Meet the Finn who’s baking for Britain

Janita Maaranen's home baked goods are proving so popular, she's ready to expand from an online presence, to a real life cafe.

Rye bread rolls from Cafe Nort / Credit: Janita Maaranen

There’s a production line in progress at Janita Maaranen‘s home in South Yorkshire.

When the amateur baker needs to produce a hundred Karelian pies, she can do it in just a few hours if she ropes her daughter in to help.

The Mikkeli native has turned her hobby into a cottage industry, producing traditional Finnish baked goods, and shipping them all over the UK.

And – pun intended – they’re selling like hot cakes!

“I have always enjoyed baking since a child, so it’s not a new thing for me but it’s been a necessity initially” says Janita, explaining that when she first moved to Britain in 2001 she had trouble finding products from home.

“First was the rye bread. I suffered without rye bread! So I have had my own rye bread [yeast starter] since years. But having the right flour makes a difference to making a proper rye bread, and it’s a bit too heavy to bring it from Finland” she says.

Karelian pies from Cafe Nort / Credit: Janita Maaranen

Talking with other Finns on social media, Janita would regularly see posts asking people traveling home or to London if they could pick up any pastries, pies or bread. She realised there was a gap in the market and decided to try and fill it.

“Following social media you always see in Sheffield or further north people asking about Finnish baking, and I was making rye bread and Karelian pies for myself and decided to make it for people locally, they placed their orders just here in Sheffield at first” she tells News Now Finland.

Soon the business expanded to a pop-up event in her local area. The Finnish baked goods were so popular that Janita was left with empty trays faster than expected.

“I thought let’s give it a go, it’s very nearby to where we live. And we were sold out more than two hours before finishing time. I thought I made too much, but it was really well embraced by local people” she explains.

Now with her online presence through virtual Cafe Nort, Janita can take orders for her baking, and send parcels almost straight away around the country, from London to Scotland, so that everything stays as fresh as possible.

“It’s possible to get deliveries next day. As soon as things are cooled down, they are packed. If you don’t get them fresh, you can’t eat them” says Janita, who makes the rye bread in smaller rolls rather than loaves, so it’s easier for customers to freeze individual portions and use just what they need.

Cinnamon rolls at Cafe Nort / Credit: Janita Maaranen

The menu in the home bakery is expanding too. At Christmas there was star-shaped pastries with plum jam, cardamom buns, classic Finnish coffee cake and cinnamon rolls. At this time of year there’s seasonal variations like laskiaispulla with jam and cream inside, and Runeberg torte as well.

“It’s about being flexible with the things that we can do, when I find the right ingredients. I have had questions about Runeberg torte so I think I will make some of those for this year as well, people can pre-order, so let’s just make them!” says Janita.

The next step for this talented amateur baker is to take her virtual cafe and turn it into a real life presence. A little piece of Finland in South Yorkshire – the first Finnish cafe outside of London, Janita believes.

“Coffee shops here are not quite the same as Finland. You might be able to have a light lunch and there is savoury and sweet things, cardamom buns. There doesn’t seem to be anything like that here”.

Coffee cake from Cafe Nort / Credit: Janita Maaranen