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What’s Her Secret: Joy the Baker

Joy Wilson, known as Joy the Baker, is an Insta-famous self-taught professional baker, cookbook author, and food blogger based in New Orleans. A few years ago, she moved there after being inspired by the people, culture, and the beignets, and now she teaches others to have fun baking at her studio space, The Bakehouse. She has released several bestselling recipe books, continues to write on her beloved food blog, and is the founder of @DrakeOnCake, known for its viral cake posts featuring Drake lyrics.

We caught up with Joy while she was visiting Toronto to share wisdom on how to turn every day into a celebration with her new Grey Goose cocktail and cake recipe pairing. Read on as we chat about food, baking essentials, and Drake.

Do you have a favourite recipe from childhood?
My favourite recipe from my childhood is definitely my dad’s sweet potato pie. My dad perfected the recipe for years, and finally got it to a great place, when I was around 10 years old. We had this sweet potato pie at almost every gathering ever since. He adds a lot of coriander to it, transforming the whole pie. The flavour is distinct and fragrant – it is my dad’s signature.

For readers new to your recipes, which of your three cookbooks should they start with?
I think my second cookbook Homemade Decadence is a great place to start. It’s loaded with really creative recipes for home bakers and techniques for beginners!

What are your top three kitchen essentials?
I can’t live without a wooden rolling pin, a bench scraper, and lots of good quality vanilla extract.

Do you have any advice for newbie bakers? What would you say to someone who is intimidated by the whole thing?
Baking can feel intimidating – I totally get it! Baking is literally transformative. You have to know your ingredients and follow the rules before you can break the rules.

For me, baking starts before I even bust out the mixer or turn on the oven.

Take time to read the recipe through before getting started. Gather your ingredients – that way you’ll know if you’re missing something from the recipe before you’re smack dab in the middle of it.

Refresh baking soda and baking powder every few months. We want all the leavening action we can get from these little powerhouses.

Place an oven thermometer in your oven to keep an eye on the actual temperature.  Every oven is slightly off or has hot spots and that’s fine – you just want to know what you’re working with.

Most importantly, give yourself the space to have fun!

What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love that food is the center of my job. It’s my absolute favourite.

So, what brings you to Toronto?
I was in Toronto with Grey Goose to share with Canadians how they can live like every day is their birthday and celebrate moments big and small – with cake and cocktails!

When it comes to making cake and cocktails, it is all about quality ingredients and having fun. Shaken, stirred or however you like it, how you make it is up to you.

I was excited to visit Toronto to also celebrate Drake of course!

Do you have any favourite spots in the city, or anywhere on your list of places to stop at while you’re here? 
I definitely need to come back and spend more time here because there’sso much to explore but I love Convenience and Shook!

What inspired you to launch your @DrakeOnCake account? Where did this idea come from?
Drake on Cake is a passion project of mine. I created Drake on Cake a few years ago when I realized that Drake rhymes with cake. Also – he’s a poet. He speaks to so many of our feelings as humans in the world that his lyrics make really cheeky cake toppers.

What is it that you love about Drake and his lyrics?
His lyrics are very poetic and pointed, concise, and relevant. I think he has some elegant and iconic things to say through his music.

So, why do you think we should live every day like it’s our birthday?
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that so much is worth celebrating. You should treat yourself like you’re the special occasion, worthy of only the very best. It’s not just about celebrating special moments like your birthday, but about celebrating everymoment – big and small.

I celebrate dinner every night by making myself a Grey Goose cocktail and lighting a candle. Think about how long you’ve been at your job, how long you’ve been in a relationship – there are so many milestones around us that we gloss over every day.

What tips do you have for turning any occasion into a celebration?
I turn the little things in life into a celebration by offering a cheers and toast for no/every reason.  I keep a little bowl of confetti on my living room table to scatter about any time the mood calls for it (and that’s more often than you might think).

I keep a chilled bottle of Grey Goose ready for the bar, because you never know when a friend is going to stop by.

Make do with what you have in the pantry. Pop some popcorn, throw a few candies in a bowl, hustle some cheese out of the fridge and a few crackers if you have them on hand. There’s always a way to make something big from very little.

Do you have a favourite holiday or special occasion? How do you like to celebrate it?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I celebrate it with a table full of friends in New Orleans.

Do you have a go-to cake and cocktail pairing for special occasions? 
One of the greatest parts of being an adult is having cake and a cocktail whenever you want! An instant, very special indulgence.

I recently developed a new cake recipe with Grey Goose, which pairs with the Afternoon Social cocktail. The cake is a Vanilla Bean and Lemon Curd Celebration Cake infused with Grey Goose Le Citron vodka frosting – the same base as the cocktail.

Afternoon Social

  • 1oz Grey Goose Le Citron vodka
  • 3oz Earl Grey Tea
  • 2oz Lemonade
  • Garnish: Blueberries and Mint
  • Glass: Collins Glass

Vanilla Bean and Lemon Curd Celebration Cake

For the cake:

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil)
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

For the curd:

  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Le Citron Grey Goose Vodka, optional
  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

What advice do you have for aspiring professional bakers and food bloggers?
Follow your curiosity and seek to learn from people who inspire you. That’s what I try to do in my work every day. Curiosity is endless.

What are you working on these days? What’s next for you?
I teach baking workshops at my home studio in New Orleans called The Bakehouse.  This summer I’m taking those workshops on the road and teaching classes all over the States. Details can be found at thebakehousenola.com.

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