My favorite cake tin is, doubtless, the celebrated so-called “bundt,” or “Gugelhupf” in Vienna (pronounced “google hoopf”). The Gugelhupf bundt cake is, among other places, very popular in Central Europe, France, the US, Israel, and the whole of the Jewish Diaspora.
The Gugelhupf bundt cake has its own, particularly distinct tin shape. The intricate shape of the pan makes the resulting Gugelhupf bundt cakes immediately beautiful and interesting to look at. Also, the making of the Gugelhupf bundt cake is effortless because it requires no frills or frostings but is still elegant.
In the middle of the Gugelhupf bundt cake, there is a hole in the center that serves as a chimney and its purpose is to let the oven’s heat get right into the cake and consequently bake it more evenly. (The hole is also the part of the mold that has to be particularly well greased in order to be able to release the cake in one piece.)
The cake, by many, is considered the quintessential American cake for gatherings of all varieties, no matter the season or occasion. The cake is indeed unique, and this is due to its pan.
The origins of the cake’s tin
The pan’s history is a long one but it can at some point be traced to the US Company, Nordic Ware. This was because before NordicWare entered the scene, people either somehow sourced Gugelhupf bundt pans in Europe or simply used classic ring molds lacking the intricate shapes and decorations. Notably, some original pans are even featured in the Smithsonian Museum of American History1. However, the Nordic Ware, from the mid-1950s, came up with many interesting and beautiful unheard-of and unusual shapes and variations of this Gugelhupf bundt cake tin, as well as the name “bundt” itself, by adding a “t” for copyright reasons to the German name for bundt cakes: bund cakes or “Bundkuchen.”
The question now is why is it called Bundkuchen? We learned from the German Wikipedia2 that in the Rhineland and in the Palatinate region, it is also referred to as the “Bund(e)kuchen,” which means “tied cake,” and this, in turn, might refer to the baking tin’s resemblance with the way Turks tie a particular headgear: the turban.
So, when Nordic Ware picked up the Gugelhupf-bundt-cake-shaped baking tins and started to make those many variations and riffs on the ring mold, the Gugelhupf bundt cake shape started to be well-known under the name “Bundt” cake. The Gugelhupf bundt cake pan’s popularity rose after it was used to bake the “Tunnel of Fudge” cake that was awarded second prize in the 1966 Pillsbury bake-off. Hence in the mid-sixties, there was a real run caused by some follow-up television and media stir-up. Consequently, the Gugelhupf bundt cake really became a fashionable cake in the US and was from thereon simply known as the “bundt cake.”
The Gugelhupf bundt cake’s Jewish history
Back in Vienna, this Gugelhupf bundt cake shape was always referred to only as “Gugelhupf.” It is – and was – very popular around the Jewish and non-Jewish world. But it was two Jewish housewives, Rose Joshua and Fannie Schanfield, friends and members of the Minneapolis Jewish-American Hadassah Society that were at the origin of the Nordic Ware Gugelhupf bundt cake pan. After both of them had lacked proper Gugelhupf pans in the US, they came to Nordic Ware in the 1950s and asked them to manufacture a Gugelhupf-shaped tin3. That is the secret Jewish history of the bundt tin, probably the world’s most famous cake shape ever.
Meanwhile, the Royal and Imperial Habsburg’s Hofburg palace in Vienna has in its silver collection quite a few Gugelhupf bundt cake copper molds a couple of centuries old. As confirmed via Instagram, a Gugelhupf bundt cake is indeed beautiful to look at and is to be found at every classic American and Viennese get-together around a cup of tea or coffee from New York to Tel Aviv. This ubiquitousness of the Gugelhupf bundt cake held true even for the royals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A widespread rumor, which I couldn’t verify, has it that the Romans already used a Gugelhupf-bundt-cake-like shape and that such a tin had been discovered right next to Vienna, at Carnuntum, the large Roman city just outside of Vienna. This would make the Gugelhupf bundt cake a two-thousand-year-old local tradition.
Actually, the wavy design in a Gugelhupf mold dates back to Roman times—bronze molds have been found throughout the Roman Empire in almost the same pattern—and it is assumed that the markings are meant to symbolize the rays of the sun. There are a few ways that the word could have derived. In Austrian dialect, Gugl means “bandanna” and Kopf means “head,” and the mold does look like something a worker would tie around his head. In German Kogel means “peak,” another reference that is easy to see. Germans call the cake Kugelhopf, as do the French. (The cake arrived in France via Alsace and the Austrian members of the French court.)
