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A Pan for All Seasons

I’m a big admirer of everyday innovators, people you’ve probably never heard of who have improved our lives in modest yet meaningful ways. Today we pay tribute to H. David Dalquist, who died on January 2 at the age of 86. His best-known invention, the Bundt pan, turns 55 this year.

Dalquist created the pan at the request of a women’s group that wanted to bake kugelhopf, a ring-shaped German bread that they fondly remembered from childhood. Dalquist’s aluminum model might have languished in culinary obscurity if not for Ella Helfrich and her Tunnel of Fudge Cake sixteen years later. After her creation placed second in the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest, 200,000 queries poured into Pillsbury asking about the pan responsible for the cake’s unusual shape — round, with graceful arches and a hole in the middle (to this day the recipe remains the most requested in the bake-off’s history). Thanks to a licensing arrangement with Pillsbury, Dalquist’s company, Nordic Ware, went on to sell some 45 million Bundt pans.

Dalquist’s other notable invention isn’t as colorful but is perhaps even more ubiquitous: the rotating microwave oven carousel.