HJ/EDMay 1, 2006

Norris Olson bakes cakes to give away to others

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Norris Olson of Dassel likes to bake, especially cake, and give his baked goods to friends, neighbors or people who need a little lift.

“It’s a crazy hobby, but I like it,” Olson said.

Olson, 77, recently made a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting just the way Wally Compton of South Haven likes it, because Compton recently had surgery.

Olson also bakes birthday cakes for all 30 people in his apartment building, attached to Dassel Lakeside Community Home. At one time Olson had 29 cake pans and baked everything from scratch, whether cake, apple crisp, pumpkin bars, brownies or refrigerated desserts.

“It takes longer from scratch,” Olson said, but he thought the flavor was better than from a mix.

Since he had double bypass surgery on his heart, his doctor told him to cut back on his baking. He uses cake mixes now. He goes through three cases of cake mixes every two weeks, though, said Olson, who was born in Cokato and grew up on a farm south of Dassel.

Olson remembers exactly when he started his cake baking hobby. It was 1963, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His wife, Vannie, who also likes to bake, started work at the nursing home. Their four children were little then, and the youngest was 1 year old, he said.

Olson’s personal favorite cake is yellow with chocolate frosting. It sounds simple, but Olson isn’t satisfied with plain cake. For example, when using a cake mix, Olson substitutes peach or orange juice for the water.

“It seems like the cakes are more moist,” he said.

One of his more elaborate cakes includes two chocolate cake mixes, three cans of condensed milk, three jars of strawberry topping, three containers of sliced strawberries, whipped topping and a topping of crushed chocolate Heath bars, Olson said.

If he uses yellow cake mixes, he sprinkles the top with crushed peanuts instead of Heath bars, he added.

Olson also developed a variation of the “Better Than Sex” cake he calls “Heavenly Sunshine.”

Olson’s cakes have been all over the world too, including Hawaii, London and the continent of Europe, as well as all over the United States. Once he tried to take 14 pans of caramel rolls on a business trip to Hawaii for his employer, a local seed company. The security people at the airport wouldn’t let him board the airplane with all those rolls, so he fed 360 people caramel rolls at the airport, Olson said.

One of Olson’s sons operates a restaurant called Keith’s Kettle in Clearwater. Olson can’t bake for the restaurant but he can bake for an open house his son will be hosting soon. Olson plans to make 3,000 to 5,000 brownies, he said.

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