It has been an exciting season of The Big Bake: Holiday so far. With big bakes honouring everything seasonal from elves in the workshop, to floats in the Santa Claus Parade. The Big Bake teams are bringing everything they’ve got and more to the kitchen.
The Big Bake judges have been eating tasty treats and creative concoctions all season. That includes, as host Brad Smith calls her, “the queen of flavour” – judge Danni Rose. Danni is a chef, entrepreneur and internet sensation who joined the judging panel of The Big Bake earlier this year.
We sat down with Danni to chat about The Big Bake: Holiday, hear about her new shapewear line and food line, and learn about where her love and passion for cooking comes from. She even tells us exactly what she is looking for in a Big Bake cake!
I know that you’re a self-taught chef and you’ve taught yourself a lot of the cooking skills that you have. Can you tell me a little bit more about what inspired you to start cooking in the first place?
I grew up in a family that loves, loves food. My father, the grocery store, was his safe space. He loved the grocery store. He would always take me, and he would take this stuff back home, and he would just make delicious food. Sometimes my mom would cook, and sometimes he would cook. [My father] introduced me to the stove years ago. I was maybe five or six. Honey they say in the south.. at five or six years old, you’re gonna learn how to do something. You’re gonna wash some clothes… You’re gonna cook… You’re gonna be able to do something by that age! So when I was a little little girl… that’s why I got in the kitchen with my father.
He also owned what we call a Juke joint, which is like a small house that is like a nightclub. He and my mom would cook [at] the Juke joint, and they would have me in the kitchen with them. I know I was supposed to be in bed at seven years old. I shouldn’t have been up at 2AM frying chicken, but I was up in there with them at night and the wee hours in the morning.
That made me fall in love with food. So my love for food made me fall in love with cooking.
Do you feel like growing up in Alabama influences your style of cooking and the flavors that you use in your cooking and your baking?
Yes, because we season down there.
A little more than up here in Canada?
You know what, though? I am enjoying myself in Toronto eating this delicious food. Y’all can season here! I am enjoying eating so much I’m gonna double up on my Spanx! I have been eating myself happy here, which doesn’t happen a lot when you’re traveling to other countries!
But yeah, I think seasoning [is] number one. In the south, our food is very simple. We just love to have fresh vegetables, great meat, full of seasoning on there, sauteed, fried, deep fried… You know we’re going to deep fry everything. There’s a slogan. If you fry, I’ll try!
We love those simple flavors. So that’s what inspired me to do what I do now on the internet! It’s keeping food simple. Make sure you’re flavoring it right and just bring it to the table!
Speaking of the Internet, I know that your mac and cheese recipe has almost 8,000,000 views on YouTube and you have almost 500 million views on your YouTube channel all together. Do you have a secret to making a recipe go viral?
You know, I wish I could say yes, but I would be doing you a whole disservice and lying. Before I even went viral for the first time, I was putting out recipes on the internet every single day for months just with my camera phone. A couple of them have done very, very well but there’s no secret to it. The ones you think are gonna do amazing… nobody cares. The ones that are – let’s just dump everything in there, mix it up and go – those are the ones that kind of take off. That brings you back to my point that people just want simple food. So I tell people all the time. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink it and it will catch your dedicated audience.
I also throw a couple tricks in there to kind of keep it real flavorful and what I like to call “sopped up.” So it is a little different, my mac and cheese. You’re adding some sour cream, boiling the pasta in chicken stock instead of water. It just intensifies everything. My mom also just used one type of cheese growing up. That’s all she used in mac and cheese and it was always the best mac and cheese. I kind of add a little bit of extra cheese, but if you just wanna use one type of cheese, you totally can. Keep it simple.
You have three e-cookbooks out currently and you have a new cookbook coming out in 2023, which is very exciting. What can we expect in this new cookbook?
Oh I will tell you! I can’t tell you a lot because you’re gonna get me in trouble. But there’s gonna be a playlist for every recipe. I can tell you that! I can tell you that the recipes are gonna be.. Incredible. [laughs]. They’re gonna be simple. There’s gonna be lots of stories in there. You’re gonna laugh till your stomach hurts. I wonder why?
It’s gonna be so fun and playful, and I hope a lot of people learn about my take on the south [and] a lot of the other places that I visited and experienced throughout my years. I have [stories] in there talking about my time in college and how that time inspired these particular recipes
You’re gonna dance, you’re gonna laugh and you’re gonna eat some really good food. And if you go to that cocktails section… You may not be able to make [any] food.
Aside from baking and cooking, I know you’re also really into fashion and you’ve had some great looks on The Big Bake. How does your passion for fashion tie into your passion for cooking and baking?
You know, I have to go back to my parents again. My father was an amazing dresser. He loved to look very stylish. He loved to, what we call “put it on.” I’m talking about furs, rings, watches, wing tips, shoes, hats, suits… He was a stylish man. My mom [is stylish] too. I used to always see them getting dressed up when I was a little girl and going out to parties, clubs and things like that.
So I was in high heels and wearing makeup before my time. I actually used to get in trouble for trying to sneak makeup on! I was seven or eight years old and my mom would be like you are not old enough for that! I just grew up around it. Everybody in my household really liked to dress well and look nice. My mom to this day, if I don’t have a pair of earrings on when I walk out the door, she’s like “Oh it’s a catastrophe! What’s happening?” I’ve always wanted to look good and smell good, and it made me feel good.
