Italian Rainbow Cookies are delightful, layered cookies with sweet jam between colorful layers of almond cake topped with chocolate. Try now!
Italian Rainbow Cookies, also known as Venetian or Tricolor Cookies, are a beloved Italian dessert. These visually stunning cookies are often served on special occasions. They are akin to desserts like Tiramisu and Cannoli. These tri-color cookies are the perfect Dessert to add to your cookie platter for a pop of color. If you like this recipe, be sure to bake our Italian Wedding Cookies next.
Italian Rainbow Cookies feature layers of almond-flavored dough in vibrant red, green, and uncolored hues. The combination of almond paste, raspberry jam, and chocolate creates a delightful flavor profile. Although they may seem intricate to make, these cookies are family-friendly and perfect as after-dinner treats. Their striking appearance makes them a hit at parties and holidays. In Italian culture, Rainbow Cookies are a symbol of festivities and are enjoyed during many special occasions. So have fun with it!
How to Make Italian Rainbow Cookies
Table of contents
Sabrina’s Italian Rainbow Cookie Recipe
You can also call these cookies Italian Flag Cookies. They get their name from the distinct colored layers of red, white, and green on every bite-size cookie.
The tri-color cookie recipe is somewhere between a cake and a cookie. Once you’ve baked all the colors, you assemble each one like you would make a layered rainbow cake. But then you add a layer of chocolate to harden the outside and slice them into small pieces.
Although the tri-color cookies get their color inspiration from the Italian flag, the red and green in them also make them perfect for the holidays. You can throw them in the mix with your Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie Recipes for more baking fun this holiday season. After all, these Italian Rainbow Cookies are so good that you’ll want any excuse to make them.
Rainbow Cookie Dough:
- 4 large eggs: Eggs provide structure, moisture, and help bind the ingredients together. For egg alternatives, consider flaxseed or chia seed “eggs” for binding.
- 1 cup granulated sugar: Sugar sweetens the cookies and contributes to their texture. You can use alternative sweeteners like honey or maple syrup for a different flavor profile.
- 4 ounces almond paste: Almond paste infuses the dough with a rich almond flavor and provides moisture. You can substitute it with marzipan or almond extract for a similar taste.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour: Flour gives the dough structure. Gluten-free flour blends can be used as a substitute for those with gluten sensitivities.
- ½ teaspoon almond extract: Almond extract enhances the almond flavor in the cookies. You can adjust the quantity based on your taste preference.
- ½ teaspoon salt: Salt balances the flavors and enhances the overall taste. Use sea salt or kosher salt as alternatives.
- ½ teaspoon red food coloring: Red food coloring adds vibrant color to one of the cookie layers. Natural alternatives like beet juice can be used for coloring.
- ½ teaspoon green food coloring: Green food coloring provides vibrant green color to another layer. You can use spinach juice for a natural green hue.
- ¼ cup seedless raspberry jam: Raspberry jam adds fruity sweetness and moisture between the cookie layers.
- ¼ cup apricot preserves: Apricot preserves enhance the fruitiness and provide another layer of flavor.
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate melting disks: Semi-sweet chocolate disks create a luscious chocolate coating that complements the cookie layers.
- 2 teaspoons shortening: Shortening is added to the melted chocolate to ensure it sets properly and creates a glossy finish on the cookies. Coconut oil or butter can be used as substitutes for a different texture.
Kitchen Tools & Equipment
- Baking Dish/Cooking Vessel (Size: 10×8 inches): A baking dish or cooking vessel of this size is essential to create the layers for the Rainbow Cookies.
- Parchment Paper: Parchment paper is used to line the baking dish, preventing the cookies from sticking. It also eases the removal of each layer during assembly. If unavailable, silicone baking mats or greasing the pan can be alternatives.
- Stand Mixer: A stand mixer is recommended for beating the eggs and sugar until they reach the desired consistency. Alternatively, a hand mixer can be used for this step, or you can beat manually with a whisk.
- Cooling Rack: A cooling rack is used to cool the cookie layers and allow excess chocolate to drip off. If you don’t have a cooling rack, placing the cookies on parchment paper will also work.
- Microwave-Safe Glass Bowl: You’ll need a large microwave-safe glass bowl for melting the chocolate and mixing it with shortening. Ensure it’s microwave-safe to avoid any accidents.
