Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Mary Carpino and Nicole Carpino Frasco

Adapted by Margaux Laskey

Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe (1)

Total Time
About 2 hours, plus overnight chilling
Rating
4(802)
Notes
Read community notes

Also known as Venetians, Neapolitans or tricolore cookies, these classic Italian-American treats are not really cookies at all, but thin, dense layers of brightly hued almond cake stacked with apricot jam, and coated with glossy chocolate. The layers are traditionally red, white and green to resemble the Italian flag, but, of course, you can play around with the colors depending on the holiday and what you have on hand. This version is adapted from Mary Carpino, from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., who made them every Christmas for years. One of her granddaughters, Nicole Carpino Frasco, passed along the recipe to us. We increased the chocolate and salt slightly, but the festive spirit of the recipe remains. Mrs. Carpino stored them in her chilly winter attic, but if you don’t have one of those, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 5 months. —Margaux Laskey

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Ingredients

Yield:About 70 cookies

  • Nonstick cooking spray or neutral oil, for greasing the pans
  • 2cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
  • ½teaspoon fine salt
  • 1(8-ounce/227-gram) package pure almond paste (not pastry filling) (see Tip)
  • cups/340 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1cup/201 grams granulated sugar
  • 4large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1teaspoon almond extract
  • Red and green food coloring, preferably gel
  • 1(12-ounce/340-gram) jar apricot or raspberry preserves (not seedless)
  • 8ounces/227 grams semisweet or bittersweet bar chocolate
  • Sprinkles, for finishing (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (70 servings)

111 calories; 6 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 9 grams sugars; 1 gram protein; 24 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe (2)

Preparation

  1. Step

    1

    Arrange 2 racks in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees. Make room in your refrigerator for 1 half-sheet pan. Grease 3 (13-by-9-inch) baking pans or quarter-sheet pans with cooking spray or a little oil, then line with parchment or wax paper. (This helps the paper stay in place.) Spray or oil the parchment.

  2. Step

    2

    Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or with a hand mixer), or in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer, break up the almond paste using a fork or your fingers. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract. Using the paddle attachment, beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl halfway through. Turn off the mixer, add a third of the flour and salt, then beat on medium-low until just combined. Repeat with another third, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and continue until all the flour is added and incorporated. Transfer batter to a large bowl. Rinse and dry the mixing bowl.

  3. Add egg whites to the mixing bowl and beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, 30 to 45 seconds. Fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined.

  4. Step

    4

    Remove one-third of the batter to one of the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the batter in the pan all the way to the edges. (This can get a little tricky, but have patience and take your time. The oil on the pan should help hold the paper in place, but if you’re having trouble, hold the paper in place with one hand while you spread with the other.) Remove another one-third of the batter to a medium bowl and add a couple drops of green food coloring. Stir until blended, and add more to reach your desired shade. Transfer green batter to a prepared pan and spread evenly. Add a couple drops of red food coloring to the remaining batter, stir to combine, add more as needed, then transfer to the last pan and spread evenly. Firmly tap each pan on the countertop to release air bubbles.

  5. Step

    5

    Bake for 10 to 11 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until the edges are barely browned, the tops are just set, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Immediately slide cakes from the pans onto racks using the parchment paper. Cool completely.

  6. Step

    6

    Using the parchment paper, slide the green cake onto a half-sheet pan. In a small saucepan, heat preserves over medium until loose, then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Spread half of the preserves over the green layer, going all the way to the edge. Carefully flip the uncolored layer on top (use a large offset spatula to help), and remove the parchment paper. Spread with the remaining preserves. Top with the red layer and remove the parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and place another rimmed baking sheet on top of the cookies. Transfer to the refrigerator, then top with heavy cans so the weight is evenly distributed. Refrigerate overnight.

  7. Step

    7

    Melt half of the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30-second bursts. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate on the top and to the edges, then refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Melt the remaining chocolate. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a cutting board, then place on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the board. Spread the bottom with the remaining chocolate. Let cool for a few minutes, then use the tines of a fork to draw waves in the chocolate and add sprinkles, if desired. Refrigerate until almost firm, but still slightly soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. (If you wait until the chocolate is fully set, the chocolate will crack when you cut.)

  8. Step

    8

    Run a sharp knife under hot water, dry, then trim the edges and save for snacking. Cut the cake into 1-inch squares, running the knife under hot water and drying between cuts. Return to the refrigerator to set completely. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. Allow to come to room temperature a bit before serving.

Tip

  • You can find packaged almond paste in the baking supplies aisle at the grocery store.

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802

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Private Notes

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Cooking Notes

Laura

Making your own almond paste is easy and way more economical than buying from the store:In a food processor pulse together 1 1/2 cups almond flour with 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, to break up clumps. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of almond extract (depending how much almond flavor you like), then add 1 egg white and process until it comes together in a smooth paste. Store in an airtight zip bag in the refrigerator. It makes about 10 ounces and can be kept in the freezer for many months.

Lisa

These look delicious. I will definitely be making these! A tip for breaking up the almond paste is to use a grater. Much easier with no lumps.

Modifications

A package of green spinach cook blend and strain out large pieces to replace green dyeBeet juice in place of red dye

Ahuva

1. Weigh your empty mixing bowl.2. After the batter is done, eggwhites incorporated, weigh the bowl and contents.3. Subtract the weight of the bowl. What remains is your net wt of ingredients4. Divide by 3. This the amount you'll put in each pan. It's more efficient and less stressful than eyeballing it.

Jo

Why does it say "not seedless" under the raspberry jam option? Is there something about seedless jam that won't work corectly?

