© Owlbbaking, LLC. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from owner is strictly prohibited. Click here for round-up feature consent.
This is the best recipe for Italian Rainbow Cookies! These cookies are an Italian tradition, made with delicious almond paste and coated in rich, dark chocolate. These are classic Italian cookies and so perfect for the holiday season.
If you haven't heard of Italian Rainbow Cookies before...
...You may know them as Neapolitan cookies, Tricolor cookies, Seven Layer cookies, Venetian cookies or Italian flag cookies. They are very common in Italian bakeries and sometimes made using different colors, however, the cookie itself is very traditional.
This is my absolute favorite holiday cookie and everyone I've shared these with gushes over them too! I've introduced this cookie to a lot of folks and now I always get requests to make extra during the holidays (I'm happy to oblige since you get almost 100 cookies out of each batch!)
The reason I probably love this cookie so much is because it's not really a cookie. It's a tiny slice of cake! Three layers of cake to be exact, which is made with lots delicious almond paste. The cake layers are held together by jam (I always use orange) and the outer layers have a thin coating of chocolate.
The almond paste adds a lovely aroma, sweetness and denseness to the cake. The hint of tartness from the jam breaks up the richness from the cake layers and chocolate. These cookies are absolutely DIVINE.
These Rainbow Cookies are the Best
Have you experienced bad rainbow cookies in the past?
The one thing standing in the way of a great rainbow cookie is the cake. I've had these cookies from every bakery around and most of them just can't get it right; the cookies are usually flavorless and dry.
This recipe, is the total opposite. It is DELICIOUS and the cake is insanely soft & moist.
I have tried other rainbow cookie recipes before and this one is by far the best. This cookie has the perfect balance of sweetness & richness.
As mentioned, these cookies are made with jam, and you may typically see raspberry or apricot preserves used, but I've always opted for orange marmalade. While you really can't taste the orange flavor THAT much, the background notes play well off of the almond and chocolate. All of the underlying elements are there to create a very delicious blend of flavor.
For this recipe, I always go the extra mile to find a good, natural fruit marmalade.
These are A labor of love
As much as I seriously love these cookies, making them takes a little bit of effort and planning. They're not overly difficult, but the assembling takes some patience...and a few days.
The biggest hurdle is baking the sheets of cake and stacking them without breaking, which takes some practice! But even if the cake layers do break, you end up cutting them into small squares so it can always be saved!
I make two huge batches every Christmas (which produces like, 200 cookies!) and I get told again and again that these beat store bought or bakery bought any day
Making Italian Rainbow Cookies
As mentioned, these cookies are not horribly hard to make, but they require careful prep and lots of chill time.
Here is a quick run down of how to make rainbow cookies.
You need to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. The egg whites gives the batter lift & lightness since there's no baking powder or baking soda in this recipe.
Next, you'll combine the almond paste with the sugar in a food processor until it has the consistency of wet sand.
Back in the day, I used to mix the almond paste with a stand mixer but the almond paste never incorporated fully, leaving large chunks in the cake batter. Trust me on this, a food processor is the way to go!
From there, you'll combine the almond paste/sugar mixture with the butter, egg yolks and dry ingredients.
Then, fold the egg whites into the batter. This is a bit tricky since the cake batter is thick but you'll get there.
After all the batter is made, it's time to get colorful!
I love to go with a vibrant red and green. I always use gel food coloring to get a saturated look.
The cakes don't always bake with perfectly smooth tops but it's totally fine since we're going to sandwich these together. Be sure to allow each layer to fully cool before assembling them with jam.
Add the jam between the layers and stack. You'll need to let the stacked layers rest overnight in the fridge with some weight on top (I use a stack of books).
The next day, melt the chocolate and coat the top side of the cake evenly. Place in the fridge to chill and set. Once that chocolate is set, you'll need to flip the entire cake over and coat the other side with chocolate. Chill and allow to set again.
Then, slice into tiny cookie slices!
My top tips
Bake the cakes carefully
- Always grease your pan AND use parchment paper. These cakes are very delicate and you don't want to risk them sticking at all.
- Bake each sheet of cake one at a time on the middle rack to maintain even heat distribution (unless you're using a convection oven). One year I baked two at a time and the cakes came out very uneven, so I would stick with one tray. I realize this makes the recipe more time consuming, but they will come out more perfect this way!
- You don’t want the tops of the cake to brown at all. Not even golden brown, so be sure to keep an eye on the time. Golden brown on the edges is OK.
- They take around 9-14 min to bake depending on how thin/thick the batter is spread and they are done baking when the top is no longer glossy looking in the oven. It helps to use the recommended size pan to ensure each layer comes out the exact same.
- You can always use the tip of a knife to poke the middle to check if the cake is fluffy all the way through. Since you're layering these, no one will ever see a tiny hole!
