italian rainbow cookies

For a few years now, I’ve watched Instagram come alive with the surprise of sweet, mysterious cookie deliveries as part of The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. And every single year I’ve missed the sign up deadline, my mind occupied with other things. Better late than never is how the saying goes, right? It felt like a win-win when I discovered the information for it on Julie’s blog in time to get my name into the mix this year. I loved spreading cheer with home baked love, and yes, getting cookies was wonderful, too. The other great news is that each person who participates makes a donation to a very worthy cause, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and the #FBCookieSwap corporate partners match the donations.

Italian Rainbow Cookies | get the recipe at

I decided to make a batch of Italian Rainbow Cookies for my secret cookie peeps. They’re a yummy way to connect my past with my present. I’ve been eating these cookies longer than I can remember; maybe even before I knew how to walk. We grew up buying them from Court Pastry in Brooklyn, along with savoiardi cookies, anisette biscuits, and Regina cookies. This is where my girls had their first taste of cookies, too. Any Brooklyn Italian mama will agree that anisette biscuits make for rather yummy teethers.

Italian Rainbow Cookies | get the recipe at

Now, this may sound surprising, but Italian Rainbow Cookies are much easier to make than you might imagine. The only tricky part is the coloring, so plan in advance if you prefer to use an all-natural, vegetable based product. In the past, I’ve used India Tree food coloring with success. I couldn’t find it when I set out to make the cookies this year, and ultimately had to go with a synthetic food dye. Word to the wise: avoid using the Color Garden all natural brand if color really matters to you (and it means A LOT to me when making rainbow cookies). I’m quite curious how they achieved the bright red color in their photos on their website because mine was more of an aged brick red. The cookies tasted fine, but I just couldn’t get past my disappointment on the color. Usually I keep this stuff to myself, believing that if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all, but the dye was so expensive, I felt obligated to share my experiences with it. Nonetheless, the girls and I nibbled on the layers, while my guy ran to the grocery store to buy some regular red and green food coloring to make a new batch.

Italian Rainbow Cookies | get the recipe at

The other great thing about making these rainbow cookies is that they stretch further than you might imagine. I like to cut them into smaller pieces, providing a yield of eight dozen cookies. You can cut them larger, if you like, but it means less cookie love to spread with friends and family.

We may be far from Court Pastry these days, but it’s nice to know all we have to do is stroll into the kitchen when we’re craving a taste of home.

Six Years Ago: Homemade Hot Cocoa + Chocolate Ganache

Five Years Ago: Peanut Butter Bon Bons {no bake!}

Four Years Ago: Chocolate Gingerbread Doughnuts

Three Years Ago: Easy Homemade Eggnog

Two Years Ago: Candied Pecans {easy homemade gift-giving}

One Year Ago: Gingerbread Rice Krispy Treats

Italian Rainbow Cookies

Makes 96 cookies

Album Pairing: My Favorite Things by John Coltrane

I’m going to repeat this even though it’s listed next to the ingredient—almond paste and marzipan are not the same. Make sure you pick up the correct tube when buying it since they usually stock these next to each other in the baking aisle. It’s pretty expensive here in the U.S. which I haven’t quite figured out why. I stock up when I’m in Paris and Montreal where it’s much more affordable (plus I love the brands I get there).

I’ve made these cookies from start to finish the same day, but you can also do it in stages. Bake the layers the night before, and pick up with the remaining steps the next day. My apartment is cool enough that I can store the finished cookies in a covered container at room temperature with no worry about the chocolate melting.

And one more note about the food coloring. You’ll notice that exact amounts are not listed. That’s because the amount really depends on what brand you use. So, go ahead and eyeball this to achieve the color you like best.

One last thing—many recipes call for using orange marmalade. I like apricot preserves, so that’s what I use. Feel free to swap in whatever you like. You can even use seedless red raspberry preserves, which if memory serves correct, that’s what my mom used to use when making them.

3 large eggs, separated

2 sticks (224 grams) unsalted butter (at room temperature), cut into pieces

6 ounces (168 grams) almond paste (not marzipan), crumbled into bits

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

1 1/3 cups (200 grams) whole wheat pastry flour or regular all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Red food coloring

Green food coloring

1/2 cup (120 grams) apricot preserves, heated & strained to remove the rind

4 ounces (112 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 11-inch by 17-inch rimmed baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang over the edges of the pan; set aside.

Add the egg whites and half of the salt to a deep bowl. Starting on slow speed, and gradually increasing to medium-high, beat until stiff peaks form; set aside while you prepare the batter.

Add the butter, almond paste, and sugar to a separate, clean deep bowl. Beat on medium-low speed until well blended, 4 to 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until fluffy. Add the yolks, and beat until well mixed. Add the flour and salt; beat on medium-low speed until just mixed.

Spoon half of the egg whites into the bowl with the batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir until well blended. Add the remaining whites, and fold in until combined (and there are no visible white streaks).

Divide the batter evenly among 3 bowls. Mix red coloring into one bowl, green coloring into the second bowl, and leave the third bowl plain. Spoon each of the batters into 1/3 of the prepared pan (once finished, the pan should have three separate rows of batter; it’s okay if the edges touch). Bake until just set, 9-11 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Use a sharp knife to cut the cooled cakes into sections, according to their color.

Place the green layer on a cutting board. Use a pastry brush to spread half of preserves on top. Place the plain layer on top, and brush with the remaining preserves. Place the red layer on top, and gently press down to make sure the layers stick to each other. Arrange a sheet of waxed paper, or parchment on top. Use a few cans, or very heavy book, to weigh down the layers. Set them in a cool place for at least four hours, or overnight.

Transfer the cake to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Cut the sides to make the ends smooth and even. Spread half the chocolate over the top of the cake in a thin layer. Use the remaining melted chocolate to frost the sides with a thin layer of glaze. Set the cake in a cool, dry place until the glaze sets up, and hardens (an hour in the fridge works great, too). Cut crosswise into 16 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.