So, the wider region of Austria, very likely, is the birthplace of the Gugelhupf bundt cake tin shape. Here, the first recipes appeared in the 15th and 16th centuries. And Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793), daughter of an Austrian Empress that got married to the King of France, supposedly brought the shape and the recipe to France where it is called “Kugelhopf”. I guess this makes Gugelhupf bundt cake, or Kugelhopf, the mythical cake that the hungry multitudes would have eaten when they were lacking bread…
The Gugelhupf bundt cake’s clame of fame
Today, it has become an acceptable practice to bake almost any cake recipe using a Gugelhupf bundt cake tin. Recipes are literally countless because Gugelhupf and bundt cake now both refer to the shape of the cake and not only a particular recipe. And the results, judging from the pictures on Instagram for example, are indeed impressive and very popular.
There are a couple of cookbooks out there that reference only Gugelhupf-bundt-cake-shaped recipes. There are many out there like “The Bundt Collection“5 with the word bundt in the title. Another one that is popular in Austria is simply called “Gugelhupf.”6
In Vienna itself, “Gugelhupf” is nowadays synonymous with coffeehouse cake. Talking and meeting around a piece of Gugelhupf bundt cake with or without a heap of whipped cream is a widespread custom. Consequently, “Gugelhupf” was, for decades, the name of a local and very popular political radio show on the public radio network.
There is also a connection to psychoanalysis, and this is other than the fact that Professor Sigmund Freud most certainly regularly had a slice of Gugelhupf bundt cake at a café and at his home in Berggasse 19. The connection is that “Gugelhupf” is the nickname given by the Viennese to Europe’s oldest psychiatric building located in Vienna since the 18th century, the so-called “Narrenturm” (literally “fools’ tower”). This is because of the building’s shape resembling a classic ring mold. By then the Gugelhupf bundt cake was already part of the popular imaginary.
Gugelhupf bundt cake is indeed an iconic food, Little Red Riding Hood’s cake for grandmother was a Gugelhupf bundt cake too (just have a look at the depictions — at least those in my memory).
The original Gugelhupf bundt cake recipe
A classic Gugelhupf bundt cake recipe in every contemporary Viennese coffeehouse is the marble cake, which in Vienna is called “Marmorgugelhupf,” or “Marble Gugelhupf bundt cake.”
However, the Gugelhupf bundt cake was originally not only a specific tin shape but a very specific recipe as well. It was an extremely delicious yeast-rich, brioche-like cake with raisins, often almonds, and sometimes soaked in a slightly boozy syrup. This original Gugelhupf bundt cake is a relative of the Panettone and the Baba. I will present you with a typical representative of this classic succulent yeast cake and such a Gugelhupf bundt cake should be eaten the day it was made. It is, indeed, best consumed very fresh, and thus not very practical for today’s coffeehouses. (Though soaking it in syrup does increase its shelflife a bit.)
No wonder the yeast Gugelhupf bundt cake has therefore been replaced on the menus and displays by the ubiquitous, quick and easy marble Gugelhupf bundt cake, the “Marmorgugelhupf,” which does keep a lot longer. It is also a very delightful cake. The egg whites give its dough a lovely and light texture. The second recipe of this post is an exquisite gourmet variation on this well-known marble Gugelhupf bundt cake. It is the coffee-walnut swirl Gugelhupf bundt cake by Dorie Greenspan named “Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake.”
Both are delightful centerpieces for your coffee table and tea parties. The yeast Gugelhupf bundt cake and the marbled Gugelhupf bundt cake are more or less adapted from recipes brought to you by the great Dorie Greenspan in her James-Beard-award-winning, timeless and indispensable “Baking: From my Home to Yours.”7
More Jewish background
Many Jewish and Viennese cookbooks contain recipes for Gugelhupf bundt cakes. Obviously, Joan Nathan’s classic “The Jewish Holiday Baker“8 features one as well. These Gugelhupf bundt cakes were not only intended for the gatherings around a cup of coffee but for the break of the fast of Yom Kippur in every self-respecting Jewish home in Vienna – obviously accompanied by a cup of coffee as well.
