Update 2013: This years-ago post has recently begun attracting a lot of attention on Pinterest, so to those of you who are coming over from a pin, hello! I hope you’ll take some time to look around here and maybe say hi. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I should let you know that in the four years since this post was written, I’ve drastically changed my diet. I tried remaking this cake with einkorn flour and coconut sugar, and it was delicious, but more of a caramel cake than a sugar cookie cake, for what that’s worth.

You can learn more about our love of whole foods here.

You can also see our most recent posts at the front page of FoodLovesWriting.com.

birthday cake for carrie

I’m starting to really, seriously love Twitter. Recently, I put out a request for the absolute best cake recipe, and, within minutes, I had close to 10 (!) responses. There was a flourless chocolate cake, a vegan version, a suggestion of using something by Mark Bittman. But it was @parapluiesdoux who told me about Restaurant Eve’s cake, which she said had been published a few years earlier, and for that, I will always have a special place in my heart for Twitter and, as you can imagine, her.

To describe the flavor of this cake, I must begin with something not cake at all, something comforting in the way only things you ate as a child can be, something that begs to be eaten with a tall glass of ice cold milk, just before you stretch out on the sofa to watch some T.V. What I’m talking about, and this will be obvious the moment you take a bite, is a sugar cookie.

OK, picture that rich, buttery, creamy taste of a sweet sugar cookie, piled high with icing, and then transfer that image to a tall, moist layer cake, slathered with generous dollops of pink buttercream. Do you have it?

That, essentially, is this cake.

cake for carrie

Created by Chef Cathal Armstrong, who along with his wife, Meshelle, runs Restaurant’s Eve, the Alexandria, Virginia, restaurant named for their first child, this cake was inspired by Cathal’s aunt and tastes sweet and moist, just the way birthdays should taste, I say. After becoming a favorite at the restaurant—usually dressed up with piping and embellishments for special events—this cake, and its recipe, appeared in a Washington Post article in April 2006. And though it’s taken three years to reach me, the timing is, actually, quite impeccable. For one thing, I’ll be taking a weekend to D.C. next month (and touring the Capitol building, if all goes well—fingers crossed), so learning about an Alexandria restaurant is much more interesting than it would have been in 2006 when I was, every day, going to classes and studying in Chicago, nothing much else.

But also, and more importantly, my coworker Carrie had a birthday Monday, and, of course, we needed to celebrate.

Friday night, I managed to eek out two cupcakes in addition to the cake proper, in order to make sure this tasted all right (it did; in fact, that was when the sugar-cookie description was born) and I boxed up the real cake to bring to Carrie Saturday, when she’d be working.

In retrospect, I may have liked the cupcakes better—mainly because they are smaller portions, easier to enjoy without feeling overwhelmed. After trying a big piece, Carrie suggested making one-layer cakes, rather than two; I found a suggestion online for a version with four layers, in which you’d split the original two, length-wise.

Whatever the case, this is some birthday cake, the one I’ll remember finding on Twitter, originally from the restaurant in Virginia, baking for my friend the traveler, that tasted like cookies and childhood and big parties covered in confetti, while we ate it on a rainy Saturday.

What’s with all the cakes? It could be said, fairly I guess, that I’ve been on something of a cake kick lately, what with the banana cake and the vanilla cupcakes and the make-in-minutes chocolate cake and, now, this. I have no excuses, just a faint comment that, well, I’m almost done for now, really. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some substance, may I recommend my friend Kendra’s chicken souvlaki? It’s fantastic, and since my pictures don’t do it justice, I’ll just tell you, TRY IT. Really.

Restaurant Eve’s Cake
from The Washington Post, April 2006

My favorite part of this recipe is how hard it is to mess up: you’re actually told not to worry about overmixing. Doesn’t that make you excited? Let your mixer do the work, and you reap the benefits.

A word on the frosting: As sweet and delicious as this frosting is, I have decided, I think officially, that I do not prefer buttercream. Next cake, it will be whipped, and that’s a decision I will stand by.

