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Italian Rainbow Cookies

Italian Rainbow Cookies are really more cake than cookie. Either way, they are as tasty as they are beautiful. They look impressive but are surprisingly easy to make.

If you’re from New York or New Jersey (Jersey girl here), you probably remember seeing Rainbow Cookies sold by the pound in every Italian Bakery.

But you don’t have to drive to New York or New Jersey to enjoy these cookies. They can easily be made at home.

Despite the name, the origin of these cookies is probably more Italian American than directly from the old country.

The tri-colors represent the Italian flag but also work as a Christmas cookie. You can adapt the colors to fit in with your theme.

Whatever the history or nationality of these cookies, they are an incredibly tasty treat that look impressive on any dessert table.

Scroll through the process photos to see how to make Italian Rainbow Cookies:

three photos showing the making of rainbow cookie batter
1. Soften the almond paste with sugar. 2. Add butter and cream until light and fluffy. 3. Fold in whipped egg whites.
three bowls with red, green and white batter. A baking pan filled with white cake batter.
1. Tint the batter with food coloring. 2. Spread each color into a prepared quarter sheet pan.
showing a thin cake layer. Three thin layers with jam. showing a cake weighted down in pan.
1. The cake layers will be quite thin. 2. Spread preserves between the layers. 3. Wrap and weight the cake for several hour or over night.
three photos showing how to ice and slice rainbow cookies
1. Spread chocolate on the green layer. 2. Cover with parchment, flip, and ice the other side. 3. Cut the cake into 2″ strips and 1/2″ slices.

Tips for making Italian Rainbow Cookies at home:

  • Make sure to use almond paste in the batter, not marzipan. Marzipan has more sugar than almond paste and will change the texture and flavor of the batter.
  • When you spread the batter into the pan try to get it as even and flat as possible. The more even the cakes bake, the better the finished cookies will look.
  • After layering the cakes with the preserves, weight the cake and refrigerate for several hours. Weighting the cake will compact the layers and help them stick together. Weighting ensures that the cookies won’t fall apart when sliced.
  • Spread the chocolate on the cold cake so it will set immediately.
  • The cookies can be held at room temperature for several days or refrigerated for up to a week.
  • This recipe makes a lot of cookies but they freeze very well. They are actually quite tasty straight from the freezer.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

Italian Rainbow Cookies

Italian Rainbow Cookies

Yield: 88 cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 12 minutes
Icing & Decorating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 27 minutes

Italian Rainbow Cookies are really more cake than cookie. Either way, they are as tasty as they are beautiful, and they are surprisingly easy to make.

Ingredients

Batter

  • 12 oz (340g) almond paste (not marzipan)
  • 1 1/3 cups (11 oz, 330g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 sticks (12 oz, 340g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz, 350g) all purpose flour
  • red food coloring
  • green food coloring

Assembly

  • 1 cup seedless raspberry preserves or strained apricot preserves
  • 4 oz (112g) semi sweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 quarter sheet pans (9.5"x13") with parchment paper or generously butter and flour the pans. If you don't have 3 pans you can hold the batter at room temperature until a pan is free and bake in batches.
  2. Cream the almond paste with 1 cup of the sugar until well-combined. With the mixer running, add the butter and increase the speed to medium. Cream until light and aerated. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  3. Add the egg yolks, salt and vanilla and mix to incorporate. With the mixer running on low, add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  4. In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar to full peak. Fold the egg whites into the batter. Divide the batter evenly into 3 bowls. Use the red food coloring to tint one portion and the green coloring to tint another portion.
  5. Spread each of the batters into one of the prepared sheet pans. Try to get the batter as even and flat as possible. The more even the cakes bake, the better the finished cookies will look.
  6. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and is golden brown around the edges, about 12-15 minutes. These are thin layers. Be careful to not overbake.
  7. Cool the cakes in the pan. If you need to reuse a pan allow the layer to cool for 5-10 minutes then slide the baked cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Prep the pan for the next layer.

Assembly

  1. Place a piece of parchment paper on the back side of a baking pan or tray. Flip the green layer out of the pan onto the parchment lined pan and peel off the parchment. Spread 1/2 the preserves over the cake. Flip the white layer onto the green layer. Spread the remaining preserves over the white layer. Top with the red cake layer.
  2. Place a piece of clean parchment over the red layer and flip the entire cake into a sheet pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Place another sheet pan on top of the cake and place a heavy object onto the pan to weigh down the cake. Refrigerate for 4 hours or over night.
  3. Unwrap the pan and spread 1/2 the melted chocolate over the green layer. Once the chocolate is set, place the parchment on the chocolate and flip the cake again. Spread the other 1/2 of the melted chocolate over the red layer. Once the chocolate is set you're ready to slice the cookies.
  4. Use a serrated knife to trim all 4 sides of the cake. Use a ruler to measure out 2" increments across the short side of the rectangle. Slice the cake into 2" wide strips. Measure out 1/2" increments along each strip and slice into 1/2" pieces.
  5. Store the cookies in a covered container for 1-2 days at room temperature or up to a week refrigerated. You can stack the cookies in the container but put a layer of parchment or wax paper between the layers to prevent them from sticking together. The cookies can also be frozen for 2-3 months

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Rosanna

Saturday 16th of October 2021

I love the idea of these “cookies” - can you tell me how to eliminate or sub the almond paste to vary the flavor? Thx!

Eileen Gray

Saturday 16th of October 2021

The almond paste is key to the flavor and texture of the cookies. The only substitution that might work is another nut paste.

MRS ANNE WATTS

Monday 11th of October 2021

We cannot buy almond paste in England. Could you give us a receipe to make these from scratch please?

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