Most of my cookie loves are almost predictable: browned butter, twice-baked shortbread, ground nuts, sables, dense chocolates and an occasional stacked or filled something or other–always compact and tiny. And they’re all simple. I mean, it takes less than 10 seconds to eat one, so you might as well zoom in on flavor, not exacting processes.
But if I were going to make one exception to the simplicity rule, it would have to be rainbow, or seven-layer cookies. More like petit-fours, these stacked almond cakes with apricot filling and a chocolate coating, are popular in Italian-American bakeries and I’ve loved them forever. They are always the same three colors though it’s just food coloring (well, two of the colors are), it wouldn’t be the same without their signature pink and green stripes.
Yet the vast majority of seven-layer cookies out there these days really disappoint. Artificial almond flavoring — bleh! — prevails and few bakeries actually deign to make these in-house anymore when it’s just old folks and old souls like me with nostalgia buying them. The factory-made ones may look perfect but don’t taste quite right, which means that seven-layer cookies are, in short, crying out to be made at home. If you’re marginally insane. And, well, ahem, here I am.
So, despite wanting to make these for years I have put it off again and again. Woe is me, I thought, it will take all day, all weekend, all year. I won’t have the counter space, I reasoned. The recipe might be a dud, and imagine going through all that just to think that the processes ones are better! Even worse: nobody loves them but weird little me, which means that this could end very badly for my hips.
And this is why I actually spent most of Saturday in a fantastic mood because I got to say, these are shockingly easy to make. Oh, they’re not quickies — don’t be crazy — but the recipe isn’t very difficult and once you’re done baking the layers (which take no time at all) it’s more of an assembly thing. Better yet, they’re perfect. They’re everything bakery seven-layer cookies once were and can be again in your kitchen. The cake is dense and intensely almondy, the bitter chocolate is the perfect contrast and the jam is just the right amount of fruitiness to pull it together. And they’re so cute, I sort of hope we’ll never run out of them.
Need a gluten-free version? Intrepid Jill at Hey, that tastes good! has already made a gluten-free version of these and they look fantastic.
One year ago: The only Peanut Butter Cookies I make.
Two years ago: Braised Short Ribs and Potato Latkes
Menu for Hope Continues until December 24! I’m giving away sets of reusable grocery bags. Get the details on the project over here.
Almost perfect as printed in Gourmet, December 2005, but with many added notes at the end
I have so many extra hints/notes on these, I’ve moved them to the bottom. Read on!
Makes about 5 dozen cookies (or more, if you cut them as small as I did)
Time: These take at least 11 hours from beginning to end, most of it inactive, but make sure you have a good 2 to 3 hour window
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 (8-ounce or 225-gram) can almond paste
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces, 285 grams, or 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
1 (12-ounce or 340-gram) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.
Beat whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.
Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 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.
Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).
Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)
Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.
When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.
Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. (Alternately, you can do what I did: melt the chocolate 3.5 ounces at a time just to make sure it doesn’t seize up between steps, though that shouldn’t be a problem if you only let it set for 15.)
Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Cut lengthwise into 4 strips (I cut them into more, because I wanted them 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, as I remember them). Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.
Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.
Three important notes:
I struggled with three things in this recipe (the first two were mistakes, and both came back to bite me in the tuchus) so you won’t have to:
1. Don’t stack cooled cakes: Once my first two cake layers were cool (and still on their parchment liners) and I needed to make room on the cooling rack for the third one, I went ahead and stacked them, their liners between them. DON’T DO THIS. Not because they crush each other (they won’t) or because they’ll stick (they don’t) but because that paper liner is greased on both sides from baking and the chocolate shell never quite stuck right to the pink cake because of the grease accidentally left on it. I can’t tell you how many cookies were rejected because their chocolate fell off. It is too sad to discuss.
2. Be careful dividing your jam: I mindlessly divided the jam wrong/unevenly and ended up with too much between one layer and too little between another. Too little was no biggie, but where there was too much it oozed out and was particularly difficult to keep stacked when sawing through with a serrated knife. So, if you’re using a scale to make two six-ounce divisions of jam, remember that you’ve probably strained out a good ounce or so of jam solids, or in other words DUH. Your divided amounts will be less than six ounces each.
3. They’re easier to cut when frozen: Nevertheless, they tasted amazingly and I was all ready to do a victory lap around my wee kitchen counter, however, when I got to cutting them up and then it all went south. People, these were trying to cut. The problem lies within the differing textures of the layers — the top hard chocolate shell more benefits from a sharp serrated knife (a regular, even very sharp knife will crack the edges when you press down on it), the same serrated knife that gets gummed with jam and tries to pull the soft cake layers in between apart. It was exasperating. It didn’t go well. I packed up some for a party and stuffed the rest in the freezer, only to discover the next day that these cut fantastically when frozen. Seriously. Trust me. I have the gummy floor and gray hairs to prove it.
579 comments on seven-layer cookies
you’re right, looks like a lot of work, but worth it – they’re completely adorable (can I call food ‘adorable’?). :)
cute! hey, ’tis the season for complicated baked goods. especially if you’re under this arctic cold snap. and you live in a town that doesn’t usually get snow. so you’re stuck inside because they don’t clear the roads.
anyways, cookies, here i come!
I am one of the people who don’t like those cookies, but I do think they’re cute! Love the colors. I think I’d eat off the chocolate layer. :-)
I’m in the UK. I don’t know what a tin of almond paste is. Would ready made marzipan be an equivalent?
Yes but you would want to reduce your sugar. I am not sure by how much though.
Crazy stuff – I *just* found this recipe online yesterday and planned to make these fantastic cookies next week! I have been wanting to make rainbow cookies at home for ages. In response to your troubles with the slicing, do you think it would be possible to “score” the chocolate layer on top before chilling it so that it is easier to cut through without a serrated knife so that the underlying cake layers don’t get damaged? Just a thought.
oops, one more question. did you use parchment or wax paper? do you think it makes a difference? thanks!!
which bakery in town makes the best seven-layer cookie?
LOL, I just pulled this recipe from Epicurious last night for X-mas baking this year. I had previously made the other recipe on the site and figured I’d try this one (although they are extremely close). I totally agree that these are much more daunting-looking than they are to make, because outside of keeping the layers intact enough to stack, it really is a relatively easy recipe. That happens to yield one of my favorite cookies of all time (and a show-stopper as an edible holiday gift!).
I’ll be trying your Blondie recipe this year, too, especially now that I know what stellar taste you have in cookies (okay, I figured that out after the peanut butter rice krispie things, lol).
Wow so pretty!
Just made these and they’re delicious! I missed your note about them being easier to cut when frozen so I ran into some issues with the chocolate cracking. My solution was to run my knife (I used a chefs knife) under hot water every few cuts which warmed the chocolate slightly so that it didn’t crack when cut and made a nice clean cut through the cake layers. It was very tedious so I may try the frozen method next time! Do you have any tips on how to make the cake layers level? Mine were pretty uneven
wow how beautiful looking. Do they glow in the dark?
Oh I love love LOVE the photos with this post – the cookies are adorable. And I think maybe they’re supposed to represent the red, white and green of the Italian flag… I’ve only ever seen them in Italian bakeries/stores. Either way, I am encouraged to try them.
just seeing these made me smile
My mouth completely just watered looking at those…I will have to make those. Thanks, Deb for yet another fabulous recipe.
Oh my MIL makes these every year! She calls them Viennese cookies (I think). I was planning to attempt for a cookie exchange next week. Her recipe differs slightly – she uses apricot and raspberry preserves and more almond paste. Thanks for the beautiful photos of the cookie. I just forwarded your site to my hubby and he is now craving them!
I’m Italian and grew up with a mix of apricot and raspberry between the layers. My ninja didn’t discriminate when it came to the jams ;)
NONNA not ninja hahha omg
My nonna was a ninja, or so I thought. Autocorrect probably knows Italian grandmas.
I think that is for real, not auto-correct! At least MY nonna was a ninja too!
Oh, I am glad to read this! I dislike apricot and was wondering if I could substitute raspberry. Thanks!
My batter was super stiff and hardly enough it seemed, and then my baked layers were as thin as cardboard. What did I do? I know that’s a pretty vague question
These are MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE COOKIES in the world!
As a kid, I called the “colored cookies” and my grandma used to buy them for me from the Jewish bakery in Queens. I haven’t had them in years.
Thanks for the nice memories.
The pictures stopped my cubemates in their tracks. This also nominated me to make them for all us poor saps stuck at work over the holidays. You know, sometimes I enjoy a bit of assembly and challenge in a recipe. Can’t wait to try them!
Oh yum, I’m pretty sure my mom’s friend who’s a baker made those for us once, but he used pistachio paste instead of dying the almond paste green. Have you heard of it that way before?
I will never make these because I am afraid of baking and this looks like baking x3, HOWEVER, you brought back great memories from when I worked in a Jewish deli and ate these by the handful! I love them! Hmmmm….might need to go find some.
This is awesome! I have been looking around for a tasty venetian layer cookie to make for my Christmas Eve party, and yours popped up in the best of time. Thanks for reading my mind…
i am not a huge fan of these. so pretty, though. (but i am certain store-bought and home-made are not comparable and that i would love yours…)
You’re so right that it’s hard to find good rainbow cookies. They need to be really almondy and juicy. A co-worker of mine used to bring great ones from Yonkers, but that bakery, an old-style Jewish one, closed. The Italian bakeries near me in Brooklyn make them, but not all that well. I have never heard them called “Venetian cookies” before.
Oh My GOD… Thank you Deb, thank you so much. My mom used to make these but she could never write down the recipe. I love you!
NO YOU DIDN’T!!!! These are hands down my husband’s and my favorite cookies. We normally each get to have some when we visit my husband’s parents in NY over Thanksgiving but we didn’t get to this year because my son was in the hospital twice during that week so we stayed home. So I’m majorly craving these!!! I just posted on my blog about you and this recipe. You are KILLING MEEEEE!!!
Sarah — I used parchment, mostly because I ran out of waxed paper. (NOTE TO SELF: Buy some already!) Either work. I will edit that in. I don’t think you can score chocolate before it is set. As I mentioned, these cookies cut flawlessly when frozen, no need to fuss about making a mess or scoring. I’d definitely do that next time.
Diana — I bet these would be to die for with pistachio paste. In fact, not moments after I said that they really had to be pink and green, I started scheming version of this with different nut cakes, different jams or even chocolate between the layers. I bet this recipe could be adapted many different ways.
Mez — I have no idea. I am more the type of person to make my own that to continue trying ones that always disappoint me (I’m thinking Little Italy and Italian bakeries in Red Hook…)
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ve made these four times now. I stumbled on these at an Italian bakery in Brooklyn a few years ago and have been obsessed with finding a recipe for them. Your recipe is perfect. They are very popular with my husband, boys and Italian in-laws. Not difficult … but time consuming. The hardest thing is figuring out how long to bake. Surprising what a difference a single minute can make. A tip I read somewhere: grate the almond paste to make blending it easier. Thanks again … fantastic!
I have a dear friend who makes these a couple of times a year for various holidays and she always saves me some! They are sooooo good. But I would never have the time to make them myself with 4 children, 2 of whom are 15 months apart and under 3.
These are my favorite cookie of all time! I’ve gotten them in Italian bakeries and they sell fantatic ones in the kosher section of Wegmann’s. I have only known them as rainbow cookies!!!
I bet that this exception is worth it. I love the colors. So beautiful!
The cookies look like perfect little presents – they are so beautiful. Have you ever tried making them with a different flavor of preserves?
Ooh, I’ve never heard of these. Have I been living in a cave? No, just Wisconsin. Anyway, just curious, but what makes these cookies, instead of cake? It looks like cake to me, only smaller. Is the texture of the layers cake-like, or cookie-like?
Oh my goodness, I cannot WAIT to make these. These were my little brother’s and my absolute favorite cookie growing up. My mother could never pass a pastry case in the supermarket without bringing some home. My brother will be so excited to receive a box of these with his Christmas gifts.
These are by far my favorite cookies. As a young girl in Brooklyn(i’m only 29), my uncles would always bring some back from the local jewish bakeries. Whenever I visit…i still get them. YUMMM> I may actually attempt to make them!!!
These are the only cookies that people expect from me and my family during Christmas. They are a lot of work but so worth it. In fact, I’m getting together with my mother and sister tomorrow to make them! I’m sure they will appear on my blog as well!
Deb, You are officially more fun than a barrel full of monkeys.
I LOVE these cookies and can never find them. I’ve been debating whether to make these myself for a while.
I am so excited you posted this – I actually have had this recipe printed from epicurious and waiting on my counter to make this weekend. One question – a lot of the commenters on epicurous felt that it was unnecessary to separate the eggs. Any thoughts? I am all about saving time/bowls, but not to the detriment of the cookies!
These are really beautiful (bet they tasted amazing too!) and I’ve always wanted to make something like it (the petit fours). Maybe this will be the one to try. Beautiful photos. This recipe is definitely a keeper :)
Until I saw the pictures of these gorgeous 7-layer cookies, I had completely forgotten that they were my absolute favorite cookies at Oneg growing up. Please, save a couple for your favorite (only) sister Saturday night! xo
They’re almost, ALMOST, too pretty to eat!
Hi Heidi — I saw that comment too and here’s the thing with separating eggs and folding the whipped whites in: you can basically do it to almost any cake recipe (or pancake, or waffle) to make it lighter and fluffier. Or, you can skip it. It’s not that it won’t work either way, it’s more than the texture will be more dense. These almond layers are particularly heavy and I think that the whipped egg whites really lighten them up. That said, I did feel that a lot of the lightness got lost when mixing in the food coloring — it’s hard not to deflate them quite a bit if you want that color evenly distributed.
So, in short: I’d do it. But they won’t be ruined if you skip it–just heavier.
Hi Deb, I was reading some comments from a recipe similar to this one in nyt’s and a reviewer commented that they added the food coloring to the batter before the whipped eggs were added thus saving them from getting deflated. I plan on making these for a bake sale at my daughter’s school and will try this technique!
You’re killing me, already! As if I haven’t already found too many cookies on this site that I have to make for Christmas, here’s yet another. I mean, how can I not make these? Almond paste? Apricot preserves? Bittersweet chocolate? In colors that serendipitously will match my xmas table decor? Can’t you give me a break and post a recipe for, I don’t know, stuffed cow tongues, or something? Just think about it. Don’t make me swear off your site until the 26th….
Those are extremely festive.
OH. MY GOD.
I love you. Can I move into your kitchen? I know it’s small, but so am I.
Also, you should know that I read this in all of thirty seconds and have already emailed my family to let them know that although, yes, I’m only getting home on Friday, I’m kicking them out of the house on Saturday to make these.
Yes!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE these cookies! My family is italian and we always had these at christmas. I used to eat so many of them. Like you, I’ve never made them for whatever reason, but now that you’ve posted the recipe (and have had such success) I think the time has come!
Those look incredible! They are making me really miss being small and waiting up for my parents to come from a party. My mom would always sneak out those little cakes in a napkin for us to eat the next day.
i had no idea these were almond & apricot- that sounds DELICIOUS. i’ve never tried them bc they’re so colorful, they don’t look delicious. off to the italian bakery!
if you want to cut them without freezing them, you could gently heat a chef’s knife and then use that to cut. you can dip your knife in a bowl of hot water(be sure to dry it before cutting!) or run it quickly through the flame on your range. then, gently set your knife edge on top and wait for the heat of the knife to melt through the layer of chocolate and then cut through the rest of the cake. repeat the warming method for each new cut. voila!
