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Jocelyn Delk Adams Transcript

Baked Goods and Gratitude with Grandbaby Cakes

Kerry Diamond: Hey everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the whole wide world. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond, coming to you from my apartment in Brooklyn, New York. On today's show I'm talking with Jocelyn Delk Adams, the delightful home cook and baker behind the Grandbaby Cakes blog and cookbook. I haven't seen Jocelyn in way too long since she spoke at our Jubilee conference a few years ago. She and I caught up a few weeks ago about what she's been baking and making, and how this savvy entrepreneur is handling her business these days. But before we get to Jocelyn, let's do a little housekeeping.

Thank you to the Wines of Rioja for supporting today's episode, and welcome to Breyers, our newest sponsor. Ice cream and wine, these are a few of my favorite things, that is for sure. What else? It's the one year anniversary of our Samin Nosrat cover? I can't believe that was a whole year ago. We had such a good time on that photo shoot and worked with a really nice crew. If you don't have issue 14 featuring the Salt Fat Acid Heat star, head over to our website, and check out our shop. Print issues are $20, and our digital issues are $10. We'll be right back after this word from Rioja.

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Now here's my conversation with Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes.

Let's tell everybody what Grandbaby Cakes is all about. How did you even start doing what you're doing?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I grew up baking, cooking with my family. They've really been the inspiration, even the muse behind everything I do, particularly my grandmother. Just watching her, just being in the kitchen with her just gave me this profound love for cooking and baking. The recipes were passed down from generation to generation, and I just found this profound passion for everything that it encompassed. When I got to a point in my career and my life where I just wasn't excited about going to a nine to five and it was literally a question of, "Okay, what am I going to do? What is there for me to do?" A friend, this was in 2012, was like, "You should start a blog. You're always baking, you make the most incredible recipes."

At that point it was for me, I didn't know too much about blogging, I didn't know... It was a very different landscape than it is now. I just started sharing recipes. I was like, "Sure." I had someone on Etsy design like a $90 website template and I was taking photos with my iPhone at the time.

Kerry Diamond: The good old days.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: The good old days. You wrote your feelings, you put the recipe out there. You didn't really edit the photos, they were just out there and it was just... It was really just the zen. It was just about the experience and the love of what you were doing.

Kerry Diamond: Jocelyn, what was your day job at the time?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I was actually in two different jobs. I was working as a production coordinator and a producer for an archive, a video archive and I would actually also associate produce PBS specials. After that, I went into event planning at a fine art school and I used to plan this huge event for graduating seniors at the college where they had all types of arts. It was major event at the end of the year and it was a festival. So I was doing something that was very creative. I was doing something that was fulfilling because I was at the point like one of those people who needed to be creatively fulfilled each day in some type of way, but it just felt like I hadn't found that exact space where I wanted to be.

Kerry Diamond: So you're working and you're blogging, when does it pop in your mind that, this could be my full time job?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: It honestly didn't even pop into my mind until maybe like six months later when I actually had people visiting the website and I was actually making some money from it. I was like, "Oh my goodness, I can make money doing this?" It was something that I didn't really quite understand or know or even expect at the time. It was really just a hobby. It was really a way for me to just find something that I really truly loved. Then, I mean honestly it really took off. I was working full time on Grandbaby Cakes by the early part of 2014, so it really happened quite quickly.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. And did you have clients? Is that you were able to make the leap? Because you weren't just existing on advertising.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: No, I was not existing on advertising. I had brand clients, I also signed a book deal at the very beginning of 2014. So, just knowing that I really could not commit 100% of myself to a full time job and then also write the book I wanted or even expand my brand beyond just what it was at that point, I knew that I had to leave.

Kerry Diamond: Tell everybody the name, Grandbaby Cakes. I know where that comes from, but tell everybody where it comes from.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: In the South, usually grandparents call their grandchildren grandbabies, so I was my Big Mama's Grandbaby. On top of that, I used to these cakes at work and people would call me Babycakes because I was young at the time, and so I just merged it together.

Kerry Diamond: Jocelyn, for folks who are just learning about you, what kind of food are you known for?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: For sure. It's definitely comfort, it has a lot of Southern influence. It's definitely a lot of recipes that are vintage, recipes that may have been passed down from generation to generation that your grandparents may have made. But then also, there are a lot of recipes that have more of a fresher take on those vintage recipes, so I really like to mix all of those vibes in.

