Paul Lowe Einlyng: How to Make the World’s Best Cake

Cooking and crafting king Paul Lowe Einlyng has inspired me for years.

Known as Sweet Paul, Einlyng is a Norwegian-born food and prop stylist with a charmingly beautiful sense of style, and a knack for simple and elegant meals. His blog-turned-online-magazine, Sweet Paul, became a print magazine in 2012. After much success, his first book, Sweet Paul Eat & Make is out now.

What inspires your recipes?

I was brought up by my grandmother and my great-aunt. They were very smart. They taught me from an early age how to cook. From the age of five, I had my own little chopping board and my own little knives. Well, very dull ones. It was a household where everything was made from scratch. When I was six I could make béchamel sauce and tomato sauce.

I like that everything in your book is approachable. How did that come to be?

From an early age, if I wanted to bake a chocolate cake, we would bake a chocolate cake. If I wanted new pillows for my bedroom, we would make new pillows. And the cake always came out a little lopsided, and the seams for the pillows weren’t perfectly straight, but everything we cooked tasted delicious, and everything we made was stylish. I would point this out to my grandmother, and she would always say, “Oh, you know, Paul, perfection is so boring.”

Do you feel like people are becoming more interested in food?

Oh yeah, definitely, I feel like interest in food is becoming stronger, especially amongst young people. In this day and age, it’s important for us to know what’s in the food we eat. So much prepackaged food is just salt and sugar. For food to be a little healthier and definitely more delicious, you kind of have to make it yourself.

What advice do you have for people who are just getting in to cooking?

Get some books with recipes that you like. Pick something that’s not too complicated. It’s important to start with something that will make you confident in the kitchen. I always tell people­, I know it sounds pedestrian, but read the recipe first!

What food issue do you wish people would pay more attention to?

When I moved to the States, the first thing that struck me was when I went somewhere and ordered a salad, and it came out to the table. I was like, “Oh my God, are you going to feed me, and a village somewhere?” The portions in America are ridiculous. The whole value for money thing is such a waste. So much just gets thrown out.

Why is it important to know where your food comes from?

There’s so much stuff in this food that you don’t want to enter your body. Your body needs pure food. I try to buy organic. I know it’s hard, because it’s a question of money. It’s very easy for someone in New York to say, “Oh my God, I only eat organic.” For some people, it’s hard to find and it’s also expensive. So, I wish the government would figure out this question. Health costs would go down if people ate better. It’s a whole circle.

What are you cooking right now?

I’m cooking with ramps right now. I’m going to try to pickle them.

If there’s one recipe from the book, I should make, what is it?

You need to make a cake called World’s Best. It’s the cake my grandmother used to make. It’s actually Norway’s national cake. I tell you, it is amazing.

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Book cover reproduced with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Excerpted from SWEET PAUL, © 2014 by Paul Lowe Einlyng. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Recipe: World’s Best Cake

This cake was awarded the title of Norway’s National Cake a few years back, and it serves eight people. It’s called verdens beste in Norwegian, and I agree that it just might be the world’s best. You may be skeptical of its superiority, since it isn’t iced as are many American cakes. When we photographed it, I left it at the studio apartment of Alexandra Grablewski, this book’s photographer, and the next day she confessed to having eaten two huge servings. “I guess the Norwegians are right,” she said.

10½ tablespoons (1 stick plus 21⁄2 tablespoons) butter, softened

12⁄ 3 cups granulated sugar

11⁄ 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 large eggs, separated

1⁄ 3 cup whole milk

1⁄4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 vanilla bean

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle position. Line an 8-x-12-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

2. Beat the butter and 2⁄ 3 cup of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well on low speed.

4. Mix in the egg yolks and milk.

5. Scrape the batter into the baking pan.

6. In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining 1 cup sugar to soft peaks. Spread on top of the cake layer. Sprinkle with the almond slices.

7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and puffed. Cool on a wire rack in the pan. Transfer to a cutting board.

8. When the cake is cool, put the cream in a medium bowl and scrape in the vanilla seeds. Discard the vanilla pod. Beat to soft peaks with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes.

9. Cut the cake in half crosswise with a serrated knife. Place one half of the cake on a serving tray and cover with the cream. Place the other half, meringue side up, on top.

10. Let the cake sit for 1 hour in the fridge before serving.

This story is part of National Geographic’s special eight-month Future of Food series.