Flour expert: Cynthia Unger learns valuable baking skills

November 2011 Posted in Business

Cynthia Unger, owner of St. Nicholas Bake Shop, assists a customer.By Don Murtha

Cynthia Unger went through blizzards and tornadoes to prepare herself for opening Mount Angel’s St. Nicholas Bake Shop.

To get a solid schooling in bakery skills she traveled to Kansas to attend the prestigious American Institute of Baking (AIB) at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., which has been operating since the 1920s.

“I left Oregon in January and arrived in Kansas in the worst snow storm in 20 years,” she said. “They had to close Kansas State for the first time in 20 years, they said.”

“We lived through the tornado season there but fortunately all of the tornadoes passed on one side or the other,” she said. “After four months in the school, I was never so glad to get back to Oregon.”

The baking school program was tough.

“We went to school all day. There were lectures in the morning and labs in the afternoon,” she said. “I learned a lot. I know more about flour than most people will ever know,” she said.

“You learn so much. You can say this is good but I can make it better if tweak it with a little bit more of this or a little bit less of that, “she said.

Getting admitted wasn’t easy.

“There are only three ways to get into it,” Unger said. “First you have to be sponsored by your employer and most of them had it pretty good because they had most of their bills paid. They had nice rooms and all of their other cost paid,” she said.

“The second group had plenty of experience already, but I didn’t qualify there,” she said.

The third group, the one Unger was in, had to study online until they had a combination of experience and credits to qualify. Most  were self-sponsored. Students in the bakery school came from all over the world.

“There were only six women out of 32 students,” she said. “They came from Japan, India, China and Mexico.”

Unger graduated from the four-month program with a certificate in baking technology. Now she is in business for herself. She has five part-time employees, a complete bakery kitchen and a comfortable customer area with custom-designed tables.

“We will open every morning at 6 a.m. to serve coffee, scones and other pastries,” she said. The bakery will also offer cookies, Danish, a variety of breads, cakes by the slice and specialty cakes.

“We will have ham and cheese scones, bacon and cheese scones and pepperoni and mozzarella scones at lunch time,” she said. When the business gets settled in she will consider offering sandwiches.

“If you call and say you need a cake by 3 o’clock tomorrow, no problem,” Unger said.

She said her motivation to open a bake shop was to fill a need in her own area.

“There wasn’t a bake shop in Mount Angel so it seemed to be a good opportunity. People seem to enjoy the kinds of baked goods we offer. What we offer you just can’t find anywhere else,” she said. “And we have coffee, besides.”

Response was good even before the shop opened. “People would stop me and ask questions and offer encouragement,” she said. “It looks promising. I’m really excited and scared and nervous and hopeful.”

  1. One Response to “Flour expert: Cynthia Unger learns valuable baking skills”

  2. By Bakery Fan on Nov 21, 2011

    Hi! What are the address, phone number and hours of the new bakery?

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