Kerry Diamond: I love your cakes. Every cake you make is just so gorgeous. You're also... I mean, we'll talk about your recipes and go through some of your greatest hits, but do you take all your photography? Because your pictures are fantastic.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I used to, and now I don't.

Kerry Diamond: You don't. Who takes them for you?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: What people see on Instagram, what people see on my website is a mix of my photography and also some other photographers.

Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about of the Grandbaby Cakes greatest hits. Let's talk about some of the most shared and most popular recipes.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh my goodness. The recipe that really put Grandbaby Cakes on the map was definitely my Real Deal Caramel Cake. It's just always been a hit. There are so many interpretations of what a true Southern caramel cake is, and this recipe is really old school. It's got actual ... It's not a stiff caramel, but it's a silky smooth caramel that it takes a while to make. In fact, about an hour and a half to two hours over the stove. So it takes a lot of commitment, but that cake really just took off.

Kerry Diamond: Walk us through the different layers and steps of that cake.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: The first part is a classic yellow vanilla base layer cake. That's just that really moist, delicious buttery cake that most people have for their birthdays. Everyone knows that nostalgic cake. But, the icing is really the killer. It's one of those things where it's like you can taste the love that went into that, because that is pure love. When you decide to make that caramel cake, you are putting in time, you're putting in energy. All of your emotions go into that cake in the slowness and the quality and the effort that goes in, and people just taste that cake and love it.

Kerry Diamond: I have never done a caramel that takes two hours. The closest thing I can think of is polenta or risotto, but that is definitely not a two hour process. Why is this taking two hours?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Because, it really just takes—First of all, it's cooked on low. I know some people try to speed it up, you need to commit. You need to make the commitment, right? Put the ring on it. You gotta sit there, you gotta stir slowly, and you have to have it on low for it to really truly come together. That's my aunt Beverly's recipe and that's just been in my family forever. She was just so happy when I shared it. To this day, she's pretty famous for it.

Kerry Diamond: Well, aunt Beverly thank you so much on behalf of the Bombesquad for putting that cake out into the universe. All right, so what's another one?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: At some point maybe around 2015 or whatever, people started calling me the Pound Cake Queen. I take that title very seriously, and there's definitely something very Southern about pound cakes and bundt cakes. I literally have a gazillion pound cakes on my website. They do insanely well. People just love how it doesn't take a lot of effort, especially if you're one of those people that hates decorating cakes. This is one of those cakes that comes out beautifully and it looks like you took a lot of time and effort, but it doesn't require what would take you know, what it would take to do like the caramel cake. Everything from my cream cheese pound cake to my ultimate lemon pound cake, which is a huge, huge, huge hit on my website, it is definitely one of the most popular cakes on my website.

Kerry Diamond: You do love a baked good with lemon.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I do love lemon, yes. Of my 7 UP Pound Cake, and that is my mother's recipe and that does insanely well. What's so cool about the 7UP is, it just totally changes the texture of the cake. Also, the crumb is sort of crunchy, but the cake itself is just so tender and soft when you bite into it. It's crazy, it's magic. And that cake has been around in my family forever. More recently I have a strawberry pound cake that really goes insane during the spring and the summer, so right now it's popular.

Kerry Diamond: And strawberry season's just starting, that's great.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yes, exactly. There are some pound cakes that I adore plain because they just... They're so versatile, you can pack them like a slice for breakfast, or you can have it with some whip cream and berries for dessert. It's just so versatile that you can just pretty much do anything. You can grill it, you can do whatever. But then, there are some where I just love the glaze and it becomes one with the recipe. So, I think it depends. Some I might glaze, definitely a glaze. I've got to have the perfect glaze for this. Then others I'm like, "You can really just eat this plain and it is perfection."

Kerry Diamond: Jocelyn, I have never grilled poundcake. What does that even mean?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it just gives it like this nice char. You can put a little butter on the outside of it and just put it on the grill, or even in a grill pan really quickly and just get those nice chars and then... It's magical, it's wonderful.

