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Classic Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

I have never met anyone who didn’t love Italian Rainbow cookies.  The soft and colorful layers of almond cake surrounded by chocolate make them hard to resist! 

Many pieces of Italian rainbow cookies on a white background.

You may know these cookies as Italian flag cookies, Tri-color cookies, Venetian cookies, Neapolitan cookies, or seven-layer cookies. Whatever you call them, they are everyone’s favorite cookies.  They are part of every Italian Christmas cookie platter along with CuccidatiAnginettiChocolate Spice Cookies, and Italian Butter cookies.

Are they cookies or cakes?  The cookie layers are actually very thin almond cakes that are held together by either apricot, strawberry, or raspberry jam and then topped with another thin layer of semi-sweet chocolate. Because, they are cut into small bite-size pieces they resemble cookies, but they have the texture of little cakes.  

I am not sure if there is really a version of this cookie in Italy, or if they were made popular by Italian immigrants in the United States.  For many years we would only get Italian rainbow cookies from an Italian bakery at Christmas time.  But then my mom started making them at home and they became part of every holiday and family celebration. 

These cookies are a labor of love, but you will be rewarded with a truly special treat!

Photo of ingredients needed to make Italian Rainbow cookies with labels on a wooden background.

Ingredients You Need

Almond paste: Either store-bought or homemade is fine to use.  It is easiest to work with when it is at room temperature and grated or broken into small pieces with your fingers. 

Granulated Sugar

Unsalted Butter:  The butter should be at room temperature. 

Large Eggs:  Separate the yolks and the whites.  Let the yolks come to room temperature before starting to make your batter.  I recommend keeping the egg whites cold until you are ready to use them.

Milk:  Also at room temperature.

Almond extract: For extra almond flavor!

Flour: All-purpose flour works best for this recipe.

Red and Green Food Coloring:  You can use either liquid or gel food coloring.

Jam, preserves or lemon curd:  Typically raspberry or apricot jam is used, but my mom also likes to use lemon curd between the cake layers. I love the lemon curd because it is light and delicious!

Semisweet Chocolate Chips: You can also use milk chocolate or dark chocolate if you prefer. If you use a chocolate bar in place of the chips, you will need to chop it.

Step by Step Instructions

4 photos: creaming butter and sugar, cookie batter, whipped egg whites and the batter after the egg whites have been folded in.

​1. Make Batter:

  • Beat the sugar, almond paste, and 1 stick of butter until the almond paste is broken down.  
  • Add the remaining butter and beat until smooth. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Mix in the milk and extract. Slowly add in the flour and salt.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  
  • Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until it is completely blended in. 
4 photos: three bowls of red, green and white batter, the batter spread in 3 baking pans, the baked green layer with lemon curd spread on it and the assembled cake wrapped in plastic wrap.

2. Bake and Assemble the Cakes: 

  • Divide the batter evenly into 3 bowls.  Add red food coloring to one bowl and mix well.  Add green food coloring to another bowl and mix well.  Leave one bowl of plain batter.  
  • Grease or spray  three 9″ x 13″ inch baking pans with cooking spray, then line them with parchment paper. Spread each of the three cake batters in separate baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.  The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool completely.
  • Spread a thin layer of jam or lemon curd on either the red or green cake layer.  Carefully invert the plain layer on top of the bottom layer and remove the parchment paper. Spread another thin layer of jam or lemon curd on the white layer, then top it with the remaining cake layer. 
  • Wrap the entire cake with plastic wrap, top it with one of the baking sheets, and set some heavy cans on top to weigh it down.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  
3 photos o chocolate dolloped on a red cake layer, chocolate spread out on the cake and the hardened chocolate.

3. Top with Chocolate

  • Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and whisk until completely smooth.
  • Remove the parchment paper from the top layer of the cake and spread the melted chocolate evenly across the top of the cake.  Return the cake to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  
  • When the chocolate has hardened, use a sharp serrated knife to trim the cakes so that you create straight edges all around.  
  • Cut the cake into about 1 1/2″ by 3/4″ pieces. 
Italian rainbow cookies on a white background.

​Baking Tips

  • To make sure the cake layers bake evenly, rotate them halfway through the baking time.
  • ​To make cutting the cookies easy, use a serrated knife and run hot water over it for a few seconds, then dry it off before making a slice.  Repeat this with each slice you make to get nice clean cuts.
  • You can coat both the top and bottom of the cakes with chocolate if you like.  Once the top layer of chocolate has completely hardened, place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on it, cover it with a baking sheet, and flip the cake over.  Remove the parchment from the bottom, spread a thin layer of chocolate on it and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

Storage Recommendations

​Italian Rainbow Cookies can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Place them in an airtight container with wax paper between layers.  

