This summer, when I went traveling solo, I honed quite a few skills: navigating new lands without a guide, striking up conversation with friendly looking people, learning to enjoy time doing me, and most of all, window shopping. Throughout my journey, there were so many reasons why I found myself just gazing through the windows of shops and bakeries:
1) I was going broke quickly and couldn’t actually afford to buy anything.
2) I didn’t know French well enough to place an order.
3) Everything was just so beautiful that I had no idea what to pick up first.
4) I was alone, and had all the time in the world. If I wanted to stare longingly into a shop for an hour, I could. Because that’s what an independent woman who don’t need no man does…right?
ANYWAY, when I flew back to the States, that annoying sense of urgency we all have but hate, met up with me in the airport, and has been with me ever since. For the past few months, stopping and just taking a peek for giggles, was just too time consuming. That was until this past weekend, when I walked into my local Italian bakery.
There I was, struck with the same feelings and dilemmas as before: “Wow, everything is just so beautiful! Even if I wanted something…how do I pronounce the name of all of these cookies?”, I thought to myself. Then, I saw them. Those classic rainbow Italian cookies, AKA, the best damn tri-colored treat there is, with a name that’s utterly pronounceable. Hence, the inspiration for this week’s creation: an Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake.
While my version has a few tweaks from the traditional recipe, the flavors are bright and classic. First up, the cake. This cake comes from my favorite vanilla cake recipe. To be honest, the reason I love it so much, is that it’s one of those recipes that gives you a huge bang for your buck: a ton of flavor, and not a ton of work. Very little actually. You’ll start by combining your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Next up, wet ingredients. Here’s the first key to success with this cake: we’ll be whipping our egg whites in a separate bowl until frothy first, for a white color and lightness in your cake. Once those are fluffy, in your third bowl of the recipe, combine the melted butter with the sugar. Then, add the yogurt, almond milk, and almond extract, to give the cake hints of the traditional flavor. Those whipped egg whites can be carefully folded into the rest of the wet bowl at this point. Be careful to maintain as much body as you can in your batter.
Now it’s time for the wets and dries to become friends. Again, be gentle as you fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Once combined, you can split the batter into thirds, and dye one third red, and another green. Each of these batters can be poured into 6 inch round pans and baked at 350 degrees for ____ minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cake springs back a bit when touched.
Once cooled, split each of your three cakes into two layers. That’s right people, we’re going for 6 layers here. Traditionally, each layer is spread with raspberry jam as it’s stacked. I decided to use apricot jam as well to compliment the almond flavor in the cakes. And, since I have quite the sweet tooth, I was rather generous with my layers of jam as I stacked. Live a little!
When it comes to decorating, you have a few options. I went with a ganache – rich, extremely chocolatey, not too sweet. To make your ganache, simply heat your heavy cream over medium heat until steam starts to rise from it. As soon as you see your first bubble, pour it over your semi-sweet chocolate. Let it sit for a minute before mixing it well. Once the ganache is uniform and has cooled to room temperature, you could use it to pour over your cake at this point. Or, you could cool it in the refrigerator until it is a scoop-able consistency (about an hour), and then whip it using the whisk attachment in your stand mixer. This will take about 4-5 minutes. At that point, use it to decorate your cake in any style that floats your boat!
And there you have it: a beautiful and cakey rendition of the best Italian cookie around! Almonds, raspberries, apricots, chocolate…what else could you ask for?!
Next up, we’re talking toast. Get bready, it’ll be a good one.
Until then, stay tuned and stay hungry!