Tunnel of Fudge Cake


May 16, 2016

The most famous bundt cake was originally made by Ella Rita Helfrich, a home baker, for the1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. Her recipe included a frosting mix, which is no longer available. Pillsbury adapted her recipe and posted it on their website - but fans who loved the original recipe are still looking for the perfect Tunnel of Fudge. After analyzing various reviews and other versions of the cake I created my very own Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake. The is a rich chocolate cake filled with a gooey center of fudge. Excellent served with ice cream or a glass of cold milk. Watch Becky Low make the cake on Studio 5

  • Yields: 12-16 Servings


Cake Ingredients:

1 ¾ cup milk, divided

1 package (3.5-oz) cook-n-serve style chocolate pudding mix

1 cup (6-oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa, divided

2 cups flour

½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup white granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 ¼ cups butter, softened

5 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

Ganache Glaze Ingredients:

½ cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons corn syrup

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (3-oz)

½ teaspoon vanilla



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 1 ½-cups milk with pudding mix in a saucepan. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted. Cool.

Generously grease a 12-cup fluted bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan; dust with 2-3 tablespoons cocoa; set aside. Whisk together flour, remaining cocoa, salt and baking powder; set aside.

Combine white sugar, brown sugar, and softened butter; cream or beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla and ¼-cup milk. Stir in flour mixture and nuts.

Set aside approximately 2-cups of batter, spread remaining batter in bottom of prepared pan. Carefully create a trench in the middle of the cake batter. Spoon cooled pudding in the middle of trench. Spread reserved batter over top to seal in pudding. Tap pan on counter to settle out air bubbles. Bake in the middle of oven for 45-55 minutes or until crack forms on top of cake and cake springs back when touched. (NOTE: The traditional method of checking doneness by inserting a toothpick in center will not work with this recipe.) Remove from oven and cool in the pan for 1 ½-hours. Invert cake on serving plate and cool at least 2-hours.

Ganache Glaze

Prepare Ganache Glaze by heating cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips and stir until chips are melted and glaze is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Allow glaze to cool until slightly thick (consistency of soft pudding - will still run, but keeps its shape for a moment when spooned on top). Drizzle glaze around top of cake allowing it to run down sides. Cool 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Strong chocolate flavor. Delicious with cold milk or served with a scoop of ice cream.

Bundt Cake Beginnings

Fifty years ago Ella Rita Helfrich, a home baker from Houston Texas, single-handedly brought the bundt pan back from the brink of extinction when she entered the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. Although she only won second place, Ella's cake became the most requested Pillsbury recipe. She quickly sky rocketed to stardom and made frequent appearances in department stores to autograph bundt pans for excited fans. She personally received so many calls she considered disconnecting her phone.  In 2012, Ella and her famous bundt pan were featured in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History’s first major exhibition on food. The exhibit is still on display today.  Ella passed away, July 24, 2015 at the age of 98. Read more about Ella in the Houston Chronicle or view Ella’s original recipe.

An adaptation of original recipe:

Ella’s original recipe was made with "Pillsbury Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix," which Pillsbury has since discontinued. Pillsbury subbed this ingredient in Ella’s original recipe for powdered sugar and cocoa for an altered recipe. Fans who knew the original recipe (using Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting mix) are still searching for the perfect Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe. The reviews on the website were less than favorable - some called it a dry cake, others said the oven temperature needed to be exact. My thoughts? Yes, it is a dry cake - which is easily resolved by serving with ice cream. Yes, the oven temperature may need to be resolved. With bad reviews and problems of my own I searched copy cat recipes and read their reviews - my cake is yet another adaptation, but one that works for the average kitchen and cook.

Making it from scratch tips

In the 1960’s baking was more by scratch, using time honored methods. Here are a few keys to this semi-scratch recipe:

  1. Grease and flour bundt pan. Generously grease the pan. I use non-stick spray today. Dusting with flour is a great way to help the cake release from the pan. Since this is a chocolate cake, use cocoa to dust the pan.
  2. The tunnel of fudge in the original recipes is a combination of chocolate and under baking. An easier method is to make chocolate pudding with a little less milk than called for in the recipe. While the pudding is still hot, stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and cool.
  3. “Creaming” is the process of beating sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. (mix bowl 1 with creamed butter and sugar) Start with softened butter, but not melted. For nice flavor use part brown sugar.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time, or beat eggs and then add to the sugar and butter.
  5. To ensure even mixing of flour, salt and baking powder, whisk together dry ingredients. Slowly stir dry ingredients and nuts into butter and eggs.

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