Tunnel Of Fudge Cake: A Mid-Century Recipe Test

Posted on Jun 15 2011 - 7:07am by RetroRuth

Tunnel of Fudge002All Hail the Tunnel of Fudge Cake! Not only does this amazing cake have a hilarious name (snicker) and an impeccable Mid-Century pedigree (it was a runner-up in the famous 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off) but the darn thing is magic.  It is the original cake that makes its own ribbon of fudgy goodness in the CENTER of the cake as you bake it. Miraculous AND delicious!

Sadly, the Tunnel cake is also infamous.  The original recipe from the 17th Annual Bake-Off cookbook calls for a product that is no longer in production: Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix. The discontinuing of this mix has led to a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth. People who grew up with the Tunnel cake and loved it have been searching for a substitute for the frosting mix for years, much to the bafflement of Pillsbury execs. After all, they revamped the recipe and posted it on their website. They even added a chocolate glaze. They claim the frosting mix was just a bunch of cocoa and powdered sugar with no other special ingredients and you can make the cake without it. But people are still searching for that perfect Tunnel of Fudge cake recipe, and are subbing everything from the above-mentioned powdered sugar/cocoa combo to brown sugar to powdered drink mixes, some recipes even “cheating” by spooning in a pre-fudged layer into the cake to make it seem like the old magic is back.

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5.0 from 6 reviews
Tunnel Of Fudge Cake
 
This is the original recipe!
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups softened butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 pkg Double Dutch Frosting Mix (OR 2 pkgs Jiffy Chocolate Frosting Mix)
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter in large mixing bowl on high speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Gradually add sugar: continue creaming at high speed until light and fluffy.
  4. By hand, stir in flour, frosting mix and walnuts until well-blended.
  5. Pour batter into greased Bundt pan or 10 inch tube pan.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes. Cool 2 hours before removing from pan. Cool completely before serving.
Notes
Warning! This cake is like baking brownies! If you overcook the cake you WILL lose the fudge tunnel in the center.

 

I have been studying Tunnel of Fudge cake recipes for two years now, dissecting and decoding, trying to find exactly the balance between sweet and tooth-aching sweetness and sufficient magic fudginess to recapture the Tunnel cake spirit. And that isn’t just the spirit of what’s in the recipe. It’s spirit of dumping a bunch of stuff in a bowl and having something magical come out. The actual Tunnel cake experience, not just the revamped hybrid cake. You know, the one with glaze.

And then, I caught a break.

You know what it’s like when you have walked past something a thousand times without actually seeing it?  Without actually looking at the details because you don’t expect anything has changed since the last time you looked at it? Like when you are walking down the hall, past the shelf that you put up 5 years ago that you filled with little ceramic animals and suddenly you look at it. Really look at it, and you think, “Where the heck did that duck with fangs come from?”

I was walking down the baking aisle of the grocery store the other day and I started to buzz past all of the boxed mixes like I usually do.  If I don’t, I usually end up with three different kinds of brownies in the cart and 5 pounds heavier by the end of the week. But this time I slowed down for a minute, and started to skim all of the different kinds and flavors. Then my eyes caught on something, and I came to a screeching halt.

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“Holy crap,” I thought, “It’s frosting mix. Fudge frosting mix.”

Then the Tunnel of Fudge angels in heaven started singing, and I knew I had stumbled across the old magic.

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“Of course,” I thought, “Jiffy still makes frosting mix! Jiffy! Why didn’t I think of this before?”  And I had no answer for myself.  It seemed like it would be the logical thing to think of. Jiffy mix has been around since the beginning of time (read: 1930). I remembered Jiffy having fudge frosting mix when I was little, AND that Jiffy was one of my mom’s favorite brands to buy. Mostly because it was cheap. But their corn muffin mix is one of the only boxed mixes that I buy regularly. 

And I was more than content with using Jiffy frosting mix in my Tunnel cake.

 

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This was it. I was going to make this cake, this cake with 3 sticks of butter and six eggs in it, and then I was going to dump in boxes of premade frosting mix and watch the magic happen. It was going to be the complete 1966 experience, with no updated recipe and only a small substitution of a brand name.

And it…

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was…

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awesome!

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By the time I got it in the oven, I was pretty impatient for it to be done.  But I had a three hour waiting period to endure. First, the 60 minute baking time. Then the 2 hour cool down while the mysterious fudge came into being.

