Jocelyn Delk Adams Talks Grandbaby Cakes And Offers Up Thanksgiving Baking Tips - Exclusive Interview

Few bakers have an intimate knowledge of desserts like Jocelyn Delk Adams. According to the personality's website, Adams started a brand known as Grandbaby Cakes inspired by her relationship with her grandmother as a way to encourage baking in younger generations. Adams has invented signature recipes, released a Grandbaby Cakes cookbook, appeared as a judge on Food Network's "Santa's Baking Blizzard" and "Beat Bobby Flay," and has regularly made appearances on shows like "Today" and "Good Morning America." With a few of her cooking tricks, any big or small meal can shine and few can match her expertise in the kitchen.

Adams now has teamed up with the food company Libby's for their annual Cansgiving contest and plans to celebrate Thanksgiving right by sharing some tips on how to create the best baked goods and veggies around. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Adams sat down to share her favorite ingredient ever, the impact family made on her cooking journey, and how Grandbaby Cakes helped shape her as a food personality.

How an entrepreneurial mindset helps Jocelyn Delk Adams judge food differently

How do you think Grandbaby Cakes ended up shaping your career path as a food judge?

Oh, wow. That's a great question. And one that I haven't technically ever received. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I can be pretty opinionated when it comes to food. I think that has a lot to do with my family roots. We have some very specific opinions about everything that we make. And so, because we're so judgy, just even from that standpoint, I think that that's carried over into my food career.

I think also the fact that when you are in the food industry, especially as someone who curates and creates recipes on a regular basis, you get a lot of feedback from your followers, from your readers. And I have gotten so much feedback, thousands and thousands of comments and glowing reviews and then, of course, people who just completely shame recipes that I am used to it and I feel like I've been in the participant's shoes. So I get that.

So for me, when I'm judging, I really try to take into account the fact that what they're doing is very difficult and I'm really sort of there just offering advice and ways in which they can improve so it doesn't feel like ... I'm coming in to just bash them and bully what they're doing.

The pressure of cooking in front of a camera

In moments like that, is there anything that you look for in a contestant as a judge that immediately sparks the desire to help out?

Definitely. I think there's a lot of fear when it comes to competing on television, because it's very different from doing it in your kitchen, you're in your zing, you're in your comfort space and you're cooking, you're baking. And then when you get in front of a gazillion cameras and you're in that pressure cooker and the timer is going, it's a very different situation. 

And so something that you could be completely comfortable doing at home over and over and over again, when you see that clock ticking, it just puts a whole different perspective on it. And so for me, it's really just letting them understand, "Just do your best and just feel as comfortable in the situation as you can be. And just remember that at the end of the day, that you should be proud of whatever you do because this isn't a very easy thing to do."

The toughest part of baking, according to Jocelyn Delk Adams

With that in mind, for you personally, what's the toughest part of baking?

I actually don't take it that seriously. So I think that's probably not the answer most people are going to say. They're like, "Oh ..." I think for me, I'm never making it so serious to where I'm judging myself. I think the thing that I've loved so much about what I do is the fact that food shouldn't be taken so seriously. It should be about just delicious food, just having fun, learning new techniques and ... It's not rocket science, it's not surgery, I'm not some surgeon, I'm not doing something where if someone's life depends on it. And so I can actually just let myself be free in the kitchen. And that's what I love so much about it. And so the freedom of it is really the joy of it. The good and the bad, I guess you could say.

When you're working in the kitchen, is there an ingredient that you couldn't live without?

This may seem typical, but butter. I have so much butter. I have frozen butter for if I run out of butter. You never know when you need butter. And for me, my husband's like, "Why did you come home with more butter? There's butter." There's so much butter of every single kind, unsalted and salted and European-style in the freezer right now. I'm like, "You never know, I just need backup butter." So it's butter. It's butter, butter, butter, all the types of butter, even vegan butter or Earth Balance. We've got it all here.

Jocelyn Delk Adams offers some Thanksgiving baking tips

Would you say butter is the most important aspect of baking in general or is that just for you?

For baking? I think so. Because a lot of the things that I bake, I really believe in quality butter and you want that decadence and that richness. And so I just have a lot of butter when I'm baking. The more butter, the better.

