Allow me to introduce you to my absolute favorite cookie: Italian rainbow cookies! I think I like them so much because they’re actually cake. You know… disguised as cookies. (But wait, if you’re looking for an actual Italian rainbow cookie cake, you’ve gotta check this recipe out!)
I have been making these Italian rainbow cookies for years, guys — they take a while, but oh my god they are so worth it.
What’s in Italian rainbow cookies?
This rainbow cookie recipe may require some extra TLC to assemble, but the ingredients list is fairly minimal. All you need to make Italian rainbow cookies are eggs, sugar, almond paste, butter, salt, food coloring, and raspberry preserves. And semi-sweet chocolate to top it all off, of course.
Can I make Italian rainbow cookies without almond paste?
Besides switching up the flavor of jam used between the layers, I don’t recommend swapping out any of the ingredients mentioned above. Italian rainbow cookies are perfect as is — why mess with a good thing? Also, the almond paste gives these cookies their signature flavor. You can buy some online here.
How to make rainbow cookies
Divide the batter equally in thirds, add food coloring to create red and green layers, then bake them off one-by-one. This is honestly the most difficult part — spreading a very small amount of batter into thin, single layers. But it’s necessary for the signature look of Italian tri color cookies.
Once cool, spread a few tablespoons of your favorite jam in between the cookie layers. In the Well Seasoned household, this is always raspberry jam. However, apricot jam is another popular option. Heck, you could do one layer of each!
Next, store overnight in your refrigerator, weighing down with a couple heavy cookbooks on top (yes, really).
The next day, pour melted semi-sweet chocolate on both sides, cut into the cutest little bite-size cookies you’ve ever seen, and gift them to friends, family, and loved ones. Congratulations, you’re now a hero!
Read through the instructions fully before beginning (you should do this whenever cooking, but especially when baking), and try not to be put off by the lengthy text. Your hard work will be rewarded with almost 100 cookies. And there are lots of scraps for nibbling on along the way!
How to store Italian rainbow cookies
You’ll need to store these homemade cookies in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
How long do rainbow cookies last?
If stored properly, Italian rainbow cookies will last up to a week in the fridge. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you’ll definitely want to give some as gifts or freeze for later!
To freeze rainbow cookies, layer in an airtight container with sheets of parchment in between (so the cookies don’t stick together). Allow cookies to defrost for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Tips for making Italian rainbow cookies
The combination of almond paste and almond extract is what gives rainbow cookies their unique flavor and texture. You can’t get away with using ONLY paste or the extract — you must use both.
With that said, I don’t recommend adding more almond paste or extract than what the recipe calls for. Unlike the more forgiving vanilla extract, you really need to measure out almond extract, otherwise it’ll overpower whatever it is you’re baking.
To make cutting rainbow cookies easier, you’ll want to use a serrated knife that’s been run under hot water first. Trust me on this one!
If you make Italian Rainbow Cookies, please let me know by leaving a review below!
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For additional holiday cookie recipes, check out the following:
Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments
- 4 large eggs (separated)
- 1 cup sugar (divided)
- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 ¼ cups 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, (softened)
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- red food coloring
- green food coloring
- 10 ounces raspberry preserves warmed
- 7 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks, chips, or melting wafers
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Grease, flour, and line the bottoms of three 9- by 13- by 2-inch (quarter sheet pan) with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang.
- In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. With the mixer running on high speed, add ¼ cup sugar a little at a time, beating until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl, and wipe the bowl dry with a paper towel.
- Switch the mixer to the paddle attachment and beat together the almond paste and remaining ¾ cup sugar until well-mixed, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt, mixing until just combined.
- Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one bowl and green food coloring into another, leaving the third bowl plain. Keep in mind the batter will bake up darker than it looks pre-bake. Pour the batter from one of the bowls into one of the prepared pans. (I only have one sheet pan of this size, so I just bake each layer off one at a time.) Using an offset spatula, spread the batter into an even layer.
- Bake the layer for 8 to 10 minutes, until just set (the cake may look undercooked, but this is what you want). Repeat with the remaining bowls of cake batter and sheet pans, transferring each baked cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
- When all the layers are cool, invert the green layer onto a parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Peel off the paper from the layer and brush on half of the heated preserves. Flip the white layer on top of the green layer and peel off the paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert the red layer on top of white layer and discard the paper.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place another quarter sheet pan on top, right side up. Evenly distribute a heavy weight on top of the sheet pan — I place heavy cookbooks on top! — and place in the fridge to chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove the weights and plastic wrap and let the layer sit on your counter for a few minutes to come to room temperature. Melt the chocolate wafers in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments, until smooth.
- Trim the edges of the assembled layers with a long serrated knife to even them out. Quickly (like REALLY quickly) spread half of the melted chocolate in a thin layer on top of the cake. Place the cake back in the fridge to firm up the chocolate, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the chocolate layer, place another quarter sheet pan on top, then invert the cake and remove the paper. Quickly spread with the remaining chocolate. Freeze the chocolate-covered cake until just slightly firm, about 10-15 minutes.
- Cut lengthwise into 6 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 16 pieces. It helps to use a sharp serrated knife that has been run under hot water to cut into the frozen cake. The cookies are much easier to cut when cold!
- The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
- To freeze: store baked, sliced Italian rainbow cookies between layers of parchment paper in freezer-safe containers. Cookies will keep up to 3 months.
- To defrost: allow cookies to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. The cake layers defrost pretty quickly!
*Recipe adapted slightly from Nina Caldas via Food52.