Wisconsin’s state bakery, the Kringle

Head inside to Bendtsen’s Bakery, where bakers make an average of 2,000 kringles a day during the holidays!

The internet will tell you that a fresh kringle lasts about a week on the counter, but anyone who is Dyed you know you’d be lucky to last until lunch. This large, flaky, oval-shaped cake with a variety of fillings was first brought to Racine by Danish immigrants in the 19th century and officially it became Wisconsin’s state bakery in 2013. Today, the prized treasure of break rooms and brunch spreads is still made by hand in Racine’s oldest bakery.

Bendtsen’s backstory

Born in 1905 in Odense, Denmark, baker Laurits Bendt Bendtsen immigrated to the United States at the age of 20. He first landed in Iowa and eventually made his way to Racine, which is already home to an established Danish-American community. In 1934, Bendtsen bought a corner lot in Racine and the rest is history. 88 years later, Bendtsen’s Bakery is still operating at its original location.

Nowadays

Today, the founder’s great-grandson, Bendt “Ben” Laurits Bendtsen III, is at the helm. Bendtsen’s wasn’t the first bakery to make kringle in Racine, but it’s the only one to roll and fill the cakes entirely by hand – all 36 layers!

“Sometimes it’s five hours a day where we’re just rolling the dough, over and over and over again,” Ben explained. The task falls to him and a baker’s helper, John Feiner. It may not seem like such a huge task on their slowest days, when they produce as few as 100, but in the last six weeks of the year, that number increases to 2,000 a day. Transportation only it represents about 40,000 of those orders.

It takes 20 hours to make 2,000 pies by hand, according to Ben, which means the start time for the bakers is usually 3 a.m. But in November, Ben and John arrive before midnight, sometimes as late as 8 p.m. . tomorrow after the store has opened at 6 am

“The most I’ve ever worked in my life was maybe 121 hours a week,” Ben recalled.

Ben took over from his father, Bendt Bendtsen, Jr., who retired in 2016, but would still “come over during the holiday season and help out for three or four hours,” he says. “He liked to be around when we were busy. He took a lot of pride in it. It’s a fun atmosphere, just three or four guys doing kringles in the middle of the night and having a few laughs. It’s hectic but fun at the same time.”

“My dad got me involved early, he brought me here when I was six seven eight years old and had me help sweep or clean pans.” Ben knew how to make kringles when he was 14 years old.

The product

The original Bendtsen flavors were the traditional almond and raisin flavors. “In the 1950s you did two a day,” Ben said. “Donuts were very popular in the area, as were certain specialty items that only a few Danes knew about.”

But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, popularity skyrocketed with shipping and the advent of the Internet. Bendtsen now offers 30 flavors throughout the year. So which is the favourite?

“A really good pecan done right with the caramel and flaky batter?” Ben answered, reluctantly. “It’s really hard to beat.”

Customers agree: it’s the bestseller.

Whats Next

“The community really supports us,” Ben said. “That makes it worth it. When the community really enjoys your place and you get a lot of compliments, you hold on to that and make it a fun environment.”

Sadly, the family lost Ben’s father in February 2022. But in one of life’s most moving moments, Ben and his wife Anna welcomed their first child shortly thereafter, and one can’t help but wonder about a fifth generation bakers.

“You just want it to keep working. The pride of that, the history of that.”

Where to find the best Wisconsin Kringles:

Bendtsen’s Bakery

3200 Washington Ave, Racine, WI 53405

262-633-0365

O&H Danish Bakery (5 locations)

4917 Douglas Ave, Racine, WI 53402

800-709-4009

Larsen’s Bakery

3311 Washington Ave, Racine, WI 53405

888-492-4698

Danish Racine Kringles

2529 Golf Ave, Racine, WI 53404

Best online order; no showcase

800-432-6474

Uncle Mike’s Pastry

2999 E Mason St, Green Bay, WI 54311

920-544-0330

bakery lane

2304 S Park St, Madison, WI 53713

608-251-0532

Fosdal Home Bakery

243 E Main St, Stoughton, WI 53589

608-873-3073

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