Finishing the cakes & more
- When flipping the cake to coat the bottom side with chocolate, I like to place a large cutting board on top to use as the surface. That way, when I go cut them, it's already on the cutting board!
- I bet you may be thinking, "White chocolate would look beautiful on these cookies!". One year, I used white chocolate instead of dark chocolate to coat the cookies.
- Never again! Don't do it! White chocolate sets up well, but will shatter into a thousand pieces when you go to slice. There’s probably a way to temper the chocolate to avoid this, but I don't even mess with it.
- These cookies freeze REALLY well and will last 1-2 months frozen. After the cookies are sliced, lay them down on a tray lined with parchment. Freeze the tray. Then, the cookies can be placed in a plastic container or gently in a freezer bag.
- Almond paste can get expensive at the grocery store.
- I would definitely consider making almond paste yourself - it's actually REALLY easy to do! Or, if you live near an Italian specialty shop (or even just a regular bakery) you can ask if they'll sell you almond paste directly. Since they buy it in bulk, they'll likely charge you WAY less than the packaged kind in the baking aisle in the grocery store.
- 2 c unsalted butter (at room temp)
- 6 large eggs (separated, at room temp)
- 1 ⅓ c sugar (divided (we’ll start with the ⅓c, then add the 1c later)
- 12 oz almond paste (chopped into small pieces)
- 2 ¾ c + 1 Tbsp, all purpose flour (sifted)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Red food coloring (add more or less to your liking)
- 1 tsp Green food coloring (add more or less to your liking)
- ¾ c orange marmalade
- About 4 oz of melted bittersweet or semisweet chocolate but you may need more depending if you use larger pans + 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (do not melt until step 18)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Line three, 13 x 9 x 2 baking sheets with parchment, allow overhang to make it easier to transfer the cakes.
- Put egg whites into mixer with whisk attachment and beat to soft peaks. Add ⅓ c sugar slowly and beat to stiff peaks.
- Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl, cover and chill.
- Next, blend together the almond paste and remaining 1 cup of sugar. There are two methods you can use:
1) Use the paddle attachment of a stand up mixer to combine- you'll need to mix for about 5 minutes.
2) (Recommended) Use a food processor to pulse the paste & sugar until fully incorporated. Once done, place the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer.
- In the bowl of a stand up mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the almond/paste sugar mixture and the butter, beating until fluffy.
- Add the egg yolks, then flour and salt. Mix until just combined.
- Remove the egg whites from the fridge and gently fold them into the almond paste/butter mixture. Do not be alarmed if the egg whites fall a little bit. The batter will still be fairly thick after this step.
- Divide batter evenly among three bowls and mix the red and green food coloring into two of them.
- Spread each batter color separately into the prepared pans.
- Bake one tray at a time for about 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through until just set, no longer ‘shiny’. Feel free to test the center with a knife or toothpick.
- Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool fully.
- After all 3 cake layers are baked and cooled, you can start to assemble them. To make them easier to work with, I remove all cakes from their pans and assemble them on top of a large cutting board.
- Place the orange marmalade into a microwaveable bowl. Heat for about 1 minute on high until the jam is warmed through and "liquidy". Strain the marmalade using a fine mesh strainer to remove all the fruit pieces.
- Spread half of the strained marmalade over the top of the green cake and carefully transfer the white layer on top. Spread remaining marmalade over the white layer and put the red cake over the top.
- Cover the cake with aluminum foil and place in the fridge. Place another cookie sheet on top of the cake and add weights (books, cans, whatever you can find) evenly distributed over the sheet.
- Let rest in the fridge for minimum of 4 hours, or overnight (ideal).
- Once ready, remove the cake from the fridge and prepare the chocolate coating. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (stirring ever 15 seconds until smooth).
- Spread the melted chocolate in a thin layer over the top. Refrigerate uncovered or freeze to set the chocolate.
Once that layer of chocolate is set, prepare to do the other side. Cover the finished side with parchment and invert onto another baking sheet (flip the cake). Glaze with a thin layer of chocolate. Refrigerate or freeze to set.
- Once that other layer of chocolate is hard, use a large sharp knife to trim and slice the cake into small rectangle pieces.
A few tips:
- Bake each sheet one at a time on the middle rack to maintain even heat distribution.
- You don’t want these to brown at all. The cookies are done baking when the top is no longer glossy looking in the oven. Feel free to use a knife if you want to.
- Avoid using white chocolate to coat the cookies, unless you know how to properly temper. White chocolate sets up well, but will shatter when you go to slice.
- These cookies freeze REALLY well.
Recipe adapted from: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/rainbow-cookies
- Prep Time: 45
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: Cookies
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian Rainbow Cookies, Italian Cookies, Rainbow Cookie, Traditional Italian Cookies, Almond Paste Cookies