Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

Italian Rainbow Cookies are a classic Italian-American dessert that is not really a cookie as we know cookies. They are made of three thin layers of almond cake layered with jam and coated in a thin layer of chocolate.

Italian rainbow cookies on a white tray.

History

Italian Rainbow Cookies are also known as Venetians, tri-color cookies, seven-layer cookies, Italian flag cookies, and Neapolitans.

Are rainbow cookies really Italian?

From what I’ve researched, they are Italian-American. They originated in Italian immigrant communities in the United States during the 1900s to honor their native country, representing the colors of the Italian flag.

Italian rainbow cookies on a white tray with a red cup of coffee.

Why You’ll Love These

I researched a ton of recipes, tips, and tricks. I tested until I was able to make them easily and share what I did with you all.

The key flavor in these cookies is almond. They have a soft cake-like texture, thinly layered with raspberry jam and a sweet chocolate coating. To-die-for!

The almond flavor is much like that of Amaretti Cookies.

As for my family, we never had them. My aunt had never even heard of them and asked me what they were when I told her I was testing recipes for this unknown treat.

She also had never heard of our Italian Ricotta Cookies or Italian Sesame Seed Cookies.

This is a great Christmas cookie to add to your baking list this year!

Recipe Ingredients

  • Unsalted Butter – Softened. If using salted butter, you may want to omit the salt in this recipe.
  • Almond Paste – Almond paste gives the cookies their traditional almond flavor.
  • Granulated Sugar and Kosher Salt – Both bring out the flavor.
  • Eggs – Room temperature.
  • Pure Almond extract – Bumps up the almond flavor!
  • All-purpose Flour – Gives the cookies rise.
  • Seedless Raspberry Jam (or raspberry preserves) – Traditionally, apricot jam is used, but we prefer raspberry.
  • Dark Chocolate Chips – I use Ghiradelli 72% Cacao chocolate chips. You can use semi-sweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chips.
  • Red Gel Food Coloring and Green Gel Food Coloring – I used Wilton Gel Food Coloring.

How to Make Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

This recipe is not hard but is a little time-consuming. Most of which are inactive.

Arrange two racks in the oven to divide it into thirds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare three 9×13 baking sheets or quarter sheet pans with parchment paper, leaving about a 2-inch overhang. These will act as handles when removing the cakes from the pan.

Shredded almond paste on a black cutting board.
Shredded almond paste.
Italian rainbow cookie dough in the mixing bowl.
Creamed butter, almond paste, sugar, and salt.
Final cookie dough with the flour added.
Final cookie dough with the flour added.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a large bowl using a hand-held electric mixer.

Cream the softened butter, shredded almond paste, granulated sugar, and salt together at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Scrape the sides of the bowl down as needed.

Add the eggs and almond extract mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until smooth.

With the mixer on low, add the flour in thirds, scraping down the bowl as needed, until just combined.

Divide the batter equally into three medium bowls. Use a scale to weigh about 14 ounces each or about 1 3/4 cups each.

With the gel food coloring, tint one bowl with red food coloring, and one bowl with green food coloring, leaving the third bowl uncolored.

Green cookie dough in the parchment paper lined pan.
Red cookie dough in the parchment paper lined pan.
White cookie dough in the parchment paper lined pan.

Transfer each bowl of batter to a separate prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. The top doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth; it will bake evenly.

Bake, rotating halfway through, for 12-14 minutes until the tops look dry but not browned. Watch closely. Immediately remove the baked layers to a wire rack to cool completely.

Raspberry jam being spread on the green cookie layer.
Raspberry jam spread over the white cookie layer.
The stacked cookie layers on a wooden board wrapped in plastic wrap.

Place a fresh piece of parchment paper on a large cutting board, and transfer the green layer to the cutting board. I didn’t put the parchment under the green layer; it stuck a little to the board.

Spread 1/2 cup of the raspberry jam into an even, thin layer over the green layer. I found that heating the jam just a little made it easier to spread.

