italian rainbow cookie cake

my older sister, stoopie, is celebrating her last birthday of her 20s today! oy! it feels like only yesterday that i was underage and romping around with her id, drinking screwdrivers and skim milk white russians as "22-year-old stoopie." we've been celebrating these past few days in chicago with our family, lots of food, and our signature impressions of al dente noodles. she's been asking me every few minutes if i got her this flask bangle as a gift, and i'm starting to think that she's actually serious about wanting one, but too late, i already got her cute earrings. 

speaking of booze though, this year was such a big stoopie year because a few months ago, she passed her first sommelier test!!!! i'm so excited for her to take the next test soon so she can officially be called a sommelier, and so her name and title can kind of rhyme. (phonetically, she will be so-molly-yay-jenna-yay.) one day i'm gonna bribe her to move to grand forks so that she can be the sommelier for my cake house, and we'll host 30-course wine and cake tasting menus.  

speaking of cake, i made her a birthday cake! an almond cake because i have all of these vivid memories of us making almond cakes when we were little. she would always have first dibs on the can of almond paste and if i was lucky, she'd give me a little nubbin of it. our family loves almondy things. we have our valentine's day italian almond cake tradition, but oddly, we never had italian almond cookies growing up.

i didn't even discover these cookies until i moved to new york, and even then, for the longest time, i had no interest in them. i didn't know that they were almond flavored, as i'd only heard them referred to as "rainbow cookies." i'd see them when i went to buy black and white cookies at zabar's or fairway, but i questioned why anyone would buy these artificially colored random looking things when they could buy a black and white cookie. i was skeptical, but the seed was planted in my brain when i saw my little new yorky cousins gobbling them up during rosh hashanah, and then finally, when i was served a fancy freshly made one at torrisi, i was convinced. i discovered that these little guys aren't cookies, they're dense, rich almond cakes, glued together with jam, and cut into perfect little bites. it was the punch of almond that got me, these things are loaded with almond paste.

i became so obsessed that stoop and mum made a batch in (what they thought were) juilliard colors for my senior recital. some time after that, i fished out miniature versions of them from the bottom of a sundae at kutsher's with devra and my cousin eitan, before we even discovered that we're cousins. that year around the holidays, i made a shitton using torrisi's recipe and fed them to the earliest version of san fermin, which was huge and had some lucius.

full disclosure: a younger, less experienced and more stressed out version of myself wrote this about my first time making them. i've since chilled out, but there is some truth in my earlier frustrations: making these cookies/this cake is a process. it takes an entire day if you're fast, two days if you cruise, and maybe even three if you feel like blanching your own almonds and/or making your own almond paste. it's a cake for your holiday break, or one to call in sick for. but, trust, it's worth it.

italian rainbow cookie cake

makes one 8-inch cake


6 eggs, separated

1 1/4 c + 2 tb sugar

1 1/3 c almond paste, chopped

2 c unsalted butter, softened

1 tb lemon juice

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp kosher salt

2 2/3 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp red food coloring

1 tsp green food coloring

1/2 c + 2 tb apricot jam (or 6 tb apricot jam and 4 tb raspberry jam or vice versa)

12 oz dark or semisweet chocolate chips

1 c heavy cream

cocoa powder for dusting, optional

dinosaurs, optional



preheat oven to 350. grease and line as many 8-inch cake pans as you have. you'll need to make six layers total. (i have three cake pans, so i baked the layers in two batches, but if you just have two, you can bake in three batches.)

in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. gradually beat in 6 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until you have stiff peaks.

in another large bowl, beat together the remaining cup of sugar, the almond paste, and butter. add the egg yolks, one at a time. beat in the lemon juice and almond extract, and then gradually sprinkle in the salt. add the flour and beat until combined.

fold the egg whites into the almond paste mixture and then divide the mixture evenly into three bowls. mix the red food coloring into one, the green food coloring into another, and then leave the last one as it is.

divide each of these mixtures in half and pour into separate cake pans. (again, if you don't have all six cake pans, just fill however many you've got, and then cover the batter that you're not using until it's ready to bake.) use a spatula to spread the batter as evenly as you can in the pan and then bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are just set, or no longer shiny and wet. let cool slightly in the pans, run a knife around the edges, and then carefully flip onto a greased cooling rack or greased sheet of parchment. bake remaining layers.

when the layers are cool, stack them up on a cake board or plate, spreading 2 tablespoons of jam between each. don't put jam on the top. wrap the sucker tightly in plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 

to make the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate chips in a large bowl. heat the heavy cream until it is just starting to boil, and then pour it over the chocolate. let sit for 30 seconds, and then stir it all together to get a smooth ganache. you can either pour the ganache over the cake or refrigerate the ganache for an hour, whip it up until it's pale and fluffy, and then frost the cake with an offset spatula (this is what's pictured). decorate your cake how you'd like, dust it with cocoa powder, add dinosaurs, and enjoy!

happy birthday, stoopie!!


through lydia's lens

my friend lydia is one of the most delightful and talented people i know. we met when she was my orientation leader at juilliard, and since graduation we've kept in touch through a shared love of photography, food, and janna gur. she's also secretly my style icon because belieb me, if i could wear dark lipstick like hers without it getting all up in my teeth, i would. 

when i was in new york a few weeks ago, she and i strolled around with brian, and we ate and ate. first israeli food, then mac and cheese pancakes, buffered by matcha lattes and kenny shopsin being kenny shopsin. the whole day was magical because even though the three of us left new york after juilliard, there we were, back in the city on the same beautiful day with nowhere to be but with each other. (sorry, i get all mushy with little college reunions like these!!)

later, lydia and i stopped in lincoln center for some shots on their new bridge over 65th street. we reminisced about our years there, how insane they were, and how much we loved them despite the insanity. it was nice to be back, if only for a moment.

