Jocelyn Delk Adams. Photo: Chuck Olu-Alabi.
“There was a time when I stopped baking,” says Jocelyn Delk Adams. During college and in her early 20s, Adams abandoned her childhood pastime, the activity she devoted countless hours to and what had forged such strong bonds among the women in her family.
It seemed old fashioned and not in line with her modern lifestyle, explains Adams. When she did eventually return to the kitchen, Adams rediscovered her passion for baking and realized that it’s not at all incompatible with her life. In fact, she realized baking is a part of her and something she could never turn her back on again.
“There’s such love and pride that goes into the process,” says Adams, who credits her grandmother, who she calls Big Mama, as the inspiration for her blog and cookbook. It was on trips to visit her grandmother in Mississippi that Adams developed her love of baking. The women in the family — Adams’ mother, grandmother, and aunt — would gather in the kitchen, baking, and talking. As they measured and mixed, the women caught up and bonded over family stories. In the process, Adams learned a lot about her family tree, not to mention how to make some seriously delicious desserts.
Adams’ introduction to baking was in stark contrast to her grandmother’s. The youngest in a family with 14 children, Big Mama was thrust into the kitchen when her mother died and she was put in charge of meals. She taught herself to cook and bake, developing all her own recipes and becoming known for her cakes.
It sounds clichéd, says Adams, but when Big Mama bakes “people really taste the love. … It’s not about the ingredients, it’s about giving of herself.” Big Mama continues to bake for friends and family despite the fact that she’s in her 80s. The exception is when Adams is in town. Big Mama now prefers to have her granddaughter bake for her and Adams is more than happy to oblige.
Most of Adams’ desserts are rooted in her family’s cherished recipes. She starts with something recognizable and classic like pound cake, whipped cream, or carrot cake, then puts her own contemporary spin on it. This means that red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting gets a vivid streak of blackberry compote, while banana pudding is combined with Italian tiramisù for a completely new sweet experience.
While Adams is based in Chicago, much of her family lives in the south, and many of her cakes reflect that heritage. In Grandbaby Cakes, Adams offers her spin on southern favorites like coconut cake, caramel cake, and Texas sheet cake. She even combines two southern classics to create Pineapple Upside-Down Hummingbird Pound Cake.
In addition to sharing recipes, Adams hopes to inspire the next generation of bakers to reconnect with their family’s culinary traditions and to have some fun in the kitchen. It’s not about baking a professional looking masterpiece says Adams, who insists she’d take a homemade cake over a bakery cake any day.
Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from Grandbaby Cakes.
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