For the break of the Yom Kippur fast, traditionally, the women would prepare a Yeast Gugelhupf bundt cake’s dough before Yom Kippur itself and bake it right at the end of the Yom Tov, the holiday proper, just in time for the end of the prayers by the men and the end of the fast for the very frum, pious ones. Half an hour later, after having eaten this dairy (“milchik”) Gugelhupf bundt cake, you were allowed, as per Jewish religious law and the many traditions around it, to partake in a meaty (“fleishik”) meal, like a freshly roasted chicken, in honor of Moitzei Yom Kippur, literally the “going out” of Yom Kippur.
Being round, sweet, and looking like a crown, a Gugelhupf bundt cake would also look most appropriate on a festive table in honor of Rosh Hashanah.
The great Jewish cookbook author of the German-language world, Salcia Landmann (1911-2002), brings down in her famous book “Die Jüdische Küche: Rezepte und Geschichten“9 the recipes and stories from the household of Jewish author Felix Salten (1869-1945), the creator of Bambi—and, presumably, the sulfurous stories of Josephine Mutzenbacher. Among these recipes are a couple of Gugelhupf bundt cakes. There’s both, yeasty ones and a marble cake one.
But, in the same book, Salzia Landmann also tells us about her discovery in this Jewish writer’s household’s cookbooks of a further treasure: the much sought-after original Gugelhupf bundt cake recipe of the emperor Franz Joseph of Austria’s mistress, Katherina Schratt. In the late 18-hundreds, the whole monarchy was speculating about the nature of this Gugelhupf bundt cake and its recipe. And as you might know from my previous posts, the emperor was beloved by his Jewish subjects, especially the assimilated ones.
The Gugelhupf bundt cake as a symbole of Vienna
All this goes to show how important Gugelhupf bundt cake was in the Jewish and non-Jewish cultural life of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 19th century, the Gugelhupf bundt cake with its almond slivers, golden raisins, and rum syrup soak had become, in Vienna, a status symbol of the city’s bourgeoisie and the palaces around the new central Ring boulevard. Many of these magnificent buildings around this ring-like boulevard were owned by recently enriched Jewish bankers and big businesses. Only since 1860 were Jews regularly allowed to own land. Hence, this new ring road, whose construction started right after that date, was often called the Jewish boulevard. Incidentally, this “Ringstrasse,” Vienna’s main Street, is itself shaped like a ring and like a Gugelhupf bundt cake.
Do try both these Gugelhupf bundt cake recipes! They are very different in taste, appearance, and consistency, but their common shape guarantees stunning looks. You won’t regret the investment in such a tin. (Among many possibilities, you can get such a Gugelhupf bundt tea cake tin online from Yotam Ottolenghi,10 one of the many intricate cast aluminum shapes from Nordic Ware,11 or a classic Viennese enamel pan from the Austrian company, Riess:12)
Two Very Different Gugelhupf Bundt Cake Recipes:
1.) A Traditional Yom Kippur Yeast Gugelhupf Bundt Cake
2.) A Contemporary Marble Gugelhupf Bundt Cake
Both recipes were adapted from the great Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Baking: From my Home to Yours.” The first one, my motzei Yom Kippur break of the fast Yeast Gugelhupf bundt cake, is the heavily adapted, elaborate “Kugelhopf” from page 63. The second one, is quick and easy, and to me, a contemporary take on Vienna’s classic Marmorgugelhupf (“marble Gugelhupf bundt cake”) is Dorie Greenspan’s beloved “Mocha-Walnut Marble Bundt Cake” from page 180.
Yom Kippur Yeast Gugelhupf Bundt Cake
- 220g (1 cup) water
- 70g (1/3 cup) sugar
- 200g (1 1/3 cups) golden dry raisins
- 60g (1/3 cup) dark rum
- 200g (1 cup) sugar
- 350g (1 1/2 cups) water
- 8g (3 scant teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 155g (2/3 cup) just warm-to-the-touch whole milk
- 500g (3 1/3 cups) pastry flour (Austria type W480 glatt, Italy “00”), sifted
- 3g (1/2 teaspoon) iodine-free salt
- 200g (4 large) eggs lightly beaten
- 36g (2 large) egg yolks lightly beaten
- 90g (6 tablespoons) sugar
- 1 lemon, lemon zest mixed into the sugar
- 225g (2 sticks or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 30-45g (1 to 1,5 ounces) almond slivers
- 114g (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Confectioners’ sugar for serving
- 1. RAISINS:
Two days before serving, soak the dry raisins in a saucepan by bringing the water to a boil with the sugar.
