Award-Winning Cookbook Author Jocelyn Delk Adams Shares Her Sweetest, Most Instagram-Worthy Holiday Recipes

The baker, founder of Grandbaby Cakes, and maker of Insta-famous buttery pound cakes helps us ring in the holiday spirit with her favorite festive recipes.

jocelyn delk adams grandbabycakes kitchen
Photo: Buff Strickland

To say that Jocelyn Delk Adams is a big fan of the holidays would be an understatement. The self-described "Christmas fanatic" gets the party started early, cranking festive music as soon as fall hits and, of course, baking her way through the season, often alongside her mother, Joyce Small Delk, and her 3-year-old daughter, Harmony.

jocelyn delk adams daughter baking kitchen
Delk Adams and her daughter, Harmony, age 3, get a lot of quality time over the mixing bowl. Buff Strickland

The Texas-based founder of Grandbaby Cakes draws much of her inspiration from the heritage recipes of her grandmother Maggie Small. "She was known for her desserts—like peach cobbler and coconut cake—and neighbors would pick them up from her Winona, Mississippi, kitchen around the holidays. Her home was like a bakery."

jocelyn delk adams daughter mother kitchen
Delk Adams (right) cozying up with Harmony and her mom, Joyce Small Delk (left). Buff Strickland

Delk Adams inherited the baking gene, as well as her grandmother's passion for mixing things up. "What I really loved about baking with my grandmother is that she experimented. She would say, 'Hmm, let's throw this in,' and you know, it would work. I think I get a lot of my creativity in the kitchen from her."

"There's no shame in using a store-bought cookie dough or cake mix," Delk Adams says. "Just zhuzh it up and make it your own with colorful sprinkles and frosting. Buy a premade piecrust and make the filling yourself, and you'll still feel accomplished. The point is being together and enjoying your family."

For traditions to live on, they need to be passed along, of course. Delk Adams's mother was also an avid baker, and that legacy continued with her daughter and now granddaughter. Harmony is a tiny baker-in-training who has a fondness for chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. No longer just a happy eater, she's at the age where she can be engaged and join the action. "She can whisk, stir, and fold," Delk Adams says. "She really helps out."

Baking together, Delk Adams adds, has made kitchen routines exciting again. "She is experiencing everything for the first time, so now I'm seeing the entire process through her eyes, and it has renewed my enthusiasm!"

jocelyn delk adams daughter decorating cookies
Buff Strickland

Other aspects of baking that Delk Adams values: sharing food and building community, just as her grandmother did. "As soon as one of my desserts leaves my kitchen, even if it's just a recipe, I'm sharing with others and becoming like part of a quilt in someone's family," she says. "Some people share photos of themselves smiling, making my desserts, or of their children baking my recipes. I realize that this really is a legacy; it's bigger than me."

Mint-Chocolate Cake

Mint-Chocolate Cake
Jennifer Causey

The color of this dessert is inspired by the Grinch. "My 3-year-old took one look and said, 'Green cake!' It feels fun and whimsical," Delk Adams says. "Mint is a great flavor pop for the holidays, and it's perfect with chocolate."

Eggnog Pie Pops

Eggnog Pie Pops
Jennifer Causey

This custardy dessert is an interpretation of the classic Christmas drink (alcohol-free for the kids, of course). "I use store-bought crusts, but I elevate it so that in each bite, you get this incredibly creamy, indulgent filling," Delk Adams says. "Plus, these treats are so easy to pass around. No plates necessary."

Christmas Tree Cakes

Christmas Tree Cakes
Jennifer Causey

"The Swiss meringue buttercream is a bit more difficult to master than American buttercream," Delk Adams says. "But since you're using an easy cake mix, you can spend more time decorating with the family."

Hot-Chocolate Cookies

Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Jennifer Causey

It's not the holidays without cookies. "I love how these are reminiscent of a nice cup of cocoa," Delk Adams says. "They also make great gifts—just package them up for friends and neighbors."

Jocelyn's Holiday Traditions

Movies…and cookies

"We have a list of movies that we watch every year, like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and It's a Wonderful Life. I'm sure that my family is tired of me at this point, but it's a big to-do. We'll watch movies and I'll bake."

Kwanzaa customs

"In addition to Christmas, our family celebrates Kwanzaa. We make a special meal and introduce Harmony to the seven principles of the holiday. The first one, Umoja, means 'unity.' "

Music nonstop

"I will start playing the instrumental jazz soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas in September. By November, if I can wait that long, I put on my entire playlist, including the Jackson 5 Christmas Album, 'This Christmas,' by Donny Hathaway, and The Temptations' version of 'Silent Night,' my mom's favorite song."

Sleep cute

"We are that 'matching holiday pajamas' kind of family. Last year's version had a Christmas lights design. We voted on that theme, and we'll probably vote on the pattern again this year."

For more baking inspo, follow @grandbabycakes on Instagram.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's December 2021 issue as "Sweet Traditions." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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