Blog: Gerhard Jenne’s Icing on the Cake

22 January, 2014

In this week’s blog, Konditor & Cook’s Gerhard Jenne discusses the ingredients required to create a good German bakery.

One customer this week communicated her disappointment after she came to Konditor & Cook in search of German style Torten to then only find Victoria sponge. She aired her grievance in an email, despite that I could hear her stomping on the ground at a wasted journey from Kent, and announcing at the same time that she was off to Germany for some really good cake, suggesting anything our London customers like is sub-standard.

I had a children’s book that described a land of milk and honey, and I do remember the German equivalent to a ‘Pat-a-cake’ as going: “Bake, bake a cake, the baker has called! He who wants to bake good cakes, must have seven things: eggs and lard, butter and salt, milk and flour, saffron makes the cake yellow.”

In this day and age not many German bakeries use lard, nor butter – margarine is more commonly used. Milk will be used in UHT or powder form, flour is still used, but quite often ready-mixes make lighter work (and save on labour) and, in order to enhance the colour of a cake, there won’t be many reaching for saffron strands for sure.

In any case, my shop isn’t called a Konditorei – the German word for a café/cake shop and an establishment where one would expect a more continental touch. Instead, it is named after the professions who bake the cakes and savoury foods on offer, but all done with some German Zuverlaessigkeit (credibleness).

And so it was that I stumbled across a German bakery concept that started to take roots in London. Kamps – The Heart of Fine Baking, is a take-out bakery café originating in north-west Germany. So far, they only have two branches, one in Tottenham Court Road and one in Kensington. I’m told there’s big money behind the concept and, in Germany, they rank numer five in terms of total stores and in-store bakeries, but have the highest total of stand-alone branches. I suspect they are here to give Greggs, and possibly the new Bake & Take (as reported on these pages), a run for their money.

Kamps pitches itself as an affordable luxury and, compared to the potential competitors mentioned, they certainly give the appearance of being more special. The shopfit is contemporary and smart, the company’s website stylish, informative and well designed – and I have seen some real crimes committed against web design in Germany.

What adds to the retail experience is that each shop includes a show bakery, where you can see breads, pastries and flatbreads being made and baked in front of you.

The filled rolls are displayed on tightly packed racks, giving a sense of abundance, and are served over the counter, rather than pre-packed as in Greggs. There were some loaves of breads on display, but the core of the business is clearly the takeaway market.

While the Danish pastries were advertised as Plunder, the sandwich fillings included a very British coronation chicken. Surely they didn’t think of Her Majesty’s blood-lines when they created this one?

For old times’ sake, I bought a jam-filled doughnut – Berliner – and poppy seed pastry Mohnplunder. I didn’t think it was the best Germany can offer, so perhaps it’s time for me, too, to book a ticket and go in search of that elusive quality.

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