Sugar on the top in Ålesund
A conversation with cake artist Laís Marcolongo, who crafts modern and minimalist cakes
CHRSITY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
It’s one thing to make a delicious cake, and it’s another to create a work of art. For Laís Marcolongo, she combines flavor and artistry in her custom cake business, Sukker på Toppen, in Ålesund, Norway.
I first came across Marcolongo’s work when I was researching for my bunadskaker article this spring and saw her Sunnmørbunad cake on Instagram. Ever since, I’ve been charmed by her incredible talent in cake design and her sunny personality.
Marcolongo moved from her native Brazil to Ålesund in 2015 and opened her custom cake business Sukker på Toppen (“Sugar on Top”) in 2017. She won the “City’s Best Cake” contest for Ålesund’s 170th anniversary celebration in 2018. She is highly sought after for her modern, minimalist cake designs for birthdays, weddings, baptisms, and celebrations of all kinds. She also creates cupcakes and macaroons for takeaway.
I reached out to Marcolongo to learn more about her journey as a cake artist.
Christy Olsen Field: How did you get interested in baking?
Laís Marcolongo: That started a bit more than 10 years ago, when my then boyfriend (and now husband) gave me a cookie cookbook as a Valentine’s Day gift! Cookies were my first baking love, and I’ve always loved how pretty you can make baked goods! Since then, the beauty of tarts, cupcakes, and cakes has been part of my daily life, both as a hobby and now more recently as a full-time job.
COF: When did you decide to go professional and open Sukker på Toppen? Did you go to pastry school?
LM: A couple of years after I moved to Norway, I decided to try my luck at a restaurant to get closer to the food business, to see how the magic worked from the inside. I worked as a waitress at a local restaurant for three months. The pace of working in a restaurant is hectic! Everything is made under a lot of pressure and in a big hurry. That was not the kind of relationship I wanted to have with the food I made. I wanted to put love and careful dedication into it, to make it unique and special. I have now an even greater respect for restaurant workers! That was how I realized I had to start my own business. Although I didn’t go to pastry school, I took a couple of baking and pastry courses back in Brazil, and since I’ve moved I take every chance to take cake decoration technique courses.
COF: Tell me about your award-winning cake you made for Ålesund’s 170th anniversary!
LM: That was such a thrill! There were 20 participants of all kinds, from hobby bakers to small businesses, such as local cafés and restaurants. Both taste and decoration would be considered in the competition, so I made one of my most popular flavors: chocolate and salted caramel cake. I chose very traditional local elements to decorate the cake: Ålesund’s coat of arms, art nouveau elements, and a rope to represent the city’s historical importance as a port. I made it two tiers, big and impressive! It was the only two-tiered cake and I was so proud when they announced my name as winner after the jury tasted them all. It was a delicious and typical Sunnmørsk kakebord to celebrate Ålesund’s 170th anniversary. All were invited to dig in, of course, and not a crumb was left in the end!
COF: Where do you get inspiration for your cakes?
LM: Inspiration is everywhere! I am inspired, of course, by great cake bakers and designers from all over the world, and there is a beautiful global network of very talented professionals on social media who share the love for this art form. But cakes are not my only form of inspiration! The coolest creations are inspired by patterns, architecture, and everyday life objects and moments. Everything I see can make me think of cake!
COF: What kind of occasions do people celebrate with your cakes?
LM: Wedding season is my favorite. The cakes are much bigger and classy. But there is also confirmation season, when it’s very popular to order an extra special cake. Other than the seasonal occasions, christening and birthday orders pop up throughout the year.
COF: What are your favorite desserts to make?
LM: It’s hard to decide between cakes and cupcakes! Maybe cakes, because they can become unique and unforgettable pieces of art! But the very best actually is to make a pretty set with both, all in the same color palette and style. It creates a lovely dessert table!
COF: Favorite cake-making tool or technique?
LM: I would be nothing without my gold leaf! I just love the sophistication a touch of gold can provide. I also think of stencils: they are simple to use, and they give a refined result. Can it get any better than that? Only when combined with some gold leaf!
COF: Anything else that you want our readers to know about your work as a cake artist?
LM: Although an elegant final result can be misleading, there is actually little glamour in a cake artist’s routine. Behind the scenes, there is a great deal of heavy-duty kitchen work, discipline, long hours standing, and tons and tons of butter and chocolate everywhere. Most of the work is running against the clock to achieve some perfect consistency and right temperature, while you have an eye on several processes going on at the same time, usually the stove, the oven, and the mixer. The glamorous bits are just the finishing touches, and those really need time and an extra dose of attention and care. They are what make all the rest be really worth it.
Tusen takk to Laís Marcolongo for sharing her story with us!
To see more of her work (I highly recommend it!), visit:
On the web: Sukkerpatoppen.no
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.