Meanwhile, this was the conversation in the kitchen:

“Is it fudge yet?”

“Nope.”

“How ‘bout now?”

“Nope.”

“Now?”

“Not yet!”

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We settled in with a DVD of Streetcar Named Desire to entertain us and low fat ice cream sandwiches to keep our sweet teeth happy.  But Tom kept coming in the kitchen to refill his lemonade, and every time he found me already there, staring at the cooling cake, mumbling to myself about how long two hours really is.

Finally, after Blanche had gone completely crazy and I had stopped swooning over the dresses, the cake mostly cooled. (It was still pretty warm, though!)  This was it. It was finally the moment of fudgy truth.

I cut the cake carefully, lifting out a slice and craning my neck, my view blocked by my serrated knife.

“Did it work?,” I asked breathlessly, “Is it fudgy?”

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“Oh yes,” Tom said, “very, very much so.”

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I was so excited. This was it! It had really worked! Even as the cake started to collapse, the fudge on the inside still too warm and starting  to run out of the center, I leaned over and breathed in the smell of success. It was slightly chocolaty, with a hint of toffee, and very, very sweet.

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“How is it?  Is it good?”

“Oh yeah.”

“It isn’t too sweet, is it?

“Nope, it’s just perfect.”

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The Verdict: Success!!  The texture of the cake was perfect, exactly what I had hoped it would be.  It had a toffee taste (probably from the cups and cups of sugar) and was chewy, with the fudge center thick and gooey even when completely cool.  The only bad thing I can think of saying is that there wasn’t a rich chocolate flavor to the cake, which could probably be easily fixed by adding some extra cocoa powder in with the frosting mix. But only if you want to mess with it. To me, it tasted absolutely perfect. Tunnel of Fudge magical.

*Hopefully you are lucky enough to have your local grocery store carry Jiffy fudge frosting mix, like mine. Make sure to check every corner of the baking aisle, in case it is hiding in plain sight.  If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, it is available online from different retailers.

*UPDATE: There has been some confusion about the texture of the “fudge tunnel” inside the cake. When you are making it, try not to think of it as cake, try to think of it as brownies. If you pull brownies early, they will be gooey. If you let them bake too long, they will firm up. The same applies to this cake. If you want the molten center, pull the cake early and cut it hot. If you want it to be more firm, leave it for the entire baking time and let your cake cool completely before cutting.

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit in...to the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com), No Pattern Required (www.nopatternrequired.com), and I Ate The 80's (www.iatethe80s.com).

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58 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Tom June 15, 2011 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Stella! … I mean: Ruuuth!! Hey, Ruuuth!!

    • RetroRuth June 15, 2011 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Keep yelling, you big ape! 🙂

  2. Inky June 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    You have officially earned your place in baking heaven where the ovens heat in a perfect even way and everything comes out just right. Bless you – you ARE the Tunnel of Fudge angel!!!

    • RetroRuth June 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Inky!!! It’s everything I could have ever dreamed it would be… 🙂

  3. veg-o-matic June 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I have been meaning to try this for years, but nobody carries Jiffy frosting mix around here. Maybe it’s time to order it online…
    What gets me is that the batter turns into cake without any leavening. How does it do that? Some kind of chocolaty cake voodoo, I guess.

    • RetroRuth June 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Veg – It could be the 6 eggs! That’s just my guess. 🙂

  4. Andrea June 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Heh, I think the look on Tom’s face on the last picture says it all – you are the chocolate fudge tunnel cake genius who got it just right!

    • RetroRuth June 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Andrea! It was exciting, and I was really pleased that it actually turned out!

  5. Marlena June 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    That’s so funny! As I read the beginning of this entry I thought, “Ohmigod! I have to tell her about Jiffy frosting mix!” I might have known that’s where the post was headed. 🙂 Their cornbread mix is also the only box mix I ever use. My dad always made it when he made split pea soup, navy bean soup, and chili.

    • RetroRuth June 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Great minds, Marlena! They think alike!!!

  6. Sara In AZ June 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    There was a bundt cake mix I was completely obsessed with back in the early 90s that was very similar to this recipe – chocolate cake with a tunnel of fudge on the inside. I know, bad me for buying a mix — but it was SO good! I will totally try this one when I have the time!

    PS – I recognize that plate. 😉

    • RetroRuth June 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      I knew you would recognize that! It is the plate of power. Whenever I want a Mid-Century Menu dish to REALLY taste good, I serve it on that plate.