- Turn off the heat, add the raisins and the rum, and refrigerate overnight.
One day before serving, prepare the raisins and the syrup for soaking. Drain the raisins but reserve the liquid. Afterward, pat the raisins dry.
- Bring the sugar and the water for the syrup to a boil and dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and add the soaking liquid from the raisins.
Also, one day before serving, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Add the sifted flour and salt. Turn on the stand mixer to a low to create a shaggy mixture with dry patches.
- Incorporate the lightly beaten eggs and egg yolks.
- Immediately, incorporate the sugar lemon zest mixture.
- Increase the speed of the stand mixer to medium-high and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and it is not any longer sticky to your fingers.
- Reduce the speed to medium and slowly add the room-temperature butter in about 10 additions. Before adding the next piece of butter, beat the dough until each piece is almost fully incorporated.
- Increase the speed again to medium-high and beat the dough for another 10 minutes, or until again, smooth and pulls off the sides of the stand mixer’s bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Also, the dough will climb up the dough hook.
- Remove the bowl with the dough from the stand mixer and stir in the raisins.
- Transfer the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel/tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 to 3 hours until it is nearly doubled in size. Note that this will depend on the temperature of your kitchen. (You could use an oven set to its lowest setting.)
- Punch down the dough by simply putting your fist in the dough and pushing down on it. Proceed to lift and turn the dough.
- Cover the bowl again and put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Deflate the dough every 1/2 hour.
- The well-covered—maybe use a plastic wrap here—dough can now be refrigerated overnight or for up to 2 days. Be careful to form a regular round ball of dough. (This will help to shape a uniform end result, as the chilled dough is hard to handle.
On the day of serving, very generously butter a 10-inch (25cm) Gugelhupf bundt cake mold of 14-cup (3 liters) capacity (like this one). Particularly pay attention to carefully put butter around the edges, in the middle and around the inner tube.
- Coat the Gugelhupf bundt cake pan’s buttered interior with the almond slivers. Put the almond slivers in the bottom of the pan, turn it delicately on its side and slowly coat the wall of the tin, shaking out the excess, if any.
- Delicately take the chilled dough out of the fridge and poke a hole right in the center of the dough ball. Slowly and uniformly widen the diametre with your fingers in order for it to just fit around the middle chimney of the Gugelhupf bundt cake tin. It should look like a giant bagel. Carefully center the dough above the inner tube and slowly put the dough in the pan.
- Cover the pan with a lightly buttered parchment or way paper and let the dough rise in a warm place until it comes almost to the top of the mold for about 2 to 3 hours. (Again, if you are lacking a warm and draft-free place for your dough, you could use your oven set to its lowest setting to create this warm place.)
- Remove the paper and bake the dough at 375°F/190°C for 10 minutes. Cover the pan with a foil tent and bake for approximately another 20 minutes to an internal temperature of 190°F/88°C. The Gugelhupf should be golden brown and must have risen to the top—or, more likely, over the top—of the mold.
- Carefully check with a small spatula that the cake’s edges are loose, especially around the center, and immediately unmold the Gugelhupf bundt cake to a cooling rack.
Right out of the oven, soak the cake with syrup by generously ladling the liquid over its sides and the center hole.
- Melt the butter for soaking in a small saucepan, and gently brush the hot cake with the butter, allowing the butter to soak into the cake.
- Generously dust the still-hot cake with the confectioner’s sugar and let it cool to room temperature.
Right before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Eat as soon as possible as the Gugelhupf cake stales quickly! Wrap leftovers in plastic. Fortunately, stale Gugelhupf is delicious when cut into thick slices, toasted and buttered, and spread with marmalade.
Coffee Walnut Marble Gugelhupf Bundt Cake
To my mind, Dorie Greenspan’s vanilla-mocha recipe is the perfect contemporary take on the classic and ubiquitous marble cake. It became my all-time favorite go-to Viennese coffeehouse marble Gugelhupf bund cake, or “Marmorgugelhupf”, as they call it in Vienna. Because it is so moist, it easily keeps at room temperature for up to five days. It most certainly is worthy of any connoisseur and foodie.