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus additional to grease pans
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk (may substitute low-fat or nonfat)
Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Melt butter and let it cool to room temperature.

Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer. (A stand mixer is preferable for this recipe, though a hand-held electric mixer may be used.) On medium speed, add the butter, incorporating in several additions. Beat for about 2 minutes, or until combined; the texture should resemble cornmeal.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla extract and milk. Add to the flour-butter mixture in two batches (scraping the bowl once), and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until smooth.

Distribute the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Remove cakes from pans to cool completely. Frost the cake. It can stand at room temperature for 1 hour; otherwise, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 pounds (7 1/2 -8 cups) confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, (may substitute whole, low-fat or nonfat milk)
Natural food coloring (optional)

In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until fluffy. On low speed, add the sugar in batches, increasing the speed to high after each addition is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and cream in a steady stream on low speed until incorporated. Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired. (Restaurant Eve uses red to make pink.) Beat on high speed for 8-10 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 51 Comments

  1. kickpleat

    This cake looks pretty and beautiful and girly….bonus for it tasting wonderful. hooray!

  2. Nick

    As a guy, I usually shy away from pink things. I would sneak a few pieces of that when nobody was looking without a problem.

    Twitter rocks also.

  3. figmolly

    I love buttercream so I’m on a mission to convince everyone it’s the best. Have you ever tried a “proper” buttercream that involves making a sugar syrup and contains eggs. It really creates a ligher, fluffier buttercream that retains the wonderful butter creaminess? If not, the Joy of Cooking has a good basic recipe.

    1. Tyler

      Not to be a food snob… but I wouldn’t necessarily call an italian buttercream (that which you talk of with the sugar syrup and egg whites) an “proper” buttercream. It is just different. Different styles (Italian, swiss, french and american). I find the swiss buttercream the easiest and one of my go to icings. not to put down the italian buttercream… its just a little fussier (personally). For me, the standard american buttercream can be just too sweet.

      1. Carolyn

        She is not referring to Italian Buttercream. She is actually speaking of American Buttercream, but not the more common powdered sugar and butter version. It actually contains whole eggs.

  4. The Duo Dishes

    Buttercream is a little overwhelming. The mouth feel is a bit crazy sometimes! But when it’s done well, it can really complement a cake.

    1. Em's Mommy

      I have found that if I use kosher salt in my buttercream it ballances out the swwetness perfectly I also add 3 tbsp of merangue powder with the cream

  5. Rachel

    yum yum SHanna. I wanna stop by for a snack.

  6. Carrie

    You are right… it was SOME cake! Thank you!!

  7. Lorraine

    Hi Shannalee:

    Restaurant Eve’s Cake looks absolutely divine. I love the pink and white colors. And your description of it’s sugar cookie-like taste makes me want to cast off my Lenten sugar proscription. Now.

    I remember the day you tweeted a request for best cake recipes. I tweeted my suggestion late, wasn’t sure you got it so am glad to have a second chance.

    This cake is nirvana for chocolate lovers: It’s Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte from Rose Berenbaum’s Cake Bible. Just three ingredients: Eggs, butter and Lindt chocolate.

    Rose is an exacting baker–often calls for fussy measures like “1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour”– but this recipe is pretty straightforward.

    The accompanying sauce is another story: Sort of an “essence of raspberry” sauce. You strain raspberries, reduce the raspberry juice, etc. Laborious, but heaven with the ultra moist and rich chocolate torte.

  8. meeso

    That cake is beautiful, perfect for any party! There’s so much that could be done with such a delicious, basic recipe! Love it!

  9. Aileen

    I just celebrated my birthday at Restaurant Eve. I had a great time. I had the coconut and dolce de leche gateau with toasted almond ice cream. It was so moist and delicious so I’m anxious to try this recipe. Thanks for posting it.

    Also, as a birthday present the restaurant gave me a goodie bag with cream scone mix and Irish butter. How sweet!

