Creator of Bundt Pan, Inspired by Jewish Women, is Dead at 86

Several Hadassah women were partly responsible for a culinary phenomenon whose inventor died this week. Now celebrating its 54th anniversary, the Bundt pan was the brainchild of members of the Minneapolis chapter of Hadassah, who in 1950 approached aluminum manufacturer H. David Dalquist with the idea for the cake pan.

Dalquist died Sunday at age 86.

Fifty-four years ago, many of Minneapolis’ active Hadassah members “were young housewives with a lot of kids running around,” said Fannie Schanfield, 87, a lifetime Minneapolis resident who joined Hadassah in 1935.

Schanfield said cooking and baking were at that time a big part of her life, and of the lives of her peers.

In fact, she recalled in a 2002 phone interview from her Minneapolis home, the Hadassah women were in the midst of learning how to prepare a “light and fluffy” sponge cake when a fellow member decided that she wanted to bake the heavier cakes she remembered from her native Germany.

Schanfield said Rose Joshua, then in her early 30s, announced, “The Germans are used to heavy cakes.”

And it takes a heavy pan to turn out heavy cakes.

But no such pans were to be found in the United States.

So Joshua brought her heavy iron pan to Dalquist, chairman, owner and founder of Northland Aluminum, which sells the Nordic Ware line of baking pans, and asked if he could fashion a similar one for her.

Dalquist, who said he was working with an aluminum foundry at the time, set to making a mold of the kind of heavy, curvaceous pan Joshua had in mind. It was the first time he’d ever been approached to make a pan, he said in an interview two years before his death from his office in Minneapolis.

The Hadassah women liked Dalquist’s creation; so much so that his company started out making several hundred. It then began marketing the pans to major department stores, and Dalquist brought the seconds to the Jewish women.

“I personally delivered the pans — 300 or 400 I think — to them,” Dalquist said.

The Hadassah women turned around and sold the pans they didn’t keep for themselves for between $7 and $10 apiece. Schanfield said the Bundt pans — originally spelled Bund, German for “people” — were a source of funds for Hadassah for many years.

“I can’t think of any Hadassah members who didn’t have a Bundt pan,” said Schanfield, president in 1967 of the organization’s local chapter, which remains very active.

And although the Bundt didn’t catch on in national circles until more than a decade after its initial manufacture, eventually it became much sought-after.

“Bundt was our first success,” Dalquist said.

In the 1960s, Dalquist caught the attention of the president of the Pillsbury food company, who agreed that his company would make a cake mix suited especially to the Bundt pan.

And in 1966, the top-prize winner in the Pillsbury Grand National Bake-Off used a Bundt pan, according to Nordic Ware.

The pan also was featured in promotional photographs in high-profile magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping, which added to its legitimacy.

“Bundt has become a household word and Nordic Ware is in its sixth printing of a recipe book with over 300 ideas for using the pans. With more than 45 million in use, the Bundt pan remains the most popular baking mold in America!” according to company literature.

Were it not for some Jewish women hankering for a substantial slice of the old country, Bundt as we know it would not exist. Nor would the original filling and fattening cakes that people bake all year round.

Said Dalquist of the butter-laden Bundt pan recipes of the 1950s: “They’re unbelievably good, and you don’t need any frosting. You just need a little powdered sugar. If you cut the slices thin enough you can probably be excused for eating them.”

(An earlier version of this story appeared in the Portland Review in December 2002.)

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