This colorful treat is a classic and so perfect for the holiday season. I mean, just look at em. This is Christmas in a cookie!
If you haven’t heard of tricolor cookies before, you may know them as Neapolitan cookies, Rainbow cookies, Seven Layer cookies, Venetian cookies or Italian flag cookies. They are very common in Italian bakeries and sometimes are made using different colors. However, the cookie itself is very traditional.
It starts with three layers of sponge cake, which is made with lots delicious almond paste. The layers are held together by raspberry or apricot jam. The outer layers have a thin coating of semi-sweet or dark chocolate.
They are super soft and insanely moist.
The almond paste adds a lovely aroma and sweetness. They are one of my all time favorite Italian classics.
This recipe is a knockout
You’re going to love making these. I feel that this recipe has the perfect balance of sweetness & just a little bit of tartness from the jam. I mentioned that tricolor cookies are typically made with raspberry or apricot preserves. This recipe uses orange marmalade. I like to use a good, natural fruit marmalade.
Making these cookies takes a little bit of effort. They’re not overly difficult, but the assembling takes some patience. Baking the sheets of cake and stacking them without breaking takes some practice! 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
A few tips:
- Bake each sheet 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 they came out very uneven, so I would stick with one tray.
- You don’t want these to brown at all. Not even golden brown, so be sure to keep an eye on the time. They take around 9-14min 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.
- 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! White chocolate sets up well, but will shatter when you go to slice. There’s probably a way to tempter 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. If you have 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.
I've found this to be the BEST recipe for this classic cookie!
- 2 c unsalted butter at room temp
- 6 large eggs separated, at room temp
- 1 1/3 c sugar divided (we’ll start with the 1/3c, then add the 1c later)
- 12 oz almond paste chopped into small pieces
- 2 3/4 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 tsp of vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Line three 13x9x2 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 1/3c sugar slowly and beat to stiff peaks.
Transfer to a large bowl, cover and chill.
Using the paddle attachment, beat almond paste and remaining 1c of sugar on medium until incorporated, about 5min (a food processor is a bit better if you have it).
Increase speed and add butter, beat until fluffy (if using a food processor for the previous step, transfer the almond paste & sugar to the bowl of a stand up mixer and then add the butter).
Add yolks, then flour and salt.
Fold in egg whites.
Divide batter evenly among three bowls and mix the red and green food coloring into two of them.
Spread each batter separately into the prepared pans.
Bake one tray at a time, rotating pan halfway through until just set, no longer ‘shiny’.
Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool fully.
Heat and strain the orange marmalade. Spread half of the marmalade over the top of the green cake (spread thin) and carefully transfer the white layer on top. Spread remaining marmalade over the white layer and put the red cake over the top.
Cover cake with foil and place in the fridge, place another cookie sheet on top with weights (books, cans, whatever you can find) evenly distributed over the sheet.
Let rest for minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring ever 15 seconds until smooth.
Remove cans and spread melted chocolate in a thin layer over the top. Refrigerate or freeze to set. Cover with parchment and invert onto another baking sheet and flip the cake. Remove parchment and glaze with more chocolate, thinly. Refrigerate or freeze to set.
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.
- 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.