This did not work for me…it just smeared chocolate through the layers.
They are BEAUTIFUL; you are such a food artist!
I soooo want to try to make these. Thank you for your fabulous narrative, pictures, and recipes. If you’ve tried it, I know it’s not a dud recipe!
I LOVE THESE SO MUCH. I grew up eating them after Friday night services.
Thank you so much for posting a recipe! :)
Lovely! I’m so glad you finally game them a try and gave the rest of us inspiration to either make these or go out there and make that daunting recipe that’s been lying around for years. I do like these cookies a lot, and think I will have to give them a try sometime soon, as I’m not sure I’ve ever had homemade!
Rainbows are my favorite cookies… by far. I’ve been wanting to make them for ages. I think I’ll get around to it the week *after* Christmas so I don’t have to share them with anyone.
I’ve never seen these before! They’re so pretty and sound tasty. I think I’ll get the ingredients so I can make them during the next big snow storm.
Wow, I’m thoroughly impressed. Well done. And so pretty.
These cookies look great and I cannot wait to make them….but one question…I have a son that has a nut allergy is there anything I can use to substitute for the almond paste and almond extract?
Hi Donna — This an almond cookie/cake. The flavor and most of the texture comes from the almonds. You can try a different cake inside but it would be an entirely different kind of cookie.
These are my favorite cookies in the WORLD. I am afraid to make them myself because the batch would never make it out of my kitchen. YUMMMMMMMMM! I let my Italian friend Beth make them so I’m forced to show SOME self-control.
Leave it to you to attempt these gems. I haven’t had these for years and years and they were one of my favorites..I think. The texture I remember was that of marzipan and I thought it was a candy because it seemed almost chewy. Am I confusing the two or is there only this one type? I am willing to attempt this because I love what I remember about them.
I LOVE RAINBOW COOKIES. I don’t really like other cookies, but I LOVE RAINBOW COOKIES. I’ve also had a recipe bookmarked for about two years that I’ve been wanting to make, but haven’t convinced myself that they’re worth the immense amount of effort; usually long processes aren’t enough to dissuade me from an effort, but these just always seemed to be too much. BUT you may have just convinced me otherwise…
delurking to say thanks for posting this! I am from Brooklyn but have been living overseas for the past 14 years (last 10 in Australia) and no one has rainbow cookies. I truly LOVE these and have found recipes in the past but never attempted them. I am going to file yours away (it is too hot here for lots of baking right now) and attempt these in the new year! that is assuming i can track down almond paste here!!!!
Oh oh oh, i so love a good rainbow cookie. It is presently the ONLY food that I will eat with artificial food coloring. I cut out artificial flavors and colors, but I just couldn’t cut out rainbow cookies. They make a super delicious one at Canter’s Fairfax in LA! If i made them myself, do you suppose they’d be fine with all one color? Classy even? or am I kidding myself? Are there agents that color naturally? (actually at Canter’s they have 4 layers of cake, one is chocolate, or at least brown).
BTW, i made your homemade oreos! They were the bomb.
Hi Susan — They’re definitely on the chewy/cakey side. The flavor is strongly of marzipan/almond paste, especially in this recipe.
And now my sister wants some, too? I am going to have to start lying and saying we ran out. I hope nobody raids the freezer.
OMG these look a-maz-ing!!!! If only I had the patience to try this.
oooooh we used to call these Neopolitans. I haven’t had one in forever! Looks yummy =)
That looks fun and definitely worth it! I’ve noticed almond paste at the store and would love to have the opportunity to use it.
You’re my hero! I grew up in NY and have lived in the midwest since college. I’ll never move back “home” because I don’t miss the craziness and the traffic. What I do miss, however are the treats!!!
I always got 2 different things at the bakery near my parent’s old house: Black & White cookies and, 7-layer cookies! Both of which I’ve missed for eons, and BOTH of which you’ve now brought back to me! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Thank you thank you thank you!!! :-)
Oh my god, you made my LIFE today! These are my favorite dessert in the whole world, and since I moved away from NYC I haven’t found any. I would make these nuggets of adored deliciousness tonight if I could, but I am definitely making them this weekend. Saturday can’t come soon enough! (Maybe Friday night…?)
THANK YOU SO MUCH, Deb!
ps.I’ve never commented, but I appreciate your blog every day! SK is the first food blog I’d ever read, and I’ve been blessed with yummyness ever sice.
My family LOVES rainbow cookies! I’ve been making them for a few years, ever since I found this recipe:
It doesn’t separate the eggs, so I now have to try yours! The best tips I have to add:
1) I put apricot jam on the green layer and raspberry preserves on the red layer. The combination of flavors is GREAT!
2) I have the same problem with the chocolate cracking, so sometimes I make a very heavy ganache (with more chocolate than cream), which slices more cleanly, but tends to stick to its container if not kept refrigerated (and these taste best at room temp)
3) I color the middle layer with yellow food coloring. Normally I avoid food coloring, but these cookies are the exception.
4) I get nervous every time I bake these, because, with my recipe there’s barely enough batter for each layer to cover the pan, so I spend way too long evening it out. Nonetheless, it always comes out really well.
btw, I love your blog!
Oh my, well I am saving this to make! My DIL loves these cookies but the store bought ones they brought to the bridal shower were not that good at all. I will have to surprise her and make them for her!
These are one of my all time favorite cookies. I’m hoping to make them this year too. Thanks for posting this one!
For a second there I thought those were the multi-colored coconut bars that I used to buy at Mexican restaurants when I was little… but I’m a little relieved to see that this is an honest to goodness cookie with more than one ingredient. As much as I loved those coconut bars these look far far better.
I always think its funny that before the jump on this site, there’s a place under the pictures/commentary that says “5 tips to get a flat stomach”. This particulary strikes me as funny with today’s recipe!
I thought like Jesse as well, that they were coconut. I wonder if there’s a way you could incorporate some, or would that defeat the purpose? Completely change the recipe?
oh thank you, thank you, thank you!
My Godmother (who is Italian) makes these every Christmas and I wam the only one who eats them. I have been asking for the recipe and now I have it! these are the best ever! I will eat the whole container in one sitting and I don’t share… very glutunous of me, I know but hey you only live once:)
People think I’m crazy, but I absolutely love these things! I think I might have to try my hand at making a batch. :-)
Wow these look good. I have been checking out your recipes for a few months now and love your commentary! This is the first time I have contributed – considering how many recipes I have pulled off your blog recently! Which brings me to my question (unrelated to this menu but I would really appreciate an answer!!) – is it possible to bookmark recipes on this blog? I mean, I have looked through the functions and couldn’t find one to do so – but it would be good if you could log in with your email and have a kind of file with any recipes that you like – I know you can have all the updates sent to your email (which I already do) – just an idea! Thanks
These are my favorite cookies and the banner picture for my blog! They are a lot of work but totally worth it. I use another recipe for them from Gourmet entitled “Rainbow Cookies,” you should search for it on epicurious if you ever feel like trying them again. I have always had great results.
ooh i forgot to add, they are also great with raspberry jam.
I make these cookies every year with THIS recipe! Make them, they’re delicious!
OMG!!! You made continental marzipan cookies!! I can only find the real versions of these back in NJ! I’ve seen many fakes that don’t use marzipan or almond paste but just use colored cake.. bleh! You made the real thing, you are my hero!!!
Your rainbow cakes look gorgeous and I’m sure they taste as good as the look.. I always buy rainbow cakes from a little jewish bakery near my house but never though to make my own, I’ll have to now!
wow!! amazing cookies.. thumbs up!!
looks so yummy & i love the color!..
these are gorgeous! talk about the ultimate holiday cookie, these are it!
This is a perfect example of what I love about smittenkitchen! Last night, I was on epicurious.com checking out cookie recipes, and I saw these. Beautiful, but intimidating! I wanted them. But would I like them? Would they take forever? Would they be worth it? Not 24 hours later, the answers to all my questions, plus photos to prove that they look just as beautiful in real life as they do in a food stylist’s magazine shoot. Thank you- this is my absolute favorite food blog and recipe source.
Crikey, lady, I love that you would see a recipe like this and really want to make it. Bless your detail-oriented heart.
Love this post Deb! They look so cute!
These are impressive, and they look like they must have been fun to make. How did they stack up against Italian bakeries in the taste department? I’m always disappointed with cookies from Italian bakeries – they are always so colorful and pretty for the eyes but not the tastebuds. Yours look like they have the stuff to taste amazing.
These, are by far, my favorite cookies in the world. That said, there is no way I am every going to attempt to make these on my own. But interesting to see how they are done!
these look so nice and are the right colours for Christmas :)
I made these for the first time two years ago and they were worth the effort. Now on the top of my favorites list, and I just bought the ingredients to make them again! Yours look beautiful.
Deb, you are not alone! I long for these little cake-cookies from my childhood. I long for them… but is it enough to actually BAKE them?
Is the apricot jam a traditional choice or one of taste? Would raspberry, orange, or something else work as well, do you think?
you’re my hero. rainbow cookies are one of the foodstuffs i miss most about new york, even after living in california for 11 years. thanks for posting this!
I’ve never had them (and discovered them this year on Gourmet), but in Germany I alway buy for Christmas Domino stein (3 layers cookies, with gingerbread, almond paste and red fruit jelly, coated in chocolate). I love the combination of almond paste and chocolate, so this might be a fun new recipe to try out this week-end!!
Thanks for all the advices and comments to the original recipe Deb.
These look like they are absolutely worth the work! They are so pretty and will work so nicely for a tea party or something like that :)
GOSH! these look amazing..just stunning work and so pretty. i love the photos and would definitely chomp down on these guys in seconds. :) x
it really looks cute and a lot work too, but my son would love to eat that cookie specially the chocolate layer,thanks alot for the recipe
These are my favorite cookies, ever…! I’ve never tried to make them myself – I usually leave that to my Mom but maybe this year I’ll give it a go…!
OMG! I am making these tomorrow. Thanks for adding yet ANOTHER cookie to my repertoire this year. I’ve got to quit reading this blog!
As soon as these went up, I e-mail mini-savi and made a date (or dates!) to make these cookies together. They are our dad’s favorite and it will be the perfect Christmas present. We are both VERY excited. Thank you!!
I know they look beautiful and probably taste great, but doesn’t using all that food coloring give you pause? And why am I the only person to mention it out of almost 100 people?
These are my favorite holiday cookies. I was so glad to read about them on your blog!
Katie K – you’re not alone there on the food coloring. I have some food coloring gels that I’m going to try on this recipe this weekend. A little bit (as in, a little blob on the end of a toothpick) goes a long, long way. Not sure whether they’ll have the same color saturation with this recipe, but I’ve used them before with success, so, we’ll see.
Oh my god these look good, I’m totally making them (gluten free) as soon as I run out and get almond (or, oh my god, pistachio) paste!!
I can’t believe you found a recipe for these! I thought there was a little old Italian lady cult who only churned these out for weddings and Christmas! Hadn’t seen them for years, and used to call them ‘Italian flag cookies’ when I was a kid. Awesome.
@66 – my family always put raspberry jam on the pink layer too :)
GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS!! Score on finding a recipe for them :-)
These cookies are just beautiful! I love your site, you have such wonderful recipes, styling and photography. I’ve only recently discovered it but plan to spend much time perusing your archives!
I’ve had this recipe printed out from Epicurious for months now and have been planning on making for the holidays this year. I’m going to make them this weekend and have one quick question, more to satisfy my curiousity than anything: what’s the point of using preserves and then straining them? Can you just use jam instead so that you don’t have to worry about straining? (I’m thinking seedless raspberry jam)
I LOVEEEEEEEEEEE these cookies and am still THINKING about making them :) Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos, as well as your mistakes. I looove that about blogging – it all makes us human!
I’ve made these (from the recipe you used above) for several years. My husband loves them. I brought them to a party a few years back and no one had ever seen/heard of them before (we’re in the DC suburbs). People either loved them or hated them. Also, I use seedless raspberry preserves (no straining) because my husband hates apricot; works better if the preserves are warmed up a bit, so they’re liquid when they are applied. Lastly, I cut my bars with a pizza cutter, but you definitely need to get to them during the window of chocolate that is set but not too cool.
These are my favorite cookies as well (and I am pretty sure in the top 5 for my hubby). I hear ya on the disappointment from bakeries – they are always dry, and lately have been covered in chocolate on 3 complete sides. A lot of them also use raspberry, which is something new to me – I don’t remember seeing this as a kid. My grandma always made us kids our favorite cookies for our b-days and I was the only one who requested these – yum yum yum!
Can’t believe we both posted about rainbow cookies within the same 24 hour period! I have never heard them called 7 layer cookies (but then of course I live in San Diego) I thought those were the things with graham cracker crust and sweetened condensed milk, which I simply cannot go near for fear of eating the entire pan.
Were you able to get the almond paste at a major grocery store in Manhattan? Freshdirect doesn’t carry it – and I figured I’d ask before I start canvassing every grocery store in the west village on foot in this weather. Maybe the Gourmet Garage?
I just finalized my holiday cookie list but now I might need to add one more…
How funny, I was just talking with my mom about wanting to make these… Looks like you did a beautiful job. They’d be worthy of the best Italian bakery in Brooklyn!
Mmmm. I love these cookies. My mom has made them every Christmas as long as I’ve been alive, and now I make them. They’re the only cookie I would do anything for. Beautiful pictures, as always!
my family and i LIVE for rainbow cookies!!! We’re originally a New York family but moved to Ann Arbor, MI when I was young, and the memory of these cookies has lived on strongly in our minds…now I’m at college in the city and every time I go home, guess what I bring with me? I agree, I am consistently disappointed by the ones I buy, but I have found one acceptable (at least for my mother!) spot – Nussbaum & Wu on 113th and Broadway in Morningside Heights. I think they use raspberry preserves instead of aprticot, but both are delicious to me! Can’t wait to try making these! Homemade is always better!
I love these cookies! I make them every Christmas with my mom. But we use raspberry preserves. Yum!
These look soooo festive and fun! We’re likely to have yet another snow day tomorrow (in Seattle school is cancelled if there is even a threat of snow!) so maybe I’ll make em with the kids.
I’ve made these cookies for many years and call them Neopolitans. My recipe calls for Red Currant jelly and Apricot jam. It also says to score chocolate before it sets up. My 29 year old son asks for them every Christmas. Love to visit your site and will be trying blondies and sables this weekend. Thanks
these are absolutely, hands down my favorite cookies. i might even go so far to say as my favorite dessert. when my italian bakery closed, i had to satisfy my craving with sub-par, factory versions from my local deli. no more will i suffer. i plan upon making batch upon batch of these little beauties. thanks for the recipe!
i used to make these before i went gluten free. I’ve not yet found a suitable flour combo to make these gluten free. All of my attempts thus far have fallen short, which is a crying shame since these are my mostest favoritest cookies ever. my granddaddy used to bring them to me from a local bakery when I was a wee kiddo
I am from The Netherlands, so I have never heard of these cookies before, but MAN does this bring out an urge in me to bake something else….
It’s called “spekkoek”, and it is an Indonesian-Dutch cake. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spekkoek and you’ll see the similarities: lots of layers and ridiculously time-consuming to make at home… Like you described for the rainbow cookies, this is part of my childhood memories, and I have a recipe somewhere, but have been putting it off for years…
Might be a nice project for the holidays.
they are almost too cute to eat haha :)
Now I know we are kindered spirits! I love love love your site, your taste in food, and oh, yes, seven layer cookies! Can’t wait to try making them myself.