Carefully remove the parchment paper from the white layer and place it onto the green layer. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of jam over the undyed layer.

Remove the parchment from the red layer and carefully place it on the undyed layer. Place a new sheet of parchment paper or wax paper over the red layer. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Place a baking sheet on top of the red layer and weigh it down. I used heavy books that were close to the same size.

Refrigerate overnight. I refrigerated it for 24 hours.

Edges trimmed from the cookie bars.
Chocolate being spread over the red cookie layer.

Remove the books, baking sheet, and plastic wrap from the cookies. Using a sharp knife (or serrated knife), trim the edges of the cake, so they are even.

Place 4 ounces of the chocolate chips and 1/4 tsp vegetable oil into a microwave-safe measuring cup.

Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave in 15-second intervals until nearly melted. Stir until completely smooth.

Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is set for about 30 minutes.

Chocolate being spread over the top of the green layer.
Sprinkles spread over the melted chocolate.

Cover the chocolate with parchment paper, place a baking pan or another cutting board, and flip it over.

Melt the remaining chocolate with 1/4 tsp of vegetable oil, same as above. Spread it evenly over the green layer. Refrigerate again until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

You can also coat the sides in chocolate.

How to Cut Rainbow Cookies

Fill a tall glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife in the hot water, wipe dry with paper towels, and cut into 1″ or 2″ squares or rectangles.

Warm and clean the knife before each cut to minimize the chocolate from cracking and smearing on the cookies.

Tips

  • Most recipes call for separating the eggs and beating the egg whites to stiff peaks. I didn’t do this. I used them whole and had great success.
  • The easiest way to break down the almond paste was to shred it on the large holes of a box grater. I tried crumbling it with a fork and my hands but shredded was the easiest to incorporate into the batter.
  • I didn’t need to spray the pan with a baking spray first, as most recipes suggested for holding the paper in place. The batter was easy enough to spread without the cooking spray.
  • Warming the jam just a little in the microwave made it easier to spread.
  • When I made this last batch I did spread the chocolate on both the top of the cake and the bottom. But I think next time, I’m just going to spread the chocolate over the top (green layer) and sides and not worry about the bottom.
  • I weighed the batter out equally into three bowls. It’s about 1 3/4 cups of batter or about 14 ounces each. Doing this will give you the most consistent even layers.
  • To achieve the deep red and green color, I used 35 drops of each. (I know it’s a lot) You don’t have to tint them as much. I wanted a richer color.

FAQs

Can I make these ahead?

Yes. If making them ahead for cookie trays during the holidays, I suggest making them through the weighing-down step. Wrapping tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, then wrapping in freezer paper or placing it into a 2-gallon freezer bag. When ready to finish, thaw in the fridge overnight, and spread the melted chocolate.

How do you store Rainbow Cookies?

You can store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For the best taste, let them come to room temperature before serving.

Can you freeze Italian Rainbow Cookies?

Yes! I recommend using a large flat container and layer them with wax paper, so the chocolate doesn’t stick together. Wrap the container or put it into a large freezer bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. You can freeze it with the chocolate already spread on and cut it into pieces, but you take a chance on the chocolate discoloring. See the make-ahead notes above.

Italian rainbow cookies on a white tray.

Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

Italian Rainbow Cookies are a classic Italian-American dessert that are made of three thin layers of almond cake layered with jam and coated in a thin layer of chocolate.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Cookies, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: cake, cookies, italian, rainbow
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 day
Servings: 48
Calories: 159kcal
Author: Leigh Harris

Ingredients
 

  • 8 oz Almond paste shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Unsalted butter softened (3 sticks)
  • 1 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 large Eggs room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 35 drops Red gel food coloring or less
  • 35 drops Green gel food coloring or less
  • 1 cup Raspberry jam seedless
  • 8 oz 72% Cacao chocolate chips (semi-sweet chocolate chips or bittersweet)
  • 1/2 tsp Vegetable oil divided

