Celebrate 50 with Tunnel of Fudge Cake


I turned 50 a few months ago. While I am grateful that I have reached this milestone birthday it’s still hard to believe that I’ve lived half a century, that seems like such a long time.

When I started poking around online to see who and what else has been around for five decades, I was surprised and not-so-surprised. For some things that were turning 50 this year I thought, “yeah, I can see that.” Things like the TV series Star Trek, mini-skirts, and Astro-turf.

But then there were the startling things: Doritos. Toyota Corollas. Janet Jackson. I was aghast. Wait, that can’t be right, can it? All those have been around 50 years? Yes.

My eldest son was home from college for a weekend not long ago. Since any of his visits home is a cake-worthy occasion, I decided to bake a cake. He is a chocolate fan, so I thought I had a winner when I found the Tunnel of Fudge Cake recipe. As it turns out, this cake is 50 years old this year, too.

The winning recipe of the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off was “Golden Gate Snack Bread,” made by Mari Petrelli. The long since forgotten winner has been overshadowed by the 2nd place winner submitted by Mrs. Ella Helfrich of Houston, Texas.

Her recipe for “Tunnel of Fudge Cake,” a chocolate pecan bundt cake that had a magic fudgy center, turned out to be the most requested Bake-Off recipe in history. Pillsbury was immediately plowed with over 200,000 letters requesting the recipe and where to buy the bundt pans to bake it in.

The original recipe calls for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix, (don’t try saying that with a mouth full of frosting), a product that Pillsbury has since phased out and no longer makes, much to the dismay of Tunnel of Fudge Cake devotees.

Inconsolable fans have been searching for a substitute for the frosting mix for years. Some have found solace in replacing the Pillsbury mix with Jiffy’s Fudge Frosting Mix, an acceptable substitute from the reviews I’ve read. But don’t try to find that at the local grocery store, because they don’t have it. You can order it by the case on Amazon, of course, and even have it in 2 days if you have Amazon Prime.

This recipe is from the Pillsbury website and features the revamped recipe, sans boxed frosting mix. Their recipe re-do also includes a glaze for the cake. I did not make the glaze so I cannot vouch for the taste of that, but the cake itself was divine.

The outside was cakey and the inside was, wouldn’t you know it, a tunnel of fudge. Needless to say, my son enjoyed the cake from this 50 year old recipe and so did the rest of the family. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I will enjoy a bowlful of Doritos while I watch some Star Trek.


nov-4-ff-b-9Tunnel of Fudge Cake



  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups butter, softened
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups All Purpose or Unbleached Flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans


  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 to 6 teaspoons milk


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 12-cup bundt cake pan or 10-inch tube pan. In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly. Bake at 350°F. for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan. Since this cake has a soft filling, an ordinary doneness test with a toothpick cannot be used. Accurate oven temperature and baking times are essential. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours.

In small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.



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