I think I’ve revisiting this entry about 6 times already, slightly in awe, and slightly “should I do it? and can I do it before Christmas?” We always have these at Christmas eve dinner, and for the last four years or so, my Bensonhurst raised and don’t-you-forget-it grandfather has complained about the quality of the bakeries in NJ and how they have gone way downhill n the quality of the cookies. If I can pull this one off before CHristmas (mostly find the block of time), I will soo be the favorite grandchild.
My co-workers and I are addicted to your daily recipes and gorgeous photos.
Yum – made these yesterday and took into work (at a hospital) for my night shift coworkers. They are delicious! The chocolate does crack when cutting them, but that’s a minor issue.
Hi Deb…this has absolutely nothing to do with this recipe (sorry!), but I have a question for you. I’ve been requested to make my great-grandmother’s rugelach for a holiday party next week, but I’ll be working pretty late into the evenings up until the day of the party, and was hoping to at least make the dough ahead of time. Any idea how long I can keep the dough in the fridge? I was hoping for 2 days… and I’m the only one with the “recipe” (I used to make the rugelach with her when I was a little girl, but no one else ever learned how to make them), so I can’t even ask any of my aunts. These are pareve…instead of cream cheese and butter they have eggs, oil, and orange juice (and also some baking powder).
Thank you so much…and I have to say, I love your website. Everything I’ve made from you has been fantastic, and you’re always so helpful and honest!
For those of you who asked where to get good versions of these in NYC, I just stumbled upon this Gothamist post. Now, it’s from 2003 and not exactly the most scientific research, but it may have some good leads.
Victoria — I think the dough would keep great in the fridge for at least two days. I probably wouldn’t go over three to four, but two days should be fine. Most doughs are a bit like pie dough — which keeps for up to a week in the fridge — but richer; good luck!
So pretty and perfect for Christmas! :)
I like to cut these into long bars the length (or width) of the pan, wrap well and freeze. Then I pull out a bar when company comes and slice them frozen, works well and I always have some delicious goodies handy.
Wow…how cool. Thanks for the recipe – I wish I had some of them in front of me right now!
Deb, I made these yesterday and they are fantastic; just like I remember them. I looked at the recipe that Alice Q Food linked and adapted somewhat her frosting and added a slant of my own for insurance! I preped the cake for the chocolate by poking the top with a fork, just a little, so the chocolate would have a little something more to adher to. Also, I did add about 1 1/2 Tbsp’s of cream to the chocolate to soften it just a little. Once it got semi firm, I measured the top and marked it every inch on the long side and 1 1/2 inches on the ends, then scored the top with a long strand of dental floss. Once it was good and chilled, it cut nicely. I didn’t worry about the bottom, because it was well braced. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful cookie, once on the stairmaster though, it may be another story!
I make these cookies every year because my husband and son have said Christmas isn’t Christmas without them. Here are my hints–don’t use wax paper to line the pans. The first time I did, it smoked up the house. Parchment is the way to go. When cutting the cookies, have a container of HOT water nearby. Dip the knife in it, wipe off the water and make cutting lines on the chocolate surface. Dip the knife in hot water again, wipe clean and then cut. This is the method I find works best without cracking the beautiful chocolate topping.
I love these cookies and I just had a couple the other day, in fact! Yours look adorable!
DOH! I found out there’s a difference between almond filling and almond paste. Saw the can, grabbed it, got to baking and realized they’re two different animals. I cooked everything longer, so as not to waste my efforts. The texture will surely suffer, but they made taste acceptable. My bad! I’ll do them again before Christmas with the right stuff. I can’t wait.
These look like such fun!!!
Rainbow cookies are my husband’s favorite. I had never even thought of making them at home! I am making them tomorrow! Thank you for posting this.
mine are cooling as I type! thanks for posting & for all your great tips & insights. couldn’t find the almond paste anywhere at first (hobby lobby, michaels, joann), but finally found it at an upscale grocer. my layers are thinner than yours… not entirely sure why this came about- but they still look very promising! thanks again!
Dear Smitten Kitchen,
This is the exact same recipe I use, but I only make the effort for special occasions. I do love the way they taste. When it comes to cutting them up, I often just do small squares – but if you want to go all out, before coating with chocolate, take a small canape cutter (make sure it’s tall enough to go through all layers) and cut out shapes – then melt your chocolate and dip – remove to rack or waxed paper to dry. Now you have a petit four. To make them extra special, after they have dried, pipe a tiny flower on the top. Perfect!
P.S. – Enjoy the scraps – they’re yummy even without the chocolate on top!
Stupid question…could you bake all 3 layers at the same time, cool them off together, then stack them?
Yes, of course. If you had three of the right size pans and room for three of them in your oven. Also, if you do, I am jealous, but that is neither here nor there. ;)
these are my favorite cookies in the whole world!!!!!!!!yay! cannot wait to try them. also if i make them for my dad i will become the favorite child! :)
I just finished making these- delicious. Thank you!
I am almost done with these – they look great and my husband is so happy.
To Beth, above – I found almond paste at our local, nothing-special D’Agostino at 90th and Columbus. It came as a foil-wrapped log in a small box.
I agree with Kit, do not use wax paper – I thought I started my oven on fire with all the smoke. I didn’t have wax paper, but used aluminum foil and sprayed it down good with a Pam/flour spray. The cookie came off this better then the wax paper attempt.
I went ahead and made these last weekend, and they are delicious and impressive looking. I did separate the eggs (I was comment #35). The ONLY things I will do differently next year (and I am so making these again next year!) are: (1) process the sugar and almond paste in the food processor – I found that the paddle of my KitchenAid did not do a great job and I had small lumps of almond paste that never broke up, and (2) add some cream to the chocolate to make more of a ganache topping, as sadly mine did not cut well even after freezing them overnight…I had to resort to heating my knife and trying to get it to melt through the top chocolate layer before cutting the rest, but still had my fair share of cracked pieces, and it took forever!
My daughter Deena told me about your site and how wonderful it is. I was just reading about the “rainbow cookies.”I was just wondering why you referred to these cookies as “seven-layer,”, when in fact there are only three layers. ??? When I was young, one of my favorite bakeries in Baltimore –Silber’s– sold this as seven-layer cake. The slices were just so yummy. We would peel off each layer at a time to eat, never taking a bite of all the colors at once. Thanks for the memories!
Sandy: Maybe 7-layers including the layers of apricot & chocolate between the cakes?
Oof… I thought I was done with my holiday baking for the week. I guess I’ll have to make one more trip to the grocery store.
You may also want to try and cut the cookies into pieces with a heated very sharp knife… have a cup of very hot water, dip the knife, dry quickly and cut. That should work well…
Well my sister and I successfully finished making a batch of these wonderful cookies. We agree that dipping the knife in hot water was the solution to cutting them. We didn’t freeze them, only chilled for 15 min. Also, it helps greatly if you add butter to the chocolate. We added about 2 tbs per 4 oz. (we put 8 oz of chocolate on ours.)
This recipe made enough for two Christmas parties, and the cookies were enjoyed by all.
Like others I added a bit of cream to the chocolate; you lose the chocolate snap but it makes cutting easy. This recipe made it clear that I need a new baking pan, as a warp in the center resulted in a big hump in the middle and thin edges. But once cut into squares, the problem was no longer noticeable.
We were benefactors of Chris’s efforts. And yes, we REALLY enjoyed these cookies. So yummy, I’m afraid we already polished them off after lunch yesterday. My 16 mo. old son was crazy about them too! Thank you for going through all the work to put these together.
Great blog with wonderful pictures, my Mother-in-law just sent me your site.
you are such an inspiration! i have some time off over the holidays, and i decided to make these. they’re sitting in my fridge right now with the chocolate hardening,and then i will take your advice, and into the freezer they’ll go to be cut up this evening, and enjoyed at my leisure. i know i’m something of a lurker, deb, but i always enjoy and appreciate your posts, even if i don’t have the time (or inclination) to post a comment. but i never would have tried these without you, so thank you.
I saw someone posted something about heating the knife to cut the final cookies but then the screen jumped and I couldn’t find the post again.
That’s how I cut mine—just a regular chef’s knife—not serrated. I push down lightly & let the heat melt the knife’s way through the chocolate. I run the knife under hot water after every cut—which takes a long time (especially if you’re making each cut slowly), but they came out beautifully.
Question? When buttering the parchment paper, which side to you butter? Both? Just the side touching the pan? Or the side touching the batter? I can’t wait to make these cookies. Just want everything to be just right! Thanks!
Since you butter the pan, line it with paper and then butter the paper, both sides technically get buttered. But the idea is to keep the batter from sticking and buttering both layers (the pan and the paper) gives you extra insurance.
Thanks Deb for the advice!!!! :)
Hi Deb! Like so many others, I LOVE your blog (my favorite food blog, and I read A LOT), and you’ve so far never let me down. I’m getting ready to make these later this week, and I have just one question… the only almond paste that I could find is a 7 oz can – I thought that maybe I could I compensate for the lost flavor by adding a little more almond extract, but do you think it will greatly affect the texture? I don’t know very much about the science of baking, so I’m not exactly sure what the paste does and how I should make up for that lost ounce….
Hi Elke — Actually, I got the cheap stuff too, mostly because I was too lazy to walk to the store that had the better stuff. Honestly, the flavor was great; I didn’t feel I was missing a whole lot, at least in a cookie like this. No compensation with almond extract is necessary.
I have adored rainbow cookies since I was a kid — I remember delighting in getting two rainbow cookies as a treat when I’d run errands with my mom. Your post is fantastic — it was so fun finding a post dedicated to this little thing I’ve been obsessed with forever. And you’re so right — so many places do it wrong and you get a disappointing, artificial tasting 7-layer poser cookie. I love your photos — I keep coming back to look at them! I’d actually love to get a print for my kitchen — could you add these post photos to your Smitten Prints sometime? Thanks!
ORWASHER’S BAKERY on the UES in NYC makes delicious homemade ones.
Hey Deb! I have finally discovered your website. I stumbled upon it looking for an authentic challah recipe. I also found your recipe for 7 layer cookies, which I remember well from the bakieries on 86th Street in Brooklyn. Have you tried using an electric knife to cut them???? Let me know how it goes the next time you backe them.
Anyway, keep up the good work. I can see myself getting addicted to this site.
Hi Barbara — No, I haven’t tried with an electric knife. I don’t own one, but I’d be scared it would shred up my cookies. I just use a sharp one, and the colder the bars are, the better it works.
We just made these tonight! I found the almond paste at Whole Foods for a little under $7, apricot preserve at Trader Joes for about $3, food coloring at the discount store for $3 (but not at TJ or WF).
The spreading part was difficult and we could not fill the bottom of the entire pan (we scaled everything down 7/8 to match the 7oz of paste and skipped the almond extract b/c we forgot to buy some and substituted vanilla extract instead). Also didn’t butter the paper or the pan and it worked out just fine.
My boyfriend only eats the rainbow cookies from Ferraro’s in Little Italy and said these taste amazing JUST LIKE THEM, despite having tried rainbow cookies from just about every bakery in Manhattan.
Perhaps it was beginners luck, but the cookies came out amazing! Thanks for posting!
So, I have been dying to make these but I have one problem. My son is severely allergic to nuts, including almonds. however, i just bought some flavored coffee creamer that is the perfect almond flavor and is nut free. Any idea how I can modify this recipe to leave out the almond paste and use the flavored creamer?
Your pictures are so beautiful! I grew up across the street from an Italian bakery in Brooklyn and I am obsessed with these cookies. They are definitely more work, but well worth it. I usually use a very thin layer of raspberry jam. When I was pregnant I would make a whole batch and eat it myself!
These were amazing! My daughter and i made them this weekend. I made a few additions to the recipe. Used rasberry jam instead of the apricot (personal preference), Added 1/4 cup almond filling and 2 tablespoons of pure almond extract. No need to seperate the eggs. They came out very moist and flavorful.
First off, I have become such a avid reader of this blog since I discovered it a month and a half ago. As a displaced NYer now living in Vancouver, it is so good to see my favorite cookie of all time on here. I found a different recipe for these that I’ve made a few times now with great success, but I can’t wait to try this version. It makes me happy to see the Gospel of Rainbow Cookies being spread throughout the land.
I also forgot to say… I always remember them having a thick layer of chocolate sprinkles on top. =)
Oh, these cookies are insanely delicious. We made them at least 3 times around Christmas, and each time they ran out I felt crazy for wanting to make them again, because they really are more time consuming than most other cookies, but totally completely worth it. But long waits are not good for impatient people who are in love with these. Seriously, I would make these again and again if almond paste wasn’t so darn expensive (although I do get high off the smell when I crack open the tube). :)
Stumbled on this recipe through another food blog and decided to give it a whirl. Started at 11am and finished about 20 minutes ago (11pm), and let me tell you it’s totally worth it.
I fortunately did not have the same difficulty cutting them. Pulled them directly out of the fridge after the last chocolate layer and used a large chopping knife. I’m wondering if it was the chocolate I used, which still seemed really soft even after setting on the cookies. I also may have left them in the fridge for less time than you did.
I do recommend wiping the knife clean with a paper towel after every cut to help keep the knife from gunking up.
Thanks for the recipe! Definitely delicious.
I would be so grateful to receive the 7 layer italian cookie recipe
I love these cookies and im looking for the perfect recipe, these look very tasty compared to the others ive seen but i dont like the color of the jelly because im more toward the rasberry jelly
Okay, call me a noodle-head, but the hardest part about this recipe was transferring one layer on top of another. Did anyone else find that bit challenging? I have to admit that my layers cracked when I did it. Didn’t hurt the endproduct, though.
I tried backing this cake for my little niece but i ended up with a total disaster, something resembling more with a weird color vortex than a cake. It was fun anyway but I will try it again sometimes. I hope to do it right the second time around.
Rainbow cake! This, and black and white cookies, are definitely my childhood favorites!!!! Mmmm I have been wanting to find these gorgeous little cakes in a nearby bakery for years but none taste how they used to…something is just not the same. Thus, I have also been meaning to make these precious babies and will get around to it soon…
my husband was so happy when he found this recipe, since this is his all-time favorite cookie. last summer, while staying in nyc, he took me to several bakeries in little italy to look for these but none of the ones we found tasted right to him. he was looking for some that tasted like the ones his grandparents would buy when he would visit them in brooklyn as a kid. we made the cookies this weekend and we’re extremely happy with how they turned out. by the way, we decided to do one layer of apricot jam and one layer of seedless raspberry jam. they are delicious!
These are my all time favorite cookies. my wife had them flown in for me from Venerio’s (11th st and 1st ave) when we moved away from NYC. None of the bakeries had them where we moved (we are back now). also, Cuccio’s in Brooklyn has great rainbow cookies. She learned to make them with a very similar recipe. we have learned the best way to cut the cookies is to chill the cookie part, then put on the chocolate, wait until it cools, then cut.
Hi Deb. I’ve just discovered your site and am thrilled – firstly because I have been searching for a good 7 layer cookie recipe and secondly because you’re so entertaining! The family are coming over for Christmas (I’m a Brooklyn girl originally but now live in England) and it is the favorite cookie for my nephews, so I’m psyched to try this. One question – how long can I freeze them for? It’s just that they’re not coming until 20th Dec – will they keep in the freezer for a month?
Thanks very much.
That depends on how well-wraped they are and how good your freezer is at not seeping freezer smells into stuff but in general, there’s no reason they won’t be safe to eat after a month in the freezer.
