My Secret Motivation: The Music of BwB!

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Hey Y’all! It’s been an incredible ride with all of you so far. Before I go into today’s fun topic, I just want to say “thank you” to all of you who’ve found your way here, whether you’re a loyal subscriber or a first-time visitor. It’s my hope that you find this site to be a useful aide in your baking journey, and that you’re getting information that’s helping you become a better baker, one step at a time.

I often get asked about what keeps me motivated to blog, bake, and sell baked goods at my newly reopened bakery ( for those of you in Maryland!).

The truth is, I honestly have no idea. Baking and blogging are just things that I love with my whole heart, so I just…do them.

There is one thing, however, that keeps me motivated above all else.

And that, Family, is my music. My earbuds are as much a part of my mise en place as my flour.

I am literally never without music when I’m baking or blogging. Or doing anything else for that matter. My creative life exists in the beautiful space between sound waves and cocoa powder.

In this Post:

My Music Taste

Friend, my music taste is all over the place. It’s so eclectic that my husband recently asked me if I was having an identity crisis.

He sure did. On a Saturday morning, while I was singing Marc Anthony’s “Valió la Pena” at the top of my lungs, he looked at me with great concern and asked me that very question.

I’ve known that song for YEARS.

I love 90s R&B and hip hop. Marc Anthony? He is maestro, and seeing him live in concert was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The Hamilton soundtrack? I know the whole thing. But I’m not someone who’s married to a particular genre or artist. My only requirement is that music make me feel something. And, Honey, “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross makes me feel something. That intro grabs me every time.

For baking and blogging, I put together a playlist of *some* of my favorites on Spotify. Feel free to click here and take a look and see if any of your favorites are on there!

Most of the time when I’m working, I just shuffle that playlist and let it run. In certain circumstances, though, I need to hear something specific.

Because of course I do. I’m a baker. We like rules.

Some of My Current Favorites (This List Literally Always Changes)

I usually run my BwB Official playlist on shuffle in the background while I work. Sometimes, though, I just. want. to. hear. something. specific when I’m doing a particular task.

You’re about to see a glimpse of my totally random mind. Enjoy!

Favorite Song for Whipping Egg Whites–“Natalie” by Bruno Mars

This song has nothing to do with eggs or baking in the literal sense. My rational mind knows that. The story is this: Bruno is mad about some woman named Natalie who ran away with all his money. He makes sure to point out that she did it for fun. This only infuriates him even more.

The point is, there is absolutely nothing about this song that should make it my go-to for whipping egg whites by hand.

However, in my mind, “Natalie” is the only song that I need to hear when I’m doing this:

The cadence of the whisk with this beat in my ear makes me feel happy and accomplished. I could whip egg whites all day when I’m listening to this song.

Well, at least until my shoulder gets tired.

Favorite Music for Early Morning Baking–Sam Cooke’s One Night Stand! Live at the Harlem Square Club

My day begins every day at 4:00 a.m. Which means that I’m usually in my kitchen somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m.

When you’re baking that early, you need great music.

The album that always puts a giant smile on my face is Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club. Cooke was a singular talent, and is sometimes credited for being the creator of soul music.

That’s a big deal.

While that assertion has been debated many times over, what is absolutely not ever debatable in my kitchen is Sam Cooke’s genius. What’s also not debatable is the fact that Sam Cooke can make me dance at 4:45 in the morning when I’m prepping lemon pound cake. There are no skips on this album. None.

As much as I love my BwB playlist, there aren’t many whole albums on that list can make me dance, laugh and sing from start to finish at 4:45 in the morning. From the between-song banter to his soulful, live vocals, this is my go-to when it’s still pitch-black outside and I need to be productive.

Favorite Music for Late-Night Baking: Jhené Aiko’s Souled Out

Friend, I prefer early morning productivity to late-night productivity. I prefer it by a mile.

If I’m baking late at night, it’s only because something has to be done. I may or may not be my cheerful best at these times (I’m not). But sometimes you just have to gut it out and do it.

That is when Jhené Aiko’s Souled Out album usually comes into play. When it’s Christmas Eve and the cinnamon rolls still aren’t done? When I’m running on fumes and still have a sink full of dishes and a cake in the oven at 11:00 p.m.? Jhené’s sometimes-subtly-angry vocals help me push through. She’s brilliant in her use of double meanings in her music, and her voice? HER VOICE?

My goodness. Her voice is direct and piercing and sensually soulful. And Souled Out takes you on a ride and a half. Again, there are no skips on this album for me.

Plus, there’s the added bonus that I can enjoy it at low volume and not wake up my whole family.

Because if I’m baking and making a mess at 11:00 p.m., I really, really need to be alone.


There are so many things I could add to this post, but it would end up being 19,000 words long. I just really, really enjoy music when I’m baking and wanted to share that love with some of my friends. I’m always looking for new music, so please feel free to email me some new suggestions!

