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June 15, 2011

Tunnel Of Fudge Cake On The Mid-Century Menu

By RetroRuth

Check out this post, with bigger pictures on the Mid-Century Menu!

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.

 Tunnel of Fudge001

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.


“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.


“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.


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…






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?”


“How ‘bout now?”



“Not yet!”


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 had cooled. 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?”


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


This was it! It had really worked! Even as the cake started to collapse, the fudge on the inside still warm enough 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.





“How is it?  Is it good?”

“Oh yeah.”

“It isn’t too sweet, is it?

“Nope, it’s just perfect.”


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.

***WARNING!  TODAY IS THE LAST DAY YOU CAN ENTER OUR SING A TUNE TO TUNA RECIPE CONTEST!!!!! Email me (ruth@midcenturymenu.com) your mid-century recipes containing tuna ASAP if you want to be in the running for a ton of fun prizes!

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13 Responses to Tunnel Of Fudge Cake On The Mid-Century Menu

  1. Sharon Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I’m so glad this fairy tale had a happy ending! The Tunnel of Fudge cake lives!

  2. Inky Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Love your blog! I’m from Owosso and check in with you daily. This recipe will be on my summer baking list. I think my Mom still has that cookbook, too. Don’t forget, Jiffy is a Michigan company based in Chelsea.

    • RetroRuth Reply

      June 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Oh, don’t worry Inky, I haven’t forgotten! Props to you, Jiffy and Michigan!! 🙂

      Sharon – It lives forever! 🙂

  3. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 11:26 am

    That looks AWESOME! I love happy endings. Three cheers for your determination (and for ducks with fangs)! I buy a lot of Jiffy products because their boxes are so darned vintage looking! Though, I do admit that the grocery stores don’t give them much shelf time. They’re usually stuck way on the bottom.

  4. Miss RM Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    This looks DIVINE!

  5. Barbara Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Where’s the original recipe? I’m going to the store tonight and I need the ingredients!!!!!!

  6. Barbara Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Can I just say I must be completely blind?

    Duh. Been under a lot of stress lately, sorry……

  7. Sara in AZ Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    You cannot even know how jealous I am right now that you get to have Tunnel of Fudge cake and I don’t. Waaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! hee! Oh God, it looks SO good I am drooling all over the place. Quick, pass a kleenex girl! 🙂 YAY for a Tunnel of Fudge success story!

  8. Queen of Fifty Cents Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Talk about a blast from the past! I remember making this when I was 15 and the recipe was first published. Don’t think we were ever able to hold off from eating it before it cooled!

  9. jamie in Hollywood Reply

    June 16, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    My Mom used to buy Jiffy products all the time and they are quite good. I’m glad they are still in business. This actually looks quite yummy and I’m happy to see a smile! Thank you for sharing; I’m going to try it. Happy Father’s Day to you all.

  10. sablemable Reply

    June 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    O goody! I have that particular Bake-Off book and have yet to bake it.

    Tom-Tom looked content.

  11. Maggie Reply

    June 27, 2011 at 4:17 am

    oh my…..i want that….now. it’s 4am your time, so you can make it now, right??

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