Pride & Joy

Joy the Baker

My Rouses Everyday, May & June 2018

Joy Wilson — better known to her legions of loyal blog readers as Joy the Baker — is nothing short of an icon for at-home cooks.

And with a stack of bestselling books under her belt and hundreds of thousands of fans on social media, Joy’s now tackling a new project at her home in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood: The Bakehouse.

“The Bakehouse is my home studio that I open up to people for workshops every weekend,” Joy explains. “I host all different kinds of classes, typically with eight to 12 people in the kitchen for up to five hours, and we learn a new skill. It can be making a pie or beignets — anything, really.”

Recent classes have ranged from Louisiana strawberry pie making to pretzel baking to a create-and-eat brunch. The option that sells out the most, though, is the “Drake on Cake” class, a riff on Joy’s über-popular Instagram account of the same name where she decorates cakes with lyrics from the rapper Drake’s various songs. (The account currently has over 200,000 followers.)

“In the Drake on Cake classes, everyone learns how to frost a cake, along with different piping and decorating techniques. Each person is paired up with a Drake quote, and then they learn how to style in the flat lay style.”

In the coming months, Joy plans to sell bagels out of her backyard on the weekends, so New Orleanians who want to gather at The Bakehouse — but not necessarily cook anything of their own — will have a way to be engaged.

But for those with pastry chef dreams (or at least visions of one day properly frosting a cake), Joy suggests embracing the beauty of simplicity — at least at the beginning.

“For new bakers, it’s a great idea to master one recipe, whether it’s learning how to make your perfect chocolate chip cookie or your perfect layer cake. It can take a while, but if you master one recipe, it also means you’ve mastered one particular baking technique.”

Since moving to New Orleans in 2014, Joy has readily embraced the diverse culinary landscape of the city, from enjoying a glass of wine at a new neighborhood café to whipping up recipes that date back centuries.

The under-the-radar New Orleans snack that’s quickly become a favorite for Joy to both prepare and eat are calas. A rice-based doughnut with African origins, calas were sold as a street food in the late 1800s by predominantly female vendors, who would call out, “Belle Calas!” as they peddled the treats around the French Quarter. After the turn of the 20th century, the dish’s prevalence tapered off, leaving this sweet as a rarely discussed relic. Joy thinks there’s hope yet that this sugary morning treat — a kissing cousin of the beignet — will once again find its place among the New Orleans classics.

“I really like making calas,” Joy explains. “They’re made from rice and are these fried, sweet balls. It’s a surprise to people when I serve them at The Bakehouse because they’re still so obscure. But compared to beignets, they’re equally fried and equally covered in powdered sugar!”

By sharing recipes — both novel and historic — with a new generation of cooks, eaters and readers, Joy is quickly helping to write the next chapter in the baking history of New Orleans.

“New Orleans has inspired me to learn more about the story behind each recipe that I approach in the kitchen, because each one has so much history,” Joy laughs. “I can’t say yet that I can cook them all well or like a native New Orleanian, but I’m learning.”


Red Beans and Rice Nachos