For Vallery Lomas, baking is about more than just producing a tasty treat. “Often we associate memories with other senses,” says Lomas. That’s why her new cookbook, Life Is What You Bake It, combines her favorite recipes with some of her most coveted stories and lessons.
“You’re not just making a cake or making donuts, you’re understanding the context in which the recipe was developed and hopefully creating your own memories around it,” shares Lomas of her new cookbook.
When reflecting on the moments associated with the recipes, one of the memories that vividly comes to mind for Lomas is her time on the Great American Baking Show, a competition she went on to win. The full season never aired (after one of the judges was accused of sexual harassment), but Lomas doesn’t sweat that fact.
After all, the lawyer-turned-baker is no stranger to life’s challenges. Lomas left her full-time corporate role in 2018 to pursue baking full-time and has not looked back. “Things fell into place because I made them fall into place,” she says. When her baking-contest win failed to reach television screens, Lomas applied the same mantra she did back when she initiated her job pivot: “When life gives you lemons, make lemon curd.”
In addition to reflections of her thriving career as a professional baker, Lomas shares treasured recipes and life gems in her cookbook, which she hopes will also make readers feel inspired. “I want them to feel empowered,” Lomas says. “Empowered to do things that they didn’t know they could do, whether that’s making a cake or frying donuts or whatever it is that’s deep in your heart or the passion that you want to pursue. Life is full of opportunities for us to learn.”
Lomas shares that her cookbook is not only inspirational, but full of recipes from two women she learned from: her grandmothers. “I felt this privilege and responsibility to share their stories and share not just women who baked cakes, but women who raised families and earned a living and overcame adversity and still were these gracious, elegant, loving, compassionate people.”
For Sweet July, Lomas shares her recipe for a 3-layer, pineapple-filled cake with cream cheese frosting, which Lomas appropriately names Granny’s Million Dollar Cake.
Get Lomas’ Granny’s Million Dollar Cake recipe below!
Plus: Looking for the perfect wine to pair with this dish? Sweet July’s wine consultant Julia Coney suggests Trepat, an indigenous grape from the Catalonia region in northeastern Spain used in rosé Cava. Coney says, “Cava is a sparkling wine from Spain, made in the same method as champagne. The trepat is slightly dry, therefore it will balance out the sweetness from the cake.”
Granny’s Million Dollar Cake from Vallery Lomas
1 (21-ounce) can crushed pineapple in heavy syrup or pineapple in its own juice
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar (if using pineapple in its own juice, increase to 1⁄3 cup/65g)
Nonstick baking spray
3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15g) baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks/226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 (16-ounce) package (1cup/226g) cream cheese, room temperature
8 tbsp (110g) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups (300g) confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Prepare the pineapple filling: In a blender or food processor, blend the pineapple on low until the consistency of applesauce, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small saucepan, add the sugar, and heat over low until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Spray three 8-inch cake pans with baking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, pour the sugar in a steady stream. Continue to beat on medium-low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until light, fluffy and pale, 2 to 3 more minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next, about 2minutes in total. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add one-third of the flour mixture, mixing until just a few streaks of flour remain. Add half the milk and mix until combined. If the batter appears broken, don’t worry—the next bit of flour will bring it back together.Add half the remaining flour mixture and continue to mix on low speed, just until no streaks of flour remain. Add the remaining ½ cup milk, continuing mixing on low, then add the remaining flour mixture. Mix briefly to integrate the flour, then stop the mixer. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish the mixing by hand, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and smooth the top.
Bake until the cake layers are golden on top and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the cooling rack to cool.
While the layers are on the cooling rack, spread half the pineapple filling on one layer and the remaining filling on a second layer. (The third layer won’t get any pineapple on top.) Let cool completely.
Make the cream cheese frosting: Add the cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the ingredients come together, then increase the speed to medium and mix until creamy, about 5 minutes.
Place one layer with pineapple filling on a cake plate, pineapple side up. Set the second layer with pineapple filling on top of the first. Then add the final plain layer, placing it upside down on top so that the bottom of the cake, the most even side, faces up (this gives you a nice, flat surface to frost). Use a spatula to frost the top and sides of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. Let the frosting set, then enjoy.
Storage: Store the cake, covered (I like using a cake dome), until ready to serve. If it won’t be eaten within a couple of days, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.