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.
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.
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.