Kerry Diamond: Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back with Jocelyn after this quick message. A lot of you know I'm an ice cream fanatic, so I'm happy to share that today's podcast is made possible by our friends at Breyers. Did you know that Breyers is America's number one ice cream brand? I've loved Breyers forever, and my family has always been a Breyers mint chip family. We've probably eaten more Breyers mint chip ice cream over the years than you can even imagine. Good news for my fellow fanatics, Breyers has a special treat that won't undo your day. It's called Breyers CarbSmart, and it comes in tubs and bars in great flavors like chocolate covered almond, vanilla and peanut butter. My personal favorites, two of the newest flavors, Breyers CarbSmart Caramel Swirl Bars and my forever fav Mint Fudge. I actually have some in my freezer right now.

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People are probably thinking you just do cakes and baked goods, but you do savory food.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yes, I do lots of savory. I started initially with just desserts, but I have I think since like 2014 or 15, I started sharing a ton of savory stuff. There are some recipes on my website that literally go crazy with that too like the ... I have a chicken fried steak that's incredibly popular.

Kerry Diamond: Walk us through that. For the folks who are like, "What the heck is a chicken fried steak?" Tell everybody.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: So it's basically a tenderized steak that you bread, you dredge that and then you're going to fry that baby up. It's fried almost like fried chicken, which is where you get that chicken fried steak from, and then it's topped with a creamy, flavorful gravy.

Kerry Diamond: I haven't had that in a long time. A good chicken fried steak is a lot of fun.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh yes. And this one's got so much seasoning and flavor in every component, which is why I think it's so popular.

Kerry Diamond: What do you season it with?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I've got everything from a little hot sauce to paprika and cayenne to really give it a little kick, and it's just downright delicious.

Kerry Diamond: How about the gravy?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh, same thing. The gravy's got a nice kick to it. It starts almost with the roux process, and then I add a little chicken or beef stock to it just to give it an additional flavor and it's got some garlic in it. It's delicious.

Kerry Diamond: You were just about to say the magical words, chicken and dumplings. Not everybody does dumplings the same way. How does your family do them?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yes. Well, we actually do it two types of ways, which is why I'm going to come out with another recipe probably in the fall. But, we do it two ways. We have one side of our family that does it the traditional biscuit type dumpling way. That's more just a drop biscuit that's added to your stock base, and then that's puffed up and cooked over the stove until they're ready and tender. Then there's more of a flat dumpling, which a lot of Southern people do as well where it's almost like pieces of pie dough. I'm a fan of both. It really honestly just depends on my mood. I love both equally.

Kerry Diamond: Then give us one more recipe that's gone viral or that folks really love that you put out there.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Hmm. Also, I would say there are... Have you ever had salmon croquettes?

Kerry Diamond: I have, I have.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yes. Mine literally, especially since things have shut down and people are home cooking so much, that recipe has been either number one or number two on my website for the last two months.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, how interesting. Why do you think that is?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I think that salmon croquettes are just so comforting. You can have them for breakfast, brunch, you can have them for dinner. They're so versatile, they're so easy. They use mostly pantry staples. You can use canned salmon if you want. I just think that the ease of them coupled with the comfort of eating it is just something that's made it incredibly popular right now.

Kerry Diamond: On that, Jocelyn have you noticed the comments on your Instagram or the comments on Facebook or your blog? Have they changed over the past few weeks as folks are home and dealing with different issues?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I think so. I remember originally when a lot of the lockdown started, I was at a standstill as far as what content I should be offering my audience right now because it's just such a strange time for so many people, honestly for all of us. I just wanted to make sure that I was setting the right tone or you know providing what was needed. So when I was asking my audience what they wanted to see, if they wanted new recipes, if they... What types of recipes and just what they wanted me to share, the first thing I was getting a lot of was comfort food. They wanted comfort. A lot of times it was like, before that it was, "Okay, can you give us some healthy spins on this, some healthy spins on that?" Then literally the next day they were like, "We want cake, we want biscuits." They were like, "We want homemade ice cream." All of that stuff that just made people feel better. I've noticed even when I will try to share and even talk about balance, that people are like, "Bring on the cake." They want to bake. They're at home, they're with their families, they want to take this time to either work on baking skills or just try these recipes that they've always either pinned on Pinterest or saved on Instagram for later. This is their time to finally do it I guess.

