MoM March ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Tunnel of Fudge Cake

I’m kicking myself for not taking more pictures of the Tunnel of Fudge Cake. When I saw the page and the picture, I thought, “Eh, it’s just a chocolate cake.”

Just.

ATK Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Boy, was I ever wrong.

As you can see, we’ve moved steadily into the month of March, but we’ve decided to stick with Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2008 for our Magazine of the Month selection. To be honest, I wasn’t even going to make this cake, but when CC said we should continue Best of ATK through March and I ended up needing to bring a dessert somewhere, I decided I would make this cake, effectively knocking out two birds with one stone.

For those of you who didn’t pay the $8 to pick up this must-have paperback booklet (go get it!), you’re in luck — I’m posting this recipe. Back in October, Serious Eats was featuring the Cook’s Country Cookbook as a giveaway, and essentially regurgitated all of the information on this cake that the book had, including the recipe. Their site says the recipe was “adapted” from the Cook’s Country Cookbook, but I don’t think adding a pinch of salt in the chocolate glaze really qualifies as adaptation. I also saw the little trick with calling for already melted chocolate in the glaze rather than putting that step into the instructions, and I’m calling shenanigans. Nice try, though.

At any rate, this is the cake that made the Bundt pan famous. Back then, the lady who came up with the recipe used an ingredient that is no longer being produced. Many new versions of the recipe have emerged in an attempt to recreate the cake, but the Test Kitchen wasn’t happy with any of them. So, they went to work on making a definitive version that really emphasized chocolate. When they were finished, they had succeeded beyond expectation.

The “tunnel” comes from a gooey fudge center that actually looks like a tunnel within the cake. According to the notes from the Test Kitchen, the fudge layer actually separates from the rest of the cake.

Here’s a close up — hopefully you can see the gooey portion in the bottom/bottom-left of the cake.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake Closeup
Tunnel of Fudge Cake, sans glaze

Yes, my friends, that darker colored goop down there isn’t unbaked cake batter: It’s ooey, gooey, oh so rich and delicious fudge.

This cake is the chocolate lover’s dream. Finely ground nuts contribute to a fuller bodied cake and a much needed textural and taste contrast for the chocolate. The fudge center plus the chocolate glaze makes this cake over the top. I couldn’t get through half of my piece without reaching for an ice cold glass of milk. The party I took it to raved about it and ate the whole thing. Some of the guests even had seconds.

Making it was surprisingly simple and did not take a great deal of time. Granted, it did force me to do something I hate doing, and that is prep all three mixtures in separate bowls prior to combining them. I hate dirtying so many dishes but in this case it’s necessary as the cake batter is only just combined.

When the cake has finished its cooking time, you’ll notice it’s done because the edges pull away from the sides — the center of the ring will have collapsed slightly, as that’s the gooey, fudge part of the cake, and won’t rise.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Cake:
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pan
1/2 cup boiling water
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

For the glaze:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:
Adjust an over rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Whisk the cocoa, flour, nuts, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Beat eggs and vanilla in a large measuring cup.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, add the egg mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in the flour mixture until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the batter and bake until the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan, about 45 minutes. Cool upright in the pan on a wire rack for 1 1/2 hours, then invert onto a serving plate and cool completely.

For the glaze:
Cook the cream, corn syrup and chocolate in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and set aside until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let set for at least 10 minutes. Serve.

Best of America's Test Kitchen

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6 responses to “MoM March ’09 – Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Tunnel of Fudge Cake

  1. I found this recipe in America’s Test Kitchen Blue baking book. I followed the instructions to the letter. The only difference between that recipe and the one posted here is that the Baking Book says to only cool the cake for 10 minutes. This one 1 1/2 hours. As soon as I inverted the cake all the ooey gooey filling came out of the cake and onto my counter. It is the funniest deflated cake I have ever seen. Next time, I will try to keep the cake in the pan for 1 1/2 hours and see if that fixes the problem.

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  2. I’ve noticed that a lot of food publications make changes to later prints of recipes or to their online versions, to correct any goofs that were made when the recipe was originally published. That annoys me. I can understand it because everyone makes mistakes, but you’d hope that a professional cooking magazine would have checked these things beforehand. I can only imagine how irate I would be if my cake had oozed out all over the counter. If you do feel up to making this again, let me know if you fared any better after letting it rest for 1 1/2 hours.

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  3. I made this cake and let it cool on the pan for 2 hours before inverting – it was the best chocolate dessert I have made. I took it to work and it was gone in minutes. This does call for a glass of cold milk or coffee with it. Rich, gooey and oh so good.

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  4. Wah whooo! This is now my most favorite cake in the world. I remember my mom making this cake for my brother’s birthday which was a month before mine and it was our all time favorite. But then the fitness era started and cake was off limits. I remember reading my local newspaper and they had printed a recipe for the tunnel of fudge cake. I made it but was not too impressed. I may have over cooked it but the tunnel of fudge was nothing compared to what you get with this recipe. It could be the fine chopping of the nuts, which the other recipe did not ask for. Anyway if you are a chocolate freak, this is IT!

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  5. I remember making this cake years ago with a cake mix, but never with the nuts in it. I really dislike nuts in cake. Every recipe I’ve seen for tunnel of fudge cake today says the nuts are essential. Do you know of any way to make the cake without nuts?

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    • Hi Marti,

      I think the big worry here is that, without the nuts, your cake texture will be nothing but soft — soft cake, soft fudge, soft glaze — with no crunch or excitement of texture. But if you like soft moist cake with lots of fudge then go for it. If you want to omit the nuts but give the texture a little bit of excitement, there are other ways to get some drama in there. Maybe after you add the glaze, sprinkle a 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips on top? There are probably also a lot of other ways you could add a little texture if you wanted. If you try something new and it works, please come back and let us know! We’d love to hear how any adaptations worked out for you!

      Best,
      MM

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