Thanks Deb, I’ll give it a try!
I just finished making these as a trial run for Christmas gift giving and they turned out great. Thanks so much for the tips — every one was spot on. This has got to be one of the most fun cookies I’ve ever made — right up there with Spoon Cookies from Gourmet a few years back. Fun and delish!
I have been making them for three years now for all holidays and birthdays, but I heard that the bakers use a different kind of chocolate than semisweet chips. If anyone knows can you please fill me in. Thank you
you should add these to your cookie recipe box!
I should — thanks for catching that!
Is there an easier way to divide the 3 mixed layers before you color the 2?
I made this and its very difficult to divide evenly once its all mixed. How do you do it? I was wondering if i made this recipe 3 times,,, one for each color then everything would be even…
also, the layers are very, very thin… does not look like the picture? what would I be doing wrong?
Carol — The layers should be very thin. I was using a macro lens… maybe that throws your impression of the height? I used a scale to divide the batter, but I’m a little OCD like that.
Are these good to send by mail? I’m thinking overnight or second day? I plan to keep them frozen and then ship. If not, please tell me which of your goodies are perfect for SENDING to friends and families.
Hi Denise — I think these will ship well if shipped frozen and only take a couple days to arrive.
che bueno, deb!
just one question…is it ok to use a heavy duty baking sheet to bake the layers? or would you stick with a baking pan?
thanks! happy holidays!!
Actually, I believe that’s what I used. I’ve got a stash of quarter-sheet pans that were just right.
rainbow cookies are my favorite cookies in the world! nostalgia for sure – and they do NOT take 10 seconds to eat, ifyou are me, becaue you need to eat each layer separately. Like you did when you were 6. Even though you’re 33 right now.
at any rate, i had no intention before spying these cookies on your photo site of ever actually MAKING them at home…. but looks like i have my winter vacation project now! Thanks!!
I just made these this weekend, and while they were daunting, they tasted delicious! I had a hard time too filling a whole 13 x 9 pan the first time around, so for the remaining 2 layers, I did a smaller version. When I stacked them, I did the best I could to line them up, then when I trimmed them to put the chocolate layer on, they looked perfect! I was so thankful too, because I got so frustrated I was ready to give up! I LOVE your site, and have made a lot of your recipes with success on each try. My new favorite part of your site is the updates we see with your adorable baby! Thanks for the time and effort you put in to making this such a great website!
I LOVE these cookies and have been searching for the basic receipe for years (sadly the original got lost years ago in a move!) I”m glad I”m not the ONLY person that just absolutely has to have these for christmas.
Two things though.
I have ALWAYS added chopped cherry’s to the pink layer and chopped pistachios to the green layer and use only a tiny amount(appr. 4 drops) of food coloring and they are phenomenal. It takes about two extra minutes to chop the cherry’s and the pistachios in the little food chopper/processor. It really adds just a little punch to the flavor and texture of the cookie. But you can add as much or as little as you like. (PLUS! that means less artificial yuckiness!)
GOOD LUCK! :)
Hi Deb-I’m making these cookies for New Year’s! Question-If I bake them in a larger pan, a 15- by10-inch baking pan, will it make the layers too thin? Is it worth it or should I stop being cheap and go out and by a pan?
I absolutely love your site and have been telling all of my friends how amazing it is. I made these cookies this past week and they came out AMAZING! People were gobbling them up and everyone commented on how moist they were and how they tasted so much better than the ones from the bakery. As usual, thanks for a great recipe!
I made these this weekend for a SB party, and WOW! Better than I’ve ever tasted at a bakery. And the memories for all who tasted just came rushing in for them! You made it so easy, and the tips you gave were great. About cutting them frozen – I never would’ve figured that out, and I would have cried when the choco popped off. These were a delight to make, to present, and to eat. Thank you!
I’m trying to do the math but having trouble – do you think that I could half the recipe and make them in 8×8 pan? I have plenty of those!
Hi Sam — That should work just fine.
DEB! Please help me! First of all you made my year, I have been searching for these cookies ever since I moved from San Francisco :( . I haven’t been able to find a decent Italian bakery in years!!!! Thank you so much for providing this recipe.
But I need your help! It is urgent because I need to eat these cookies right away haha. I know it is something I did because I’ve never had a less then awesome recipe from your site.
1.) I couldn’t find the canned almond paste so I ended up with the foil wrapped log. It didn’t ever break up completely and left little lumps. Should I only use canned?
2. I used the right size baking sheet but my cakes never filled up the whole way all 3 times. They were all like 3-4 inches short on the top and bottom. Where did I go wrong?
*I did have to let the whipped egg whites sit for a bit longer because I was trying to break up the almond paste, maybe that? The cakes still turned out dense and moist just not big enough :)
Luckily, I am at the cooling over night stage now so hopefully I can try and figure out where I went wrong. The hard part isn’t over yet, I still have to do the chocolate.
Mariah — If the egg whites had deflated a little, that could have affected the volume. You do need to spread the batter pretty thin… the layers are tiny. The foil wrapped log brand (Odense, I think) is actually very good stuff, and they make both almond paste AND marzipan (packaged the same) so it’s not clear if you actually used the wrong one. They are a bit more dry, but with a lot of whirling in a stand mixer or food processor, they should eventually break up smoother. I’m sure the cookies will still taste excellent, despite these problems.
How come you don’t add the chocolate sprinkles on top?
I made a few comments last year and would like to add just one more. I have noticed a few concerns with the chocolate cracking and difficult to cut. Just add a tablespoon of butter to the melted chocolate. Makes the chocolate softer.
Another version I have toyed with is substituting the preserves with lemon curd (homemade is preferred) and coating with white chocolate instead. When I bake this version, I tone down the colors, making pastel shades of pink and green. Really pretty. Especially nice for an Easter brunch or dinner.
Hi Deb: my son and loved this recipe and had absolutely no problems with it as printed!! We used the log of almond paste (not labelled as marzipan but as ‘almond paste’) instead of the canned version. Worked fine. Also used the readers tips of the tablespoon of butter in the chocolate and a sharp, serrated knife dipped in very hot water (and then immediately dried) to cut through the chocolate without breaking. My question is: when defrosting, do you just take them out and leave them in the fridge until ready-to-eat or do you have to do something special? I’ve never frozen baked and iced cookies before. Thanks!
MrsWarrington — Fridge or room temperature to defrost. If you have more time, let them spend 12 hours in the fridge.
Tried your idea of freezing before cutting and it worked beautifully. But do you have any recommendations on how to prevent the condensation and the discoloration of the chocoalte after thawing? I thawed in refrigerator first. Perhaps it’s how you wrap to freeze?
This is the second batch I’m making. The first didn’t have a chance in my house. GONE in 2 days! The recipe is exactly what I had hoped for and what I remembered as a child!. Moving from the East Coast to the Pacific NW…folks never heard of I-talian cookies. (as they say here) Such a shame, but I’m willing to educate! Have been sharing the cookies with all my friends and even may have a spot in the local pizza joint in town! He’s from NY and misses it too! Wow, thanks for possibly opening an unexpected door for me. Now to master cutting that chocolate layer! Good luck all!
I was so enchanted with this post that I bought a rainbow cookie for the first time in my life, from Rocco’s bakery on Bleecker btw 6th and 7th (incidentally, the only place that makes cannoli I absolutely can’t resist). It was delicious! I don’t know if it’d meet your exacting standards, but that makes me all the more anxious to try this recipe myself.
Wow! This is the first time that I’ve seen this cookie outside of my own home. My family very similar cookies like these every year around Christmas. I was always told that they were an Italian family recipe and called rainbow cookies around our house. Completely worth all the extra effort! Especially when you have three generations working on them at once. Wonderful!
I was wondering if you’ve tried, or if you thought this recipe could, be made with almond (or coconut) flour instead of all-purpose. I can’t eat wheat flours for health reasons and generally find that coconut or almond flour are goods subs.
Would love to hear your thoughts :)
Just to add a suggestion for the cutting step…I learned in school, the best way to cut through any cake, pie, etc. is to have a hot knife and clean the knife between each cut. It’s tedious but delivers a clean cut. I use a smooth bladed knife (serrated seems to chew up the cake). Run the knife under the faucet with scalding hot water, wipe dry with a towel and gently let the knife press through the chocolate. Let the heat do the work for you. The blade will melt through the chocolate and then the cake part is easy. remove the knife from the cake and run under scalding water again. Wipe clean and repeat. Hope this helps. It’s worked for me for years with these cookies!
I was looking for this recipe and stumbled upon yours. Thank you sooo much!! I do have a question though, is there any replacement I can make for the almond paste/extract? A family member is highly allergic to nuts but is super interested in trying these. Any suggestion would be more than helpful.
Hey…helllp! I need to make these, just because they’re like the ’70s offspring of Battenburg on LSD :D my family loooves the old Battenburg and will go crazy for these -but almond paste? Canned or not, I don’t stand a chance in the UK. I can get marzipan, but clearly that’s no good – how might I go about making my own? Please, take pity here -i can’t write this off!
okay, so the recipe is a bit lengthy, but basic. I attempted these and they are outrageous, not as pretty as pictured but the second attempt will be I am sure. So glad I tried, they are so worth it. Thanks SK
I have been making these cookies for years as a holiday tradition. I skipped it one year and never heard the end of it!
I’ve never used the canned almond paste, always the Odense foil wrapped tube. After several different strategies over the years, I finallly found the BEST way to break up the almond paste so there are no clumbs in my cookies – a grater! Pop the almond paste in the fridge so it’s on the cold side (and doesn’t stick to the grater too much), then grate it like you would cheese or carrots. It only takes a couple of extra minutes and is WELL worth the time.
This is a really great recipe. Super tasty and if you follow the instructions step by step and take your time you’ll be able to do it! I didn’t freeze them before i cut them and it wasn’t too bad, but I think next time I will try freezing them. Another tip is to make sure you don’t put too much preserves in between the layers because they ooze out and slip around. If you have a kitchenaid mixer(or some other brand) use it!- It makes it easier.
These cookies are AMAZING!!! I found this recipe a few weeks ago on my search for a different recipe for a cookie swap. I was very hesitant because of all the steps, but after reading all the comments left by other readers, I decided to give it a try. Now I do not have a stand mixer and this was a big reason for my hesitating, actually I don’t even have a hand mixer – I bake, but nothing “fancy” like these impressive little things. I made these with the kiddos help (moms with little ones- you can do this, my little guy is 3,and a great helper-just put them to work-lol) I have a small kitchen and limited space and bake ware, and I pulled it off, and by swapping out the baking dish there was minimal clean up after. The hardest part, for me was the egg whites… I took turns with my daughter mixing (and mixing and mixing) and they firmed up, I was very happy. The only thing was that they came out VERY dense, this did not affect the taste and only the texture slightly, I did use the Odense Almond Paste, the only one I could find,and after reading all the posts again, I am guessing this may be why.
Anyway- long story, short… make the time to make these, they are SO worth it, I will be making them again next week for Thanksgiving, and then I will make 2 -3 big batches (cooking day anyone ???) to have for a few events coming up over the holidays. This batch was a trial one, and will probably not see Monday. These tasted exactly like the ones from the bakery… and I would almost say better, probably since they are fresh.
Thank you for this recipe!
I’ve followed a variation of this recipe from my mom for many years. It has never turned out bad. The only difference with hers, was she only did the chocolate layer on one side.
I might try this one, but mine calls for a bit more batter with three cups of flour, 12oz of almond paste, 6 eggs…etc. See https://sites.google.com/site/fwgrants/family-recipes/holiday-cookies if you want that version.
Definitely don’t be intimidated by these cookies. They are fun and easier to make than they look–and will amaze others because they are beautiful and delicious.
I am sooo excited I just finished phase 1 of these cookies! The only Issue I had was stacking them, is there a trick to this? Otherwise I can not wait to eat them!
I have made these several times and only now caught on to a great way to cut them!! That was always my least favorite part of the process… Basically what I did was lined up fishing line on the pan after the first layer of chocolate but before I flipped it over; so the line wound up under the cookies when they were flipped. After the top chocolate set up, pull the line tightly around the cookies and draw it along like you’re tying a bow; eventually you wind up with line in your hand and a straight and perfect rectangle of cookies! Then take your heated knife and cut into smaller pieces. It was the discovery of a lifetime, I had to share. Thanks for a great recipe Deb – this one always gets compliments!
Just finished these and they came out great despite some OOPS moments. First, I knew I had almond extract but when it came time to add to the batter I noticed it had evaporated (I hadn’t used it in awhile) still the almond paste gives this great flavor. Second OOPs was when I previously read about someone forgetting to put the flour in at the correct time; and sure enough I folded the egg whites in before putting the flour in; I cursed up a storm when I did that:); Thank you Deb and Seasons Greetings!
I just made these and found them to be everything my rainbow-cookie obsessed heart could ever desire! Thanks so much! Here’s a link to my post if you want to check it out! http://www.joanne-eatswellwithothers.com/2010/12/italian-rainbow-cookies-seven-layer.html
This is the second year I’ve made these (I guess I forgot to post my outcome last year) and they are so superior to any you can get at a bakery. They are a little time consuming, but much of it is inactive waiting to cool/chill time. Last year I was sure that the cookies would be too thin so I made them in an 11×7 baking dish. Wrong move! They were awkward to eat and more difficult to cut because the cookie itself was soft and the pressure made the layers topple somewhat and the chocolate more crack-prone. This year I made them in the 9×13 pan and they were much easier to handle. It does pay to use the scale to measure the batter for even layers. I didn’t use all the jam. While spreading it, I could tell it would smoosh out, so I spread it to a consistancy that I knew would work; I could still taste it in the final product and had no smooshing! Deb, your tips were so valuable to the sucess of this cookie. Thanks. Everyone loved them, so I had to make two batches this year – my pleasure!
I made these yesterday and thought I’d share my experience in case it would be helpful to anyone else. I read the comments on Gourmet and made some minor adjustments.
I did 3/4 of the recipe and used an 8 inch square pan. The batter was easy to spread this way (since really an 8 inch pan is about half the area of a 9×13 but I used more than half the batter) However, even though the layers looked pretty thin the ultimate cookies are a bit too tall! Next time I would either do half the recipe for an 8 inch square or use a 9 inch square for 3/4 of the recipe.
Several people commented that they did not separate the eggs. So I simplified things and did the whole batter in the food processor. It was so easy. Almond paste and sugar first. Then salt, extract, and butter. Then the eggs. Then the flour.
My layers (which as mentioned were thicker) took about 12-13 minutes. I did add a few drops of yellow coloring to the yellow layer.
I used very little jam, about 2 ounces per my 8 inch square layers. I did apricot on one and raspberry on the other.
I needed about 5 ounces chocolate even though my batch was smaller. Because the cookie was so cold the chocolate firms up fast so it was hard to spread quickly. But nobody minded the somewhat thicker chocolate.
Thanks for inspiring me to make these, I love them from my childhood in LA and can’t find them here in the SF bay area.
I encourage anyone to try them, it was an easy and fun project!
I, too, have fond memories of these from growing up in NY and have been disappointed with most versions I find when I go back for a visit.
Thanks for all the great tips and tricks. I’m planning on making these for a New Year’s Eve bash.
Thank you so much for showcasing this recipe! I made them for the first time this year and are pretty sure these are a new family favorite! I featured them on my blog here: http://engineerandanoven.blogspot.com/2010/12/italian-seven-layer-cookies.html, if you are interested! They may not be quite as pretty as yours, but they tasted divine! I can’t wait to makethem again!