You also have an upcoming line of shapewear products coming out. Could you tell us a little bit about that as well?
Oh yes honey. I have undergarments. I have bras. Size inclusivity. Shapewear that does not roll down. Shapewear that does not make the booty look like it ain’t bootying! We’re working on redefining the strapless bra. It is a time and a half to wear a strapless sometimes. So I am taking all things into consideration as we are developing this line.
Love it! What inspired you to go down this path and create this line?
Well honey… I like to eat. I don’t want to not be able to wear certain things and look a certain way because I love food! I just really thought that there was a lack of inclusiveness when it comes down to shapewear. No shade no tea… certain types of garment [designers], design [shapewear] to only fit them and they don’t consider everyone else. They don’t consider a woman’s body [after] having a baby, losing weight, gaining weight, maintaining weight… I’ve also lost 100 pounds and I actually gained 20 during COVID and I lost it again! So I want garments that will always be considerate of [a] woman’s body… or anybody’s body!
You also have a line of food products coming out. Can you tell us about that as well?
We have about 52 products in the pipeline. The first rollout will be a line of spices. Then we’ll have a line of what I call “pot licker”, which in the south is the juice at the bottom with the collard greens. Like a stock! We have chicken fries, fish fries, pound cakes, brownie mixes, cookie mixes… We have another line of special products that I can’t tell you about because I don’t know who is listening to us and they’re gonna steal it! I will say… it’s going to simplify a pie recipe that is really complicated.
The big question for your Canadian fans is… will the shapewear and food line products be available in Canada?
Yes, they will be international! That’s what you can do when you own your own brand! You put it anywhere.
You’ve spent some time in Toronto while filming The Big Bake. Have you discovered any new restaurants or bakeries while you were here?
I am so glad you asked me this! Yes, I did. I have been eating my weight in Toronto! I have always heard that you have a great food scene. I’m really digging it!
I keep going to this one particular place. There’s a place called Miss Likklemore’s and it is just off of King Street. When I tell you this has been an incredible experience over and over again… You know how I know? Because I keep going back! When I go there, they say “the Americans are back!”
Miss Likklemore’s is an upscale Caribbean restaurant and they have just done right by us! Everything has just been consistent, the drinks, the cocktails, the vibe!
The music is always great. They have just outdone themselves! The food is very consistent. The oxtail, the fish, the rice and beans, the rum, the Likklemore’s Punch! They make this incredible macaroni pie that almost tastes like mine! My palate has just been satisfied over and over and over again! It’s been magnificent. I suggest everyone goes there.
Let’s talk about The Big Bake. How does The Big Bake: Holiday compare to The Big Bake: Halloween?
The teams [on The Big Bake: Holiday] were just really happy about the holidays! You can tell they were excited about making Santa’s and elves! [There is] one team, I’m gonna be limboing with! They were from the Caribbean!
I just had a great time during the holiday season. Everybody was in the holiday spirit! They were cheerful, they were chipper, they wanted to be in The Big Bake kitchen and you’ll be able to tell that when you watch it!
As a judge, what do you look for in a Big Bake cake?
I want it to taste good! Everybody always makes these beautiful cakes and then you taste them… and you’re like that ain’t it girl! For me, number one is flavor. I love that. But I also look at the design and how clever these contestants are. I like to see how far they allow their imagination to take them. You’re only as good as your imagination, and that’s outside of baking cakes [as well].
What’s your favorite cake flavor?
Red velvet. We don’t see that a lot in The Big Bake kitchen! It’s always a lot of pumpkin, gingerbread… gingerbread…gingerbread…gingerbread… [laughs]
I get it! But every now and then, someone will make a red velvet cake. To me, I think that it is the perfect flavor. You have the cream cheese that is tangy and buttery, and then you also have that amazing sponge with the hint of cocoa and buttermilk. If it’s moist and made right, it just melts in your mouth. A red velvet is not a red velvet without those pecans! Chopped pecans on there just brings it all together and it’s a home run. It’s one of my favorite cakes to make and eat… which is why I don’t make it a lot because I will eat it all.
So note to anyone who applies for The Big Bake… make more red velvet and you’ll have Danni’s vote!
And enough of the gingerbread!
What can we look forward to in this season of The Big Bake: Holiday?
You can look forward to a lot of fun, dancing, unexpected flavors and unexpected creations. These people really got clever this season. As we talked about before, being in the holiday spirit, when you feel good, you can create amazing things. You can tell these people really felt good inside. Their spirit was great and it translated well onto camera and also when it came down to the making and sculpting of these cakes. The sugar work was just incredible this season!
Do you have a favorite moment from this season?
We had a group of ladies that was just so fun! They had me dropping it like it was hot honey! They had me limboing and they had me dancing and I was in a suit! But they would not take no for an answer. [This] group of ladies were just so memorable.
My fellow judges were also hilarious as well. So you’re gonna see us doing a lot of good laughing. I will say that as well!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Watch Danni on the The Big Bake: Holiday, Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada. Also Available on the Global TV App and STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, fuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV and Ignite SmartStream.