Italian Rainbow cookies, sometimes also called Venetians, Neapolitans, or Tri-color cookies, are gorgeous and loaded with flavor. Growing up, I don’t remember making these cookies at home. They always came from a bakery. Once I learned how easy they are to make, they have become a must for my Christmas sweet table. The red, white, and green colors of the almond sponge cake not only represent the Italian flag - they also are the colors of Christmas. Traditional Rainbow cookies use apricot jam between the layers but I like the extra intense flavor of raspberry jam. Another tip is use a dark, bittersweet chocolate that is at least 60% cacao. The bittersweet flavor works well with the almond and raspberry. Don’t be put off by the long instructions. It takes longer to explain how to make them than actually make them. Italian Rainbow Cookies are definitely worth it!
Italian Rainbow Cookies
- 8 ounces box almond paste (not almond filling)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 and ½ sticks butter softened
- 5 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour sifted
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring or more to get desired color
- 1 teaspoon green food coloring or more to get desired color
- 1 15-ounce jar raspberry or apricot jam (remove large pieces)
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
- 2 teaspoon canola oil
- Special equipment needed: (3) 13 x 9 rimmed baking pans (quarter sheet pans), offset spatula, stand mixer, parchment paper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally butter and flour (or spray with baking spray) three 13 X 9 sheet pans and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Also grease the top of the parchment paper. Special note: If you use a larger pan the layers will be too thin.
- Beat whites in the stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff peaks and are slightly glossy. Transfer to another bowl. Clean the stand mixer bowl.
- Crumble the almond paste log into smaller pieces and put in the bowl of stand mixer. Add ¾ cup of sugar. With the paddle attachment, combine on medium speed until you have fine crumbles, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes.
- Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick.
- Take bowl off stand mixer, and fold by hand about a third of the egg whites into the batter to loosen the dough. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until well combined.
- Divide the batter evenly into three medium glass bowls. Leave one bowl plain for the white layer. Add red food coloring to the second bowl stirring to the desired color. Add green food coloring to the last bowl, stirring to desired color.
- Spread batter into each of the prepared pans with an offset spatula as evenly as you can - it will be very thin, approximately ¼ inch. The cakes will rise during baking.
- Bake, rotating pans to opposite racks, until cakes are cooked through and just beginning to brown around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cakes cool completely on wire racks.
- Start with the green cake. Leave it in the pan. Put the raspberry jam in a small bowl, and microwave 1 minute to make it more spreadable. Spread half of the jam evenly over the green cake. The jam should be a very thin layer. Remove the white cake from the pan, remove the parchment paper on the bottom and lay on top of the green layer with jam. Spread the remaining jam over the white layer almost to the edges. Remove the red layer from the pan, remove the bottom parchment paper and place on top.
- Top the red layer with a piece of parchment then wrap the entire cake in plastic. Top with another sheet pan, weighted with cans. Chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Unwrap the cake. Place a large piece of parchment paper 10 inches longer than the 13x9 pan on a cutting board. The excess is for “handles”. Place the layer cake on the parchment.
- Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Whisk in the oil until the chocolate has a glossy shine. Let the chocolate cool a bit.
- Pour the chocolate over the top the cake and spread it evenly from edge to edge with an offset spatula.
- Using the “handles” of the parchment paper, lift the cake and place back in a 13x9 pan. Allow the chocolate to harden in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Using the parchment handles again, lift the cake from the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to cut into rows then cut the rows into squares or rectangles. Wipe the knife clean with a wet cloth after each cut. They are easier to cut the colder they are.
- Store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.