Thanx for exposing the most fabulous recipe! I have been enjoying these cookies since I could remember! Living in Brooklyn my entire life, I have been exposed to the best bakeries and having the 7 Layer Cookies from many different bakeries, I have to say these come extremely close to the real thing!! I tried this recipe, & they came out phenomenal, soo easy to make, just takes a little dedication..This recipe is a def keeper. Thanx again <3
These were soooo good! A new favorite-they will be in all my Christmas goody boxes from now on. Thanks for the recipe.
They look delicious! I, too, am a displaced Italian NY’er living in Savannah, Ga and I decided I was going to tackle these cookies for my own blog. Rainbow cookies are a part of my childhood and since I can’t get them here I plan on making them myself. I found your recipe and I will definitely be using it (but replacing the apricot with raspberry jam. I will definitely link you, and thank you for posting this!!
The best ones are from villabata alba bakery on 18 ave in brooklyn NY.They have a ton of other authentic italian treats too.Yum!!!!
I lived in Bensonhurst most of my life, now living in Seattle I cant even find a bad rainbow cookie. I can’t wait to make these this weekend, the pastries is what I miss most from Brooklyn!
I have made these cookies every year during holiday time for many years. I have a different recipe though that only uses almond extract and not paste. I get raves from them though. I stopped making them because I brought them to the place I go to Christmas one year and the host gave the extras back to me. I was so insulted because I had spent SO much time making them that I never made them again. I figured, why should I since they aren’t appreciated. Anyway, the reason I am posting is because of the chocolate crackage issue. My recipe says to add a little vegetable or canola oil to the chocolate. Just a teaspoon or so. It keeps the chocolate shiny and it also keeps it from cracking. It also doesn’t effect the taste at all.
I am now intrigued and will probably try this recipe out because I have always wanted to try one with the almond paste. I saw one not too long ago in NY Magazine but I think yours looks a little easier.
Love the cookies — you realize they are the colors of the Italian flag, no?
My mother has been making these for years but won’t share the recipe! I have never heard referred to as cookies though. We call them petifores. Thanks for the recipe! I am so excited I found them
Thanks for sharing!
I tried making these last night and they didn’t come out right. They were very hard. I think I may have over done the egg whites and cooked too long in the oven.
Couple of questions:
How do you break up the Almond Paste so that it doesn’t clump?
What is the purpose of refrigerating the green?
Beating the almond paste alone with the sugar should be enough to break it up. It wasn’t? (I’m hoping you saw the instruction right before it to transfer the whites to another bowl.) The green is the layer you make last, so keeping the batter refrigerated until you need it ensures that it stays the freshest and that the butter doesn’t get too warm.
Thank you for the quick response. I will try again this weekend! :)
I cut them with a pizza cutter after the 2nd chill in the fridge once they were done. They cut well but the cuts were not too straight. I could have done it better if I was more careful. Also, when I got to the end, the ends would crack so I had to put something up against the end while I moved the pizza cutter. That prevented cracking.
In the future, I’m going to just do it with a pizza roller just before the 2nd chill when the chocolate on the top is still wet. That could possibly make the top/sides of each slightly sloppy due to chocolate on the roller, but it would make it less likely to crack.
Not sure I’d freeze them and cut them. I think that’d just be slow and frustrating :-) .
These are one of the best cookies… ever! I’m 15 and I made them for my sister’s graduation, and even though they weren’t as pretty as those bad boys ^^, they were amazing. There were a lot but they disappeared by the end of the day!
I live in England and can’t find almond paste anywhere. Can I substitute almond paste for marzipan?
It will probably work. Marzipan has some extra stabilizers in it that make it mold-able but the ingredients/textures are otherwise similar. I haven’t tried it though, so please let us know how it goes.
The marzipan works! They came out really good. I would just recommend adding a bit extra almond extract as it lacked a bit of almond taste.
I use Nutella between each layer. I don’t like the apricot filling so I changed it to some thing I love. Each time I make them, I use the nutella. Everyone who has tried my version has loved them!
I recently made these, excellent recipe. I only ran into one problem and that was stacking the layers… my red layer broke apart but they still came out delicious :D thank you so much for this!
It didn’t work out for me…if I spread the layer to fully cover the 9×13 pan, it was definitely thinner than 1/4 inch, maybe closer to 1/8 inch in places. So, it ended up too thin and then overbaked. I followed the recipe and I’m trying to figure out why I didn’t have enough. The only thing I can think of is perhaps some of the volume reduced when I was trying to fold in the egg whites and coloring? I tried to be careful, though, so I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts or tips for trying again?
Tried again, success!
hey I was just mildly confused by the whole advice on ‘layering the cakes’ part either way wouldn’t the pink cake get stacked with the greasy part upwards? so either way putting on the chocolate would be a challenge?
It’s really not a problem. The cake isn’t greasy and you’re spreading jam between each layer.
I am an experienced cook/baker/cake decorator. I have never had these cookies before today. Never even heard of them to tell the truth. A friend of our family, who is from NY, asked if I could make them for her. Of course, as I always do, I said “yes”. Now, how am I going to make something that I have no clue about. I followed your recipe (and notes) to the “T”. No changes at all. They turned out perfect. They are so delicious, so cute, so dainty, so rich in flavor, so New York, so Italian. It is four o’clock in the morning and I am still eating them. These (this perfect recipe) are a top shelf keeper. Thank you.
Lovely recipe, thank you so much. You have no idea what good memories these bring back for me and my 84-year old father. One point – you seem to have cut them too thick. We’ve never seen them thicker than 1/2″. They are very rich, so to cut them thinner. Also, place them in paper cupcake or large candy cups to serve. Then you can handle and stack them in a tin. On to pizelle and cucidati!
I used to work at Swiss Colony in the bakery and this is very reminiscent of the many varieties of petit fours we used to make. Of course it was all automated and we made thousands upon thousands of them and they were cut before enrobed in chocolate, but the idea is the same.
I love these cookies. My grandmother made them every Christmas. We called them Venetian cookies and she only use apricot jam & put chocolate on the top layer. I can not wait to make these in December.
The dough is simply delicious but it didn’t work out for me…if I spread the layer to fully cover the 9×13 pan, it was definitely thinner than 1/4 inch, maybe closer to 1/8 inch in places. So, it ended up too thin and then over-baked. I followed the recipe exactly. I did the next layer in a 7 x 11 pan and still not seeing a true 1/4 inch. Do you have any thoughts or tips for trying again? Thank and I look forward to trying to make these again.
If you ever get tired of making these cookies let me know. I will make them for you just because these are my favorite. I have made a few tweeks to the traditional recipe and sell so many at the holiday time. I have to hide my platters from all my kids and hubby because they love them. So no, you are not weird for liking these cookies. Happy Holidays!!!!
Instead of the same boring cake flavors for each layer and just different coloring. I placed cherry extract for the pink layer and pistachio extract for the green layer. The taste was incredible and tasted better then the store bought bakery ones. I made them last year for our christmas party (about 50 of them) and they went within minutes. The ones someone brought from the bakery were still sitting there as we were saying goodbye to everyone. I have had requests for this recipe and where I got the extracts from since last year and will make a double batch again this year. Don’t me wrong I love the taste of almond, but partnered with a layer of cherry flavor and pistachio flavor it can’t be beat.
Thank you for this in-depth recipe and tips! I have always loved these cookies and I can’t wait to make them for the holiday season! One question: After you heat and strain the preserves, do they need to remain hot when you spread them on the cakes? Or is the heating process so it is easier to strain out the solid pieces?
The heating process makes it easier to strain, that’s all. Enjoy!
Thanks for the great recipe, Deb! I made a double batch of these for holiday gifts and they are just the cutest cookies. I followed the recipe exactly using all of your notes/suggestions and it worked out perfect. For one of the batches I also switched the layers to be pink and purple. For anyone making these, you probably have to keep a close eye on the layers though as it’s easy to overbake them – I put them in for 9 min and then checked them every min after that to make sure they were just done, but not dry.
Bruce’s Restaurant & Bakery in Great Neck, NY (and Manhattan) has Rainbow Cookies to die for! I bought 4 cookies on Thanksgiving, when I stopped to pick up a pecan pie (also amazing). All 4 cookies were gone by the time I walked out of Starbucks (across the street) with my latte.
I’m going to bake a batch for my office holiday party.
Made these today….the flavor of the cookies was exactly as i remembered them. My dad used to have a pharmacy on Long Island and in the same shopping center was Rossini’s Italian Bakery. I now understand why he charged so much for these. They are labor intensive and the ingredients are expensive,
Had a little trouble getting the layers to be the same thickness. I think next time ill double the recipe id rather had a little extra and use a 1/8 sheet pan for the left over batter. Also one of my layers cracked and i had to piece it back together before i added the preserves.
Hopefully with the weighing it down over night will meld the cracked pieces together…
Tomorrow i add the chocolate…wish me luck!!!
@Laurie…#259…I used to live on Schenck Avenue in Great Neck…Bruces did have great Rainbow cookies but Rossinis were better…the real deal…
Made these this weekend and they were excellent! Finally I have the cookies I remember from real old-fashioned Italian bakeries when I was a kid in the Bronx. Getting the layers even and dividing the batter was probably the trickiest part. Thanks so much for the recipe!
Thank you! I made these this weekend and I am giving them to my family as gifts. So happy to have found a recipe for these delectable treats!
can u please tell me how to best store them to use them in two weeks for christmas? should I freeze them after I cut them up? thanks so much!
Hi Lucy — For storage of more than a couple days., I keep cookies in the freezer.
Deb…just wanted to thank you for an incredible recipe! I grew up LOVING these cookies and never even thought I would be able to make them myself until I found your recipe 2 years ago. I make them a few times a year now and they became a HUGE hit with my friends and family. The only stress I have is cutting the cookies. No matter what I do…freeze them, don’t freeze them, use a heated knife…I always crack them and they never look as perfect as I’d like them to be. Any other advice or just keep practicing? I’m just happy I don’t have to head over to NYC to get these cookies anymore because they are never really good at any other bakery. Thank you again! :)
Just made these for the first time, very easy…definitely not the fastest cookie I’ve ever made. Took them into work today, I got a lot of OH EM GEE’s…and smiles. Will be putting this on my Christmas cookie to do list every year.
I just tasted these cookies. I have to say that when I was chilling the layers, I thought they might be too dry, too dense, and just not worth all the work. I was wrong! They are sooo delicious and taste as good as the ones from Ferrera in Little Italy in NYC. I am so happy right now! Thank you for the recipe and the tips. I am happy to know I can have these tri color cookies whenever the craving hits now. : )
I came across your recipe over a year ago and just built up the courage to try it this afternoon..the smell is delicious and as a regular baker I found these relatively easy to make the only problem was that there was not enough batter to spread between three pans evenly 1/4inch. I used the baking sheets you show in your above picture. They are quiet large but I have three of them..So that was my only difficult challenge. Do you double your entire batch? Any suggestions..otherwise I can not wait to cut into them ~ the scraps tasted so good!!
Thanks so much !
I made these over the weekend, and I just have to tell you… they are AMAZING! Your instructions and notes were instrumental in my being able to produce such gorgeous results! So much easier to make than I had imagined, and I’ve decided they will be part of my annual holiday baking from now on! Thank you, for sharing this fantastic recipe!
I just started making these last year. My mother makes them all the time. We don’t use apricot though we use raspberry preserves and we use Nestlé semi sweet chocolate for the top. Basically the same though. Also a tip for anyone who does try these they taste AMAZING frozen. You don’t have to thaw them to eat them you can eat it right out of the freezer because with the paste and sugar it doesn’t fully freeze. I only eat them frozen now!!!
Also, we make one entire batch per layer instead of splitting one batch into three which makes it easier to spread and it’s delicious too.
Thank you for the grrreat recipe…THEY CAME OUT AWESOME! OFF THE HOOK! BETTER THAN ANY BAKERY AND I AM AN ITALIAN FROM NY!
NOTE A FEW SHORT CUTS: I also used apricot jam and did not strain, I just plucked out the chunks for one layer and used Raspberry jam on the other layer. I do not use a double boiler to melt my chocolate for any recipe( like peanut butter buckeye ball)s…I use a microwave 1 minute at a time stirring in between and checking it constantly during a cycle…less fuss and it comes our great!(FOR THIS RECIPE I melted half the chocolate at a time in the same bowl while the one side totally hardened in fridge).
NOTE ABOUT CUTTING: It was easy to use a very sharp knife straight blade (cut co knife) right after the 2nd layer of chocolate on the flip side when it was almost hardened in the fridge for almost 15 mins., but a little tacky, no chocolate appeared on my finger to the touch. I cut it slowly and cut straight down on the edges.
I am kicking myself for not making these any sooner and listening to how hard they are to make. I will make these again and again. The prep time is easy to make the batter and final after the the 8 hour chill was easy too. I used parchment paper and followed these directions to the T except for the cutting part, straining the jam and melting the chocolate.
THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR POST!
I have never written a comment on a website before but had to once I tasted my final product! These cookies are delicious! My husband asked me to bake these for Christmas and I was excited/daunted at the task. I love to bake but had never thought of attempting these yummy treats. No Italian grandmother that I asked used an actual recipe so I thought I’d give this one a try. Perfection! Recipe was right on par and the notes at the end were a godsend. THANK YOU and Happy Holidays!
Thank you so much for the great recipe….the only thing that is tricky is inverting the layers, did it so carefully, but quickly!! Instead of bittersweet chocolate, can I use a different kind of choclate, like semisweet chocolate chips?? I am making these for Christmas and I will store them in the freezer! Thanks!!!
Lisa — Semisweet should be just fine, it will just have less contrast with the super-sweet cake.
To more easily flip each layer when I assemble I don’t butter or grease the wax paper when I bake it so it does stick and then it’s easy to flip each layer and then the wax paper peels right off it doesn’t get stuck
I bookmarked this recipe a year ago and finally made it yesterday/today.They are so much easier than I thought that they would be – I have a feeling that this may become a yearly recipe, thanks for the great post, photos, & comments. I will be linking back here when I post!!
These made it to my Christmas baking list after finding your site earlier this year. I made a quadruple batch and used sheet pans to bake the layers.I made my own almond paste because it would have cost about $30 for that much (32 oz) commercially prepared.They turned out perfectly and YES freeze before cutting them and you can’t go wrong! It all came together easily and tastes and looks amazing….I will be making these every year now thank you!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! this recipe is awesome! they came out perfect! Thank you for letting me make these little pieces of heaven that I remember my grandparents bringing to me when I was a child…I only wish I could have made them for them!
I’ve made these twice the second time they came out 110% better. I added pistachio extract to the green layer, cherry extract to the pink layer, and almond extract to the yellow layer ………… they tasted better then the bakery in my hometown which everyone raves about – until we had a side-by-side taste test – guess who won? I did …………………
These came out pretty well for me. Very tasty. The dough was super sticky and I found it difficult to spread in the pan – is that normal? Also I think I deflated my egg whites so my cookies were not quite as high as the ones in the picture. The taste was very good though.
I’ll try with homemade almond paste, homemade almond extract, homemade apricot preserves and green tea powder in place of the green food coloring. You might think that I’m either a) DIY addict b) hater of processed goods or c) live in a foreign country, but none of those are true. By themselves.
i just made this recipe and i must say it came out phenominal!! only thing i did differently was I used apriot preserves on the bottom layer and raspberry preserves on the top layer. They taste just like the store bought ones!! Delish! Will definately use this recipe again!!
