Sebastian Smith Dolly Parton
For the most part, Dolly Parton enjoys a quiet kitchen, where she can hum along to a soft rock playlist as she cooks her favorite dishes.
There is, however, one person who's (almost) always welcome — her husband Carl Dean!
"I like it when he comes. A lot of times he'll sit and watch me, or he'll talk," Parton, 76, tells PEOPLE. "He's a pretty good cook. Not a gourmet cook, but I tour so much he's always, through the years, had to fix things for himself. So he knows how to do that, but he loves my cooking."
After more than 55 years of marriage, the country superstar and Dean have established a partnership in the kitchen: She does the cooking, and he does the cleaning.
"I'm a messy cooker, and he's good about cleaning up for me and keeping the stuff cleaned up around me," she says. "But sometimes I don't want anybody around, so I'll just say, 'Why don't you go to the den, I'll clean this up later or you can help me later.'"
For Parton, being in the kitchen brings back memories of her childhood, and the special occasions in which her mother Avie would make cake. With that in mind, the singer recently teamed up with Duncan Hines for a line of southern-style cake mixes and frostings, with flavors like banana and coconut.
Duncan Hines Dolly Parton's Duncan Hines partnership
"Growing up poor, we didn't have a lot of sugar, so we didn't have cakes all the time," she says. "So when Mama made special cakes, we loved being in the kitchen."
The 10-time Grammy winner says that she's always considered the kitchen "the heart of the home," and a warm, safe space where she can show off her skills as a cook — especially when making her mom's signature chicken and dumplings.
"I make them like Mama did. I have five sisters, and they all cook, but I'm the only one that everybody says my dumplings taste just like Mama's," she says. "To me, that's the greatest compliment ever."
Parton says she also enjoys whipping up fried chicken and biscuits, which she considers anything but a guilty pleasure.
"I'm all for indulging as I please, [but] I have to watch it, because I've got a country girl's appetite," she says. "If I've been on a low-carb diet or something for a while, the first thing I want to do when I break it is to have some cake — or potatoes. That's my weakness. Usually that's why I fall off of any diet, is for the love of some sort of a potato."
Parton's new partnership with Duncan Hines will pay homage to her southern upbringing. It hits grocery stores in March. Fans can also pick up a limited-edition baking collection that includes a collectible tea towel and spatula, plus a letter from Parton.