Katharina Mayer from Munich wanted cake like her grandmother's, which led her to found Kuchentratsch (Cake Gossip) in 2014. The result was not only excellent cake, but also happy pensioners who have a job and who are able to make new friends.
It is one of those backyards in Munich where the beloved character Pumuckl would have felt most comfortable. A squirrel scurries under the garage roof, and in the middle sits an old bathtub, which is beautifully planted in summer. Here, not far from the city’s central station is the Kuchentratsch’s bakery , now a reasonably well-known company from Munich. The founder Katharina Mayer had a pretty good idea right after finishing her business studies aged just 24: “I spent a lot of time abroad and always missed my grandma's cake. After all, it is known to taste the best – and so I thought: “Why not sell cakes made by grandmas and grandpas?
That was in 2014, when it all started in a rented canteen – with her own grandmother and a few friends who came on board to help Katharina. Six years later, roughly 60 pensioners are baking for Kuchentratsch. Most of the grandmothers and grandfathers arrive once a week and work a four-hour shift. The groups are self-organised and always consist of the same five or six individuals. Those who simply like to bake cakes together and gossip about life’s rich tapestry. When one of them is sick, they feel for the other. Carpooling leads to friendship – and sometimes even joint holidays.
The recipes for the cakes come from the grandmothers and grandfathers. The most popular is the carrot cake with cream cheese topping made by grandma Irmgard. “At Christmas I always look forward to our eggnog gingerbread, I could eat it all year round. And I can't get enough of Regina's nut-chocolate cake either, although we've had it in our own selection for four years now” explains founder Katharina Mayer with delight. But, of course, in an ever-growing company, not every grandma can bake just one kind of cake – so everyone manages everything in their shift.
Carpooling leads to friendship – and sometimes even joint holidays.
Grandma Rosemarie's slip of paper today includes a vegan poppy seed crumble cake, a “Beerentraum” (berry dream) and six nut cakes. She loves to make fruit cakes – the Beerentraum was even named after her. Baking vegan cakes is not her thing: “I don't like margarine. It's all we had after the war. And all I wanted back then was bread and butter.” On her baking table lies a butter pretzel – her breakfast. On days when she makes her way to Kuchentratsch, she gets up at 6:30. Because she lives near Augsburg and needs an hour and a half to get to Munich.
Rosemarie gets a discount on the ticket, because she was one of the first female train drivers in Germany. For her family at that time, it was something of a scandal. When she got her hands on a flyer of cake gossip during her retirement, she immediately got in touch and offered a sample cake: "I've always loved baking. I love to do something with my hands, even though I have arthritis and am almost 80 years old." But you can't let it bring you down. Rosemarie keeps away from people who only talk about illness. She's radiant, and you can't really tell how old she is.
In any one day in the bakery roughly 70 cakes are made in two shifts. They are then taken by the delivery grandpas to more than 20 Munich cafés as well as to private households or companies – and even by post to all of Germany in recent times. This works surprisingly well thanks to a specially developed type of packaging in which the cakes cannot slip around. The Kuchentratsch team got the money for the development of the new boxes thanks to a deal following an appearance on the entrepreneur’s TV show “Die Höhle der Löwen” (“The Lion's Den”). The idea was presented there in 2018.
"There is simply a lack of contact points for elderly people in Germany – not everyone wants to go on a coffee tour!”
In the meantime, this small Munich start-up has become a real company. The idea has grown with Katharina. It was not just the television appearance and the following media reports that helped Kuchentratsch to attract a lot of attention. In the last six years two baking books with recipes from the grandmas and grandpas have been published, and courses and workshops are also offered in the bakery. Katharina and her team also take care of the cake buffet at weddings upon request. And right now she is working on a baking mix for which the grandmas are developing the recipes. So everyone can bake the delicious cake at home.
The twelve ovens at Kuchentratsch are constantly in use. It smells of warm berries and chocolate, of nuts and dough. Alongside the bakery, nearly ten full-time employees work in the office – where it is slowly becoming crowded on the 200 sqm of space located on Landsberger Strasse. But finding an even larger property in Munich is no easy task. The bakery is not only a venue, workplace, office and logistics centre, but also a place where customers can pick up their ordered cake here directly or try a piece in the mini-café on site. “It would be great if we had a location at the Viktualienmarkt (food market) one day – central, but still with an air of tradition. We simply lack walk-in customers here” says the founder.
Katharina Mayer previously dealt with plenty of demographic change during her studies. The topic of finding new contacts and friends in particular is often difficult for older people, she explains. “I once read that there are senior citizens who buy things at a department store simply to bring them back the next day. Not because they have no money for the things, but because they are so lonely. There is simply a lack of contact points for elderly people in Germany – not everyone wants to go on a coffee tour!”
Perhaps the nicest thing about Kuchentratsch is the fact that the elderly team members once again have the feeling that they are needed. This not only gives them a new sense of courage to face life, but also keeps them healthy: coming out of their homes, having a job. In addition, the seniors citizens can meet each other here – establish new contacts, make new friends, and ultimately no longer feel lonely. Some have been here for years. They all know each other; in a way, they seem a bit like a school class that has simply grown a little old. When Grandpa Boris comes into the bakery and turns up the volume when Take That is on or some sort of romantic rock music, everyone laughs. For some, Kuchentratsch has become something of a second home.