Why chill 8 hours? I made 2x w/o chilling. Just want to know what my impatience is costing. They were a hit at home as is.
Also, Amy Halpern (#260), I’m from Glen Cove and sorely miss Rossinis when they closed. Their cannolis and cannoli cakes and Pignoli cookies couldn’t be beat. And I used to go to Bell & Halpern all the time as a kid.
Well, I bravely made these for Mum’s 85th afternoon lunch/open house /tea party and they were terrific – a really big hit!
Very pretty, very impressive, really tasty and not that much work for the end result and quantity – and they were fun to make!
I’ll definitely make these again, even with having to make my own paste too as it was too hard to get commercial stuff. I could have used a little more almond essence in them and a little more chocolate as I scrimped on both (long story) and they STILL were yummy and even more so after about a week. Can’t wait to make these again – thanks for sharing such a unique and lovely recipe.
Deb……..Thank-you! I’ll think of you each time I make these and send good thoughts your way! Cheers!!
Thanks so much been looking for a long time very good love love love thank you
I needed a special cookie to give to a woman who I consider a cookie master, and this was the one! Cutting was a nightmare, but the flavor was outstanding!
As a good Jewish girl from NY – I LOVE these and couldn’t seem to find them anywhere but a bakery in White Plains…. they just don’t taste the same outside of NY, not even Italy or Chicago.
Making Kiegel was an achievement for me, but loved your comments, added this to my favorites and will definitely give it a go.
We certainly don’t think you’re weird for liking these, because they are the best!!! One of us grew up getting these from Italian bakeries in Brooklyn and Long Island; the other one of us never quite understood what all the fuss was about. Well. This is what the fuss is about. We followed your instructions exactly, including the warnings you included at the end (thanks!), and they turned out perfectly. After a day or two in the fridge, they were even better. We look forward to making these again! They are worth the extra effort.
Almond paste and marzipan are the same thing, yes? I can’t find canned almond paste anywhere, would it be possible to just use the marzipan that comes in bars?
Marzipan has some stabilizers in it but will probably work; see my response in comment #240.
personally, I only used about 3/4 of a 12 oz jar of the fruit preserves, and it came out perfectly.
I have made these cookies several times, and they get a bit easier and more delicious each time. One of my favorite recipes. Thank you for sharing!
These cookies are my favorite, having grown up in in New York, but over the years I became accustomed to the store- bought ones, forgetting the delicious treats my Jewish grandma used to get from the bakery (what they’re SUPPOSED to taste like). I bake all the time, and luckily when I searched for a recipe for these, yours was the first one that popped up. These cookies are ridiculously fantastic, and I even managed to convert a few rainbow cookie-haters I know into believers. The recipe isnt so much difficult as it is time-consuming, but it’s well worth it. Nobody believes I made them and this recipe makes so many that I can always share them between home, friends and work. Thank you for having such informative and clear recipes. I made your carrot cake last night for my boyfriend’s birthday and that too was a huge success.
I made these by using 2 sticks of butter (instead of 2.5) and using 1.5 cups of sugar, and only 7 oz. of almond paste. They were DELICIOUS! Thank you so much for this recipe.
This is the best recipe for rainbow cookies I’ve found. Thank you!! However, you didn’t use raspberry perserves? Apricot for one layer and raspberry for the other is what I remember from childhood plus they really make the cookie taste amazing! I’d encourage anyone making these cookies to use raspberry on the other layer instead of two layers of apricot.
I know you said after you freeze them they cut like a dream. However, what if you cut before putting the chocolate on? Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. Your tweaks and all the wonderful input from others make me feel these cookies are doable!
Hi Susan — I think if you cut them first, the chocolate would seep through and not look so nice.
I love this cookies so much and want to make it a little fancier for my party. What do you think of adding rum into the dough before baking & how much can I add?
I made these this weekend. All I can say is WOW! The recipe is awesome. The finished product tastes just like authentic NY bakery cookies. Thanks Deb.
HI Deb! I am attempting to make these right now lol . I have a question do you need all of the 2 1/2 sticks & (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened or just one or the other ?? And I want to be sure this did not include the butter for the greesing of the pans and wax paper ? Thanks
So my cookies are sitting and setting in the fridge now but they look awful thin compared to yours I am praying they come out …
Hi Tanya — Sorry for the delayed response. The butter is used all at once and it doesn’t not include the extra needed for greasing. I hope things took a turn for the better!
Well (( lol )) We have attempted these cookies the first time and they came out wafer thin no spongie’ness at all to them. The second time we did them the consistancy came out perfect after baking cake like just like the picture. Then we finished the process of layering them and went to top the green layer and that whole pan of cake crumbled . ( needless to say we ate it and it was very vey yummy lol ) Tomorrow we will try again for a third time to get them just right, and this time we are doing a double batter of them to make the cake part a bit thicker so as to it will not crumble :)
HOLY MOLY these are SOOO good! I made them for the first time last year around Christmas. I cannot wait to make these again. I was very afraid of messing up a step since its sort of complicated but they were perfect!
Thank you so much for posting this recipe! My family has enjoyed eating these cookies since before I can remember, and whenever we pass by them in the store my mom and I swear we are going learn how to make them one of these days. I’m totally going to make these for Christmas now! Wish me luck :)
I make these now every year. I have a batch going right now. My only issue that I have is cutting them. They always break and look awful. However they still taste scrumptious.
Love the flavor! Have you doubled the amounts?
With all that work you should need more.
I made these cookies last year for Christmas among a few other cookie varieties. I have been a rainbow cookie fanatic since my childhood, so I thought I would try to find a recipe to make them on my own, and Christmas always seems to be the perfect excuse to do a ridiculous amount of baking. I brought some of these into work, some to my parents house and some to my boyfriends parents house. These cookies we to die for! Everyone asked me where I found the recipe. So I decided this year I am going to make a double batch– yes they were this good!!!!! The only issue I had with them was I couldn’t get the chocolate on the top to cut without cracking? Maybe my first attempt wasn’t as pretty as the cookies in the picture, but oh my goodness were they DELICIOUS! And even though there were several steps, they were relatively easy to make. Definitely worth trying!!!
My dad would bring these home after working a 12-8 (am) shift when I was a kid. The joy of fresh bagels and a white bakery box of rainbow cookies… My dad has been really sick lately and this memory has brought on the tears!!! I will be making him these for Christmas- thank you so much for this recipe!!
My boyfriend and his mom (both from Long Island) requested I make “rainbow cookies” for the holidays. Here in CA I have never heard of these. Thankfully I found your recipe (love your website, got your book) and started at it. Quite a marathon baking session! But the consensus was the cookies tasted as good as they remembered them. To me that is a success. Thank you for the great recipe!
I Finally got around to making these this year. Made my own almond paste (easy enough) and used my own apricot jam. I also used one of those cake top squiggly combs and “combed’ the surface. They look very pretty! I hope no one else likes these so they can be Mine-All-Mine! I feel like Gollem and the Ring…”My Precious”
I made these for our church cookie exchange and they were amazing! I won “Most Unique Cookie”! Thank you!
These are just as I remember from my childhood. My Italian aunt used to make them, and I remember that she used almond paste. This is the only recipe I’ve found online that uses it, and I think it is important to the flavor. I did add one thing though. I added a quarter tsp of Bickford pistachio flavoring to the green layer. I think it is available online if it isn’t in a specialty store in your area. Be careful not to add more than that though, for this flavoring can quickly turn a baked good bitter. Thanks for posting the recipe.
Just finished making the cookies and it’s official: my family is never buying seven-layer cookies from the store again! My mom said the cookies make her feel like a little kid again and she thanks you. :)
Thank you for sharing this recipe! I made these for my dad, who had fond memories of eating them as an Italian kid growing up in Philadelphia. He loved them and said they brought him right back to his childhood.
Your tips were very helpful. Although time-consuming, the assembly went off without a hitch. I didn’t freeze mine before cutting, though. I waited about 10 minutes after the second chocolate layer was applied, until it was just barely set, and cut them with an extra-sharp serrated bread knife. To get nice, even, pretty cuts, you’ve got to practice a little and work VERY SLOWLY, but it’s worth it.
I wanted to Thank you for listing the recipe, these cookies were amazing,
I cut them in 1″ squares and had 88 pieces…
You made this day SPECIAL.
Thanks, Joe Indriolo
The photos I took were amazing.
Thanks again. Joe
Am I doing something wrong?! My second layer is in the oven now – but my layers are cooking in an 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 pan because there was no way I could spread each layer into a 13 x 9 pan – there simply wasn’t enough! The only thing I did differently is cut the sugar by 1/4 cup. Any suggestions on where I went wrong?
The layers are thin but should definitely fit in a 9×13. The only reason I could think of someone ending up with less batter is if they didn’t get any volume in their egg whites — if not whipped until they just hold stiff peaks, your batter could end up smaller too.
Yum, these are my very favorite cookies in the entire world! Can’t wait to try your recipe out, but if you are ever in Boston go to “Mike’s Pastry” in the north end and try their version…. Amazing!!! Order them ahead of time , they run out and there is a little French bakery in ormond beach fl, where I grew up, la gourmandaise… A close second!
Thanks for the feedback Deb! I have to say that even though I accidentally made 1/2 has many cookies – they still tasted impressively amazing! I gave the cookies as gifts and have never gotten so many compliments! Can’t wait to make them again (with fluffier egg whites that is…)!
Thanks for the great recipe and tips! I had great success with this recipe. Reading the entire recipe first and prepping everything before actually making it made this recipe a breeze! Thanks again!
Thank you. I’ve always been afraid to make these because of potential mistakes. Thank you for taking the time to make these delicious treats often enough to iron out all the snags. I appreciate your thoroughness.
I am SO excited that you have posted this recipe. I usually go into bakeries here in NY and ask for rainbow cake or rainbow cookies and they know what I’m talking about. While everyone else is ordering muffins, ordering one or two pieces of rainbow cake makes me feel a bit like an 82-year-old man but they are my FAVORITE thing to eat with coffee. Nostalgia is, I’m sure, a factor in this, but it’s also just fun-looking food and surprisingly rich and decadent. Sadly, yes, so many people/factories get them so wrong. There’s a place on 7th Ave here in Park Slope that has the best I’ve tasted in years. But now maybe I can make my own because your recipe makes it seem actually somewhat doable. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks!
I’m wondering whether it would ease the cutting of the cakes to use dental floss. I’ve heard that works well with cheese cake (un-minted flavor of course).
I should have known that you would have a rainbow cookie recipe.This is why I obsessively go through the “surprise me” button while I should be working…..
I ADORED these as a child, but I too find ones I find now to be not so exciting now though.
Quick question– I thought they used to have a strawberry or raspberry jam in the middle and not apricot? I could have sworn that the jammy layer was always red-ish. It may be that I’m getting old and my memory is failing me. Have you tried this with another flavor?
Thanks Deb for being amazzzinngggg!My husband happened upon me reading your book the other day and said “you’re reading that thing like it contains the secret of life.” Little does he know… it does! :-D
Anna — I always remember them with apricot, which I think was mostly to keep the color from being distracting. It might be fun to put raspberry on the pink layer and apricot on the green layer for more flavor.
I’ve made these several times now (great recipe). Tip on avoiding cracks in the chocolate: cut them when the second round of chocolate has set enough that when you touch it nothing gets on your fingers but it is still a bit soft. This prevents cracking and when you stick them in the fridge to firm up completely, there are no cracks and it looks great.
These are simply the best cookies in the world. I’ve made them several times now, but I just finished a batch and made a mistake and would like to share a gentle warning:
DO NOT OVERHEAT/OVERCOOK YOUR JAM. IT WILL CRYSTALLIZE AND GET HARD ONCE IT COOLS AND RUIN THINGS.
I do apricot jam on one layer, raspberry on the other, and bought lower-quality raspberry jam than I usually get, so I let it cook for longer and hotter than usual, hoping to thicken and concentrate the flavor. I apparently let it go on for too long because now in the middle of my soft delicious cookies is a sliver of raspberry hard candy, which, while tasty on its own, lasts far longer in your mouth than the rest of the cookie and also might pull out a person’s fillings. PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE!
I have had the ingredients for this since the Christmas season, but was too lazy to try it. A few days ago I was bored and did so. They were delicious!! I invited my sister over to help with the taste testing since these have always been our favorite! I think I made a mistake though with the almond paste. I bought the solo brand like in the picture, but after mixing it all in I realized it was almond pie and pastry filling. The cookies weren’t as “almondy” as I would have liked, but I’m thinking it was that mistake! Thank you for making us smile with this recipe! :)
Deb, what do you think would happen if these were made with matza meal in place of the flour? I wondered if perhaps since they are dense rather than fluffy, maybe it could be okay. I was thinking they could be a good Passover dessert if you think that substitution would work.
Adding to my previous post — pondering it further, I wonder whether subbing almond meal/flour would be a better substitute than matza meal, since we’re already talking almondy goodness in the first place! (Or 50-50 matza meal-almond meal…) Anyway, looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
Hi Shellie — I’m surprised, but nobody thus far has commented about using almond flour, which is often an indicator that matzo meal might work. I think that it is worth trying (at least half/half, as you said). The flour here is important, but much more of the texture comes from eggs, suggesting that it’s more amenable to flour-tweaking than a flour-centric recipe, such as a classic American layer cake. I hope that helps. Would LOVE to hear your results if you try it.
Thanks for your response, Deb! I’ll probably try it in April and will be sure to let you know how it turns out. LOVE your cookbook, by the way :) The zucchini ribbons in pesto rock my world, but most of all I love your stories and your voice.
Made these today as the first cookie of the holiday season. I start early lol. Came out so good, and even my mom who is not a fan of almond flavor really liked them! The only issue I had was dividing the batter evenly. My white layer was a bit larger than the other two.Would you happen to know how many cups of batter make up each layer?
De Fillipi’s bakery in Middletown New York makes the best!:)
This will be my 2nd time making these cookies. First time, was flawless. The taste was identical to my bakery in Bensonhurst, so that will give you a good idea on how great this recipe truly is. Though for some reason the 2nd time around I think I buttered the parchment paper a little too much and the middle layer was a little thicker then the other layers. After 10 minutes of cooking this layer I realized it was still too liquidy to be done. After 25 minutes it still was mushy. I left it out to cool for over 25 min. still soggy!!! So, moral of the story- dont over butter parchment paper and evenly and thinly spread the layers before baking!!! But this recipe is one of my favorites & will continuely be a holiday favorite!! Thank You!!
I think this is my fourth time making these over the last couple years. I don’t recall if I’ve been using this recipe or several different recipes. I love these cookies, they’re so delicious! One more tip I would write for this is to make sure to divide the batter as evenly as possible among the three bowls. I seem to can never get it right. My red layer was extremely thin, and the white layer was very thick. The taste is still fine, they’re just not as pretty.
Also, my cookies did not turn out nearly as thick. Maybe next time I will multiply the recipe.
I’ve used this recipe a few times, getting rave reviews every time someone takes a bite. Tonight I’m not so lucky. With all the hoopla around coconut oil, I figured why not try it in place of the butter. Also, I’m gluten free so I used Gluten free flours like I have in the past. Well, the darn things broke into pieces and I had to press them together. Actually reminded me of a cake pop. I will try to put chocolate on them in the morning after they spent the night in the refrigerator. Since there were plenty of crumbs, we sampled them and they taste great. Any suggestions on substituting the butter? Anyone try making these with applesauce in place of the butter?
