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Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

Don Tubbs: 318 FORUM KING OF CAKES

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Moist, sweet dough, loads of cream cheese are just a part of his secret recipe

To some, he’s Mr. King Cake. Some see him as Mr. Mardi Gras. Others know him as The Exmark Man or the Big Green Egg Guy. Any way you look at it, Don Tubbs is Mr. Opportunity.

Tubbs is the winner of 318 Forum magazine's 2019 Great 318 King Cake Contest. In addition to being named 318 Forum King of Cakes, a donation has been made in his honor to the charitable organization of his choice: The American Heart Association.

Tubbs developed his king cake recipe in the early days of Shreveport- Bossier City’s Mardi Gras festivities when crowds would gather outside Tubbs Hardware and Rentals at 615 Benton Road, across from the Bossier Civic Center, to wait for the parades.

“That was in 1989,” Tubbs said as he sat outside his store and recalled the scene back in those days. “They actually had the parade there for a few years. What would happen was that, on the Saturday of the parade, there would just be people everywhere, but no one would come into my store to buy hardware. So I tried to figure out how to sell them something.”

His wife at the time was from Franklin, and she explained to him the ins and outs of Mardi Gras. That’s when they decided to start bringing king cakes up from south Louisiana to sell at the store during Mardi Gras season. But there was just one problem.

“We found that people up here really didn’t want south Louisiana king cake,” he said. “It was dry and didn’t have much filling in it.”

Tubbs decided to give the people what they wanted, or at least what he wanted. He knew a man who operated an industrial bakery. So he sat down with the man and one of his employees, a woman named Rosie, to discuss the kind of king cake he wanted to eat and to sell.

“Rosie was from New Orleans,” Tubbs said. “She showed me how to make a king cake. I said, ‘That’s very similar to what we bring up from south Louisiana. What if we had a little sweeter dough, where we did some things that were a little different.’ She kind of got a little attitude with me and said, ‘That’s not a king cake.’”

Once the dough debate was settled, it was time to talk about the filling. Rosie showed Tubbs how she spread a thin layer of cream cheese filling on the dough before rolling it into a ring. That didn’t suit Tubbs, either.

“I got a glove and reached into the cream cheese bucket and just filled it full," he said. “Rosie looked at me and said, ‘Oh, Mr. Tubbs, that’s an extreme amount of cream cheese.’ I looked at her and said, ‘Rosie, you just helped me name my king cake.’” That was the birth of the Tubbs' Mardi Gras X-Treme Cream Cheese King Cake. That original recipe remains locked in his safe.

In addition to the X-Treme Cheese Cake, Tubbs’ king cake offerings include traditional cinnamon, strawberry cream cheese, blueberry cream cheese, chocolate and praline. He continues to experiment with new flavors, too, and said this year might include a surprise new flavor.

The cakes are available in-store, online and at select locations in Shreveport and Bossier City. Tubbs said people come from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and beyond to make his king cakes part of their Mardi Gras experience. Cakes can be ordered online and shipped, too. 

The recognition as the Great 318 King Cake Contest winner is a fitting tribute to one of the men who helped bring Mardi Gras to the area.

“I’m very excited to hear that Tubbs Hardware has won the king cake award,” said Lisa Johnson, president of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not surprising, as he was in on the founding stages of bringing Mardi Gras to the ArkLaTex. He’s been doing this for many years.”

As a Bossier Chamber of Commerce member in the mid-1980s, Tubbs was concerned about the number of people moving out of the area. Kerry Petty and others involved with economic development asked him what he thought about bringing Mardi Gras to the area.

“I said, ‘I’ve been to one. I don’t want that type of atmosphere in our community,’” Tubbs recalled. “The only way I’ll go along with it is if it’s a family Mardi Gras. Something that is more family-oriented, and not what you see going on in New Orleans and on television.”

In addition to the king cakes, Tubbs also sells a myriad of beads, masks and other Mardi Gras paraphernalia. It’s a way for Tubbs Hardware to connect with its customers and the community at a time of year that is traditionally slow for hardware stores.

“You can starve to death in the hardware business in January and February,” he said. “This gives me an avenue for traffic flow.”

The recognition as the 2019 Great 318 King Cake Contest winner also includes a donation to the American Heart Association, made in honor of John Kinnebrew. Jill Lucero, regional director for the American Heart Association, said Kinnebrew is an active volunteer with the Heart Association. He is serving on the leadership team for the Go Red for Women tail age party Feb. 27.

“I am excited that John was nominated and someone is honoring him with this donation from the contest,” Lucero said. “I think it says a lot of John in our community.”

The American Heart Association raises money to research heart health. Lucero said heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans. Locally, the association is funding the work of eight researchers at LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport with grants totaling $1 million.

“We’re very honored that we keep the majority of money raised in the area here,” she said. “Those grants have farreaching effects across the world. Who knows what ground-breaking research is being done right here in northwest Louisiana?”

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