all of these shots were taken by lydia. go check out more of her work, i love it so much!!! especially these farm shots.


new york

i am back.

back from a week of challah, schnitzel, new bffs, and old ones.

halva crème brûlée, halva frosting, pickles, and fish.

san fermin, bagels, hummus, and za'atar.

epic is an understatement, turnt is more like it!

this week was like camp, with babka class instead of pool time and jewish food royalty instead of counselors. we shuffled around town, learning history through food and creating bonds over meals that had me so full on love, i nearly exploded. 

my time there ended with a zooey deschanel sighting (!!!!), four added pounds, and rob's album release party, and by yesterday, i was ready to be back on the farm with my netflix and eggboy and our new range hood that he spent the entire week building from scratch. 

i probably will not shut up about my trip for the next few posts, but for now i should get my rear end on the treadmill and leave you with a few links for new york things i tried and loved:


bar bolonat: home of the first olive i ever loved, the best za'atar i ever had, and a halva crème brûlée that had us nearly licking the dish.

la boîte: the fanciest spice blends i ever done smelled, including a smoked cinnamon which i plan on putting all over venison this week.

gefilteria: we had a pickling workshop with the owner and it was the funnest! only then i was the worst fermenter in the world and didn't take care of my pickles and they made my hotel room smell like a million butts had farted at once. 

hummus place: this might be my dessert island restaurant. give me all the hummus, pita, and kadaif. 

yonah schimmel's knishes, russ & daughters, and katz's: you simply cannot come to new york to learn about jewish food without going to these places. more on these later though, as i have a little lower east side jewish food article coming out soon!

zucker bakery: a little east village bakery with israeli yummies like za'atar crackers and tahini pastries. (they were the ones that had the turkey sufganiyot last year!)

la vara: my new love affair with olives continued here (who am i??) and i also loved their crispy eggplant with honey and salt baked fish with harissa. 

breads bakery: a wonderful bakery from israel that has the softest, most perfect challah in all the land. we took a challah and babka making class and i learned so much and got nutella all over my hands. new bff talia and i delivered our babka to the food52 office afterwards and it was the happiest afternoon ever.

blackseed bagels + mile end: the future of deli is upon us and it tastes to gosh darn good. we spent a day at their beautiful kitchen on the water in red hook, eating bagels, learning how to make the fluffiest ever matzoh balls, and eating schnitzel.

cafe glechik: a ukrainian restaurant out in sheepshead bay. our meal put every meal in game of thrones to shame. it was one of those banquet-y meals where you fill up on like a million different dishes, drink a bunch... and then they come out and announce the main course. 

wythe: after a failed attempt at sneaking into the brooklyn bowl to see san fermin (alias: rachel green), new bff jacob and i sipped away our sorrows at the wythe rooftop and it almost made everything better. fast forward two days when we heard that the ebola guy was in a bowling alley in williamsburg the same night that we *tried* to get into a bowling alley in williamsburg: no, just no. ohmygod. no. but we did get to see san fermin the next night and it was cray, as always.

shalom japan: shortrib cholent, toro toast with scallion cream cheese, sake challah... oh and a heated toilet seat. get at me!!!!

taam-tov: a secret uzbeki restaurant in the heart of the diamond district, it's kosher with chinese influences, and it was so delicious.

kalustyan's: an epic spice and specialty foods store where i stocked up on odd ingredients like soapwort root, sodium acetate, and nigari flakes... things that just do not come to north dakota without a personal invitation.

new york public library menu archive: menus from the inauguration of the statue of liberty, a dinner with the queen in 1957, a meal from the astor house in 1843... we got to hold these things!!!!!! it was so freaking fascinating. did you know that there used to be a soda and fruit juice dispenser's union??

shopsin's: it was difficult to keep my shit together because all of the rules scared me, but mac and cheese pancakes, a post modern grilled cheese where the cheese was on the outside, and kenny shopsin yelling that no one knows what a fucking kazoo is before handing brian a kazoo and listening to him play beyoncé on it made it all worth it.

el rey: i spilled coffee all over myself there and i still had a delightful time because i was with lydia and brian and we ate beet pickled eggs with za'atar.

sammy's roumanian: this review of sammy's is perfect. i love that place so much. it was the perfect end to our week. 

with the exception of the wythe, shopsin's, and el rey, all of these meals and classes were enjoyed through the tent food nyc workshop. i can't recommend it enough!!!!!! you should apply. and pack stretchy pants. i'm happy to answer any questions you have if you're thinking about applying.




a mast brothers chocolate tour

one of the real big upsides of being a grandma on the inside is that when tema is looking high and low for someone to wake up before 10am on a saturday to go on a tour of the mast brothers chocolate factory she stops at me. it's because last friday night in new york city, i was full on homemade thank-you-for-letting-me-sleep-on-your-sofa-bed scotch eggs and in that sofa bed by 9 with netflix and a cookbook.

so not that waking up "early" and getting on the g train was at all a chore for me, but if it had been, it would have been completely worth it.  

in a heavily tattooed, bearded willy wonka way... (side note about tattoos: marian gave me a temporary one with a blue and purple pony on it and i feel almost cool enough to consider getting a real one and it's making me scared.)

like i have always felt ooooook paying a small fortune for a mast brothers bar if it's a special occasion like eggboy is playing a show in the west village, because pretty packaging and a high percentage of cocoa are my jams (!!) but now that i've learnt things about their process that go deeper than that--for example, taking very very very good care of their farmers and aging their chocolate for months upon months--i get all warm and fuzzy. and it makes me want to be bffs with michael and rick.

anywho, if you're in brooklyn and have eaten so much that you need a thing to do that doesn't require eating too much but you still want to be around food, take this tour, it is fun.