  7. Maggie June 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Now why do you suppose that using self-rising flour would allow you to remove an entire half-cup of butter from the original recipe?

    In the alternate directions, that’s the only change I can see they made for the SR flour.

    Either way, I think I’m gonna have to make this.

  8. Brie June 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Totally making this. You are a baking genius! Now i’m going to be on the lookout for that jiffy frosting. 🙂

  9. Jenny (VintageSugarcube) July 10, 2011 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Ohhhhh, what I would do for a piece of that fudgy sinfullness right NOW!! Loving your site and all the fun! 🙂

  10. CoolBlue December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    I made the Tunnel of Fudge bundt cake over the weekend and I used the Jiffy frosting mix, but my cake did not end up having the fudgie center. It tastes good, but I was disappointed that there was no fudge in the middle.

    • RetroRuth December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Hi CoolBlue!

      I am not exactly sure what the problem was, but my guess would be that the cooking time was too long in your oven. Oven temps sometimes vary, and if the cake is overcooked (or the oven is too hot) the fudge will disappear. I would try again, but this time I would reduce the cooking time by 15 mins! Good luck!

      • CoolBlue December 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm - Reply

        Hi RetroRuth,

        I baked my cake for 50 minutes in a 350 degree oven. My stove is only a few years old and I bake all the time. Every thing else always comes out perfect. I can’t figure it out.

        • RetroRuth December 15, 2011 at 10:01 am - Reply

          Sorry CoolBlue! Accidental overbaking is the only thing I can think of! 🙁

    • Allison Wilkins May 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      I tried the recipe also, with the Jiffy frosting mix. I mixed in 2 boxes and was sadly disappointed when it came out nothing but a chocolate cake
      :(. How many boxes do you need to make the fudge inside?

      • RetroRuth May 21, 2012 at 5:30 pm - Reply

        Hey Allison!

        I am sorry it didn’t work out! Two boxes is what you need to get it to work. Make sure your oven isn’t too hot and that you are using a heavy bundt pan. If the fudge disappeared, then it was baked for too long or the oven was too hot!

        • nosliwamm September 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm - Reply

          I remember the cake itself. The tunnel wasa not runny like a molten type thing as shown in the pictures. It was almost like the center wasn’t quite a finished brownie, it didn’t run out it was more solidified than what you showed here.

          • RetroRuth September 17, 2012 at 9:02 am -

            That’s because when I took the pictures of our cake, it wasn’t completely cool yet, as I mentioned in the post. It did firm up more when it cooled.

  11. Brenda Bradbery March 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I just did the same exact thing you did yesterday. I wanted to make this cake because it had been so long and I dearly love it, when I realized about the jiffy cake frosting. I my story was the same as I read yours right down to waiting for it to cool. When I cut it I was so excited. I just hate it took me so long to figure it out. Loved you story.

    • RetroRuth March 6, 2012 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Thanks, Brenda!!! Did the recipe work for you??? I have been getting some mixed reviews, so I am curious!

      • Gentry November 8, 2012 at 2:01 am - Reply

        I won”t be able to express my gratitude for this recipe. My mom always made this cake when I was young, she loved it and I loved it. In my adult life, I asked about it and she explained that they stopped making the frosting mix. However, her original recipe called for the Jiffy frosting mix that you substituted! I discovered the jiffy frosting was available online a couple years ago, but mom had since lost the recipe. Her birthday is in 2 weeks and this will be her surprise. Thanks so much!!

        • Nancy Hopkins Robey July 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm - Reply

          Really !! I saw the frosting at a competitor grocery store and bought two boxes hoping to remake mom’s old recipe. Could not remember the recipe so I started searching the internet. So happy to have found this and cannot believe there are so many other people that grew up having tunnel cake. Started reading all these posts and OMGosh Gentry really ??? Lauren and Ron are at the store to collect the rest of the ingredients. Stay tuned and I’ll let ya know how it comes out. Unbelievable.

  12. P'Gell April 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Oh, wow. I used to make this when I was first married. Then they discontinued the frosting mix you needed NEEDED to make the cake. I will have to see if any of our stores carry the Jiffy frosting mix. My brother and I were really the only ones who liked it, but huh, more for us.

    THANK YOU!!!!

  13. JERI KAUFMAN December 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    My friend made this for me when we were kids. I dreamed about it for years! My daughter mad it with a friend with the adapted version….it was awful!!
    There is such a following for this item (jiffy frosting) that the price is sky high. I found the vanilla one for .66 cents!
    Thanks for the great commentary!