Kerry Diamond: Jocelyn, I want to talk about you as a business person pre-coronavirus and post-coronavirus. I mean, as you mentioned earlier, you did make a really successful transition. Starting with your blog, you've got a great cookbook. You do a lot of, I mean at least prior to this, a lot of TV appearances. You work with a lot of world-class brands, including a lot of consumer product brands. You went beyond a blogger and were doing all these different things, and clearly had lots of different revenue streams before this crisis. When all of this started to go down, what did you start to do regarding your business?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Well, I think one of the things that helped to shield me from hits right now is the fact that I did have a lot of revenue streams. I think just having that mentality from the very beginning of my business, understanding that you don't put your eggs all in one basket was just... It just helped because you're going to have ebbs and flows. If it wasn't this, it would definitely be something else. But I did think in terms of publishing. There was something that I started doing about a year ago where I started writing ebooks. And so right away, I started thinking about some of the things that I was doing and the fact that I have my daughter Harmony in the kitchen with me, and just hearing about how parents wanted to figure out other activities that they could do with their children who are now at home from school and it's keeping them occupied, keeping them interested beyond Netflix and playing video games. What else is there to do?

So, I immediately wrote an ebook for baking with kids and included so many recipes that are kid friendly that are ordered from beginner level to advance level and I started selling that. My audience really, really responded to that well, and a portion of the proceeds helped me in donating money towards important causes right now. I gave money to Feeding America, and currently I'm also helping to send lunches out to essential workers at medical hospitals and just making sure that they feel appreciated during this time.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's fantastic.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Yes. I do one at least once a week.

Kerry Diamond: Talk about the ebook process for the folks out there who don't even know how you start to do that.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh, for sure. Because I've written a cookbook, I understand a little bit more about how you can order a book. But with an ebook, I think you have to think quickly, you have to think in terms of content that's already available and content that you can make available pretty quickly. Because you have the ability to jump on something that's hot, or jump on something that's important or needed right now. You don't have to wait for it to be published, you don't have to wait for it to be edited a million times. You can get it done, get your team to look at it or you look at it, and you can get it out to the masses pretty quickly.

Once we decided that we were going to get this ebook together, it was more or less just a process of either adapting content that was already pretty kid friendly or doing some additional recipe testing, getting images. Getting all of that together, and I think we probably got everything completed for the ebook in about two weeks. It's an ebook with 25 recipes, plus two additional recipes.

Kerry Diamond: That's a lot.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: In addition to that, I have T-shirts on my website. Those have been on my website for a while, but there's been an uptick in sales of those. I just think being able to spread yourself in as many directions as possible and just making sure that you are continuing to think outside the box. I really think that these sorts of times when you're a business owner, when you're an entrepreneur, it really cultivates creativity. You have to think outside the box to continue to thrive and to continue to be successful during a time like this.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. How about your different brand partnerships?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I had a couple where it was either paused or you know, postponed until possibly the fall. But the contracts were already done, the work was already done so those were finalized. I've noticed that in terms of for instance, food bloggers probably aren't being necessarily hit as hard as other bloggers right now. My heart seriously goes out to people in travel or fashion, lifestyle, entertainment. Those areas, you're definitely... I've heard that you're seeing a huge decrease in traffic because they just don't apply to people's everyday lives right now. And so then, of course on the opposite side since so many people are home, so many people are cooking and so traffic has gone up a ton, which has helped to balance out lower RPMs, which is the money that a lot of bloggers make in advertising,

Kerry Diamond: Tell everybody what RPM stands for.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: You have a specific dollar amount that you will get. That's per sessions on your website, and that's also per page views on your website. That number continues to fluctuate, especially now because marketing dollars are down or brands are a little apprehensive about spending lots of money in marketing because they may need that money for other areas of their business. So, that number has gone down steadily for the last month. But like I said, the plus to that is that traffic has gone up, and so it's really balanced each other out.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I'm so happy to ... I've just watched for years and so happy at all your success, and I hope it continues even in these very challenging times. Any last words just of inspiration? I mean, you've always been a very inspiring person just in person and your writing. That's clearly part of why people love you so much, but just any last words for folks who are just having some trouble navigating what's going on right now?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh my gosh, absolutely. Every morning the thing that I do, and this is my personal ritual is, I listened to gratitude affirmations, and I also write in my journal gratitudes. It has truly helped me to center and to realize even in this crazy time that we are in right now, where we don't have certainty about anything and life has totally changed as we know it, there are some things that we can truly be grateful for. Whether it's just the fact that we do have food in the refrigerator right now, the fact that we can get in the kitchen with a family member or a child and cook or bake and create a moment and an experience, and a memory that you can take with you for a lifetime. These are things that we may not have been able to do if we were busy going to work or busy doing everything that our calendars have dictated.

