MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You’d never guess that a small circle of flat, raw aluminum would be transformed into the shape of America’s most iconic cake pan in under 30 seconds. The Bundt is a product of Minnesota ingenuity.
“It’s pretty cool to see the original bundt pan being made,” said Jenny Dalquist, executive vice president of Nordic Ware, the company her grandparents founded in the 1946.
Dotty and Dave Dalquist had $500 in their pockets and started creating specialty Scandinavian products, like a Rosette and Krumkake iron and an Ebelskiver pan. Today Nordic Ware employs 300 people and their most famous product is in more than 70 million households around the world.
“Manufacturing is a lost art, not many people still making things,” Dalquist said.
Nordic Ware casts and cuts and non-stick coats 1 million Bundt pans a year, but innovation and creativity keeps the company creating new designs.
“We design the cake first,” product design manager Nick Williams said. “Once we have that decided, we design the pan around it.”
In a cake-pan lined office inside the corporate headquarters, inside the plant, the engineering team uses computer drafting and 3-D printers to create models and samples in coordination with retail partners like Williams-Sonoma.
It’s not the type of design any of the team members thought they’d be doing.
“This was unexpected. Pleasant but unexpected,” Williams said.
After they get the design right, production gets underway. Dalquist is the third-generation of her family working in the company, she said there are plenty of second and third-generation workers at Nordic Ware as well, experts in manufacturing with a passion for the business.
“Literally hundreds of years of know how and experience,” she said.
Nordic Ware’s business is only 20 percent Bundt pans, though. Dalquist said they sell 10 times as many cookie sheets. And they sell so many microwave splatter guards, the production machines run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“That’s a well-kept secret. That many pans made in Minneapolis,” said Dave Dalquist, the founders son, Jenny’s father, and the current president of Nordic Ware. “Do the math on that, that’s a pan every couple seconds being sold somewhere in the world.”
The Dalquists take great pride in the fact that they never moved the production overseas, choosing to stay in Minnesota and protect their intellectual property rather than saving a few bucks short term, and risking giving away their expertise to engineers in China, for example.
The design of the pan is very complex, according to the Dalquists, because the key is creating definition and detail in the actual cake, not in frosting that covers it up.
“You can’t have details that would not release. You have to have good looking pan and cake, but still fall out of the pan easily,” Dave Dalquist said. “We call it draft. All your designs have to have a cascade.. so when you pick the pan up it will release the cake,” he explained.
The Bundt pan had a slow release in the early 1950s, but it gained worldwide fame when it became a prize-wining finalist in the Pillsbury bake-off. Now it’s a tradition for many families, handed down through the generations, and the focus of hundreds of thousands of social media posts.
“If you look on social media and search #bundt or #bundtstagram you can see tens of thousands of pictures people love to share,” Jenny Dalquist said.
Today the pan is so iconic it’s in the Smithsonian. The legacy of one Minnesota family, continuing in this Minnesota factory every day.
“We love thinking of how many millions of people around the world have enjoyed a meal or enjoyed a memory using one of our products. It’s pretty cool,” Jenny Dalquist said.
Nordic Ware Factory Store
4925 County Road 25/Highway 7
St. Louis Park, MN 55416