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Jul 20, 2006 12:39 AM

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

Alright, this might seem like a dumb question, but I love the concept of this cake, and have read many recipes for it all cautioning that omitting the nuts will stop the recipe from working and keep that tunnel from forming or remaining rather. I can't stand nuts, and have always wanted to make a nut free version of this cake, but have been reluctant to try. What makes the nuts crucial, and is there anything else to replace their function? I don't want to add another kind of nut, or fruit of any sort. I want a fudgy chocolate cake with a tunnel of sinful ooze... Any ideas?

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  1. I don't know of a tunnel of fudge cake without nuts, but here is a link to a fantastic molten chocolate cake. It has a very satisfying oozy truffle center. It is a bit of work, but oh so worth it!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Non Cognomina

      Thanks for the link... Looks interesting, but I'm really most in search of an explanation for why the nuts cause what they do to happen...

      1. re: Emme

        Sorry, I misunderstood your question in the original post. Here is my explaination of what I think the nuts are crucial. My recipe calls for 2 cups of chopped walnuts in a batter for a 10" bundt pan. When the cake is baked the nuts sink to the bottom of the bundt pan (which will be the top when unmolded). The nuts absorb heat and help "set" the batter in the bottom of the bundt pan. The top of the batter forms a crust because it is exposed to the hot air in the oven. The middle remains wet or "unset" which results in the "tunnel of fudge."

        What happens when you omit the nuts? Well, you end up with a gooey mess that doesn't like to unmold from the pan. The batter doesn't set up solid enough. You can "save" the cake by baking it for longer, but then there is no tunnel of fudge!

        1. re: Non Cognomina

          I'll buy that explanation.
          I've made that cake before and I love it. I especially love the nuts in it, I've used walnut oil and walnuts and it's all a wonderful blend of textures and flavors, it might just surprise you and turn you 'round to nuts.
          But you can conduct your own experiment with 2 smaller 4 cup bunt pans and see if it really does matter.
          I'd like to help you out but I'm not baking anything like that until the mercury dips to 50 degrees.

          1. re: Ida Red

            If the explanation above is correct, could you not omit the nuts and boost the baking temp??


          2. re: Non Cognomina

            hmm, in reading about the nuts sinking, I make a cake in a bundt pan that uses chocolate chips. The chips always sink and form a thick type layer(unless I dust them with flour first). So, not sure but maybe chips could work instead????

            1. re: pamd

              Ooh, that sounds delish! If anyone tries this let me know how it turns out!

              1. re: Non Cognomina

                Anybody ever try this with chocolate chips instead of nuts? I make the same cake where the chips kind of sink to the bottom....

      2. interestingly enough, if you like coconut, there are a variety of recipes for Chocolate Macaroon Tunnel Cake, which does not include nuts, but of course it is a different cake.

        1. Shirley Corriher explained the secrets of the tunnel of fudge in a 2004 article in the NYT--

          Probably more than you wanted to know about the subject.....

          2 Replies
          1. re: gorboduc

            That article is great. I'm a scientist, at heart, preferring the chemical explanations, but she just mentions nuts to say she roasted them, not why they are crucial. It seems that the "tunnel" is more a result of the excess sugar preventing the gluten from forming in the center. Then again, given other people's experiences, I know the nuts can't be omitted, so I still don't quite see what chemical nuts possess that are a crucial intermediary step to the final reaction. I'm wondering if a pan made of a metal with a low specific heat, lower than normal bundt pans, might achieve the same effect of cooking the outer portions more rapidly.

            1. re: Emme

              Quite honestly Emme. I can't understand why you need nuts either. I'd just go ahead and try one without nuts. If it doesn't work, who cares?? Stick it back in and bake it off completely. It's not like it's gonna taste horrible. Try it a few times. Maybe you have a trick up your sleeve that they don't.

              Good luck

          2. In reference to the NY Times article above,

            "Sugar, she explained, binds to the flour proteins, preventing them from forming the structural lattice. "Glutenin runs off with sugar," Ms. Corriher said. "Gliadin runs off with sugar, and you don't get much gluten."

            When baked, the outer portions reach a high enough temperature that they harden, but the cooler inner part remains soft and gooey."

            I think the nuts sink to the bottom, absorb lots of heat (which nuts do very well) and help "set" the crust on the bottom of the bundt pan. Without the nuts, the bottom portion will set, but not a thick enough layer to make the cake stable enough to remove from the pan.

            1. I read a book called Cookoff : Recipe Fever in America by Amy Sutherland (really interesting read) and in it she interviews the woman who invented the Tunnel of Fudge cake for the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I can't remember all the details but seem to remember them both lamenting the fact that the recipe on the Bake-Off website doesn't really work anymore because one of the original ingredients was a dry packet of frosting mix that isn't available anymore. The author made the recipe and said the middle was soft but not runny. Have any of you made the recipe from the site? I'm just wondering how it came out.

              Here's the link: