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What specific skills are needed for grocery store bakery?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hi, Everyone--

This isn't intended to become a debate between private bakers and grocery store bakers, first off, icon_smile.gif just a question that I'd appreciate some specific responses to: What baking and decorating skills are needed, wanted, ideal, etc. for grocery store bakery-type work? I assume many sheet cakes, roses, borders (shell? and...?), and writing would be done. What else?

I'm not ready yet but am thinking of applying for work in local stores' bakery departments, and while I would bring in a portfolio of cake/cookie photos at that time, I would also appreciate knowing *now* what specific skills are looked for on the application line that asks what I can do.

Thank you for your help. icon_smile.gif
post #2 of 23
Here's my experience. I went to Sam's club and applied. When I got there they asked me to ice a cake and make a rose. I don't know if you've taken the Wilton classes or not, but if you have forget that rose. They make there mound with the 104 and they don't use stiff icing, they use medium for everything. Don't bother taking your pictures, I did that. You can't be too creative. They have standards to go by and only a few different variations. Most the time 2 or 3 decorators just ice and plainly decorate cakes for the showcase. I use to do at least 40 1/2 sheets in 8 hours. If was very hard work for me because I was use to taking my time icing and decorating so my cakes can be perfect. They didn't want qualtity just quantity. Also there is always a head decorator that does all the customs order. That's just my experience.

At the Sams club I worked at the cakes came in frozen. I'm not sure what the grocery stores do.
post #3 of 23
Interesting post, my daughter worked for a in-store bakery. She got hired because they wanted someone with some basic knowledge in a hurry. But as you were told, bakeries make the rose with the one tip alone and they have their own way of decorating. So most of the time, they like to hire someone with limited knowledge and show them their way. She had a 2 minute time limit, which covered flat icing and decorating cakes, so speed is something they expect and they expect it in a very short time. Basic shell, leaf and rose work is mainly what they are looking at. Your icing is usually already coloured an prepared, some places you have to colour and that is very specific. Some places do more varied cakes than others, but it is pretty well a set amount and type of decorations that you will be doing. Eventually they let her take more custom orders and do some decorations her way instead of the store way, but apparently that is rare.
And amazingly enough, she got so that she could do a really good job within the time limit!
Now a private bakery shop, that would allow you to be more creative and your portfolio would come more into play at those types of places.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you both so much--I forgot all about leaves. icon_biggrin.gif It's interesting hearing about various experiences with the same type of job. I posted this question on the Wilton foum too; I look forward to more reading. Thanks again. icon_smile.gif
post #5 of 23
I worked in a Grocery Store baker for 3 weeks. Talk about squelching creativity. I did get very fast at making a cake very smooth in minutes. I am very thankful to them for that. But other than that, they wanted speed, not quality.

The sad thing is.. the customers think those cakes look great. I would turn out what I thought was a piece of crap (on a custom-order cake) due to speed and the customer would go all goo-goo over it. I'm thinking... If I could have had even 15 minutes on this cake it would truly be wonderful, this is crap!
post #6 of 23
Oh yeah.. coming in to work on a Saturday morning with 15 customized cake orders waiting for to do all to be picked up in the morning was considered a slow day. Many times I would get here at 5:30 a.m. and have 6 orders to go out by 9 a.m. This is custom work.

I could handle it, and they looked OK... but not up to MY standards. I was very unhappy working there and gave notice.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Cali4Dawn, thank you--I had read your similar comments on a few Wilton threads on the same subject. I appreciate the response but am more curious about what actual skills--writing, types of flowers, types of borders, etc.--one needs to know at such a job than about the speed/assembly line-type issues. Do you remember what types of actual flowers, borders, etc. you used at that job, or are you trying to block those three weeks out? icon_biggrin.gif

It seems like every time this subect comes up, everyone rushes to comment on the lack of creativity and the lack of time to really go all out with a design, etc--which is good to know, for sure icon_smile.gif --, but they never spell out what they actually needed to know how to do decorating-wise. More info would be great. Thanks so much, again. icon_smile.gif
post #8 of 23
Sounds like Dawn had a similar experience to my daughter's. Trouble was, when she wasn't working, other people would take orders like Dawn said, for 15 cakes due early Saturday morning. Of course, they didn't tell her and she would show up for her regular time and have to go nuts just filling the orders. And she didn't always have control over the supplies so if another decorator depleted them and didn't order, well it was a nightmare. Plus the store owner would tell a friend that sure she could do whatever kind of cake he wanted and then not bother to leave the info or tell her ahead of time. Then she was still expected to do the cakes within the time limit and not be paid any overtime if she had to come in early or stay late because there were too many orders and the people had specified that they wanted her to do the decorating.
But boy, for a simple typical store birthday cake with three roses and leaves and writing, she can do a perfect job in two minutes, it just amazes me! Wish she would come and do roses for me, I am way slower than that!
What bothered her the most was that they were not allowed to vary the colours and the store used mainly the primary colours and everything was overly bright.
But you do learn speed!
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes
post #9 of 23
Tenderheart, most of these places would prefer to train someone with little or no knowledge because they do have a specific way of doing things. So pretty well they expect either no knowledge or strictly the ability to do shell borders, roses, leaves and writing. They show you the rest including any animal piping which they do at Easter time. Then they show you how to decorate their specialty cakes like Black Forest, Carrot Cakes, Oreo Cookie Cakes. They train you on the eligible imaging and airbrush if they use them. As was described, they don't want you doing the Wilton rose method but use only one tip to create the rose. Most of them use frozen cakes, some are even flat-iced and frozen when they come in. The icing comes in tubs, usually already coloured. A lot of them only use piping gel to write with.
I have several friends who have worked in these in-store bakeries and it is pretty much the same all over. They were paid the same whether or not they had experience or knowledge and in some instances it was preferrable not to have any knowledge.
Some places only do gel tranfer type pictures.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes
post #10 of 23
OK , skills needed.... little or none. You can get hired at most bakeries with course one under your belt. All you really need to know walking in is how to smooth a cake fast. You will not make that many roses. So few you can almost bluff your way through. Most people will be ordering those stupid, stupid, stupid, character cakes for kids that require (by law) we use plastic pieces. And absolutely no free rein there. It must look exactly like the picture in the book they have sitting on the bakery counter. If you can do a sloppy shell border and slap a plastic Mickey Mouse or Barbie on the cake, you're qualified.

On the custom orders- you will need to make a fast rose - but not too many- think profits. You will only be allowed to do a simple shell border- NO reverse borders or figure eight's (my signature border). We're losing profit making those! Takes too much icing!! We can't have that!! No way!!!

On the ready-made party cakes that you will be required to make 40-50 per day, it's not even a shell border. It's a large loop then a long line. 3 loops per long side (1/4 sheet) , 2 on the short side. No shells!!! Keep it fast and loose. Maybe some squiggly lines or confetti over that in various colors for variety.

We don't mention the skills needed because there really aren't many. Basic shell, simple rose (I had already learned how to make the rose with only a #104 in my level 1 non-Wilton class, so I was good to go there- and it is much faster and looks just as good) smooth your cake. Wa-la! You're qualified.
post #11 of 23
Oh yeah- learn how to do everything in medium consistency icing- no stiff icing for roses... and no flower lifters.

That in itself is a talent... I have to admit that. I would sneak mine into the freezer while I decorated another cake. Then I would place them on the cake after they were frozen and finish decorating. Shhh......... i was the only custom decorator, so I could get away with that as long as I made the deadlines, which I always did.

I tell people, if you want to learn speed- get a job in a store bakery.
post #12 of 23
So it may vary somewhat from the U.S. and Canada too. The plastic thingies aren't used absolutely everywhere yet, some places still do character cakes and some do a lot of the gel transfers. I think the copyright laws are different here, which may well be part of the difference. For example we can rent the character pans and there are no stipulations about only using them for family etc.
So I would think it would also vary somewhat from store to store with some places doing the gel pictures exclusively and others having more of a variety in what they offer.
Anyway, I think that if you are to enquire, it might be a good thing to find out how much deviation from design is allowed.
Haha, I am thinking we should all work three weeks at one of these places, just to speed up our flat icing time!
My daughter lasted about 1 1/2 years total doing this and refuses to ever do it again. But it was mainly a question of the in-store bakery being poorly managed. She got so she did a very good job in a short period of time and was allowed to do some unique designs and such, which I think made it easier because she could be creative. They also allowed her to do her own roses after awhile, as long as she trained newcomers on their standard roses.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
"We don't mention the skills needed because there really aren't many."

Wow. Okay, now I get it. icon_sad.gif Well, as you guys have all pointed out, there are advantages to this kind of job too, and I thank you for all your advice and for answering the question I've been wondering about for awhile. Now I know why no one has ever mentioned in their posts all the many exciting decorating techniques used in this job. icon_rolleyes.gif

Thanks so much for clarifying, I appreciate it. icon_smile.gif
post #14 of 23
Just want to clarify, this is not true of small bakeries that only specialize in baked goods and are separate and apart. These places are more adventurous and generally are interested in skill. Some grocery type bakeries also do wedding cakes and expect a different level of skill. It is a shame really, because many of the supermarket store type of bakeries used to make some of the nicest cakes you could find anywhere.
I think that if you are seriously considering a postion, you may want to look into smaller bakeries where they will be interested in what you know and some will even teach you more.
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Squirelly, I know what you mean--That's why I didn't want this discussion to turn into "grocery store bakery bashing," the way other threads have in the past. I know some do great and creative work, I totally agree there.

And I think that for someone of my limited cake decorating experience and with my level of ability--not very high yet--AND for someone who needs a job, the idea of doing "just" roses, writing, and a shell border is just fine. Whether or not one would stick with this kind of job would depend a lot on skill level to begin with and how much the job is needed--in short, what one's expectations for the job (and of him/herself!) would be. icon_smile.gif So, for me right now, a grocery store bakery job would be fine. For more experienced decorators and for those who would want more freedom with design, creativity, etc., it wouldn't work as well. But for awhile at least, I think I'd be quite pleased to get a job like this.

Thank you again. icon_smile.gif
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