communities in Germany, Austria and Poland. But it is in Northern Germany that Gugelhupf is known by the name “Bundkuchen” – ‘kuchen’ meaning cake and…’Bund’ meaning…. Here lies another one of cooking’s great debates.  Some food historians believe ‘Bund’ means ‘bunch’ or ‘bundle’ and refers to the way the dough is ‘bundled’ around the center of the tubed pan.  Others think that the banded look of the finished cake suggests a bundle of wheat.  Finally, there’s a school of thought that ‘Bund’ refers to a group of people and that ‘Bundkuchen’ is so-called because it’s a great party cake for a sizable gathering of people.  


Ella Helfrich
and her prize
winning cake

In this country, the credit for popularizing the Bund Cake goes to a pair of Minnesota brothers, the Dalquists, who owned a cookware enterprise called “Nordic Ware” and to an entrant in the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off.  First the brothers: At the request of two ladies of the Hadassah in Minneapolis, the Dalquists were asked if they could produce a modern version of the traditional cast iron Gugelhupf pan.  They produced a cast aluminum version and in order to trademark it added the “T” to the Bund.  The first Bundt cake pans were a bust in sales.  Then, a woman named Ella Helfrich came in second at the 1966 Pillsbury Bakeoff with her recipe for a Bundt cake called “Tunnel of Fudge”.  Ms. Helfrich walked off with the $5000. Prize. But the real winners were the Dalquist Brothers.  There were more than 200,000 requests for Bundt pans and soon the pan itself surpassed the Jell-O mold as the most sold pan in the US.  Then in the 70s, Pillsbury licensed the name “Bundt” from Nordic Ware and began selling a whole series of Bundt Cake mixes.  

         I must have been one of the original customers both for the cake mixes and the Bundt pan.  It was quite easy to produce a photo-worthy cake with minimal effort.  And apparently I was not alone: To date more than 60,000,000 Bundt cake pans have been sold. There’s even a National Bundt Cake Day, which falls on November 15th. So while we may be a few months late, this recipe for Bundt Cake is reason to celebrate this week.  As long and complex as the recipe is, Andrew assures me that the steps are simple. There are just quite a few of them. So go ahead, make the cake.  Here is the recipe.

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