Alexandra

Made these for the first time this morning to include in my annual cookie box! I recommend separating the dough into thirds and mixing in the food coloring BEFORE folding in the whites. That way you keep the fluffy texture and maybe the cookies would turn out less dense than mine did. Also, I used waaaay more food coloring than recommended, and the colors were still quite muted and pastel-like. That said I used cheap, non-gel food coloring. Still cute and fun, and definitely tasty!

Nancy

I've been making these for years with double the almond paste but otherwise the same. They seem most like the ones I grew up with NY.

E. Busciglio

A layer of marzipan on top before the chocolate really elevates these cookies.

Kathy

I make these. I only put chocolate on top (6oz semisweet bar) and use 3/8 tsp almond extract for the recipe this size. I use the tops of 13x9" cake pans for baking the layers- easier to spread. Then I lay 2 overlapped, long pieces of plastic over a large cookie sheet and assemble it on that, wrap it all tightly and rest overnight (weighted) in my cold garage.These are a lot of work. Don't cut the recipe in half bc you'll have all the work and only half the treats.

Michael

Why not just use seedless jam if you strain it anyway? I’m very curious about that.

Nancy

If anyone is wondering, you can freeze these before adding the chocolate and there is no difference at all. I cut it in half, and wrap each half in freezer grade plastic wrap, then heavy duty foil. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before adding the chocolate.

Nancy

I put the almond paste in my food processor with 3/4 c of the sugar called for in the recipe and that really breaks it down. I double the almond paste, so you could probably use less of the sugar in that stage if you're using the called for amount. Then just add the remaining sugar with the butter, etc.

Gale S

To answer my own question, my cakes took 5 - 8 drops of the Spectrum brand of gel food coloring. I used super rouge and forest green. My layers looked as vibrant as the picture. I took the advice of a previous reader and increased the chocolate to 12 oz. This gave a generous 6 oz per top and bottom which was easier to spread and looked more attractive in the finished product. Although this is a labor intensive cookie, it is delicious, fun to make and is a show stopper on my cookie plate.

E. Busciglio

If you mix, rather than food, in 1/3 of the egg whites first, that lightens the batter and makes the remaining 2/3 easier to fold in.

Suralottie

These are the same "Rainbow cookies" my mother made and I've continued the tradition the past twenty years. I use apricot jam between two layers and raspberry between the other two. Using an offset spatula makes it so much easier and I was happy to see that tip recommended in the article. The cookies are easier to cut when they are frozen or cold. I highly recommend the recipe-they are so much better than the ones in the bakery or supermarkets.

Archina

Anyone substituted gluten-free flour with good results? Advice?

BMW

These did not get as high for me as in the picture so I double stacked the layers before I set them overnight. (I cut the sheet in half and put one on top of the other.) They are even more striking now and simply delicious! They are a lot of work but it is not a particularly hard recipe to make. Also, if you make your own almond paste, as I did (King Arthur’s recipe) realize if you don’t have a scale you may need to estimate how much of your log is 8 oz if it makes more than that.

Melissa

These turn out just like the best rainbow cookies in NY bakeries. I had Wilton pink and leaf green gel food colors on hand and they turned out pretty, a bit more muted than the NYT photo.Very popular with my family.

grace

I followed the recipe as written with the exception of using Fig preserves without straining. These are without a doubt the best cookies I have ever made. Although more time consuming than the average cookie, they still do not take more than 2 hours or so (I did my cake layers the night before and therefore broke up the process into an hour in the evening and an hour in the morning) and the results are worth the wait.

Julie

Just made for the first time and these cookies turned out amazing taste exactly like the ones from Venerio’s in the East Village. I brought my batch to a very hip cookie exchange party and they surely impressed the crowd :)It’s a labor of love but worth the effort. couple of tricks that were helpful: i grated the almond paste, added the egg whites to the already colored dough to endure the batter kept the fluff from the egg whites, i divided my jam in 2 batches to keep the layers even.

GGD

I stacked the cooked layers in one of the baking pans after spreading the jam. Takes up less room in the fridge. I then used a cookie sheet that had wax paper to flip the frosted bottom layer onto. I was able to frost the top and then cut the cookies on the baking sheet. A lot less to clean up!

Hill

I have made these separating the eggs, beating them and folding in like the recipe says, and by just adding the the whole egg to the batter and beating a bit longer. Save a step. There was no difference in the final product. I’m guessing because after adding the food coloring, the amount of mixing to distribute it, deflated a lot of the air from the beaten egg whites.

Carla

It’s always helpful if you can say whether a cookie can be made in advance and frozen. I think most can but in this case I wasn’t sure. I searched online and found this one could, but it would be nice if you include that in your recipe instructions at the end.

Flopsy

Time consuming, but not difficult. Made my own almond paste using King Arthur's recipe. Used KA gluten free Measure for Measure flour for the cakes. Maybe this is more a testament to KA M4M than this actual recipe, but the cookies came out delicious and no one was able to tell they were gluten free. And they keep for a long time! I kept them in the fridge, and I'm still eating them about 4 weeks later.

SMD

My favorite Christmas cookie! I use a lot more apricot preserves than the recipe calls for ... maybe 1.5x the amount. Either way these are delicious and worth the time and effort (once a year)!

GG

Any suggestions on how to evenly divide the batter? Also, my layers shrunk unevenly so really be careful to spread the batter. I used apricot jam and see no need to put it through a sieve...Next time I will just warm it in the microwave for 10 secs. I made these last year and don't seem to recall having the issues I had this year. Next time I will try making the almond paste---otherwise these are very expensive and challenging but extremely delicious cookies!

GG

Super delicious...can't make enough of them!

Jess

To get stiff peaks one needs to beat for at least 4-5mins.

note

Weigh cake batter before dividing itLots of air bubbles so tap

note

Use parchment and let it hang over

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Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe (2024)

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