Today I want to share with you a story of the oldest bakery in Helsinki and its founder.
Fredrik Ekberg was an orphan boy learning an art of watchmaking. He didn’t really like it, and was looking for other options. He ended up being an apprentice to Master Baker Shulin in Helsinki. He learned the baking craft and travelled to St. Petersburg, Viborg, Hamina and Riga to hone his culinary skills. In 1852 after he was done with the trainings and the culinary exam, he founded bakery “Ekberg” in Helsinki.
Couple of years later, Ekberg applied for a license to open a coffee shop. At the time, one could buy a cup of coffee in Helsinki only at the market tents in summer, and the idea to open a “designated” place where one would go just to get coffee was surprising. The authorities denied his request saying that no one would go there except for “poor widows”. Ekberg appealed the decision and finally opened his first cafe “Gropen.” It was a huge success as students and government officials working nearby became a permanent customers.
But Ekberg didn’t stop there. Later he built a three-store building in the center of the city – bakery, bread shop and cafe, all in one place. He also founded a spirits factory and invested in tobacco business. Interestingly enough, these investments actually saved the bakery and cafe during the time of financial troubles in 1869.
1876 was a year of Ekberg’s triumph. He presented his pastries at the First Finnish Art and Industry exhibition. He also received a very important guest – the Emperor Alexander I of Russia. The baker created a special type of cake for this memorable occasion called, of course, the Alexander’s cake.
This special cake is made of shortcut pastry, apple jam and sugar icing. The taste is sweet, but very delicate too. The size is optimal. The pleasure is thrilling. How do I know this?
Now, 160 years later, you can still try this cake and other pastries at “Ekberg” bakery or coffee shop, where the fourth generation of Ekbergs is managing the business. Baguettes, Russian style sour dough bread, many sorts of chocolate and sweets, chocolate cheesecake, local specialty – Runaberg tart (available only in January), Napoleon cake, and many more other pastries and sweets could be found there.
This place is one of a kind and definitely worth a visit. Whether you are in a mood to seat inside with a cup of hot cappuccino or to take away freshly baked chocolate croissant and sit at the steps of the Senate Square watching the life of the city as a movie, Ekberg is a place to go.