​This is a perfect cookie to make ahead and freeze. I store them in a freezer-safe plastic container as I would in the refrigerator and then I wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn.  They last in the freezer for about 3 months.

Italian Rainbow cookies arranged on a white background.

Other Italian Cookies and Desserts You Will Love

If you are looking for more Italian cookies to try you will love my easy Pizzicati cookies (Italian Pinch Cookies), they are so pretty and they are perfect for any time of the year. Another Italian classic cookie recipe is Pignoli cookies.  These pine nut cookies are often found in Italian bakeries, but they are so expensive, and making your own is really easy.

​Since I am a chocoholic, two of my favorite desserts are Chocolate Budino (Italian Pudding) and Italian Chocolate Mousse!  Both are so creamy and decadent!

For the cheesecake lovers out there, I have two recipes that will hit the spot!  Italian Cheesecake with Ricotta and Nutella Swirl Cheesecake.  

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!

Italian Rainbow cookies arranged on a white background.

Italian Rainbow Cookies

Italian rainbow cookies are also known as Tri-color Cookies, Italian Flag Cookies, or Seven layer cookies. Layers of colorful almond sponge cake, preserves, and chocolate make these everyone's favorite Italian cookies.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 15 minutes
Refrigerate 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 15 minutes
Course Cookies, Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 60 cookies
Calories 119 kcal

Equipment

  • 3 9" x 13" baking pans
  • Sheet Parchment Paper

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups All purpose Flour
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 8 oz Almond Paste
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • cups Unsalted Butter (2½ sticks) room temperature
  • 4 Eggs Large, divided
  • 3 tbsp Milk Room temperature
  • 2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 25 drops Red Food Coloring
  • 25 drops Green Food Coloring
  • 10 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips or chopped
  • ½ cup Jam Raspberry, Apricot or Lemon Curd

Instructions
 

  • Separate the egg yolks from the whites and set them aside. Whisk together flour and salt and set it aside.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350℉. Grease or spray 3 baking sheets with cooking spray. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • Add the almond paste, sugar, and one stick (½ cup) of butter to a large bowl and beat it until the almond paste is broken down, then add the remaining butter and beat until the mixture is smooth.
  • Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until the yolks have been blended in with each addition. Then mix in the milk and almond extract.
  • Slowly add in the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl. When the flour is mixed in, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter until it is smooth.
  • Divide the batter evenly between 3 bowls. Add the red food coloring to one bowl mixing until the color is evenly and completely blended. Repeat with the green food coloring, leaving one bowl of batter plain.
  • Spread each of the batters into a prepared baking sheet. Try to spread the batter out about the same size in all three pans.
  • Bake for 10- 12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the cook time. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes should come out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completley.
  • Once the cakes have cooled, invert either the red or green cake layer on to a clean parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. Remove the parchment from what is now the top of the cake and spread a thin layer of the jam, preserves or lemon curd on it. Carefully, flip the plain layer on top of the bottom cake layer and remove the parchment. Spread a thin layer of filling on the plan layer and flip the remaining cake layer on top of it. Wrap the sandwiched cakes with plastic wrap. Place a Clean cookie sheet on top of it and weigh it down with heavy cans, books or whatever you have handy and place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Top with Chocolate: Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Remove the parchment paper from the top layer of the cake and spread the melted chocolate evenly across the top of the cake. Return the cake to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. When the chocolate has hardened, use a sharp serrated knife to trim the cakes so that you create straight edges all around. Cut the cake into about 1 1/2" by 3/4" pieces.

Notes

Baking tips:
  • To make sure the cake layers bake evenly, rotate them halfway through the baking time.
  • ​To make cutting the cookies easy, use a sharp serrated knife and run hot water over it for a few seconds, then dry it off before making a slice. Repeat this with each slice you make to get nice clean cuts.
  • You can coat both the top and bottom of the cakes with chocolate if you like. Once the top layer of chocolate has completely hardened, place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on it, cover it with a baking sheet, and flip the cake over. Remove the parchment from the bottom, spread a thin layer of chocolate on it and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1pieceCalories: 119kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 2gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 26mgPotassium: 52mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 138IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 14mgIron: 1mg
Keyword sponge cakes, almond paste, holiday cookies, chocolate topping, Italian cookies.
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