  10. Aileen

    Oh, I just realized…this recipe is probably for their dessert called Birthday Cake, Just Because. It’s an adorable little pink birthday cake, just for you, for any occasion :)

  11. My First Kitchen

    You’ve hit me on a day where all I want is cake. For real. I’ve done an apple and a banana trying to hit the sweet need with something healthy. A bust. Then I went on the opposite end and thought something savory and spicy (like my ma-in-law’s curry rice) would distract me. Double bust. Now all I want is sugar cookie cake. Maybe eight layers worth. Okay, six. I’m not some kind of pig. And thanks for the souvlaki love. You’re a fabulous blog friend.

  12. JUdy

    We love Restaurant Eve! It’s definitely a special splurge. Eat at the bar and you get the good food, for a much lower price. Their “mixologist” is known for making wonderful drinks. Another fun restaurant from Armstrong in Old Town (Alexandria) is Eammons that serves fish and chips and fried candy bars!

  13. Kevin

    That pink cake looks really good!

  14. Jessica

    Wow that cake looks amazing. I can see how moist and soft it is. Makes me want cake now :) I’m following you on Twitter now too! (@bayjb).

    Do you offer cooking lessons?

  15. Shannalee

    kickpleat – I know! It makes me so happy when recipes give delicious AND attractive results. :)

    Nick – LOL, love that this cake can get a guy to embrace pink.

    figmolly – You are persuasive, and I want to believe you. I will definitely need to try Joy of Cooking’s recipe because, deep down, I think I’m not ready to let go of buttercream completely.

    DD – Yeah, I think I just need a lighter option (like maybe Molly’s!)

    Carrie – You are welcome!

    Lorraine – Thanks so much for the suggestion. I have only ever heard very good things about Rose, so my money’s on that cake being awesome. I’ll have to try it!

    Thank you, Meeso!

    Aileen – How sweet, indeed! Another reason to like this place! :) (And your cake sounds FAB)

    MyFirstKitchen – Your comment makes me smile because I SO get it. Sometimes you need cake, and fruit or savory won’t do it.

    Judy – FRIED candy bars? That sounds horrifying and delicious. I can hardly imagine! It reminds me of some place I heard about that deep-fries Twinkies. Oh. My. Word. I would probably pass out after.

    Thanks, Kevin!

    Jessica – You’re so sweet. I’m going to float on the flattery that you asked if I offer cooking lessons – kind of made m day. Of course, if my mom reads that, she’d probably laugh out loud. In all seriousness, I believe it going forth and trying. The worst that can happen is you learn something, right? (And let’s say I do a lot of learning) PS following you on Twitter now, too. Yay!

  16. Shannalee

    Will it be totally narcissistic if I comment again to apologize for the typos in that last comment? (AH!) Forgive me, all. I don’t type in a hurry well.

  17. ingrid

    I printed out the recipe but I’m not waiting for a birthday to make it! It’s going to be my “just because” cake! Thanks for passing along the recipe!

  18. Lan

    i love girly cakes like this one, especially ones that was obviously prepared with such devotion. :)

    i also heart alexandria, i lived there for a year after college. i have now decreed that Restaurant’s Eve is where i must hit next time i’m in that area. thanks for the heads up. :)

  19. Shannalee

    Ingrid – I LOVE “just because” recipes, and I’ll love hearing what you think of this!

    Lan – I didn’t know you lived in Alexandria! Got any good DC tips, then? I’ll just be there for a couple days, but I know nothing.

  20. katie

    This a great yellow cake recipe! So far the best I have tried, thanks.

  21. Shannalee

    Katie – So glad to hear you liked it! Thanks for letting me know!

  22. Pingback: chaos in the kitchen » Blog Archive » Perfect Yellow Cake

  23. Ellie

    I made this cake and it turned out sooooo great! I could not stop eating the batter and the frosting is definitely the best I have ever tasted! I just made another batch of it today!!! I’m so full of sugar, I’ll probably melt when I go out in the heat today!!

