What Are the Career Opportunities in Baking and Pastry?

If you have a knack for mixing up cookies, breads, or cakes, check out these baking & pastry careers that can allow your skills to shine.

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April 28, 2023 10 min read

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Are you crazy for croissants, bananas for buttercream, or mad for macarons?

Congratulations! You found something that makes your heart sing. But if you’re going to turn baking and pastry into your career, you may need to know how to turn those tasty treats into a money-making business. As it turns out, there are many different career opportunities out there for bakers and pastry chefs. Start down this path, and here’s where you could end up!

What Is Baking & Pastry?

Baking and pastry is the culinary sector that includes baked goods and desserts like breads, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, chocolate, and other sweet and savory baked goods. It’s distinct from culinary arts, which usually includes the food items on an entrée plate like proteins, vegetables, and grains.

Baking and pastry professionals also approach their work differently than those working in the culinary arts. Most baking work is done in advance for customers who will enjoy those treats later in the day or possibly the next day. Conversely, a great deal of culinary arts cooking is done in real-time while the customer is waiting at the table or at the counter.

Baking and pastry also requires a strict level of exactitude. Baking recipes must be followed to the letter in order for crucial chemical processes to occur. That’s why baking and pastry could be an excellent career choice for detail-oriented people.

Baking & Pastry Career Opportunities

Once you know the ins and outs of breads, croissants, chocolate, and other sweets, how can you put your baking skills to use? Here are a few of the career options in baking and pastry.

Baker

No surprise here! Becoming a baker is one of the obvious career options on the table. But what does the life of a baker actually look like?

It often involves early mornings. If you’re baking breakfast breads and pastries, your products need to be in the oven early. So a baker’s day could start as early as 4:00 or 5:00 AM.

But not all bakers work in bakeries. Some work in restaurants, making bread for lunch or dinner service. They may also make sandwich bread or dessert pastries. And others work in wholesale bakeries, where they prepare items with a longer shelf life. So early mornings don’t always go hand-in-hand with the baker’s life.

Some bakers also run their own bakeries. Their days may be split between baking and business tasks like managing employees, experimenting with recipes, receiving orders, and paying bills.

Male and female bakers kneading dough

Bakers may work early morning shifts baking or later shifts preparing dough.

Specialty Baker

Although they’re located under the greater “baker” umbrella, specialty bakers focus on a narrow area of expertise.

Specialty bakers may niche down to a specific dietary restriction, like vegan, gluten-free, or plant-based baking. Others may specialize in baked goods from a certain country or cultural heritage. There are Jewish bakeries, Mexican bakeries, Polish bakeries, French bakeries, and many more.

Another way to specialize is to focus on a certain type of baked treat. There are shops that only do macarons, or some that only do cookies or croissants or crêpes. Niching down with a bakery or pastry shop lets you become the “go-to” business for that one thing.

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Clicking the "Get the Survey Now" button constitutes your express request, and your express written consent, to be contacted by and to receive automated or pre-recorded call, texts, messages and/or emails from via phone, text, and/or emails by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts at the number(s)/email you provided, regarding furthering your education and enrolling. You understand that these calls, texts, messages and/or emails may be generated using an automated or pre-recorded technology. You are not required to agree to receive automated or pre-recorded calls, texts, messages or emails as a condition of enrolling at Escoffier. You can unsubscribe at any time or request removal of street address, phone number, email address via Escoffier website.

Pastry Cook or Chef

“Baking and pastry” are often grouped together. And while they share some traits, they’re not necessarily the same thing. Baking refers to baked goods like cakes and breads, and Pastry often refers to a broader range of desserts.

In a restaurant, a pastry chef may make plated desserts that include a baked component, cooked fruit, chocolate, ice cream, or a sweet sauce. The pastry chef is responsible for each component of the dish. Pastry chefs may also work in bakeries, making tarts, pies, and laminated doughs like croissants or puff pastries.

Pastry Chef vs. Pastry Cook: What’s the Difference?

A pastry chef is in charge of the pastry department and handles everything from designing the dessert menu to tinkering with recipes. They may be the sole member of the pastry department, or they may supervise a team.

A pastry cook is a pastry employee who is supervised by a pastry chef.

Chocolatier

A chocolatier is a specialist who makes desserts and confections out of various types of chocolate. These could include truffles, fudge, bonbons, chocolate bars, and more. They may also make intricate centerpieces of chocolate molded into animals, flowers, and fruits.

