Chef's Table - Decatur's dessert diva

Owner Nancy Cole runs Decatur's Southern Sweets along with 12 employees, including her daughter, son and son-in-law. She supplies some of the city's finest restaurants with delectable sweets as "the secret pastry chef."

Creative Loafing: How'd you get your start baking?

Cole: A friend was delivering produce to a local steakhouse. They needed pies. I said I would make them. I hadn't ever made a pie.

That's chutzpah.

Yes. I didn't have any recipes. I worked all night long but I didn't have anything ready for them. I said I dropped the pies. I told another fib. Then I called my grandma and two days later I had an apple and pecan pie. They said they wanted six of each the next day. I was in business. I did 50 desserts a week and it nearly killed me. But it started everything. In six months I got another account, and then I found this place.

Your store is off the beaten path, but I like the homey feel. When did you open to the public?

1998. Initially I didn't want a retail bakery; I wanted to go home. Now our retail business has overtaken our wholesale business. We started serving lunch two years ago. People were asking, 'Don't you have anything for lunch?' So I began making a pot of soup or chili. I guess they were knocking me over the head with a good idea.

How many desserts you have baked this year?

41,600, from January to early August. We've used 82,894 fresh cracked eggs.

What are your top sellers?

The old-fashioned chocolate cake by a long mile. The pecan tart, the cherry and apple pies, the coconut layer cake, the Key lime pie.

Anything a surprise failure?

I thought a pumpkin-apple pie was a wonderful combination. But no one liked it.

What are you developing now?

Caramel cake. We've made 20 cakes so far.

Southern Sweets, 186 Rio Circle, Decatur. 404-373-8752. www.southernsweets.com.


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