What a treat!
A conversation with Mary Jørstad of Americakes Bakery in Hamar, Norway
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
In honor of this wedding issue, I wanted to learn more about wedding cakes in Norway. So I reached out to a baker I’ve been following for a while: Mary Jørstad, the owner of Americakes Bakery in Hamar, Norway. Originally from North Carolina, she serves up American-style baked goods, from cupcakes to cakes, cookies, and more from her shop, located just a few minutes’ walk from the shores of Lake Mjøsa.
I recently spoke with Jørstad by Zoom to learn more about her bakery and bringing American-inspired flavors to Hamar.
Christy Olsen Field: First of all, what brought you to Norway?
Mary Jørstad: I am originally from Pinehurst, N.C., and met my now-husband, Eskil, when he was doing a military exercise in Pinehurst with the Norwegian army in 2011. We married in September 2012, and moved to Elverum, Norway, where Eskil is stationed. After our son was born, Eskil said that he felt that our family would be better off in Norway than in the United States. I saw it as a big adventure. I have to say that I am not used to the weather, even after nine years here. It’s a lot warmer in North Carolina!
COF: Tell me about your interest in baking? Were you trained in culinary school, and how did you decide to open your own bakery?
MJ: I have a degree in restaurant and hotel management from University of North Carolina in Greensboro, so I had to take some basic baking classes for that, but it certainly wasn’t the full culinary school training. I am basically self-taught—YouTube is my teacher!
After a while here in Norway, I found that I was tired of wienerbrød and Danishes and missed the baked goods from the United States. So, I started baking cupcakes. No one else was doing cupcakes in Norway at the time, so it was a unique thing. I started baking in 2014 out of my home kitchen and then moved into a production space about three years later. Things grew quickly, so I opened my own shop called Americakes Bakery in Hamar in July 2019.
COF: How many people work for you?
MJ: It’s just me! I am a one-woman shop. Occasionally, friends will help, but it’s just me. It’s hard, because my husband is gone all the time (currently on a six-month deployment to Afghanistan), so my work keeps me busy, away from my kids.
COF: What’s your style of baking?
MJ: I do American-style cupcakes, cakes, cookies, and more. I have a lot of people who come to me and request marzipan cakes or other traditional Norwegian cakes, and I have to tell them that I am the alternative baker for those who want something different. When I first started my business, I would make what people requested, but now I’m able to show them my style. If they are looking for a more traditional cake, I can direct them to other bakers in Hamar. We all kind of support each other!
COF: Where do you source your ingredients to make your American-style treats?
MJ: Norway actually has a wide variety of ingredients, and I can find almost everything I need here. I think the butter in Norway is a lot better quality than in the United States, so the cakes taste better. The butter is sweeter and creamier, and you can taste the difference. I typically buy sprinkles in the U.K., because Norway is so strict on food dye, so the sprinkle variety here is pretty small.
COF: What are the most popular flavors that people order from you?
MJ: Snickers is really popular, and so is maple bacon—people are curious about that one! Anything with blueberries is also popular, since they can be found everywhere in the fall. Red Velvet is the most popular wedding cake flavor I make. I get requests for Norwegian flavors all the time, so I have to convince people to try it.
COF: Are weddings happening now in Norway?
MJ: Yes, but they are only allowing 10 people in attendance. Wedding cakes are big business, and it’s really downsized with COVID-19.
Norwegian weddings are special because instead of just one cake, they have the kakebord: The cake table with 10 to 11 cakes. I had my wedding here, and had no idea that other people were bringing cakes. I wouldn’t have spent so much time working on my own cupcakes on the day of my wedding if I had known!
COF: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MJ: It’s very intimidating to move to a foreign country, learn a language, and then open a shop. And it looks very scary on paper, but it’s actually a lot easier than people think. You get a lot of help from the kommune [city or municipality], and people are so willing to share information and help guide you, even strangers. The only downside is the taxes; it’s expensive for smaller businesses. People here are curious about all things American, and I get all my orders from my social media presence.
Thank you to Mary Jørstad! I am excited to visit your shop in Hamar someday soon!
All photos courtesy of Americakes Bakery
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This article originally appeared in the March 12, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.