Do you have any baking tips for Thanksgiving in particular that you could share?

Yeah, sure. My first tip is, number one, do not try a new recipe on the day of Thanksgiving. I am not a person who does that. If there's something that I'm actually interested in trying, I try, do a little trial run ahead of time and make sure that it's what I want it to be. Because you can always give away pie and you can always give away stuff, people are always clamoring to get a pie. So I think that is the best because your nerves are kind of crazy, you've got a million things going on and you do not want to sort of be slowing down your day going through a recipe for the very first time, and then something could go wrong or you maybe missed an ingredient because you've got 12 different things going on too.

So I just think it's best to sort of go with the tried and the true for Thanksgiving. Same thing with also just starting ahead of time. For me, I put a lot of pie doughs in the freezer. I make those ahead of time. I don't make those on the day of Thanksgiving. So they're popped in my pie plates and they're ready to go, I just only have to do fillings. And I do also a lot of desserts the day before too. So then it's mostly main dishes that have to be done. So, separating out your day, getting a schedule together, those types of things will really help you sort of flow so you're not really frantic. And I think that frantic energy is when mistakes happen for sure.

And then, of course, I get a lot of people who ask about substitutions. And we all think something will work like, "Oh yeah. I don't have any baking soda. I'll just throw in some baking powder." You can't do that. Don't do that. It's not the same. It's one of those things where you need to make recipes as they're written at least the first time. And then maybe if you see there's a wiggle room or like, "Oh, I might lessen the sugar a little here," or, "Oh, I may replace some corn syrup with some maple syrup," or something like that. Then you have some wiggle room but you have to know how a recipe is structured in the beginning before you take those liberties.

The best way to prepare vegetables for kids, according to Jocelyn Delk Adams

On that same note too, when it comes to making vegetables delicious too, I heard that you might have some tips.

Yeah. For me, I definitely feel because I have a 3-year-old daughter, I'm in the thick of "no mommy, no vegetable" land. And so because I hear her always talking about what she won't eat and she's just kind of stuck in this chicken nugget phase, I really try to throw vegetables into things that I already know she will eat. So I'll toss veggies and a chicken pot pie for her. Anything like in her smoothies, anything where I know that I can kind of mask it for her and it doesn't seem like I'm pushing her to eat it, but then it's something that she sort of is welcoming.

But then also I just like to take things that I kind of grew up with or mainstay recipes like for instance, a green bean casserole which is pretty common, everyone makes the same type of green bean casserole every Thanksgiving. But I like to add a twist, add in some cheese, add in a lot more garlic and really change the flavor profile which makes it new and exciting too for people who are just used to the old guard.

Jocelyn Delk Adams dishes on the legacy of Grandbaby Cakes

You may already have this and we just don't know about it, but have you ever thought about having a holiday line of products associated with Grandbaby Cakes?

Oh, it is. It's definitely, it's actually I'm working on something now so I hope to share that soon. But I do. I definitely find that the Grandbaby Cakes brand is super approachable and relatable. And I think people have these wonderful family memories that are associated with either their grandparents and being in the kitchen or even just that hug or that love from their family and being around the holiday table. And a lot of those family experiences are really entrenched in my brand. And so I feel like products at some point are a natural extension of that.

What do you want the legacy of Grandbaby Cakes to be?

Oh wow. I think that I want the legacy to be really beautiful. I guess the beauty of generational recipes and the beauty of passing things forward and understanding that legacy in and of itself is really the legacy of Grandbaby Cakes. Because I think that there's so much beauty in the recipes that I learned growing up that I'm now passing to my daughter and she's finding pride in the kitchen with me and she's feeling the joy and the love that I experienced in the kitchen with my grandmother and my mother, and being able to pass that to her and seeing the love in her face and seeing the accomplishment and then knowing one day she may pass that to her child is something that I think is truly special. But I think it's also important to remember that we do not have to exist in tradition. We can change, we can evolve. And so a lot of the recipes that I do make, I've been able to modernize and I've been able to inject my personality into. And that part has been really exciting for me too.

