Spotlight: Fred Pollman III

Nothing satisfies a sweet tooth this time of year like a king cake, and around here, Pollman's Bake Shop is the place to go when it comes to the carnival-themed pastries. Fred Pollman III says the folks at their local landmark have been whipping up the tasty delights since the 1950s. Each season, the bakery rolls out 10, 000 to 12, 000 cakes. The treats come in their classic, party-sharing size or individual Danish portions.

Walk us through the process of making a king cake.
We make them from scratch. First, we scale our flour, sugar and all our ingredients and mix the dough. We put it on the table and cut it up into the sizes that we need for large king cakes or small king cakes. Next, we round the dough up and let it relax. Then, we stretch it out to size and stuff it with our fillings, sugars and pecans. We fold, cut and braid it into the shape of a king cake. From start to finish it takes about two and a half hours to make up a batch.

What are some of the different types of fillings?
We have just about any flavor you can think of — strawberry, cherry, blueberry, lemon, raspberry, apple and cream cheese (which is the most common kind).

How did the confections come to the Bay area?
I'm told it was either in the '30s or the '40s. New Orleans had the king cakes going at that time. They were popular. In the '50s, my uncle went over there for a bakers' convention, and he saw how they were making them. He came back to Mobile with the concept. I think it was 1958 or '59. He developed his own recipe, and we've been making them the same way ever since.

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Can you explain the mythology behind king cakes? 
King cake was designed for the Epiphany, and it represents the baby Jesus. The customer actually hides the baby, and the person who gets it is thought to receive good luck.

Do you have any tips for placing that little plastic baby inside?
Hide it very well, and remember where you put it. The custom is that the person who  gets it in their slice will have to buy the cake next time.

Do you eat king cake?
Not very often. Once in a while, I might take a taste of it. MB

Pollman's Bake Shop • 750 S. Broad St. 438-1511. • 31 N. Royal St. 438-2261.

interview by Mallory boykin, photo by elise pochÉ

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