In retrospect, I realize my personal, hands-on history with cake making is limited and somewhat problematic. All of my memories entail crowded kitchens and being aware of my lack of skills. Every Christmas in Trinidad, we would gather in the kitchen to make the traditional Trinidadian black cake. The cake is rich and dark with rum or brandy-soaked fruit like prunes, raisins, currents and those red and green cherries that come in the jar. Mom used to soak her fruits in rum for almost a year beforehand. My role in the process? Was to take the cake pans and carefully use them to draw out a perfect circle of wax paper, which I would then cut out and place at the bottom of the cake pan. That was all. My other role was taste tester, and to this day I have a total weakness for cake batter.
In all honesty I can only truly remember my mom making that one cake, once a year, and I remember it being a process and a production.
My Aunty Opal is more likely to switch it up and make different kinds of cake. Her sponge cake is to die for. My Aunty Janet is a master cake maker who makes beautifully decorated cakes for everyone’s birthdays. My sister-in-law Lisa runs a catering business on the side and makes the most decadent and beautiful cakes for sale – her amaretto cake will haunt your dreams! But me myself personally…never made a cake from scratch. I felt capable enough to make a cake from a box, but from scratch? No. It always seemed too intimidating. Like a science project that had to be followed with precise detail. I love cooking where you can add a dash and a splash and make the recipe your own. But baking seemed like a lot of process, requiring exact timing. I set about a life of buying delicious cakes when I wanted a taste, but never trying to make my own.
And then I met Jocelyn, AKA Grandbaby Cakes. I loved her blog and her photos always made me so hungry! And then we finally met in person and she is such a sweetheart. Here we are, meeting Chef Carla Hall. Who is WONDERFUL, BTW!
Jocelyn has been on her grind and the quality of her work has catapulted her to celebrity food blogger status. It has been so beautiful, watching her star rise. Now she’s written an absolutely wonderful cookbook that inspired me to try baking. Bellas, you gotta check out the Grandbaby Cakes cookbook — Jocelyn has gotten rave reviews for a reason! Her book launch event that I attended in Chicago was SO much fun. There was such a wonderful turnout and the room was filled with love, admiration and delicious cakes. What more could you ask for?
Photo by Chuck Olu-Alabi, he also did the family photos in the book!
It took me a while to get down to it, but reading through Jocelyn’s book made me feel ready to give cake baking a try. I went to World Market and bought myself a bundt pan, assembled all of my ingredients and swallowed my doubts.
And then I baked a cake!
The cinnamon roll pound cake basically requires three processes. The cake batter, the cinnamon swirl, and then the icing. Initially looking at the display of ingredients started to make me feel overwhelmed. But the instructions are super easy, and once I broke it all down process by process, the cake came together beautifully.
Making the cinnamon swirl.
Added the cinnamon swirl.
Fresh out of the oven!
The first slice was SO good. It turned out so moist and so perfect. Knowing I DID THAT made it even more delicious!
And THEN I made a slide show about it. I told you I was excited!
I really loved the way my first ever solo cake turned out and I have the Grandbaby Cakes recipe book to thank. The book begins with a foreword by Carla Hall and an introduction rich with family history by Jocelyn. Her Big Mama created the family tradition of cake baking and this whole book is a beautiful celebration of her legacy. Jocelyn breaks down her baking tools and rules so novice and advanced bakers can feel prepared to try out the recipes. Her final word of baking advice is, “don’t focus on being perfect; focus on being relaxed and free.” LOVE that. True for so many arenas of life.
There are so many delicious-sounding recipes in the Grandbaby Cakes cookbook. Andre’s Buttered Rum and Candied Sweet Potato Crumb Cake sounds ridiculous. Cornmeal Pound Cake with Honey-Butter Glaze would be incredible. And having tried Jocelyn’s Roasted Raspberry Cupcakes, I’ll definitely be trying to make them myself.
So why do You Deserve the Grandbaby Cakes cookbook? Because it’s more than just a collection of recipes. It’s a testimony to family tradition and African American legacy. It’s a beautiful keepsake, one you’ll be proud to display and if you like cake, one you’ll use often. It’s all about love, family and cake. Surely you know someone who’s a fan of all of those things! Click here to buy yourself a copy of the Grandbaby Cakes book, it would make for such an amazing Christmas present!