H. David Dalquist, a metallurgy expert and baking innovator, died on Jan. 2 of heart failure. He was 86.
The Minnesota native earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. He spent two years as a metallurgical engineer for U.S. Steel before enlisting in the Navy. Dalquest served as a radar technician aboard the destroyer USS Swanson during World War II. Upon his return to the states, he and his wife, Dorothy, founded Nordic Ware, a manufacturer of kitchenware products, based in St. Louis Park, Minn.
In 1950, members of Hadassah, the Zionist women’s volunteer society, asked Dalquist to design a metal pan similar to the ceramic one their European mothers used to bake a pudding called kugel. Based on their specifications, he created the Bundt pan — a circular, cast aluminum pan with a center post and fluted sides. Originally called the bund pan, after a German word that means “a gathering,” its name was later changed to avoid any association with the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization.
A few local department stores carried the Bundt pan, but it wasn’t a big seller until 1966 when a Texas woman used one in the 17th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Ella Helfrich won second place and a $5,000 prize for her rich and gooey Tunnel of Fudge Cake. After the contest, Pillsbury received more than 200,000 letters from women wanting to know where they could purchase a Bundt pan.
In response, Nordic Ware went into round-the-clock production. In the 1970s, the company signed an agreement with Pillsbury to sell Bundt pans with cake mixes, and Dorothy Dalquist published a cookbook containing 300 Bundt recipes. Although Nordic Ware now sells more than two dozen Bundt pan shapes, including heart-shaped, rose-shaped and star-shaped, the original cake mold is one of the most popular in the world. To date, more than 50 million Bundt pans have been sold.
Dalquist showed his gratitude to the Minneapolis Hadassah chapter by giving the organization his production seconds. The members sold the pans at fundraisers and used the proceeds to build schools and hospitals in Israel. Dalquist also made culinary history a second time when he developed cooking containers and gadgets for microwave ovens. He created the automated food rotator known as the Micro-Go-Round, microwave egg poachers and splatter covers, and 50 other microwave accessories. In 1987, Dalquist was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame and the Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame in Boston.