August 1, 2005
Tools You Bake
A German manufacturer of industrial parts gets into the cake business.
For nearly a century Hugo Bräuer Metallwaren, in Berlin, has produced round metal objects—including electrical containers and vacuum-cleaner parts—for industry and the military through a process in which sheets of steel, copper, or aluminum are pressed around rotating molds with a hand tool. “We don’t even know what most of the parts we make are used for,” says Thomas Bräuer, who manages the family-owned company with his father, Horst. But recently their business took a surprisingly domestic turn: in collaboration with young designers Sebastian Summa and Hrafnkell Birgisson, they have begun to make cake molds under the brand name Tools You Bake.
Summa and Birgisson—who met while developing the Mirra Chair for Herman Miller at Berlin’s Studio 7.5—were inspired by the hundreds of dusty wooden molds stacked on shelves in the workshop. “We thought, How can we tell the story of this old process? We saw the molds as cakes,” Birgisson says. “And we wanted to integrate the user into the project: when they make the cake, they are re-creating the old forms.” The six different models are named after former industrial clients—Collatz, Wiesner, Etoga, Sturickow, Stubbak, and the sweet-sounding Bessy, a company that makes “electron storage rings for synchrotron radiation.” Wiesner is the only shape that didn’t have to be modified to improve baking results and was kept identical to the original industrial mold: “Maybe it was a hubcap,” Birgisson says.
Summa discovered the metal-spinning shop while pursuing an assignment for his product-design studio at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. Trained as a blacksmith, he wanted to create a new product for a local workshop that would use existing technology to rejuvenate a traditional craft in danger of obsolescence. He says, “Small companies are more flexible and easier to design for since one can work with the craftsmen firsthand. And it is easy to produce small quantities, so custom orders can be fulfilled quickly and economically.”
Harrods recently ordered Bessy, along with a custom individual-size model. “These molds fit perfectly into the concept of doing pastries that are dramatic yet cost effective—you don’t need the extra labor usually required to make special shapes,” former executive pastry chef Bill McCarrick explains. “I can easily make my signature gin-and-tonic opera cake and a wonderful green-tea sponge cake with sake-marinated cherries.”