Made these gluten free by using almond meal flour. What a brilliant success!!
I’m going to try them blue and white for Hanukkah. Ever tried them with different colors?
We are doing the 12 Days of Christmas at work, I signed up for day 7, and found your cookies from a Google search! They look delicious, I can’t wait to make them! I have one question….there were too many comments to scroll through them all, so forgive me if someone already asked, but, do you think apricot cake filling would work instead of the apricot preserves? I saw the cake filling next to the almond paste, so I thought I would give it a try. Do you have any input on that? Can’t wait to make and try these!
Juli — I’ve never worked with prepared cake filling, so I can’t be sure. Is it thinner than jam? Thicker? Sweeter?
I’m not sure either, I’ll stick to the preserves the first time, and experiment with future batches. Better to be safe than sorry!
Thanks for all the comments. I am not sure if I read all of them but what I read were very helpful.
I just made these. I didn’t use any food coloring and I made one layer of apricot jam and one raspberry jam. I didn’t have enough of either for the whole thing so I used both. (I made the jams so I felt like it would taste ok).
I think they look fine, better even than the food coloring. More for grown-ups
IMVHO the coloring was just weird. I wish we could upload a picture.
Also, I put about a tablespoon of cream in the chocolate and it cut just fine room temp.
I wonder if Wilton frosting colors would work? Might have to stir the batter too much to incorporate it thoroughly though. I don’t want to change the consistency of the cake by overmixing.
Jam tip: I heated the jam and then poured it into a strainer over a bowl. When I was finished pressing the liquid out I poured it into a measuring cup. It was exactly 6 oz. in a liquid measuring cup. Dividing it would make it two 3-oz. portions.
Cake batter tip: I used the measuring cup from Pampered Chef to divide up the batter. It’s the one where you can use the liquid side as a pourer, or the solid side and push the solid out. I used the dry side and used 1/2 c. increments. It turned out to be one and a half cups of batter per color.
Here’s what I do – same recipe, but my “cheats.” I make three batches of cake. One entire recipe of cake for each color. I use three rimmed half-sheet pans (BIG), one for each batch. Up jam/chocolate amounts accordingly.
I DO NOT BOTHER SEPARATING THE EGGS. Honestly, every year I say I’m going to try it the way it’s written but I just can’t handle another step and set of bowls to clean. So I don’t bother.
My layers are a little thicker than they probably should be, but I end up with a HUGE batch of cookies that will make enough for all the parties I end up going to over the holidays.
By far, the best holiday cookie in my repertoire and the one most requested by friends and family!
I’ve been making these for years and finally figured a good way to cut them without cracking the chocolate. Use an electric knife. It goes much faster too and you can get them smaller and more uniform looking.
These cookies were a tradition in my house at Christmas. They also appeared on many wedding cookie tables in Western Pennsylvania, including my own. (Do you know about the “wedding cookie table” tradition?) I had the recipe from my mom, but I like your notes at the end. I have a couple more to add. First, we always added pistachio flavoring (available from bickfordflavors.com) to the green layer. Second, if you invert the layers by holding onto the cooling rack (and not just the paper), you can avoid breakage/cracking.
There is a bakery in Cleveland that used to make Italian flag cake. (Maybe they still do, but I no longer live there.) We sometimes ordered it for special occasions. It was made in a loaf pan and was actually cake (not cookies). I’m tempted to experiment with this using sponge cake or pound cake. Which would you use, Deb?
I love your website and your cookbook.
I agree with the previous post – separating the eggs adds nothing but an extra step and extra dirty bowl. My recipe is also almost exactly the same but I too add 2 t cream or shortening to the chocolate to make them easier to cut. Your website is great and the tips are very useful, esp. if you have never made these before.
Thank you for this great recipe, Deb, as well as all of the helpful tips. I have made these cookies several times now and have experimented with colors and fillings. Today, I doubled the recipe and used three 1/2 sheet pans. I used violet, pink and green food coloring (practicing for Easter) and a soft caramel filling. Also, I cut the cookies into long strips and spread the chocolate on the sides and top of each strip, froze the strips, then sliced them. Beautiful. The tray I put together for a dinner party this weekend looks very professional!
Will it make a difference if I use marzipan instead of almond paste? What is the difference between them?
See my explanation of the difference in Comment #240. Commenter #241 reported back (as did others) that it worked with marzipan. Good luck!
I just wanted to tell you that I love love these cookies! I have made them several times now and I have another recipe for these cookies from my ex-mother-in-law, and one of the best cooks I know, and I have to say your recipe is better. Hers are good but this one is better, Shhh don’t tell her I said that lol I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.
I just made these AND a couple of suggestions:
1) No need to refrigerate the batter while the others are cooking. I actually baked the white layer first, which gave me ten minutes to color the other batters.
2) I used two 9×13 Pyrex glass dishes which worked just fine, although I increased baking time to 12 minutes as the first time I made these one of the layers did not cook all the way through at 10 minutes and it was a MESS.
3) I don’t let the cake come to room temperature prior to glazing with chocolate. This is easier because then the chocolate sets quickly, and I cut them during that stage where the chocolate is semi-soft but hardening. I didn’t glaze the bottom with chocolate. I’m serving these on a warm California day in May outdoors, so it’s best if people don’t hold chocolate. This made the whole process easier too.
4) I agree with the “less jam the better comment.” Otherwise these slip and slide.
THANKS FOR A SWELL RECIPE!
Maybe an odd question. Seeing as these are actually a sort of cake almost, could I use this recipe and make it into cupcakes? I’m gonna assume that they would probably be very dense/heavy if tried. Would love your opinion.
Jailin — They’re very strong-flavored; I’d make them as mini-cupcakes as most. But really, they’re much better as thin bar cookies.
For the best seven layer or rainbow cookie. Court Pastry in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I grew up there. Nothing tops them
Cannot wait to make these! I’m a New Yorker now living in LA and haven’t seen them anywhere! The best I’ve had is from Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, NY (everything threre is outrageous). Right outside NYC!
I have made them once without the step of chilling and putting pressure on the cakes due to time constraints and they were pretty good, less dense, but still pretty good.
Deb- have you ever doubled the recipe? These are a request at the holidays and I would love to make one large batch instead of two batches. I have a jelly roll pan that should fit a double order perfectly. Any thoughts???
Tyler — I haven’t, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Good luck!
About to embark on these and wanted to ask, the knife you used to cut them…serrated or a straight blade…and did you use a sawing motion to cut or just swift go with gusto cuts?
Sorry, just re-read the recipe…AND saw that you addressed the knife. Got so caught up in reading ALL the comments….
Do NOT do as I did and try to avoid food coloring by trying Whole Foods’ all natural “Garden Color” food coloring. Terrible result: yucky greyish pink and revolting yellowish green. Really bad looking cookies. So sad. But they taste great.
Just made these, had really excellent results using the Wilton gel frosting food coloring. Just a dab, used christmas red and moss green. I did not feel that the mixing deflated the batter, they came out rich, tender, not too dense. I doubled the recipe, and divided across three baker’s half sheets (13″ x 18″), worked beautifully. These really are incredible.
They are just beautiful,I just made them and they are stacked, in the fridge, all ready for the Christmas festivities! Four things: spreading the batter became much easier once I wet the spatula a smudge; I did also use some cream in the chocolate, which I melted in the micro in two batches; third, I did freeze the cookies in between one chocolate layer and the other, and also just before slicing. Last, I also used the hot knife to slice them. All of these hints helped immensely, and they now look like a work of art!
Amazing! I just made the layers and they are resting in the refrigerator overnight. and I will attempt the chocolate tomorrow. I must admit tempering chocolate is my greatest fear, and I assume that is ideal here, so they can sit at room temperature on a cookie platter without melting too much.
Hooray! I grew up eating these from Italian bakeries, and I feel bada** for making them myself.
So excited to make these!! Do you think marzipan will work instead of the almond paste?
Marzipan has stabilizers in it to make it easier to mold into those shapes you see painted in bakeries. I haven’t tried it here but I feel like it still might work. Commenter #241 says it did just fine.
Just made them– YUM!! Marzipan worked great:)
Am I being too ambitious to freeze these amazing sheets of rainbows (I’ve made your recipe many times) and then use a heart cookie cutter to cut out the cookies for V-Day? What if I do another pour of chocolate after I cut them into hearts to seal in any crumbs? I thought of doing Valentine colors but I am such a traditionalist that I already feel I’m compromising my favorite Jewish cookie by shaping it into a hearts.
Any thoughts of yours would be great, I mean, any, like…”boy, I love my new kitchen but it still doesn’t make Winter go by any faster…
Thanks so much, Jenn
No, I think it would be adorable. You could enrobe them in chocolate, too, like a petit-four. You’re reminding me that it’s been way too long since I made these. Oh, and btw, the Baked bakery guys always do riffs on these for holidays. For Valentine’s, they tint the layers red, pink and white, as you were thinking — it’s adorable.
I just discovered your blog (where have I been, right?) and have been steadily working my way backwards. I was so surprised and happy when I reached this recipe. My mother has always made these (and for the past decade or so, I have too) and they are SO GOOD. And do not compare to crappy dry bakery versions. Your recipe is extremely close to hers, so I know it’s a good one. =) A couple of things– I see that you’re using Solo brand almond paste in a can, which is what I’ve always used and is FAR SUPERIOR to the weird tubes of almond paste (which in my experience tend to be much more dry.) Since moving to California, I haven’t seen Solo in the stores, so I bring them back from Florida and New Jersey when I go visit. My cousin even sent me some for my birthday last year. Which brings me to the second thing. I do the chocolate like you do, and just deal with a little bit of cracking. But my cousin adds some cream to make it easier to cut. It also makes the chocolate less crisp, so it’s not my preferred method, but she likes it that way.
I’ve been buying solo in boxes [the paste is sealed in an aluminum bag. I have found it in independent stores vs. large chains in the Silicon Valley area. I think it stays fresher in the box & is easier to work with than the can. Amazon sells a 4 pack of the boxes. The price is close to what I pay tho I found it on sale for about $6.10 for a single box locally last week.
SYLVIA. Thanks for the recipe it looks really tasty I will enjoy making them most of all I will indulge in eating them.
I LOVE these cookies! My hubby and I went to New York (because that is where he is from) and I tried them for the first time, I searched for recipes and this is almost the exact way I remember them. Instead of apricot throughout the cookie though, they are traditionally made with one layer of apricot and one of seedless raspberries. Other then that I share your recipe on Pintrest and it gets more hits and pins then anything else I have on there! Thank you for sharing this!
My Italian grandmother made hundreds of these every year at Christmastime. The best part of her visits were the tins and tins of holiday cookies. Now I make them every year. They do take all day and they make so many dishes, but they’re delicious. One question: I use a hand mixer and have always had such a hard time combining the almond paste and sugar. I have to use a fork and I still end up with lumpy bits. Is there a trick for this step? Is it just that here in Louisiana good, soft almond paste isn’t available?
My mom makes these every year and our family cannot get enough of them. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing!
question: I do not have 13×9 cake pans, so I used a 15×11, and …. they came out too thin.. the pans I see online are not really cake pans, but rather sort of lasagna pans….. Should I use the flexible “broil-foil” pans and maybe double them up for structure? I really hate to buy 3 pans for just these cookies, which are fabulous!! And using just one pan 3 times is really time consuming… other recipes say to fill up the pans all at once. Any suggestions?
Phyllis — I don’t see why you can’t use a lasagna pan, aside from the rounded edges, which will just mean that you get fewer perfect cuts. No reason not to use one pan three times, too.
they are delicious, but WHAT A BEAR TO CUT!!! I had to keep them frozen to cut them, and as they softened, the chocolate cracked, etc…. so I continued to put them back in the freezer to cut the rest…. any suggestions? Serrated knife, or straight knife? But they are beautiful !!!
I am excited to try and make these this weekend. Query: I could only find a 7 oz log of almond paste and since they’re so pricey would rather not buy 2. Will the recipe work with 7 oz? Thanks. and Merry Christmas!
Ana — It can sometimes help if your paste is on the hard side to add the sugar very little at a time, i.e. break it up with 1 tablespoon sugar, then add another and another, etc. so it discourages larger clumps from hanging around.
Kate — I’ve only tried this as written and would generally discourage adjustments because the almond paste provides structure, too, but… it’s so little, it might be worth finding out if it’s not a big deal. You might even add 1 ounce almond meal to compensate.
Has anyone made this with almond pastry filling (ex. Solo brand)? I read elsewhere (Saveur recipe) that almond pastry filling makes the cookies moister and lighter than using almond paste. I’m tempted to switch in the almond pastry filling for the almond paste, though I’m not sure if the amount would stay the same or I would need to adjust. Your thoughts and advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
Jaimie, Almond paste in England is available at Amazon.
This is my 2nd holiday season using this recipe and this has now become an annual tradition in my house. The recipe looks harder than it actually is. Her notes make more sense as you’re going through the steps, so read the entire thing before starting. Stacking and flipping everything sounds more challenging than it actually is – don’t be intimidated! My whole group of family/friends now anxiously await receiving these during the holiday season!
Re: pastry filling comment
These cookies are SUPER moist already and I use almond paste. They are so moist, in fact, that I would be worried about them becoming a gooey mess if I tried to make them even more moist. I would just stick with the recipe.
I make these every year. I don’t have the patience to freeze them. I find, after spreading on the second layer of chocolate onto the cold almond cake middle, that it hardens immediately. I pull out the long serrated bread knife, set up a slicing station right next to the kitchen sink and warm the knife in the hot water, wipe dry, slice, and repeat.
I make these every year. My tip for making these so much easier and not wasting any cookies is (1) only put chocolate on one side and (2) score the chocolate after you put it on. I put the chocolate on when the cookies come out the fridge, so the chocolate starts to firm up quickly. Otherwise, refrigerate for a couple minutes, then score. Scoring makes all the difference. Cutting these cookies becomes a breeze. No need to freeze in order to cut them.
I’ve been making these every Christmas since you published this recipe – my family gets mad at me if I try to skip, and my children adore them. The kids got all excited to see rainbow cookies at a party a couple of weeks ago, but then spit them out. These are so much better!
This year I tried to double the recipe rather than make it twice, and bake them in a big sheet pan. I think they came out a little thicker, but the main problem was my mixer. I have the bigger Kitchenaid, but it was definitely maxxed out and groaning as I mixed in the flour, and it took so long to stir in the egg whites (folding wasn’t even an option) that I don’t think I saved any time. Word of advice – Don’t Double! Maybe I’ll ask for a commercial mixer :)
Just a quick THANK YOU!!! I am from an old Italian neighborhood in New York City. I grew up on these cookies. This recipe is right on the mark. I can’t believe I can now make them and have them whenever I like. These will soon become a family tradition. I baked all three layers at the same time what a time saver. I also purchased an offset spatula what a God sent. Not absolutely necessary but well worth the investment. You can’t make just one batch of these so you’ll be glad you have an offset.
Just want to say that I’ve been making these the past several years for Christmas. I did not plan on making on them this year, but have received special requests for them… thus, I made a batch last night and they’re in my fridge awaiting chocolate right now!
The recipe and your instructions are excellent as written! Thanks so much for making this my new holiday obligation.
Er… I mean, tradition :-)
Love this recipe, i usually have some crumbs and pieces leftover that don’t look so pretty, do you have any suggestions for other desserts that can incorporate the cookie crumbs? Hate to waste them. Thanks!