It sounds like it might even be more important to look towards the future as a baker, rather than focus on the past. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Yeah. I think for me, it's a combination of both. I'm honoring my ancestors but I'm still being true to me. And so, because I am different, I think that's why the name was important to me, Grandbaby. I'm the Grandbaby. I'm not the grandmother. I have those elements of my grandmother, I have those elements of my mother and my aunt, but I am still my own person and I still have my own personality and I've been able to inject those pieces into my brand and not necessarily say, "Okay, here's an heirloom recipe, make it verbatim." No, this is my spin on that. This is how I interpret that recipe. And then I've been able to share that with people and inspire a new generation, possibly, who wasn't looking for those recipes. They find something new and exciting about it.

If you had a dream product that you could release through Grandbaby Cakes, do you have anything in mind?

I can't discuss it, unfortunately. [But] Yeah, I would say the reason why I say that is because my dream project is something I'm actually working on.

Jocelyn Delk Adams' favorite fast food order

If you could have one famous chef to cook dinner for you, who would you have cook for you?

Oh my gosh. What's so funny about that is that I don't ever really think about famous chefs like that. I think a lot about if there was a particular meal that I would be amazed to have it be like if I could bring my grandmother back and she make a meal for me. That to me would be more special than anybody else making a meal for me. Because, I've eaten all over the world, I've experienced so many incredible restaurants and nothing to me has been better than when my grandmother has cooked for me.

On the total flip side of that question, do you have a go-to fast food order?

Oh my gosh. I used to ... My family, we love fried chicken. And so my mom will literally send me out to Popeyes Chicken to get one of the eight-piece chicken [meals]. She won't even just be like, "Okay, just get a two-piece." No, it's a eight-piece, spicy, mixed white and dark meat with extra biscuits and honey, and then there's mashed potatoes and there's also red beans and rice with that as well. So that is what we're doing. But I will say this, we have done a lot of Chick-fil-A recently because we've moved to Texas and they're like [on] every corner. That, and In-N-Out burger have become a mainstay. You can't avoid them. They're literally everywhere. Every corner here. Well, they were classics that I never had a lot of or really experienced because I lived in Chicago. So I was like, "What is In-N-Out?" I'm like, "That's that place everyone's been talking about — In-N-Out Burger."

Jocelyn Delk Adams discusses her partnership with Libby's

And you're working alongside Libby's right now, right?

Yes. It's been an amazing partnership that I have [had] within this entire year, sharing ways like I mentioned before as a parent, with a 3-year-old, getting her to eat any type of vegetable is difficult. But she's loved being part of this campaign too because she gets to cook alongside me and she gets to try a lot of things and be part of it. And it's just been such a great fit for me.

What's been your favorite thing to cook with those Libby's products?

These insane herby butter potato rolls. I have an Instagram video that's going out later this week with them but they are insane. And they use canned potatoes so it's such a time-saver. It's convenient for people. But these rolls. Oh my gosh. You would want to make these for Thanksgiving. They're absolutely insane. Like I said, the butter again, it's the herby butter potato rolls to die for.

That sounds delicious. And it sounds like there's a lot of exciting Thanksgiving plans going on.

Yeah. That video comes out because I've been sharing about the Cansgiving contest and really a lot of people make just classic dinner rolls, but I was able to kind of add a twist to that and get people excited about the Cansgiving contest and revamping a family recipe.

What Jocelyn Delk Adams' Thanksgiving looks like this year

What does your Thanksgiving spread look like this year?

Actually this year it's going to be quite small. This is the first year we found out my husband can't get off on Friday because he started a new job. And so this is going to be the first year we actually go out to dinner. It's never happened. It's never happened. So my parents are leaving. Everyone's leaving. 

Because we usually do a massive Thanksgiving in Mississippi with all of my family and they're all going to be there and I'm going to be here and in Dallas. And so since it's just the three of us ... Yeah. And then I'm going to New York for "The Today Show" and I'll be getting back late on Wednesday just the day before Thanksgiving. We're going out to dinner. I'm going to bake a couple pies and then we're going to dinner.

That sounds like a whirlwind but it sounds like a lot of fun.

Yeah, It's going to be interesting.

For recipes, cookbooks, and baking tips from Jocelyn Delk Adams, head over to Grandbaby Cakes and follow her on Instagram.