fudge cake on a plate

Two rounds for good luck

New Year’s celebrations around the world always include special foods. It’s not just a matter of tradition, either: there is a nearly universal belief that the foods you eat on New Year’s Eve or Day will set the tone for the year to come.

One of the most common themes involves round foods. A circle is harmonious and unbroken, symbolizing peace and unity. In most cultures, coins are also circular, so it’s no surprise that round foods are also seen as symbols of wealth.

In order to wish you both wealth and peace, we’re bringing you two recipes this month.

Lentils are traditional New Year’s fare in Italy, because they are said to resemble tiny coins; serving this lentil-gouda soup in a round bowl will double to circular effect. To follow up the soup, pull out the Bundt pan from the cupboard and serve up this Tunnel of Fudge cake — said to be the recipe that brought Bundt pans into prominence in North America.

Lentil-Gouda Soup

It looks and tastes like it took ages to make, but this soup from the Dairy Farmers of Canada is incredibly easy and quick. For an added depth of flavour, substitute smoked gouda. This soup also works well with edam.


1 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup thinly sliced celery or baby spinach

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp ground cumin

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 19 oz can lentils, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded gouda

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup grape tomatoes quartered


In a pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.

Stir in sweet potatoes and cumin and sauté for 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

In a blender or with an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Return to pot if using a blender.

Stir in lentils; cook on medium heat for 2 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in half of the gouda (and all the spinach leaves if you chose not to use celery). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with remaining Gouda and tomatoes.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

fudge cake on a plate

This recipe certainly brought luck to Ella Helfrich: a home baker from Houston, she created the recipe and won second place in the national Pillsbury Bake-Off of 1966. It went on to become the most requested recipe in Pillsbury’s history.

Her original recipe called for an icing mix which makes a gooey centre – the “tunnel of fudge” – within the chocolate cake. When Pillsbury discontinued that product, there was such an outcry from consumers that they went on to create this revised version of the recipe, which is made from scratch.

The cake was arguably even better luck for the Nordic Ware company of Minnesota. They’d been making Bundt pans for about 20 years with limited success, and were considering discontinuing them when Pillsbury published Mrs. Helfrich’s recipe. Suddenly, Bundt pans were in demand.

Note: Nuts are essential to the success of this cake. And because of the gooey centre, standard methods of testing for doneness won’t work, so an accurate oven temperature and timing are essential.


1 ¾ cups sugar

1 ¾ cups margarine or butter, softened

6 eggs

2 cups powdered sugar

2 ¼ cups all-purpose or unbleached flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

For Glaze

¾ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

4 to 6 teaspoons milk


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan (you can also use an unfluted tube pan).

In large bowl, combine sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well.

By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 ½ hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours.

In small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

Posted in Thoughts on Food.