  24. Shannalee

    Yeah, another success! And you even liked the frosting!

  25. Andy

    I bookmarked this post months ago, with the intention of baking this cake. Last night, I finally found the opportunity to do so, and I am SO SO happy I did!! The method scared me a bit, but the final product has the best of both worlds – texture and flavor. THANKS FOR THIS 😉

  26. Shannalee

    Andy, I’m SO SO happy you liked it! Thanks for letting me know!

  27. Lauren

    I found this on Pinterest and made it last night. It’s delicious! Thanks for posting! Though, I see it is labeled “before the 2009 diet change” and I’m feeling guilty! I’ve been searching for a good yellow cake for a while. Normally, I make mine with chocolate frosting (as I see you make this with chocolate also), but I just had to try this yummy sounding buttercream! Now, off to eat some broccoli and go for a run to make up for that piece I had right after I finished frosting it! Haha!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Haha, Lauren, I love how Pinterest brings old content to people’s eyes. : ) It’s true I’ve changed my diet significantly since 2009, when this post was written, but it’s also true I remember the taste of this cake. I’d love to remake it sometime soon with different flours and sugars. : ) So glad you enjoyed it!

  28. carolyn

    Hi! OK, so I just found this too! I am taking a cake decorating class and am looking for that “perfect” vanilla/butter cake recipe. So this one will be my experiment for this week! Just wondered though…did you ever try piping/decorating with this particular frosting? Just wondered if you did and how it might have turned out. I have been finding most buttercreams just get too soft, and it makes me sad, because I hate the consistency and texture of ones made with shortening (bleh!)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hi Carolyn! Unfortunately, I haven’t made this buttercream in a couple years, and I only made it the way posted above. Good luck with your experiment–I’d love to hear how it goes! : )

  29. Jessica

    After tasting the cake I’m not sure the buttercream is the right icing for it. DELICIOUS, but very sweet. This is definitely not an after-meal sort of cake. It needs an empty stomach and a tall glass of milk :) Nevertheless, it’s going into my recipe stockpile as a go-to white cake. It is absolutely delicious. Thank you!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I came to the same conclusion when I made this, Jessica. Thanks for the comment! : )

  30. Laura

    Just want to clarify amount of butter – is it 2 sticks? As 8 ounces is 1 stick. Would like to try recipe but want to be sure on the butter first – thanks

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hi Laura, Yes, two sticks. One stick of butter is actually four ounces; so for eight ounces you want two sticks. -s

  31. Claritza

    I made this cake, and it’s absolutely delicious!!!!! I made it, no special occasion, just bcause, :-) … I had to stop myself from eating it ALL!!! I have to say I was a little skeptical but I’m happy I made this!!!

  32. Pingback: Recipe For Her

  33. Katie catanzaro

    In the directions it says to combine eggs………. The ingredient list does not include eggs. My guess is 3 eggs but to be certain how many eggs do I add?
    Thank you!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hi Katie, The sixth ingredient in the list is four eggs. Hope that helps!

    2. Katie catanzaro

      I refreshed my screen and the rest of the list popped up! Sorry! Thanks!!

  34. Kenya Dixon

    I am making this cake tonight! I have been looking for a home cake and a chocolate cake. This fulfills all of my wishes.

  35. Jennifer

    does anyone know if this can be made in 9×13 pan?

    1. Ivone

      I was just wondering the same thing.. I am planning on making a 2 tiered 9×13 cake and wanted to know if I need to prepare 2 recipes..

      1. Shanna Mallon

        If you try it, I’d love to hear the results!

  36. Pingback: Best Crumb Cake Ever | rainyday waffles

  37. Emma

    Is it plain flour you use or cake flour ?

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Regular flour, Emma! Hope that helps!

      1. Emma

        Thank you im giving it a bash for my dads birthday cake tonight will let you know how is goes.

  38. Sam

    This was a fabulous cake . Moist and delicious . Made it yesterday and it’s all devoured! Thanks for sharing your recipe !

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