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!!



eggboy and i are in chicago now, escaping the north dakota cold and seeing my family. it is a crisp -9ºf right now and it's supposed to warm up to zero later today! such excitement, i think i'll shed one sweater layer. 

we spent the weekend in the suburbs with homeland season 3 and a massive stack of cookbooks. we did not surface except to take a salty cheesy trip to eataly with these two and to eat about 12 orders of brunch paella at ba ba reeba

my sisters and i, we do this thing where we impersonate al dente noodles. that's what that gif is all about. i dunno how it started, i think it's a variation on the helpless dog pose that we do when we don't want to do something or if pops is taking too many pictures (do you see where i get it from?). my best guess is that stoop is a penne noodle, mia is a bow tie or perhaps udon, and i like to think that if i were a noodle i'd be some sort of hand pulled strand like one you'd find at xi'an. 

i find myself obliterated with excitement to do things that were once a norm. going to a mall, going to the paint your own pottery place, staring at the whole foods cheese counter. even a five minute trip to trader joe's has been a highlight. it feels benjamin buttony and i like it.

anywho. ikea calls, so i am off to "brave" this "bitter cold weather" and i promise not to call anyone a wimp in the process. (but seriously, chicago, grow a pair.)





the most bridezilla-y thing that stoop did during her wedding weekend was demand a layer of funfetti cake. she half jokingly made this demand over the rehearsal dinner, after i had spent almost an entire 24 hours making the original five layers, and so i told her no way (but naturally i stopped at the market on the way home for a funfetti mix). it took exactly the amount of time to bake that it did to write my speech. and then obviously the entire guest list knew about the new surprise layer but chose to keep it a secret from stoopie until she and the mister cut into it. she screamed probably the loudest scream that dressler has ever heard.

here are some sketches i did on the subway a few weeks ago, during the planning stages:


the layers changed a little bit and the final flavors were, bottom to top: pistachio, black sesame, lemon, chocolate, red velvet, and funfetti®. after i baked and leveled all of them i connected them with a basic butter cream frosting that had a bit of cream cheese added in for extra bite. eggboy brushed the whole thing with warm apricot jam and then we attempted to throw a sheet of marzipan over the whole thing, ghost style, but it tore and i said the f word and at first eggboy thought it might be cool to have part of the layers exposed but a few minutes later we both agreed to try again. so we peeled off the marzipan, rolled it into two pieces, and wrapped one around the sides and topped it off with a nice round hat. it looked a little second grader-y, but i added some sparkle jimmies to maybe give the illusion that it was supposed to be that way. i have another sister who still needs marrying, so hopefully she'll let me practice my wedding cake skills then. 




stoopie is a missus and i have a brother! how fun is that?! we had the perfect celebratory weekend, complete with delicious meals and 80s music and so many funny faces. it was so wonderful to spend an entire beautiful weekend with family, new and old. i am so lucky to have these goofy people in my life! and i always wanted a brother to teach me how to play video games and stuff.

i didn't get a whole lot of photos because we had a real live wedding photographer and i was busy officiating, but i'll post more photos as i get them. enjoy these few for now!