Thursday, August 13, 2009

Real Life

Welcome to the real world, Jennywenny!

I had the opportunity to work at a local bakery as part of the Culinary Program at Grossmont College. It was a fantastic experience. I learned about a million dollars worth of stuff, and although I worked for free, it was well worth it for all the stuff I learned.

The bakery has a few different cake flavors and designs that they generally make, mostly presented with buttercream frosting and simple piping. They have an incredibly sturdy system for making sure that the cake stands up to all manner of abuse and wobbling before the happy couple take their chunk of cake.

It was a little disappointing to find that the buttercream used was a standard 'American Buttercream' made with shortening and sugar and a little butter flavor and vanilla to make it palatable. I generally use swiss meringue buttercream for my cakes and it seems to be really easy to work with, this stuff took a bit of getting used to, and doesnt taste the best. I understand that most bakeries use this, so it wasnt an enormous shock for me.

In my 120 hours of experience, I learned how to torte and cut the cakes to size, then fill a 'dam' of buttercream with a tasty filling, making sure to use lots of flavored syrup to moisten the cake. A 'crumb coat' of buttercream was added, followed by at least two layers of buttercream, then lots of smoothing to get the perfect finish.

I never did get the perfect finish, but I got close! I'm told the secret is dipping the scraper into really hot water and having the cake very well chilled.

I also learned about putting ribbons on cakes, which I've not tried, and about piping, which I got used to.

This is a finished cake that I did, I was very happy with how it turned out, I did get some help with smoothing the buttercream, but I built the cake and did the ribbon and the piping.

It was an invaluable experience, I've read lots about what its like working in the food industry and it was great having this experience. I'm eternally grateful to grossmont college, since I'd worked in their kitchen I had a feeling for how things work in an industrial kitchen so it didnt feel too wierd.

Something I was reminded of was that it will become repetitive pretty quickly. Making cakes for friends is one thing, the cakes are different every time, and its fun, but as a profession, you have to pare things down a little and things get repetitive pretty quickly. Most bakeries have a choice of somewhere around 10 different flavors of cake/filling, and a similar number of designs. It wasnt a long enough period of time to know whether I would be bored out of my mind in a few months.

6 comments: said...

Ha! I was talking to a baker at the farmer's market today and asked them if they take externs.

Sure, I'm in culinary, but I want to learn bakery, too. So I just had to ask.

Maybe. One day ...


SweetThings said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned!

adozeneggs said...

I'm just starting to make cakes for clients and I would never use shortening in the frosting. One of my Chefs at culinary school also made wedding cakes on the side and she never used shortening either. So not ALL cake bakers use it.
I also understand the repetitive aspect. I do begin to resent my cookies when I have to make 130 of the same design. (like now I'm making 130 each of 4 different designs and I'm beginning to really hate them!!)

Anonymous said...

You're cake came out nice. I like it. Maybe I will see you around school and catch up on how the work experience works. I don't plan on going into the business, but it might be a great experience and a good fall back for me one day. :-) - A fellow student at Grossmont Culinary.

Big boys Oven said...

wow it must be truly great experience! :)

lyndsay said...

yes!! you did a super fab job on that buttercream cake! high five jenny!