Unlike so many of the baking rules that I follow in my kitchen, these rules are very flexible. There are times when all I want to hear is female hip hop and R&B artists from the 90s. Others when I will spend hours upon hours with Anthony Ramos and Ed Sheeran and not even realize how much time has passed.

For more chill moods? Leslie Odom, Jr. and Asa (pronounced Asha) are currently in heavy rotation. And, while I’m not a card-carrying member of the Beyhive, Beyonce is very well-represented in my earbuds.

And, my Friends, I cannot post this on October 15, 2021 without mentioning that 🚨ADELE released new music TODAY!🚨

There’s literally so much more music on my BwB Official playlist that didn’t even get mentioned here. The long and short of it is that it’s all amazing music that makes me feel something. Music is one thing that really keeps me going when I do this work. The baking. The writing. The planning. The troubleshooting. It inspires me to feel like I can accomplish anything, and that’s a pretty cool thing.

See you next time!

My son told me to tell you all to “have a good day and subscribe!” 😊 So here’s the subscription link in case you’d like to do just that!

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Hi, I’m Shani! Welcome to Begin with Butter!

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Hi! I’m Shani, and I’m the resident Butter Ambassador here at Begin with Butter. Welcome!

This site is a resource to help you to become a better baker, by helping you decode the techniques, equipment and ingredients that advanced home bakers and pros use! I love beginners here, because I remember my own beginnings.

Origins (aka “Kids Change Everything”).

My origin story is a little atypical for a baker. You see, I couldn’t bake AT ALL until I began, quite by accident, in 2013. In fact, my family openly discouraged me from using any baking ingredient or tool at a young age.

”I’m not a baker. I can’t do that. But I can cook though!” —Me, circa 197?-most of 2013.

This was not uncommon.

That all changed in 2013, when my daughter was a brown-skinned, chubby-cheeked preschooler. One crisp autumn afternoon, I arrived to pick her up and saw it: THE SIGN UP LIST. WITH ONE REMAINING SLOT.

For the uninitiated, the sign-up list outside of the classroom is a Lord of the Flies kind of situation. It’s low-tech crowdfunding for classroom events. Basically, a teacher posts a list of needed items and each family signs up up to bring an item or two.

My daughter’s teacher was a kindly, grandmotherly-type. The kind who moved languidly throughout her day with thirteen rambunctious, high-octane three year-olds, and whose deep smile lines betrayed the millions of toddler jokes she’d shared with her students since the beginning of her career.

She was also an absolute stealth ninja when it came to the timing of these sign-up lists. She often placed them right before the end of school with NO WARNING.

Needless to say, there were many times that I was caught T O T A L L Y off guard by the appearance of The List.

Those that arrived early signed up for napkins, cups, and plates. I never—NOT ONCE—arrived early on List Day. To this day, I am always LAST.

Saying “no” was clearly never an option.

That crisp autumn day, when leaves were just beginning to fall, there remained one item: sugar cookies and frosting. SUGAR COOKIES AND FROSTING. The kindly smile that the teacher gave as I approached the classroom let me know that I would not be able to escape the ask. She gently guided my beautiful, red-faced, rumpled child to the door and asked, with her cottony-soft voice:

“Can you sign up for our alphabet activity?”

And that is how my baking career began.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Or should I walk by twice?

That perfectly sums up how I felt about baking at first. After a delirious, sleepless night of measuring, mixing, chilling, rolling, chilling, cutting, chilling, rolling, baking, burning, chilling, cutting and baking some more, somehow I made 52 passable sugar cookies.

Since 2013, I’ve been practicing and perfecting my own techniques, using a blend of formal techniques (because croissants and French bread demand them) and old-school family techniques to create my own special brand of baking. After all of this practice and study, I’ve ended up in a sweet place, where I pay homage to the generations of ancestors before me, and add small tweaks to techniques that will hopefully pave a way for those after me.

Where I Am Now and How I Can Help.

Even though I’m not classically-trained, you can rest assured that all of the techniques that you see on this site are tried and true from my years of study and practice. I hope you find them as useful as I have; it’s honestly made me feel very connected to all of the women in my family to be able to share this gift with them now.

Begin with Butter is the place where you’ll find the tips and techniques that I’ve learned through the years. It’s where I’m sharing all that I’ve gathered, after years of study and delicious (and sometimes not-so-delicious) practice and compiling it into one resource for you. I’m honored that you chose Begin with Butter as part of your own research, and look forward to seeing the beautiful confections that you create!

(that last part was a shameless plug to follow Begin with Butter on social media and subscribe here to get updates!)

The Content.

On this site, I talk a lot about baking science. Learning the science demystified baking for me, and that’s what I hope to do for you! So, there are both “lessons” on baking science (like this one about the Basics of Butter), and also fun posts where I put that knowledge into practice (like here and here!). I hope you’ll stay for a while and check it all out. Don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s something else you want to learn!

For more about Begin with Butter, take a look here!

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