  14. Vicky April 12, 2013 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Where is the recipe? Or do you use the standard Pillsbury recipe but add the 2 boxes of Jiffy Frosting to it? Thank you.

    • RetroRuth April 12, 2013 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Hey Vicky –
      It is the standard recipe, but with the Jiffy frosting subbed for the Double Dutch Frosting mix. However, I have just added a printable recipe. You will see it at the beginning of the post. Thanks!

  15. Debbie June 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    I also grew up with this recipe. Walmart usually sells all of the Jiffy mixes. I make a retro pumpkin squares recipe every Thanksgiving and it calls for plain yellow cake mix (no pudding in the mix) for the crust. Jiffy makes only yellow cake mix that does not contain pudding in the mix. Sometimes I can find it at Kroger but always at Walmart. Thanks for the great post!

  16. Dennis November 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    http://on.fb.me/1igVWqQ

    Came out great the first time, and I’m making it tonight to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner with the family. Thank you so much for the hard work in perfecting this recipe. I’ve SO missed this. Comes out just like Mom used to make. I add about two extra tablespoons of cocoa and almost an extra 1/4 cup of sugar at the stir.

  17. kat February 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    King Arthur flour website now offers a frosting mix that might work here. I am anxious to try it, as I loved the original recipe.

  18. Gweaks February 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I AM SO HAPPY YOU HAVE ALREADY TESTED THIS RECIPE SO NOW I CAN HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO! I CAN SEE WHERE THE EXTRA SUGAR AND COCOA WOULD COMPENSATE FOR THE DOUBLE DUTCH PART OF THE TUNNEL OF FUDGE. GOD BLESS YOU!

  19. jason hill March 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Hi i live in the uk and can’t get either of the chocolate mixes here, i have found a betty crocker rich and creamy chocolate fudge icing,we call frosting icing here,but its not a mix its premade , do you think that will work,and is it all purpose or self raising flour thanks

  20. jason hill March 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Sorry forgot to say looks cake looks amazing thanks

  21. Michelle Michel April 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    My grandmother made this all the time. When I learned to bake as a young teenager, she passed the recipe on to me (I’m now 61)! My question for you… do you use salted or unsalted butter when making this? Used to be butter was just butter!
    Thanks!

    • RetroRuth April 17, 2014 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      Hi! I used unsalted butter, and it turned out great. Good luck!

  22. Elsie May 26, 2014 at 3:55 am - Reply

    For anyone who cannot find Jiffy Fudge Frosting Mix in a store: I discovered that it can be purchased by the case from the Jiffy people. A case is 12 boxes — the product costs $6.00 (that’s $.50 a box), but the shipping is steep. In my case, being shipped from the East coast to the West coast, it’s $14.95. Checking on Amazon, the lowest price from a marketplace seller is $24.30 for a box of 6. At $20.95, I am getting double the amount at less than half the price.

    Going to try your recipe as soon as my frosting mix arrives… 😉 I still have the original recipe. It was printed on the back of an ancient Pillsbury cake box and has been hidden in one of my “safe places” for decades.

  23. jan December 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    I always wanted to make a TOF cake (I’m of that era), and when I stumbled across your site, I decided that, this time, I was really going to do it. I did think that finding the Jiffy fudge frosting mix would be a long shot, but there it was at the super supercenter, just like it was for you. I grabbed two boxes of it and a big bag of chopped pecans (personal preference), then scurried home to assemble the ingredients so I could bake the cake early Christmas morning. I toasted the pecans, set out the eggs, butter, and sugar, then measured out the flour. Since you implied your cake was not quite chocolatey enough, I removed 2 Tbsp of flour from the measured portion and replaced it with 2 Tbsp. cocoa. Similarly, I swapped out 2 Tbsp of the frosting mix. I brought the baked cake to my son’s house as a surprise Christmas dessert. Though it was cold when we cut it, the center was still oozy and fudgy. We put each piece in the microwave for a few seconds and served with a dollop of Blue Bell peppermint ice cream. The oohs and aahs and groans of delight around the table were almost shameful. What a fabulous dessert. And so easy! Much more like a brownie than a cake, but we can live with that!.

  24. jan December 26, 2014 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    No extra sugar is needed.