Instructions

  • Arrange two racks in the oven to divide it into thirds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prepare three 9×13 baking sheets or quarter sheet pans with parchment paper leaving about a 2-inch overhang. These will act as handles when removing the cakes from the pan.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl using a hand-held electric mixer. Cream the softened butter, shredded almond paste, granulated sugar, and salt together at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down as needed.
    8 oz Almond paste, 1 1/2 cups Unsalted butter, 1 cup Granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Add the eggs and almond extract mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
    4 large Eggs, 1 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • With the mixer on low add the flour in thirds, scraping down the bowl as needed, until just combined.
    2 cups All-purpose flour
  • Divide the batter equally into 3 medium bowls. Using a scale weigh about 14 ounces each or about 1 3/4 cups each.
  • With the gel food coloring tint one bowl red stirring thoroughly, one bowl green, and leave the remaining one uncolored.
    35 drops Red gel food coloring, 35 drops Green gel food coloring
  • Transfer each bowl of batter into a separate baking sheet and spread evenly with an offset spatula. The top doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, it will bake evenly.
  • Bake, rotating halfway through, for 12-14 minutes until the tops look dry but not browned. Watch closely. Immediately remove the baked layers to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Place a fresh piece of parchment paper on a large cutting board, transfer the green layer to the cutting board. Spread 1/2 cup of the raspberry jam into an even thin layer over the green layer. I found that heating the jam just a little made it easier to spread.
    1 cup Raspberry jam
  • Carefully remove the parchment paper from the undyed layer and place it onto the green layer. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of jam over the undyed layer.
  • Remove the parchment from the red layer and carefully place it on the undyed layer. Place a new sheet of parchment paper or wax paper over the red layer. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Place a baking sheet on top of the red layer and weigh it down. I used heavy books that were close to the same size. Refrigerate overnight. I refrigerated for 24 hours.
  • Remove the books, baking sheet, and plastic wrap from the cookies. Using a sharp knife. trim the edges of the cake so they are even.
  • Place 4 ounces of the chocolate chips and 1/4 tsp vegetable oil into a microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir then microwave in 15-second intervals until nearly melted. Stir until completely smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set for about 30 minutes.
    8 oz 72% Cacao chocolate chips, 1/2 tsp Vegetable oil
  • Cover the chocolate layer with parchment paper, place a baking pan or another cutting board over it and flip it over.
  • Melt the remaining chocolate with 1/4 tsp of vegetable oil, same as above. Spread it evenly over the green layer. Refrigerate again until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
  • Fill a tall glass with hot water. Dip a sharp knife in the hot water, wipe dry with paper towels, and cut into 1″ or 2″ squares or rectangles. Warming and cleaning the knife before each cut to minimize the chocolate from cracking and smearing on the cookies.

Notes

Tips
—The easiest way to break down the almond paste was to shred it on the large holes of a box grater.
—I weighed the batter out equally into three bowls. It’s about 1 3/4 cups of batter or about 14 ounces each. Doing this will give you the most consistent even layers.
—To achieve the deep red and green color I used 35 drops of each. (I know it’s a lot) You don’t have to tint them as much. 
To Make Ahead – If making them ahead for cookie trays during the holidays, I suggest making them through the weighing-down step. Wrapping tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, then wrapping in freezer paper or placing it into a 2-gallon freezer bag. When ready to finish, thaw in the fridge overnight, and spread the melted chocolate.
Storing – Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. For the best taste let them come to room temperature before serving.
Freezing – I recommend using a large flat container and layer them with wax paper so the chocolate doesn’t stick together. Wrap the container or put it into a large freezer bag. You can freeze it with the chocolate already spread on, and cut it into pieces but you take a chance on the chocolate discoloring. See the make-ahead notes above.

Nutrition

Calories: 159kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 39mg | Potassium: 63mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 200IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg

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