Katrina Markoff“I really do feel like I’ve found chocolate as my medium. I love touching and holding ingredients and transforming them into other states. But ultimately, I think I’m an experience maker, a storyteller, and an energizer.”*
Katrina Markoff, Founder, CEO, and Chocolatier of Vosges Chocolat

A chocolatier must know how to perfectly temper and mold different types of chocolate for the desired finish—whether smooth and glossy or stunningly textured. This expert can work in a bakery or pastry shop, restaurant, or specialty chocolate shop. They could also specialize in centerpieces, and contract with caterers or event companies for special events.

Chocolate Entremet Cake on a white cake stand

Chocolatiers can combine skills such as chocolate tempering and piping to create delicious works of art.

Wedding Cake Baker & Designer

Wedding cakes are their own specialty niche within baking and pastry. Wedding cake designers must have a thorough understanding of cake decorating skills, flavor development, and structural components.

They also need to have a great eye for design as well as an ability to interact closely with customers, some of whom may be quite stressed about their big day. It’s the wedding cake designer’s job to take the client’s wishes and work with them to create a realistic yet show-stopping cake.

Steve Konopelski“The challenge in the wedding cake world is that your wedding cake needs to be sculptural and attractive, but it’s also dessert. So it has to be tasty. I think the hardest part of being a wedding cake designer is creating that balance between sculpture and flavor.”*
Steve Konopelski, Escoffier Chef Instructor and Wedding Cake Designer

Pink and white wedding cake by Chef Steve Konopelski

A wedding cake designed and baked by Chef Konopelski.

Baking & Pastry Blogger or Writer

If you love baking and you love writing, you could enjoy a career as a food blogger or writer. Food bloggers can spend their days experimenting with new recipes and sharing them with readers. Blogs may be monetized through ads on a specific platform, through affiliate links that could earn the blogger a commission when a reader buys a recommended product, or with paid brand sponsorships.

Baking and pastry writers could also work for magazines or publications that highlight cooking and lifestyle topics like Good Housekeeping, Bake, or Bon Appétit.

Bloggers also often capture the process of making a recipe before they post it online. That means they also may need the creative skills that food stylists and food photographers possess.

The Path Toward Your Dream Baking & Pastry Career

How do you get from “total novice” to “baking career of your dreams”?

Learn Everything You Can From Experienced Bakers

The best place to start could be with a baking education. Baking and pastry is both a creative art and a precise science, and understanding both components can be key to your success. In baking and pastry school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, students can explore fundamental baking techniques like measurement, flavor development, and ingredient interactions. With this information in hand, they can dive into their coursework and begin creating dishes like rustic French bread, delicate baked custard, and chewy chocolate chip cookies.

Chef folding croissant dough with their hands

Repetition can help you become skilled at tasks such as creating laminated doughs.

In baking school, students are bound to make mistakes. Rather than seeing these as a setback, Chef Instructors help students see them as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve. For example, if a loaf of bread sunk during baking, instructors can encourage students to think about how gluten development, dough rise time, and baking temperature impacted the final product. With help from their instructors and a bit of investigative work, students can note that their loaf was overproofed, and make a note to avoid this mistake next time.

While baking classes may sound great, many people are concerned about balancing work, home life, and school. That’s where online pastry school comes in. With Escoffier’s online degrees and diplomas, you can explore and hone your craft from your own kitchen, right in your own home. That means you don’t necessarily have to quit your job or move to a new city to get an excellent education in baking and pastry.

Get Plenty of Experience

After completing your formal education, the next step is to practice (and practice some more!) The best way to perfect your pastry and baking skills is to get out there and do the work—not once, not twice, but hundreds of times. Pastry school can allow you to get started with repetitions and also allows you to obtain a hands-on industry externship where you can continue to practice and receive feedback.

Whether you’re completing coursework as a student or working in a bakery, you should look for mentorship from an expert in the type of baking you wish to pursue, and then soak up everything they’re willing to teach you.

Prove Your Bona Fides With Certifications

As you progress along your career, many bakers and pastry chefs elect to get advanced certifications that validate their skills and expertise. Industry groups like the American Culinary Federation and the Retail Bakers of America offer industry certifications that prove a baker or pastry chef has achieved a high level of proficiency at their craft.

“This was the best decision of my life! I have my degree and am working at opening my own bakery. My life feels more complete now.”*
Katie Harris, Escoffier Online Baking & Pastry Graduate

One Industry, So Many Career Choices

Baking and pastry may appear to be a narrow field at first glance, but it can offer many exciting career opportunities. Whether you want to be baking loaves in the morning at a bakery, assembling petit fours at a restaurant, or managing your own schedule as a pastry blogger, you can create the career of your dreams within the world of baking and pastry.

Get in touch with Escoffier to talk about the next steps toward a flour-filled, chocolate-dipped career in baking!

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This article was originally published on November 1, 2021, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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