I realized for myself during this time that I was insanely busy and almost insanely burnt out in a lot of ways. Being at home now and physically having to focus on what is here right now and being in the present has totally changed so much of my perspective in how I order my day and just what I prioritize in general. And so, just taking that time to figure out ways in which you can improve yourself, whether it's reading a book you always want it to read or writing the book you always wanted to write, or whatever that dream was. If you can even take five to 10 minutes of your day and work towards that, you can use this time to totally change your life and to come out of this better than you were before.

Kerry Diamond: That's great advice, that even if it's just five or 10 minutes of the day put toward that. I've actually started journaling, which I haven't done since I was a teenager. It's so interesting because it really forces you... There's something about putting something on paper that forces you to confront something in a way that just thinking about it and tucking it in the back of your mind doesn't

Jocelyn Delk Adams: 100%.

Kerry Diamond: And when I say journaling, it's nothing major. It's this little notebook I got at some conference and I just before I go to bed, just scribble like two or three pages. I think the first day it was just half a page, and the same themes come up over and over again. It's very helpful in pointing you in a direction that you need to go if things are little cloudy right now.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: Oh my gosh, absolutely. I do that too, I have a journal. I'll sit outside on the porch and just even write for like five minutes. Even just hearing just the birds or just seeing the trees sway, it's very centering and it... I mean, it just puts you in a present moment for a second. It really just... All the things that we have on our list, the to-dos and the obligations, it just puts that in a backseat or even a moment.

Kerry Diamond: It really does, it really does. I've been writing at night and when I wake up in the morning, and it's been very, very helpful. Jocelyn, I cannot let you go without asking what you're going to be cooking this weekend.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: A pineapple cake.

Kerry Diamond: Ooh.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: People are like, "You're probably going to eat that for dinner." Sure, why not? It's fine. And I'm probably going to roast a chicken. It's probably going to be super simple. But today, we are actually supporting a local restaurant and ordering one of the family kits, so we're having enchiladas for dinner.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, yum. That's nice. How's Harmony's palette? Is she a good eater?

Jocelyn Delk Adams: She's pretty good. She is going through a chicken nugget phase right now, I cannot lie. I was like, "Girl, if you ask for another chicken nugget." But in general, she is very open to trying a lot of stuff. She'll try it once and then if she's done with it, she's done. But if you can just even get it in her mouth one good time, then she's like, "Okay, more." But one good thing about her, she loves vegetables, loves, loves vegetables.

Kerry Diamond: The chicken nugget phase is a real thing. It's like the Disney princess phase.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: That too. We watch Frozen like twice a day. Between that and chicken nuggets, please send help y’all.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I'm not too worried about your Jocelyn. She's lucky to have you as a mom and she's such a gorgeous little kid.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I adore her. I adore her so much. Oh my gosh, it's a fun time right now.

Kerry Diamond: Well, we adore you. Thank you for taking the time and I hope one of these days I get to see you in person again.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: I know, same here, same here. Thank you so much for having me. I'm just thinking about everyone and sending out all good vibes to everyone right now.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. Well Jocelyn, you're the Bombe.

Jocelyn Delk Adams: You are too, boo.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you to Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes. Head to her website, for her recipes, e-cookbooks and more. Thank you to the Wines of Rioja and Breyers for supporting this show. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You are the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Alexis Siemons: Hi, my name is Alexis Siemons and I'm a brand strategist specializing in tea, food and beverage from Haddonfield, New Jersey. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Chloé Grigri, co-owner of the Good King Tavern and Le Caveau Wine Bar in Philadelphia because she expertly educates our community about natural wines with passion and grace.