Which Midwestern Mom? That one.

@thatmidwesternmom talks TikTok fame and Snickers salad, among other things.


Amber Schwarzrock, known as @ThatMidwesternMom on the popular social media app TikTok, shows off her famous Pineapple Cottage Cheese Fluff Surprise salad made with lemon Jell-O, cottage cheese, Chool Whip, pineapple and mandarin oranges. Photo courtesy of Schwarzrock.

Sophia Zimmerman

A former opera singer, teacher, mother and hair roller aficionado, Amber Estenson Schwarzrock wears many hats.

The one that’s earned her the most attention is her role as “That Midwestern Mom” (@thatmidwesternmom) on TikTok, an amped-up character based loosely on her own mother and recognized widely on the Internet for her sugary salads and catchy jingles.

“Everyone always asks: ‘What are you doing with your degree these days?’ I make funny videos for TikTok; that’s what I do,” said Schwarzrock.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Schwarzrock has lived and worked within the country and abroad in various positions. She never intended to become a content creator on TikTok. However, after a video of her strolling through the grocery store next to her mother’s hair salon rocking hair rollers went viral, things began to take off for her on the platform.

With over 230,000 followers on TikTok, Schwarzrock’s most popular video remains her Snickers salad recipe at over three and a half million views. Other highlights include a video of her “cursing in Minnesotan,” her take on the Minnesota classic tater-tot hotdish, and a variety of how-to recipes filled with cool whip, Jell-O, canned fruits and the occasional use of mayonnaise.

“I think they’re all funny, even though they’re exaggerated,” said Kylie Differding, a second-year student at the University, on Schwarzrock’s recipes. Despite her status as a Minnesota transplant, Differding said she’d be willing to give the Minnesota salads a try based on how interesting they look.

“If you understand Midwest culture, you understand we eat these recipes like once a year at somebody’s graduation party or maybe Christmas,” Schwarzrock said.

“There’s a hunger for this kind of simplicity,” said Beth Dooley, Minnesota cookbook author and Star Tribune columnist, regarding societal fascination with retro style. She speculates an ongoing “lust for retro” may be part of Schwarzrock’s growing following on TikTok.

“It speaks, in a very kitschy way, to this push to finding our own regional roots,” Dooley said. “People around the country are looking for these different markers that we aren’t all part of the same fast-food chain. In a way, she is doing the same thing as an organic sheep cheese farmer from southern Minnesota is doing in claiming that her food speaks to a certain region.”

Schwarzrock has big plans ahead for “That Midwestern Mom.”

She is currently focusing her attention on a series of 40 Minnesota recipes to celebrate her 40th birthday. Beyond that, she’s got an East Coast trip planned for the summer to meet some fellow TikTokers, visit the Jell-O museum in Le Roy, New York and record content.

She’s worked to expand across different social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, and is launching her website. Additionally, Schwarzrock said she’d like to record some tracks and release them to help fund “That Midwestern Mom.” And on top of all of that, she also wants to write a cookbook.

Despite much of “That Midwestern Mom” relying on Schwarzrock’s exaggerated portrayal of a stereotypical midwesterner, parts of her Internet persona ring true.

“I’m such a typical midwesterner. I am an overwhelmed mom, so maybe I’ll have to make a series about ‘That Midwestern Mom’ versus ‘This Midwestern Mom,’ said Schwarzrock.

Schwarzrock hopes to transition her platform beyond recipes and into highlighting the mannerisms and quirky things that make her a Minnesotan. For now, she plans to continue focusing on growing her platform under the pressure of her hair schedule.

Schwarzrock said the only negative comments she’s received through her time on TikTok have to do with the amount of sugar in her recipes and inquiries into why she’d consider promoting that kind of food.

“I’m not telling anybody to eat this stuff,” Schwarzrock said. “It’s just that this is what we do around here.”