Allow me to introduce you to our absolute favorite cookie: Italian rainbow cookies! I think our family likes 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!)
We have been making these Italian rainbow cookies for years — they take a while, but oh my god they are so worth it.
This tri color cookie recipe is even better than what you’d buy at an Italian bakery. Seriously, these are loved by all!
What’s In Italian Rainbow Cookies?
This rainbow cookie recipe may require some extra TLC to assemble, but the ingredients list is minimal.
All you need to make Italian rainbow cookies are eggs (separate the whites from the egg yolks), sugar, almond paste, 1 teaspoon almond extract, butter, salt, food coloring, and raspberry preserves. And semi-sweet chocolate to top it all off, of course.
You’ll start by beating egg whites over medium speed in the bowl of a standing mixer until stiff peaks form. Place those in a second bowl before you move onto the next step. The whipped egg whites will get folded into the almond batter, giving the cookies a light, airy texture.
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, each in their own large bowl.
- Add food coloring to create red and green layers, mixing well until the batter is a single solid color.
- Bake them off one-by-one. This is honestly the most difficult part — spreading a very small amount of batter into thin, single layers on rimmed baking sheets. But it’s necessary for the signature look of Italian tri color cookies.
Bake the cookies on a single piece of parchment paper. No need to spray the parchment with cooking spray or baking spray!
Once cool, spread half of the jam in between each of the cookie layers. In the Well Seasoned household, this is always seedless raspberry jam. However, apricot jam is another popular option. Heck, you could do one layer of each! Just make sure you assemble with the yellow layer in the middle — it’s meant to mirror an Italian flag (green, white, then red)!
Next, store overnight in your refrigerator, weighing down with a couple heavy cookbooks on top (yes, really).
The next day, pour melted semisweet chocolate chips on both sides, allow the chocolate to harden, then transfer to a cutting board and slice into the cutest little bite-size tricolore cookies you’ve ever seen. These are our go-to gift for friends, family, and loved ones during the holiday season.
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
Rainbow cookies should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Of course, that’s only if you and your kid can keep your hands off them long enough not to eat them all at once…
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 (yield is 96 seven layer cookies!), so you’ll definitely want to give some as gifts (these are a perfect Christmas cookie!) 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! And those scraps that are left on the cutting board? Eat those!! Do not throw them away!
Dairy Free Rainbow Cookies
Can Italian rainbow cookies be made dairy free? Yes! We had a reader test our exact recipe substituting only the butter with Miyokos vegan butter and they turned out perfect!
One bite and we’re certain you’ll agree, this is the best tri color cookie recipe ever, period the end. If you make our Italian Rainbow Cookies, please let us know by leaving a review below! Trust us — your friends and family will thank you for sharing the love!!
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For additional holiday cookie recipes, check out the following:
Foolproof Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe
- 4 large eggs separated
- 1 cup sugar divided
- 8 ounces almond paste or a 7-oz tube
- 1 ¼ cups 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter softened
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- red food coloring
- green food coloring
- 10 ounces raspberry preserves warmed
- 7 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks, chips, or melting wafers
- Prepare the sheet pans. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Grease, flour, and line the bottoms of three 9×13 (quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang.
- Beat egg whites. In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 4 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, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to another bowl, and wipe the bowl dry with a paper towel.
- Mix sugar and almond paste. Switch the mixer to the paddle attachment and beat together the almond paste and remaining ¾ cup sugar until well-mixed, about 3 minutes. Start with the mixer on slow, then increase speed to medium, otherwise the mixture will fly out of the bowl.
- Incorporate butter. Add 2 ½ sticks softened butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 4 egg yolks and 1 tsp almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add 2 cups flour and ½ tsp Kosher salt, mixing until just combined.
- Fold in egg whites. Fold half of the egg white mixture into the almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Divide batter among 3 bowls. We recommend weighing the batter on a food scale, then dividing equally in thirds into three separate bowls.
- Color the cookies. Stir 6-8 drops of red food coloring into one bowl and 6-8 drops of green food coloring into another, leaving the third bowl plain. Different food colorings have different intensities. Keep in mind the batter will bake up darker than it looks raw. Pour the batter from one of the bowls into one of the prepared pans. Using a small offset spatula, spread the batter into an even layer. It will be extremely thin, but there is enough!
- Bake the individual layers. 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.
- Assemble the layers with preserves. 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.
- Chill overnight. 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.
- Bring the cake to room temperature. 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.
- Pour on melted chocolate. Trim the edges of the assembled layers with a long serrated knife to even them out. Use a small offset spatula to 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 10-15 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 minutes.
- Slice cookies. Cut lengthwise into 6 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 16 pieces. The cookies are much easier to cut when cold, but if they're completely frozen solid (like you forget them in the freezer and came back to them the next day), allow to thaw slightly or the chocolate will crack as you slice into it.
- 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.