Gerhard Jenne shows how some extra training days are helping to create a comfortable learning environment and inspire the firm’s cake decorators.

During the week, when we are busy completing customers’ orders, it is often very difficult to find the time to train the production staff. Some tweaks here and there or quick feedback are always possible, but a proper demonstration that goes into any great depth is usually difficult.

For this reason, we have recently introduced some extra training days for our cake decorators on Saturdays. This is a great forum for everyone to come together in a no-pressure environment. It’s a good opportunity for longer-serving members of staff to report on the latest challenges set by customers’ specific decorating requests and for new recruits to be taught our house style and relevant techniques.

Of course, for everyday products, the training happens on the job, but when it comes to wedding cakes, for example, it’s more difficult to time the on-the-job training, as the orders come through at irregular intervals. We found these regular get-togethers have given us the opportunity to be better prepared.

Last Saturday, we focused on marzipan techniques, as well as the finishing of one of our Chocolate Streamer Celebration cakes, a three-tiered cake clad in curling dark chocolate ‘bark’, with tumbling white chocolate streamers cascading from the top down.

The finished cake is quite ‘relaxed’ and has a touch of antiquity or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory about it, which is culturally quite challenging for our recent recruits from Hungary or Austria, used to applying any decorations in a very orderly and precise fashion instead of keeping the chocolate curls quite relaxed and adding golden highlights with a light delicate brush only.

We also used the opportunity to explore some new designs and colours for the future. For this purpose I usually bring along a book on art, fashion or textile design that has grabbed my interest. This makes the job of conveying what I’m after a lot easier, especially when the workforce spans different nationalities with very different takes on the same subject. We generally don’t look at other cake-makers’ work, as I’d much rather we came up with our own designs than be inspired or copy someone else’s work.

The last session got some immediate feedback: “This will help with consistency and standardisation”; “These new techniques are really useful”; “The motivational material provided is really inspirational”; and “I can’t wait to get stuck into making some samples for next year’s seasonal campaigns”. Bring them on!