- Cutting Board: A clean cutting board is essential for slicing the assembled Rainbow Cookies into individual servings.
How to Make Rainbow Cookies
Time needed: 1 hour and 5 minutes.
- Step 1: Prep
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Then line a 10×8 pan with parchment paper. Cut out two more pieces of paper in the same size to cook the other cookie layers.
- Step 2: Mix Cookie Batter
Add eggs and granulated sugar to your stand mixer. Then mix at medium-high speed using a paddle attachment. Slowly raise the speed to high and beat the bowl of batter for 3-4 minutes until the eggs are lightened in color, and the mixture makes a thick ribbon. Mash the almond paste in your hand to break it apart. Then add it to the electric mixer with softened butter and almond extract. Mix the combination of almond paste, almond extract, and butter in at medium speed. In a separate bowl, sift the all-purpose flour and kosher salt together. Then add it to the almond mixture and beat at the lowest speed until just combined. Be sure not to overmix the flour mixture, or it will make the baked cake cookies too dense.
- Step 3: Separate Batter
Separate the batter evenly into three different bowls. You can use a kitchen scale to make sure that each mixing bowl has the same amount of batter.
- Step 4: Bake First Layer
Pour one bowl of uncolored batter into the prepared baking dish, and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are barely browning.
- Step 5: Coloring
While the first cake layer is baking, it’s time to add food coloring to the other bowls of cake batter. Add green gel food coloring to one and red to the other. Mix in the food coloring until the red and green batter are the colors you want. Make sure to add the coloring slowly, or the batter will quickly become too dark, and you want to stick to a bright red and green color.
- Step 6: Continue baking
When the first cake layer is done, give it 5 minutes to cool before carefully removing it from the pan. Then add the next piece of parchment paper, and pour one of the colored batters into the pan for the next cookie layer. Bake the second layer for 8-10 minutes also. Then let it cool for 5 minutes, and repeat the same step with the last cookie layer.
- Step 7: Assemble
When all three layers are done baking and cooled, add the red layer to a cooling rack. Spread raspberry jam over the red layer using an offset spatula or knife. Then add the uncolored layer on top. The easiest way to do this is to carefully invert the layer with the parchment paper still attached, then pull off the paper after you’ve flipped the cookie layer over. Spread apricot jam over the uncolored layer. Then add the green layer to the top and press down gently. Cut all the layers into 4 even and long pieces.
- Step 8: Prep Chocolate
Melt the chocolate in 30-second increments using a microwave-safe bowl, or use a double boiler to melt the chocolate on the stovetop and stir until smooth. Stir the shortening into the medium bowl until it’s well mixed.
- Step 9: Add Chocolate
Spread each of the 4 pieces you cut out on the cooling rack. Then pour the melted chocolate in a thin layer over each piece so it covers the top and sides, without covering the front or back pieces.
- Step 10: Slice & Enjoy!
Let the cookies chill until firm, then transfer each piece to a clean cutting board. Slice cookies into 1/2″ thick pieces. Then enjoy the bite-size cookies, or store the Italian Rainbow Cookies in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap for later.
Tips & Tricks
- Room Temperature Ingredients: Ensure your eggs and butter are at room temperature. This allows for better incorporation of ingredients and a smoother dough texture. Cold ingredients can result in lumps and uneven mixing.
- Almond Paste Preparation: When adding almond paste to your mixer, break it into smaller pieces by hand. This facilitates even mixing and prevents large chunks from interfering with the dough’s consistency.
- Sifting Flour: Sift the flour and salt together before adding them to the wet ingredients. Sifting aerates the flour, resulting in a lighter and more delicate texture in your cookies.
- Chocolate Coating: When melting chocolate in the microwave, use short, 30-second bursts, stirring between each cycle. This prevents overheating and maintains a smooth chocolate texture. Adding shortening helps achieve a glossy finish.
- Cooling and Slicing: Allow the chocolate-coated cookies to cool on a rack, ensuring excess chocolate drips off. Once hardened, use a sharp knife and a clean cutting board to slice the cookies into even pieces.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Overmixing the Dough: Avoid overmixing the dough as it can result in tough cookies. Mix until ingredients are just combined to maintain a tender texture.
- Skipping Parchment Paper: Using parchment paper when baking and assembling is crucial to prevent sticking and ensure easy removal.
