Steam-Baked Italian Rainbow Cookies

Ali Clarke and Santos Loo
Ali Clarke and Santos Loo
January 30, 2024
Italian rainbow cookies are a tradition going back many years in our home for the holidays. This is one recipe we thought couldn’t be improved upon, but with the addition of a little steam from the Anova Precision Oven, we’ve done the unthinkable and made the cookies even more tender and delicate. Rich yet light in texture, they have almond, fruit, and chocolate flavors in every bite. They are perfect for those of us who really can’t decide if we want a cookie or cake for dessert; in fact, you can serve this dessert as a cake if you’d like instead of slicing it into individual cookies! We have made one update, which is to use natural food coloring. We know the colors aren’t quite as bright as the ones you find in your local Italian market, but they taste exactly the same and are equally beautiful. If you are looking for the more classic look, the recipe will work just as well with regular food coloring. Notes: Any natural food coloring will work for this recipe. Sometimes natural green food coloring is harder to find; in this case you can mix equal parts of yellow and blue. If you don’t have three 8-inch square pans, you can use two. Fill two cake pans and bake as directed, placing one pan on the left side of the higher rack and one pan on the right side of the lower rack. After baking, wash, re-grease, and re-line the pan with parchment before filling and baking the final layer. This recipe uses Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Steam-Baked Italian Rainbow Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks/226g)
unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
3 large
eggs, separated
¾ cup (150g)
granulated sugar, divided
1 (7-ounce/198g)
log almond paste (not marzipan)
1.5 cups (185g)
all-purpose flour
¼ tsp
kosher salt
Natural red food coloring
Natural green food coloring (or mixture of blue and yellow; see note)
½ cup (158g)
apricot or orange marmalade
⅔ cup (115g)
dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat the Oven

Place one oven rack in position 2 and the second rack in position 4.
Sous Vide Mode: Off
Steam: 10%
Temp: 335°F
Heat: Top, Bottom

2. Prep the Pans

Lightly grease three 8- by 8-inch cake pans with butter. (You can also bake the recipe using two pans; see note.) Line the bottom and two of the sides of each pan with parchment paper, allowing the parchment on the sides to hang over by about 1 inch. Set aside.
Prep the Pans

3. Whip the Egg Whites

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed for 30 seconds, until the eggs are frothy. With the mixer running, slowly whisk in ¼ cup (50g) of the sugar and then continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Remove the egg whites to a bowl and wipe out the bowl; it doesn’t have to be perfectly clean.
Whip the Egg Whites

4. Combine the Dry Ingredients

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.
Combine the Dry Ingredients

5. Make the Batter

Place the stand mixer bowl back on the mixer and add the paddle attachment. Place the butter in the bowl. Break the almond paste into small pieces, about the size of an almond. Press these pieces between your pointer finger and thumb to flatten as you add it to the bowl with the butter; this will ensure the almond paste breaks down enough to be evenly incorporated with the butter. Once all of the almond paste is added, place the mixer on medium speed and beat the butter and paste together until evenly combined, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed throughout mixing. Add the remaining ½ cup (100g) of the sugar and beat to combine. Add the egg yolks and mix until just combined. Turn the mixer off and add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined and you no longer see any streaks of flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Make the Batter

6. Fold in the Egg Whites

Add half of the egg whites into the batter and fold together with a rubber spatula until just combined. Repeat with the remaining egg whites.
Fold in the Egg Whites

7. Color the Batter and Place in Pans

Place one third of the batter into one of the prepared pans, using 280 to 300g of batter. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly around the bottom of the pan and to the edges. Divide the remaining batter in half between two bowls, again using 280 to 300g of batter per bowl. Dye one of the batters with natural red food coloring, folding the color into the batter with a rubber spatula. The amount you add will differ depending on brand, but continue to add until you have a deep red color. Repeat with the remaining batter, this time dying it green. Add each batter to the remaining prepared pans, again spreading each to the edges of the pan.
Color the Batter and Place in Pans

8. Bake the Cakes

Add two pans to the top rack and one pan to the bottom rack and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cakes are just pulling away from the edges of the pan, the top is a light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans completely.
Bake the Cakes
Sous Vide Mode: Off
Steam: 10%
Temp: 335°F
Heat: Top, Bottom
00:12 Timer

9. Layer the Cakes

Leave the green cake in its pan. Flip the natural and red cakes out onto a flat surface and remove the parchment paper. Add the marmalade to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir the marmalade and then place back in the microwave for another 20 seconds, or until the marmalade is liquid. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any large pieces of fruit. Brush half of the strained marmalade over the top of the green cake from edge to edge. Top with the natural cake and then spread the remaining half of the marmalade over top of the cake. Finally place the red cake on top so that the bottom of the cake (the flatter side) is facing up. Place one of the empty pans on top of the stacked cake and place a few cans or other heavy items in the pan to weigh it down. Let the cake sit at room temperature overnight with the weight on top.
Layer the Cakes

10. Top with Chocolate

Using the long edges of parchment, lift the pressed cake out of the pan and place on a plate. Flip and remove the parchment. Add half of the chocolate chips to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate and then continue to microwave in 10-second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate is just melted. Pour the melted chocolate in the center of the green cake and use an offset spatula to spread it the edges without it dripping down the sides. The chocolate should just cover the top of the cake. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Once set, flip the cake over so the red side is now facing up and repeat the steps above with the remaining chocolate.
Top with Chocolate

11. Slice into Cookies

Place the stacked cake on a clean cutting board. Using a serrated knife, trim about ¼ inch off each side to remove any brown edges and to create straight sides all around. Next slice the cake into four equal strips. Rotate the cake 90 degrees and cut into eight strips, yielding 32 cookies that are about ½-inch thick. Serve immediately or place on a parchment-lined tray and wrap with plastic. The cookies will last in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Slice into Cookies
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