Joy Wilson suffers from what she calls "food brain:" When she's not developing decadent creations like Peanut Butter Banana Bonbons for her popular blog, the 33-year-old is scouring New Orleans, where she lives, for inventive ways to satisfy her cravings. "If it has caramel, fantastic," Wilson says. "I can make it into a Rice Krispies Treat? Yes, please." She's been experimenting in the kitchen since she was 8, helping her dad with his sweet potato pies. With no formal training, she later got bakery gigs by bringing proof of her skills—by which we mean chocolate chip cookies—to job interviews. Now Wilson shares her indulgent recipes in her latest cookbook, Homemade Decadence. In the kitchen, she turns to these essentials.

Cookie Cutters

"Old-fashioned cutters—which are all hand-me-downs from family and friends—help me turn cookies into fun gifts for holidays. Think gingerbread men, angels, and Valentine's Day hearts, of course."

Rolling Pin

"A good friend of mine got this [pictured above] imprinted with Joy the Baker as a housewarming gift for me when I moved from Venice, California, to New Orleans. I use it only on special occasions—I'm not a jerk!"

Aunt Dede's Recipe

"My aunt DeDe lost most of her eyesight in her 30s, but she was still the queen of making family birthday cakes. When she passed away, I got a bundle of her recipes, which she'd rewritten large enough to be able to read."

Vintage New Orleans Cookbooks

"A friend sent these to me as a gift. I love that they're full of recipes from restaurants that still exist, like Café du Monde. I'm currently using them to teach myself to cook more Cajun food."


"Sprinkles really don't add much taste to desserts—I use them more as a pick-me-up. The other morning, I put some on my toast because I needed to change my bad attitude."

Vanilla Beans

"These are my secret ingredient! I put the leftover pods from the beans into a pot of bourbon. The concoction turns into the most delicious vanilla extract, which ends up in everything from waffles to cake batter and even coffee."

Espresso Cups

"Collecting these was an accident—I don't even own an espresso machine. When I started photographing food, I realized smaller plates and cups work better as props because they don't dwarf the dish.


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