So many family events and special occasions in my life have ended with a great big tray of Italian cookies. You know, those huge colorful platters of pink butter cookies, green butter cookies, butter cookies with cherries, butter cookies with sprinkles, butter cookies dipped in chocolate and butter cookies with jam. And mixed within all of those buttery sweets would be a handful of the premium cookies; the Florentines, the Pirouettes filled with chocolate, and my favorite of all, the Rainbow Cookies. I just love those sweet, little cakey confections.
I can still feel a bit of that panic I felt every time the cookie platter was placed on the table; waiting for the moment when it was appropriate to begin serving myself; worried that the prized gems of the cookie platter would be scooped up before I got my turn at the platter. As I pretended to be engaged in conversation, I watched that cookie platter with eagle eyes for the signal that dessert was officially served. Then, I’d swoop in and gobble up a few of those delectable Rainbow Cookies before anyone knew they were there. Even now, I still feel a possessive panic in the presence of those cookies.
My grocery store sells little plastic containers of Rainbow cookies for a king’s ransom. Every so often, I pick up a container and selfishly hoard them for myself. I just can’t seem to lose that fear that there won’t be enough for me. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making these beloved cookies for ages and decided that this would finally be the year. After a few initial set-backs, including an epic battle against some Nut Lace cookies, another snow storm, and a broken glass bowl of melted butter on my kitchen floor, I finally managed to whip up a batch of these tasty goodies. The good news is that, as long as you slow down and don’t try to rush the process, these cookies are quite manageable to make and oh, so delicious!
When I began my search for a Rainbow Cookie recipe, I quickly discovered that nearly every source listed practically identical recipes. Apparently, the recipe is fairly standard. The variations were minor, basically addressing the quantity of butter, the length of time to let the layers chill, and the flavor of jam between the layers. I took the middle ground at each decision point and the cookies worked out perfectly.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Rainbow Cookies
- 4 Eggs, separated
- 1 8-ounce can Almond Paste
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2 1/2 sticks Butter
- 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
- 2 cups Flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- Green Food Coloring
- Red Food Coloring
- 1 12-ounce jar Seedless Raspberry Jam
- 12 ounces Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
- Chocolate Sprinkles (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease three 13×9 inch baking pans with vegetable shortening.* Line each baking pan with parchment paper, slightly extending the paper on two ends.** Grease the paper with vegetable shortening.
Place the four egg whites into a clean bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Use a fork to break up the almond paste into smaller pieces. Combine the almond paste and sugar in a food processor and grind until no lumps appear.
Transfer the almond mixture to a large bowl. Add the butter and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks and almond extract and beat until blended. Beat in the flour and salt. The dough will be quite thick.
Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the dough. This will slightly lighten the mixture. Then, fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended.
Divide the dough into three equal portions. Use the food coloring to color one portion red and another portion green. The remaining portion will remain uncolored.
Use a spatula to spread each portion of dough into the three prepared baking pans.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cakes are set and the edges just begin to turn golden.
While the cake is still hot, use a knife to loosen the edges. Then, carefully invert the cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely.
Once cool, carefully move the green layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread 1/2 of the jam over the green layer. Place the white layer over the jam, then spread the remaining jam on top. Top with the red layer.
Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the red layer. Then, weight down the layers with a cutting board or another baking sheet and refrigerate for about 5 hours.
Remove from the fridge and trim the edges to create an even rectangle.
Melt half of the chocolate and spread it over the pink layer. Scatter chocolate sprinkles into the melted chocolate, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the chocolate is firm. Then, flip the layers over, melt the remaining chocolate, and spread over the green layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.
To cut, allow the chocolate to come to room temperature. Then, cut into small rectangles or diamonds.
Makes about 4 dozen
*Baking all three layers at once will save you time. If you don’t have three baking pans, use disposable aluminum pans. This will also make your clean up easier!
**For safety reasons, do not allow too much extra paper to overhang the pans; just enough to help you lift and remove the cakes once they’re cooked.