Bite-Sized Treats Expand the Baking Business and Boost Pastry Chef Careers

In the Fire

Organics and sustainably-harvested foods. Whole grains. Artisan cheeses and chocolates. The food landscape has shifted considerably over the course of the last decade, and in the process, a number of hip comestibles that were virtually unknown ten years ago have now become ubiquitous, popping up everywhere from upscale eateries to mom 'n' pop corner stores. But according to key industry observers, the remarkable resurgence of the humble cupcake--and the resulting boom in the popularity of specialty bakeries--ranks among the most significant food trends to appear in recent years.

Baking Pastry Arts

According to The New York Times, the cupcake trend began to take off across the United States in the early 2000s when an episode of Sex and the City showed the chic female foursome at the center of the program noshing on frosted concoctions from local eatery Magnolia Bakery. The 2009 article reports that cupcake sales are slated to rise by up to twenty percent over the next five years, even as sales of traditional baked goods like cookies and cake are predicted to languish in the single digits. A 2009 report from Datamonitor, a research firm that studies trends in the restaurant industry, called cupcakes "one of the most fashionable baked items in the U.S.," noting that more than 1,000 specialty bakeries had opened up in recent years featuring the bite-sized treats as a menu item.

Can Pastry Chefs Take Advantage of the Cupcake Trend?

Pastry chefs have been around for thousands of years; in fact, the first ratios and recipes for creating sweetened baked goods were documented by Archestratus in the fourth century B.C., according to food historian Andrew MacLauchlan. So how does the red-hot popularity of cupcakes and other trendy sweet treats affect the professional trajectory of pastry chefs? Should current or future pastry chef professionals try to capitalize on these food trends?

The answer to that question is likely to be different for every individual, based on an array of factors such as one's personality, career hopes, and ambitions. If you're the entrepreneurial type who is chomping at the bit to strike out on your own and and try to make it big in the bakery biz, a niche patisserie might be the perfect place for you. On the other hand, if you prefer to stick to a fixed schedule and like the stability of a steady paycheck, it may be best to begin your baking career as a pastry chef, pastry cook, or assistant in the kitchen of an established bakery, restaurant, hotel, or catering business.

Pastry Chef Salary Information and Career Prospects

According to data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009, the national median wage for bakers was $23,630, while head cooks and chefs earned a median salary of $40,090. Although working your way up the chain of command in a fine dining environment may not have the same hip cachet as opening up a cute storefront of your very own, there's a lot to be said for the stability, prestige, and rich heritage of the traditional pastry chef role.

What's more, pastry chefs who opt for traditional training and education in the field are more likely to have the staying power to outlast trends that--sweet as they may be in the short term--could fizzle out after a flash of popularity and leave overly ambitious entrepreneurs with a sour taste in their mouths.

About the Author:

Featured Culinary Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses
            5 Program(s) Found
            Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
            • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
            • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
            • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
            • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
            • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            • A private, accredited distance learning college based in Norcross, Georgia founded in 1987.
            • Ensures that service members, their spouses and veterans can maximize their military education benefits.
            • Gives students the option to customize monthly payments to fit their budgets and lifestyle.
            • Offers all-inclusive tuition: textbooks, learning materials, and academic support are covered in the cost.
            • Allows alumni to enroll in any future program at a reduced rate.
            Show more [+]
            • Online Courses