Batter Chatter: Interview with of Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia PA

Interview with Karen of Bredenbeck's Bakery, Philadelphia
Karen H. Rohde is the owner of Bredenbeck’s Bakery, a Philadelphia tradition since 1889. Initially opened by a Bavarian immigrant baker, Bredenbeck’s was later turned over to the bakery’s longtime employees, Otto and Walter Haug, Rohde’s grandfather and father. The two owned and operated the bakery until Rohde opened the bakery’s current location almost 27 years ago. So what is life like for someone who so clearly has deep roots in baking? Let's see:

CakeSpy: You spent your childhood living above Bredenbeck’s bread and sweet bakery. When you opened the current Bredenbeck’s, what made you decide to stop baking bread?
Karen Rohde: My dad and grandfather’s bakery was a full line bakery, so they baked both bread and sweets. When I opened in Chestnut Hill, I initially had breads and sweets, but the public taste changed to crustier breads and my ovens couldn’t make that, so I stopped making bread all together.

CS: What was it like working for your grandfather and father?
KR: My father was my mentor. He treated people fairly. He appreciated all the hard work they did for Bredenbeck’s. I continue in the same mind set.

CS: What were Bredenbeck’s Bakery customers like when you were a child? Have they changed over the years? If so, how?
KR: When I was a child, there was a bakery on every block. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. Customers today thank us for being in business. They see so many small businesses that close because they can’t compete with large chain stores. So, they don’t take us for granted.

CS: What inspired you to continue your grandfather’s and father’s legacy by opening a Bredenbeck’s of your own?
KR: I always wanted to have my own business, whether it was a child day care or something to do with food. I really wanted to open a restaurant. My father suggested I open my own bakery since I spent so much of my life working at his bakery.

CS: You’ve owned this business for almost 27 years. How have the products changed?
KR: Diets have changed. People don’t necessarily indulge they way they used to. Instead of half or whole cakes, I now have individual slices or pieces to cater to those folks.

CS: Do you prefer sweet or salty food?
KR: Salty!

CS: If you were trapped in the bakery and needed to eat baked goods to sustain, what would you dig into first?
KR: Oh, that’s a tough one. I’ll say our custard éclairs.

CS: What’s your favorite time of year for the bakery? Why?
KR: Summer – May, June. That’s when the Ice Cream Parlor half of Bredenbeck’s is open. So, the whole building--Ice Cream and Bakery--are producing delicious teats.

CS: What’s the absolute favorite treat of Philadelphians who come into your shop?
KR: Strawberry shortcake. We’ve made it the same way for 70 years.

CS: What’s the most popular cake flavor among brides/grooms?
KR: Raspberry swirl pound cake. It’s decadent, and a crowd pleaser!

CS: What’s the most unique/crazy cake you’ve ever created?
KR: We created a gigantic cowboy hat cake for a convention at the Spectrum in Center City. It was so huge that it had to be assembled on-site, and on a flatbed---because they had two horses pull it around the main floor!

CS: What makes Bredenbeck’s unique?
KR: We are one of the few bakeries who still invest the time and love to create authentic German cookies each holiday season. Our whole staff is so creative, and you can tell by the way we go all-out to decorate the store and change our product lines for each season. We are so proud of our top-notch customer service. We always, always, always do our best to accommodate our customers. And we refuse to compromise our quality just because prices go up—we use the best ingredients and always bake from scratch.

CS: Baked good trends come and go...are there any desserts of yester-year that you'd love to see re-emerge? Or any that you were happy to see go?
KR: I'd like to bring back our Butterscotch Loaf. The basic recipe is a cinnamon bun roll with nuts that serves 8-10 slices. It was baked in a loaf pan that was coated with cinnamon bun smear. While it was still hot after baking, it was turned out and the loaf was covered with the caramelized smear. Our customers would send these to the solders in Vietnam. I have recently thought about bringing it back, but we are already selling so much comfort food that I'm trying to keep our selection diverse.

Fruit cake is recipe that I put away back in 2000 and will not bring back! I wanted to go into to the new millenium without fruit cake. I never liked it! It costs a lot to make, and it's so notorious for being the "unwanted holiday treat," that it really did not sell very well. Johnny Carson joked that there is only one fruit cake in existence, and that it gets passed around the country!

Check out the bakery in person at 8126 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118 or online at