310g (2 1/4 cups) pastry flour (Austria type W480 glatt, Italy “00”), sifted
55g (1/2 cup) finely ground walnuts
4g (1 teaspoon) baking powder
5g (1 teaspoon) iodine-free table salt
227g (2 sticks) + 28g (2 tablespoons), total of 255g (9 ounces) unsalted butter
85g (3 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (70% Cacao), coarsely chopped
60g (1/4 cup) coffee, hot or cold
1 teaspoon finely ground instant coffee or instant espresso powder
360g (1 3/4 cups) sugar
200g (4 large) eggs, preferably at room temperature
10g (2 teaspoons) pure vanilla extract
240g (1 cup) whole milk, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. (Don’t place the Gugelhupf bundt cake pan on a baking sheet — you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Gugelhupf bundt cake pan’s inner tube.)
- Butter a Gugelhupf bundt cake pan that should be 9- to 10-inch (12 cups/ 3 liters). Take particular care of the inner tube.
- Dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess.
- Whisk together the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder, and salt.
- Bain-marie: Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Put 28g (2 tablespoons) of butter, cut into 4 pieces, into the bowl, along with the chocolate, coffee, and instant coffee. Heat the mixture, stirring often, until the butter and chocolate are melted and everything is smooth and creamy—keep the heat low so that the butter and chocolate don’t separate. Remove the bowl from the heat.
- In a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 227g (2 sticks) of butter and the sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes — you’ll have a thick paste; this cannot be light and fluffy.
- Into this butter and sugar mixture, beat the eggs one by one, and the beating should be done well after each addition. The mixture should look smooth and satiny.
- Beat in the vanilla extract.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, adding the dry mixture in 3 portions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
- Scarpe a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate and, using a rubber spatula, stir to blend thoroughly.
- Scrape all the white batter into the Gugelhupf bundt cake pan and top with the chocolate. If you want a more marbled pattern, alternate spoonfuls of light and dark batter in the pan.
- When all the batter is in the pan, swirl a table knife sparingly through the batter to marble them.
- Bake for 65 to 70 minutes until the cake reaches an internal temperature of 205 to 209°F/96 to 98°C, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Transfer the Gugelhupf bundt cake pan to a rack and let it cool for 10 minutes before unmolding. Afterward, cool the cake completely on the rack.
Right before serving dust with confectioners’ sugar. This Gugelhupf bundt cake keeps well at room temperature for a couple of days.
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- See the Bundt cake page at the Smithsonian Museum of American History: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1321647
- Gugelhupf on the German Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gugelhupf#Bundkuchen
- Creator of Bundt Pan, Inspired by Jewish Women, is Dead at 86 https://www.jta.org/2005/01/07/archive/creator-of-bundt-pan-inspired-by-jewish-women-is-dead-at-86
- “Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague by Rick Rodgers https://www.amazon.com/Kaffeehaus-Exquisite-Desserts-Classic-Budapest-ebook/“
- The Bundt Collection: 131 Recipes for the Bundt Cake Baker: Over 128 Recipes for the Bundt Cake Enthusiast (The Bake Feed) by Brian Hart Hoffman https://www.amazon.com/Bundt-Collection-Over-Recipes-Enthusiast/
- Gugelhupf by Yvonne Bauer https://www.amazon.com/Gugelhupf/
- “Baking: From my Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan https://www.amazon.com/Baking-Home-Yours-Dorie-Greenspan/
- “The Jewish Holiday Baker: Recipes for Breads, Cakes, and Cookies for All the Holidays and Any Time of the Year” by Joan Nathan https://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Holiday-Baker-Recipes-Holidays/
- “Die Jüdische Küche: Rezepte und Geschichten” by Salcia Landmann https://www.amazon.de/Die-J%C3%BCdische-K%C3%BCche-Rezepte-Geschichten/
- Yotam Ottolenghi’s online-shop: https://ottolenghi.co.uk/large-tea-cake-tin
- Nordic Ware’s online-shop: https://www.nordicware.com/products/kugelhopf-bundt/
- Riess’ online-shop https://www.riess.at/en/product/gugelhupfform/