Norske has all the right ingredients
Ossian’s Kurt “Norske” Anfinson is being honored as the 2014 Ossian Fest grand marshal for his commitment to the small northeast Iowa community. (Becky Walz photo)
Norske has all the right ingredients
Kurt Anfinson, or “Norske” is well-known for baking and decorating some of the finest cakes in northeast Iowa, including his signature homemade angel food with raspberry filling.
The cake recipe is one that had been published in the Ossian Bee many years ago by Ethel Holthaus, and Norske figured it was worth a try.
“The only thing I changed is that the recipe called for salt, and I don’t add that,” noted the longtime baker.
This weekend Norske will also be a celebrity serving as grand marshal as attendees “Dance Through the Decades” at Ossian Fest 2014.
A 1985 South Winn graduate, Norske had always enjoyed cooking and decided to study culinary arts at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, graduating with his degree in 1987.
When asked how he earned his nickname, Anfinson laughed and said, “Good question! I guess it was because I’m Norwegian. My dad’s nickname was Norske, and I was known as ‘Little Norske.’
“I remember Elmer Hemesath and Arnold Moellers always calling him that. When I went to college, I made it stick. I introduced myself with my real name, but I always said to just call me Norske for short,” Kurt noted.
He returned to his beloved hometown and worked as the head cook at the West Union Country Club for five years. In 1993, the bachelor became the head chef at Oneota Country Club, where he remains at the helm today.
His passion for baking began quite innocently as Ossian resident Mary Eileen Lofte requested that Norske bake and decorate a birthday cake for her mother-in-law. Word of his expertise and decadent flavors quickly spread, and he has been baking cakes ever since 1987.
“I have never had to advertise,” the grand marshal said proudly. “It grew by word of mouth.”
Two years later, Anfinson added kolaches to his repertoire after he had been taught by Clarabelle Taylor of Spillville.
“That was by accident, too!” he laughed. “A family friend passed away, and I thought it would be nice to make the family some kolaches. I’ve been baking them ever since.”
While he and his mother, Karlene, used to bake and decorate an average of 30-40 wedding cakes per year, Norske has noticed a slowing of the times as couples have chosen to provide guests with cupcakes, cookies, pies, or bars instead of the traditional cake.
“I had my glory days already,” he smiled, “but Mother does all the baking these days, and I do the decorating.”
As if his full-time job and baking doesn’t keep him busy enough, Norske is also a route bus driver for South Winn students.
For the past eight years, he has also been a second tenor in the Luren Singers in Decorah as a.
“With my Norwegian heritage, I am planning to take part in the group’s trip to Norway next year,” he noted with excitement.
A self-proclaimed history buff, Norske has volunteered to update the plotting of the city cemetery as necessary, and has for years.
Nearly 30 years ago, it was Kurt, Clair Cornell and Orville Wagner who decorated the veterans’ graves with flags each Memorial Day. As the years have passed, Cornell and Winger have died, leaving Norske to continue the work.
Although he enjoys his baking and decorating business, Norske is proud of his two collector cars, too. Many years ago he purchased and had restored a 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air, and several years ago he inherited a beloved 1967 Ford convertible from his friend Barry Brockman.
“I truly enjoy driving them both,” smiled the Ossian Fest grand marshal.
Norske admitted that he was surprised when he was asked to serve as the grand marshal of the annual Ossian Fest event, because he always thought a retired businessperson was chosen.
“I’m not old yet and not ready to retire,” he laughed.
“Ossian is a great place to live because of the closeness. In a bigger city, you are just a person, but here you are somebody. It’s the closeness and the ability to visit with anyone at anytime,” Norske closed.