I ’m a mature student in my second year at Castle College in Sheffield, currently sitting an NVQ Level Two Bakery, Patisserie and Cake Decorating, having gained Level One last year.

The course couldn’t be further from anything I’ve done in the past and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I worked for 10 years in an office before I had a child.

My ultimate goal is to open my own bakery, but I’m realistic. If I want to be a success I will need to build up some experience in the industry first and save money.

The course includes confectionery, in which we learn how to make cakes, biscuits and other items such as chocolate truffles and toffee apples. We also make bread products, croissants, brioches and various sweet doughs, including Chelsea buns, Danish pastries and doughnuts, to name just a few. We also cover patisserie, which includes hot and cold desserts, fine pastries and pies. Finally, as an extra, I chose to study NVQ Level Two cake and decorating and the course covers legal aspects, such as food hygiene and health and safety.

== patisserie in favour ==

On average, we spend four hours a week on theory lessons and 16.5 hours on practical. It’s very physical but very satisfying work. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. The bakery and patisserie course lasts two years, and there is an option to do a third year for Level Three patisserie, which I’m planning to do. I particularly enjoy patisserie, as it is the most varied subject. You never know if you’ll be making bread, cakes, pastry or desserts. I find cake decorating hard as it often involves very fine detailed work, but I enjoy it and I’m often pleasantly surprised by my finished cake. At our college we’re lucky to have some excellent tutors, who are all very supportive and helpful and have a vast range of experience between them. They often pass on useful tips they’ve picked up.

During the first year at college, we don’t go into industry, because we only have very basic knowledge. As I’m in my second year, I’ll begin work experience at Sainsbury’s in-store bakery shortly. I’ve already had a sneak preview of the industry, as I took part in a student exchange to Holland, organised by the college. During this trip, I had work experience in two very different bakery businesses. One of them was a small family-run business, that specialised in mainly confectionery, and other was a large plant bakery, which made bread. I’ve also recently returned from a college-organised trip to a bakery school in Paris, the Ecole de Boulangerie et Patisserie. Both experiences were exciting and invaluable and made me want to learn even more.

Our college also takes part in competitions. These are great, because you get to see, first hand, the standards to which you should aspire. It’s also a real confidence boost to compete against professionals and win!


However, there aren’t enough bakery courses taught in this country. If you go to Europe, particularly Paris, there are artisan bakeries on practically every street corner, but in this country they’re few and far between.

My advice to anyone thinking of studying bakery is to go for it. Be prepared to work very hard, take every opportunity to learn as much as you can and the hard work should pay off. n