  25. Loretta C. March 7, 2015 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Made this cake for years & tried many times after they stopped selling the frosting mix. Nothing worked, so I’m trying your way.
    Had only one question: Your pictures of the “done” cake didn’t
    look like I remembered mine. Yours seemed to have a softer
    outer cake finish. I remembered more of a brownie-like crust.
    Please let me know what you think.
    Thanks, Loretta C.

  26. Nancy B March 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Your recipe is the ONLY one that delivers the true TUNNEL experience! Thanks so much for sharing it! My husband Paul knew of my childhood TOF cake memories…for years my mom baked this one of a kind cake for seven chocolate loving kiddos! After finding your recipe on line, Paul surprised me last week with a case of Jiffy frosting mix purchased online! After gleefully jumping up and down, I got right to it! I agree that the cake does not have that real deep chocolate taste I so fondly remember. So as suggested, I added two tablespoons of cocoa. Also, my sister Deb suggested that I add a bit of instant coffee (approximately 1 tsp diluted in a tiny but of water) to enhance the chocolate flavor–this REALLY worked! Finslly, I added one half teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of vanilla. I used egg substitute (one and a half cups) instead of six eggs. Try these simple tweeks to an already excellent recipe! I guarantee you will take one bite and you will find yourself right back at the kitchen table of your TOF childhood! I plan to bake one and give it to my brother for Easter this weekend- he is the only one who loved TOF even more than I did! Again, thanks for this recipe using the Jiffy frosting mix- BRILLIANT!!! PERFECTION!!!

  27. Cathy Scanlon-Still April 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    I made this tunnel of fudge cake last night and it was marvelous. Wasn’t hard to find the fudge Jiffy frosting mix. I can’t believe how easy this was! Thank you so much for this recipe.

  28. Peggyf July 22, 2015 at 9:23 pm - Reply

    I threw away my recipe for this cake after years of not being able to get the Double Dutch Frosting mix. I even wrote to the company to no avail. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks

  29. Alison H November 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I’ve kept my mother’s Pillsbury Bake Off Cake Cook Book, circa 1969. It contains this recipe, as well as our family favorite, Kentucky Butter Cake. My son wants the tunnel of fudge cake for his birthday and I’ve been scouring the internet for updates. Thank you so much for doing the leg work and sharing your experience…Now to see if I can find Jiffy frosting mix in Kodiak, Alaska 🙂

  30. Mary Kawecki November 23, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    Is there no cocoa in this recipe? Is it the dry frosting mix that actually makes the chocolate cake part and the tunnel? Thanks so much!

  31. Tina Buescher October 31, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this on your site! I just wanted to share that I couldn’t find jiffy mix where I live, but found Krusteaz brand chocolate fudge frosting mix at a local restaurant supply store. It came in a 5 pound box for $13–enough for 5 cakes. I used 15 ounces of mix (about 3 1/2 level cups), and I also added extra cocoa powder (1/4 cup). It came out perfect! Thanks again.

  32. carol grubbs December 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you soon much for this recipe. My mother made this cake every Christmas back in the late 60’s and 70’s. I still have her handwritten recipe but was so disappointed when I found out the secret ingredient was no longer available. I will be trying it with the Jiffy mix! Thanks again for the chance to bring back memories of childhood!

  33. Angie January 28, 2017 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    We’ve been talking about these lately and wondering what different kinds we can make. I will have to do more research. I so remember all the cakes you could make with a pudding in the middle. I didn’t think that that was now a thing of the past but more we just got bored of them like Red Velvet. I would love it if you could cut my research down. We were thinking of a poppy seed cake with a lemon pudding middle. Now I wonder if that is possible.

  34. SANDY February 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    I remember my mom making this cake for birthday’s when we were kids. WE LOVED IT! Have been looking for a revamped recipe and found one in Cook’s Country cookbook. It was awful and a big waste of money. Saw this recipe with the Jiffy Frosting mix and tried it. All of my siblings said it tasted just like moms and they really enjoyed it. Now we just have to hope Jiffy does not discontinue their frosting mix. I did add the 2 extra table spoons of cocoa and 1/4 cup of sugar like someone had suggested. DELICIOUS!

  35. Regina February 15, 2017 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Are nuts necessary? Can they be omitted or something like chocolate chips substituted? Will it still make a tunnel without the nuts

    • RetroRuth February 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      It’s been a while since I’ve made this, but I believe the nuts are necessary. Unfortunately chips won’t work!

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