- Neglecting Cooling Time: Rushing the cooling process can lead to chocolate smudging and uneven slicing. Allow ample time for the cookies to set.
How to Store
For freshness, keep your Italian Rainbow Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Use parchment or wax paper between layers to prevent sticking. Refrigeration is advised in warm or humid conditions to maintain the chocolate coating.
To extend storage, ensure cookies are fully cooled before freezing. Freeze slices on a baking sheet until firm, then transfer to an airtight container with parchment paper between layers. Frozen Rainbow Cookies stay fresh for up to three months. When ready to enjoy, allow them to thaw at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Some people believe these Classic Rainbow Cookies didn’t come from Italy at all, but from Italian-American immigrants who wanted to honor their heritage. However, according to Italian Sons and Daughters of America, you can find these classic cookies in some Italian bakeries around the holidays. They are also sometimes called Venetian Cookies.
Almond flavoring is common in Italian desserts, and it’s important to this one. Along with the staple pantry ingredients like eggs, granulated sugar, and flour, you’ll also need almond paste and almond extract. Though you may not have used it before, you should find almond paste in the baking supplies aisle of your grocery store.
Raspberry and apricot preserves are used between the layers of cake to keep the Italian Rainbow Cookies together.
If you prefer natural coloring, there are options using beet juice and spinach juice which can be used for red and green hues, respectively. These options provide a vibrant, chemical-free alternative.
To achieve even slices, use a sharp knife and a clean cutting board. If the chocolate coating is too hard, allow the cookies to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before slicing. Wiping the knife between cuts helps create neat slices.
Rainbow Cookie Dough:
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup unsalted butter , softened
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring , more if needed for vibrant color
- 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring , more if needed for vibrant color
- 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate melting disks
- 2 teaspoons shortening
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a 10×8 pan with parchment paper (cut three pieces of parchment paper, you'll be baking three times unless you have three similar sized pans).
- To your stand mixer add the eggs and sugar on medium speed then up to high speed.
- Beat for 3-4 minutes until eggs are lightened in color and the mixture makes a thick ribbon.
- Mash the almond paste in your hand to break it apart then add to the stand mixer with the softened butter and almond extract.
- On medium speed, beat until well mixed in.
- Sift together flour and salt and add to the stand mixer on the lowest speed setting until just combined.
- Separate the batter into three different bowls evenly (we use a small kitchen scale for this).
- Pour the first bowl into the prepared baking pan and bake for 8-10 minutes until just done, with edges barely browning.
- While the first one is baking add in the food coloring to the other two bowls, one with red and one with green.
- When the first one is done baking, let it cool for 5 minutes.
- Remove the layer, add next piece of parchment paper and bake the second layer 8-10 minutes.
- Cool again for 5 minutes then add third piece of parchment paper and baked the third layer, 8-10 minutes.
- When all three layers are done baking and cooled add the red layer to a cooling rack.
- Spread raspberry jam over the red layer.
- Add the uncolored layer carefully on top (the easiest way would be to carefully invert the layer with the parchment paper still attached, then pull the layer off the back once you've flipped it.
- Spread the apricot preserves over the uncolored layer.
- Carefully add the green top layer and press down gently.
- Cut the layers into 4 even long pieces.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave in a large glass bowl in 30 second increments.
- Stir between each heating cycle until smooth.
- Stir in the shortening until well mixed in.
- Spread each piece our on the cooling rack.
- Pour the melted chocolate in a thin layer over each piece so the top and sides are covered (don't cover the front and back of the pieces.
- Let the excess chocolate drip down the sides.
- Let harden for 20 minutes then remove each piece to a clean cutting board.
- Slice the rainbow cookies in 1/2" thick slices.
- Store in a covered container.
Rainbow Cookie Variations
- Dark chocolate: If you prefer a more bittersweet flavor, you can make the chocolate layer using dark chocolate instead of semi-sweet.
- Rainbow Italian Rainbow Cookies: You may have noticed that this tri-color cookie recipe isn’t actually a rainbow. While it may be colorful, it’s not the seven colors in a rainbow. If you have any rainbow-obsessed children, they may be disappointed when the rainbow cookies don’t look like they expect. I wouldn’t recommend trying to make seven-layer rainbow cookies. The layers would get very thin and break easily. But, you can always change the colors of the three layers you do have. To give it more of a rainbow look, try using a layer of red, blue, and purple instead.