I remember the first time I helped my mother make a cake. I was growing up in Bhilai, a town in the center of India. I remember how she whisked eggs and sugar, and beat butter – this was not the creaming method used by bakers – and how she asked me to stir the ingredients, the batter exuding, finally, the aroma of vanilla.
I can imagine absorbing baking inspiration from mothers – and grandmothers. No wonder, I connected instantly with the story of a bunch of elderly women baking cakes in Munich for German cities. A baking venture for such women has been operating in Munich since 2014.
Germans are known for consuming beer, sausages, and potato salad, but they also have a tradition of “Kaffee und Kuchen” (coffee and cake), an afternoon ritual dating back to the 17th century when coffee beans first arrived in Europe.
That tradition has waned; coffee and cakes get relegated to weekends. But Germany is known for its great repertoire of cakes. They are available all over the country, but you would do well to start your journey with Munich because that’s where the baking workshop of the elderly, started in 2014, is.
Since then, “a social start-up known as Kuchentratsch (cake and gossip) has been providing local cafes with sweet treats made by the best in the baking business: grandmothers,” according to a BBC feature. The founder is Katharina Mayer, a business management graduate who missed the charm of cakes baked by her own oma, or grandmother.
Says the BBC story, “With this in mind, she came up with a business plan that combined many different ingredients: expert knowledge, local demand, and support for potentially vulnerable people.”
Kuchentratsch provides an extra source of income, a congenial meeting place, and a sense of psychological well-being to these elderly women – and a few men.
The bakers create products from their own recipes, handed down from their own mothers or grandmothers, sometimes the recipes worn out or tattered. Among the most popular with customers are the carrot cake and marble cake. These products are transported to bakery shops and cafes in German cities.
These cakes, baked by the 30 senior citizens, are lapped up by customers, with demand on the rise.