Cakes, cakes, and more cakes

BURLINGTON Last week was an intense time of baking for Tammy Haider of Burlington, whose mass production of wedding cakes went to celebrate heritage rather than marriage.

Haider creates the kransekake, or Norwegian wedding cake, sold by roving vendors with Peace Lutheran Church in Burlington at Norsk Hostfest. She inherited, in a sense, the volunteer job from her mother, Esther Haider, who began making the cakes for Peace Lutheran when the church started selling samples at Hstfest in 2003.

“That was always a tradition. Mom made it and donated her time to the church. That was her way of giving back to the church,” Tammy Haider said. “So I have just kind of followed and I donated my time.”

Haider said the year her mother died the year of the 2011 flood neither she nor her mother made the wedding cakes for Hostfest. Haider revived the tradition in 2012, baking 24 cakes for Hostfest that year.

Haider had been living out of the area for 20 years, returning three years ago to care for her mother when she became ill with cancer. Having grown up watching and helping her mother bake, she resumed helping her mother create kransekake, rosettes and other delicacies using original recipes from Norway. Haider’s grandparents had immigrated from Norway with the cake recipe, which Haider said differs from recipes of most bakers who make kransekake.

“As far as I know, my mom was the only one who had the direct recipe from Norway that uses real almonds. Everybody else uses almond paste, and there’s definitely a difference in the taste,” Haider said.

Because there’s not enough freezer space for all the cakes she needs to make for Hostfest and to ensure guests get a fresh piece Haider does most of her baking just before and during Hstfest. This year, she started baking on Sunday for the Wednesday through Saturday event.

Creating the fancy cakes, which consist of stacked cookie-like, frosted rings, is time consuming. Haider estimated a cake takes four hours from start to finish.

“It was nice last year because I took the week off and I spent about nine hours a day baking,” Haider said. This year she continued at her job with Hess warehouse in Tioga, putting in 14-hour days before even getting to the baking.

Her daughters, Karlie Meirs and Lakeynn Haider, would start the baking and Haider joined them in the evenings in the Peace Lutheran kitchen. The church supplies most of the ingredients and provides its large kitchen with plenty of oven capacity.

Haider said she’s gotten to bed at 1 a.m. after a baking session and had to get up at 4 a.m. to get to work the next morning. But she said she she can endure that kind of intensity for the short time that it lasts because she loves the baking.

Haider also takes orders at Hostfest and in the community for Norwegian baking. In addition to all the kransekake made locally for weddings and graduations, Norwegian baking is a key part of her family’s celebration at Christmas.

“It’s nice to carry on that tradition,” she said.