I had a terrible time stacking the layers. They broke apart and had to be pieced together. The overnight weight kind of glued them together and the chocolate covered the mistakes.
Any suggestions for getting the layers on top of each other?
Love these cookies!! Time consuming, but very easy & definitely worth it! Results are amazing! Will make these again. Thanks for the tips! They really helped!!
hello smitten kitchen,
I’ve followed your recipes from at least 2009 and I have always had to skip around recipes that have had nuts in them, especially in forms like this. I have a severe nut allergy (to all nuts) and I am writing today to see if you have any idea on what I can substitute the almond paste with in this recipe. I know it will change the flavor profile of the cookies, but if I can at least get the texture right it will be ok. I would really love to make these, but the only suggestions the internet has is to substitute with other nut pastes… please advise! thank you, as always.
Hey, I haven’t tried the substitution personally, but there are some German cookies I love made with ground poppyseeds. Not sure if they’re ok for you with your allergies.
I might try it using white poppyseeds (available from indian groceries).
Just an idea!
This version does not use almond paste
I almost used that one myself but saw that it usually requires almond paste so I wanted to try this one first. Hope this helps!
These have quickly become a favorite with my Bronx-turned-Florida family. The flavor is delicious & they’re the closest thing to rainbow cookies that we can buy from NY bakeries.
But recently (I know this sounds crazy) I’ve been buying rainbow cookies from our local Whole Foods and they are SO good. This holiday season, I’m wondering if I can make rainbow cookies following this recipe, but with each layer of cake a bit thicker & more airy- or else I might as well buy them from Whole Foods!
Would love any tips on how to make the cakes not so dense/thin. I’ve followed this recipe to a tee 3+ times. Thanks!
I have made these for 50 years for xmas and birthdays . marzipan has much more sugar, almond paste has more flavor.I leave the sugar out of the egg whites and put it with the almond paste in the food processes. It’s is much smoother and no lumps . I also use apricot and raspberry jam but be sure to use seedless.
The direction says to preheat oven to 350 F and 176 F. What does that mean? Do I need 2 different ovens?
Typo, now fixed. Sorry for the confusion. (It’s 350 degrees.)
These cookies are a holiday time tradition for me. I moved to the Bay Area from NYC a couple years ago and come December I could not find these cookies anywhere. So I decided to try to make them myself. Your directions are so clear it made baking these a breeze. Thanks so much for giving me back my holiday treat. I make two batches every year. One for me and my family and one for my office cookie exchange (where I always direct them to your blog for the recipe whenever asked). Thanks again!
I had a hard time breaking up the almond paste with my hand mixer, the large chunks went everywhere! I had success using a pastry blender to get things started, then switched back to the hand mixer. Fridging now! Excited to chocolate them up and then try them. One thing I plan on doing is dividing up the chocolate before melting, and melting the first half and spreading; wait till its cooled, then melt the other half, to prevent the fears of seizing chocolate.
I love these cookies too and have been making them for Passover with almond flour substituting for the ap flour. I’m not certain if the exchange is done in the same measurements, but it definitely ups the almond flavor nicely. The other tip I’ve learned is to use small, disposable tin foil baking pans to bake all 3 layers at the same time. I don’t know how you’d feel about that variation, but the dough is somewhat hard to spread, so the smaller pans are accommodating. The recipe I follow also suggests weighing the finished “stack” for 12-24 hours with a few flips during the time frame. Maybe you’d find it too flattening, but the colored layers definitely stand out clearly before they’re glazed as separate vertical “logs.” In any case, I think these rainbow treats taste even better than their fancy look might suggest! I can’t wait to try yours since you always manage to generate the best of the best in all the categories we both seem to enjoy! Keep up the wonderful kitchen wizardry for those of us you inspire so frequently…
I ripped this recipe out of the magazine when it was published, bookmarked this recipe post long after, I’m finally going to take the plunge and make these for a church cookie walk…wish me luck!
Yes! I made these last year after YEARS of telling myself it would be just.too.much, but the worst part was, as you noted, the cutting! The cookies were incredibly delicious, though, and pretty easy to make. And now I know to freeze before cutting!
I’ve been making thses for years – and eating them as well – made my latest batch yesterday and froze them so I wouldn’t eat too many, You really don’t need to separate the eggs – by the time you are done with adding the food coloring, and then weighting them after cooking – there is kinda no point to that extra step.
I have a nut allergy–is there something I can replace the almond paste with? The store-bought rainbow cookies that I have bought don’t have nuts. I would absolutely love to make this recipe!
My wife makes these but asks me to cut them. I use a large pizza wheel that I warm under running water and wipe off – works well. Another option is a serrated knife that has scalloped edges, not sharp ones, which eliminates the tearing. The real benefit of cutting them is that I get the scraps!
These are my very favorite cookies. I don’t think I would have braved them the first time if I hadn’t had you pave the way for me:)
When I made them last year, I didn’t love how they cut even after freezing–so many broken chocolate corners.
This time, I cut them after I put the second layer of chocolate on, so the cake was chilled and the chocolate on the bottom was hard, but the chocolate on top was still somewhat flexible. I dipped a sharp knife into hot water and wiped it clean between cuts–I was very happy with my neat chocolate edges!
These came out so deliciously !! I made 2 batches and need to make more , the second batch was easier, practice practice !! I drizzled chocolate over the scraps & they looked pretty too .. I made this later in the day and let it sit overnight .. it is time consuming but the recipe was perfect and worth every minute!
Btw I heated my knife over the flame of our stove repeatedly to cut through the chocolate ..I used parchment for everything /I used cooking spray/cleanup was easy, thankful for all the heads up hints!!
This recipe was delish! And the extra tips were super helpful….I ended up letting the pan chill in the fridge for about 5 hours (I was anxious to try them), and they turned out just fine. Thanks for the delicious recipe!
I am wondering how on earth you spread the batter out in the pan. Batter was thick, it clung to spreader and there was not really enough to cover the bottom of the 9×13 pan. These look amazing and am planning on making for my cookie exchange but am worried the layers are going to be wonky as the edges are so thin.
I was having a hard time spreading the batter all the way across too however they rise significantly. Don’t worry about them not being thick enough. I just used a spatula to spread them to the edges as best I could. You will trim the edges anyway so a little missing spot on the edge here and there doesn’t matter. Have fun!!
Forgot to check if there were any responses last year…but prepping for this year’s cookie exchange and plan on making them for sure. They were a bit time consuming but totally worth it. Looked amazing, even with the troubles I had spreading to edges. We can’t wait to eat them this Christmas. And I plan on shipping some to my aunt who is originally from NYC but now lives in Hawaii. She was so excited when she saw my photo.
Thank you so much for this amazing recipe. I currently live in Colorado and we are definitely lacking on the Italian baked goods. I made these over the weekend for a family party and they were a hit!!! Lots of work but so worth it! :)
Wow, I have always loved these and making them myself has made me feel like a baking champion! They are perfect. To slice the cookies I followed the advice of another reviewer and dunked a thin bread knife in hot water, then wiped it off between each cut. Worked like a charm, no broken corners.
These are a favorite in my family, and I make them a few times a year, sometimes varying the colors for different occasions (Think pink and white for Valentine’s Day!) Your recipe is similar to mine, the one that was given to me by a beautiful Italian lady who remains ever in my heart. I have some advice to offer for easy cutting…
I have only put chocolate on the top, rather than flipping the stack and chocolating (is that a verb?) the bottom as well. That said, I spread the melted chocolate over the top and keep a careful eye on it as it begins to cool on the counter. Once it is no longer pure liquid, but before the chocolate is hard, I score the “cake” into individual cookies, cutting through only the chocolate. Then, once the chocolate is completely set, I cut all the way through. This seems to keep the chocolate where you want it to be, and prevents having it crack when cutting. Happy Baking! I’m starting a batch tomorrow…….
Should I have tried to brush the crumbs off the red layer before putting the chocolate layer on or was it ‘crummy’ because it was over-baked?? Still this is a very forgiving recipe. I made the red, white, then green with each layer spending less time in the oven. The red was the driest and I was worried but need not have been. It was very moist , so authentic! I put a little raspberry extract in the red and since I don’t have pistachio extract, I tossed in a little frangelico in the green. As others commented, I too, had only a few ounces of apricot preserves after straining and it was enough. I did butter the parchment paper for the first [red] layer and then didn’t for the other two. the chocolate layer was smooth against the green layer. I cut it in diamond shaped pieces. It was worth the time to bake and assemble this. And then do lots of tasting before plating it for gifts.
Deb – I LOVED these when I made them. I grew up with these as a favorite and after moving to Montana, if I want them, I’m going to have to make them. Recently, on a trip to NYC, I stumbled upon Orwasher’s Rainbow Cookies and discovered a delightful twist – Instead of almond paste in the cake layers, they use a cake layer and then a separate marzipan layer. I am wondering if you would have any insights into how to make a cake layer for such a cookie that doens’t include almond paste… any ideas would be great and appreciated as I try to recreate these amazing cookies – have you had them?
I have had them but it’s been a while so I don’t remember the marzipan twist. Very clever. Marzipan and/or almond paste can easily be rolled out in sheets; there are usually directions on the Odense box (for lining a pie dough but you can use it as you wish). I’m not sure what cake you’d use; you want it to use a few eggs and separate them for a sponge-like texture. Should definitely be tender and moist but not too soft.
Long time, first time. I have known my husband for 20+, and these have always been his favorite cookie memory. He has always wanted me to make them. And I bake and cook. A lot, But it was only when I saw that you (Deb) had a recipe that i felt I could safely make the plunge. I was right to wait. Thank you for providing so many failsafe, pre-tested, common sense recipes! Hubby thanks you too.
Deb, when cutting while frozen did you still use the serrated knife? I need to make these!
I cannot remember but it cannot hurt to try with serrated and/or a chef’s knife and see what works better here.
OMG OMG OMG I’ve been wanting to make these for sooo long!! Gonna try this recipe!
I made this and they turned out great. Doubling the recipe fits 13×18″ pans perfectly. I made a ganache which is creamier for the chocolate layer and found that just putting it on the top was plenty. I’ve had them mostly where the jam layer was raspberry so I made one layer apricot and one layer raspberry, which I’ve seen in other recipes. Also, the almond paste is the most expensive part and I experimented making these with one pound almond flour, 1 extra cup sugar, 1 extra egg, using 3-4 times more almond extract (almond paste has extract in it) and a little bit of water for a DOUBLE batch. This saved me $8 and they came out with the same texture and taste.
What did I do wrong? I tried making these and I guess the batter wasn’t thin enough because it didn’t spread out to fill the whole pan :( Baked a red layer, will try to get it to all come together after work today.
Claire, it wouldn’t spread because there’s no leavener (baking soda, baking powder, etc.) in the batter. One of the biggest pains about making this recipe is that you have to spread the batter evenly, all the way to the corners of the pans, by hand.
Hey, Deb! You’ve probably already thought of this, but I split up the batter & mixed in the dye before folding in the egg whites (just eyeballed it into thirds) in what turned out to be a futile attempt to keep the layers fluffy. It didn’t work that well for me, but I think that was because I was doing this as a last-second project at midnight and wasn’t that careful about the folding, not because it wouldn’t work (in theory). I noticed you’d said something about all the mixing needed to distribute the food coloring negating folding in the egg whites separately, so – an idea for next time (if you or someone else hasn’t gotten there before me) (probably likely). Thank you for the great recipe!
I am re-reading my comment and realizing I was completely unclear. By didn’t work out that well, I mean it didn’t seem to make a substantial difference in texture. The recipe was amazing and I am sure separating the egg whites or not, it would be delicious. I was just curious as to whether folding in the egg whites after mixing in the food coloring would make a noticeable difference. (This may not have helped with the clarity issue) (oh well, maybe you know what I mean).
These are so freaking delicious and not actually that hard, which is.. kinda dangerous, lol.
One thing. I didn’t read the comments in advance. I agree with the comments about hand mixers not working super well. Hand mixers are NOT the way to go with this. The almond paste and sugar don’t play nicely with the hand mixer, and chunks of almond paste were flying everywhere and taking forever to blend. I ended up shutting off the hand mixer and using a fork to blend until it was more mixed and I could switch back to the mixer.
Otherwise, A+, love these.
Deb, these rainbow cookies are by far one of the most amazing things I have ever made. And yes, I call them rainbow cookies. lol It’s just the way I was raised. And believe me, I was raised on these things. I have very fond memories of my godmother bringing plates of cookies from Italian bakeries, always with a few of these just for me.
I am far, far away from NY now, so having this recipe handy makes me a very happy baker, indeed. I always manage to have issues cutting these. The chocolate always falls off. Oh well, though. They still taste like my childhood and I’m more than okay with that. Plus, these cookies are probably the reason I love Southern Almond cake so much now that I live in Louisiana.
The last time I made these, I *might* have dropped one of the cake layers on the floor as I moved it across the kitchen. I turned baking tragedy into baking win, though, because I made another batch of cake and made them have extra layers of almond-y goodness.
Thanks for sharing!
These are AMAZING! And everyone I fed them too agreed! They’re just as good, if not better, than the ones I buy from the New York Italian bakeries (which are very pricey might I add). I’ve made these several times and what I love most is that I can change the colors of the layers for different occasions (e.g. red white and pink for Valentine’s or red white and blue for 4th of July). I plan on making them again but would like this time to make a “rainbow cookie” cake. I plan to use a 6″ round pan for each layer. Any tips for how long to bake? Don’t want to dry them out! Thanks so much!
I have been making rainbow cookies for many years and have used your recipe for the last few years and would never go back! I do have a question, every year I try to divide the batter evenly but feel like I never succeed. Can you tell me in ounces, grams or cups what the correct amount of dough for each color should be. I have never written to you before and would like to say I am a great fan of your recipes and you!
Happiest of holidays!
Yes, that would be helpful. I struggled with that last year…there may have been some cursing. But yet I am planning to make again this Christmas as they are that good.
I have made these several times and each layer of batter weighs approximately 12 ounces
I pre-weighed my mixing bowl and wrote it in sharpie on the bottom. After mixing it all together, I weighed, subtracted bowl weight, and divided by 3. Worked great!
Could I make my own almond paste for this recipe? I live in a small town and do not have access to quality almond paste. If yes, do you have a recipe you would recommend? Thanks.
I’m not sure but what a great idea! Probably google an almond paste recipe .. I buy Solo brand almond paste in the box (not almond filling in the can ) and it has a very chunky texture while mixing in the bowl-yet my worries were eliminated by success and deliciousness .. I pay about 4-5$ a box at the grocery store & sometimes mail order delivery groceries are so expensive ..good luck !!🎄🤶🏻
So the box of almond paste I bought is only 7 oz. Would this matter a ton if I am short 1 oz? Or should I 3/4 the recipe and use only 6 oz? Any ideas?
Mine is 8 ..hmm that stinks.. tough call !!
Thanks! I think I will 3:4 it. Wish me luck ;)
Hi Deb – first of all THANK YOU so much for all of your amazing recipes, particularly the ones that perfectly recreate the Italian bakery cookies of my childhood! I wowed my family with these (we call them “rainbow cookies”) at Christmas time before, but this year, all I have been able to find is a 7-oz tube of almond paste, but I do have a pound of almond flour. Is there a way to sub a part of the past for flour, with additional water or almond extract, etc? Thanks so much! Merry Christmas!
Any ideas on how to substitute the food coloring? I agree, you need the color, but that’s a lot of drops of weird chemicals.:(
There are natural food colorings that you can get from Whole Foods or health food stores. I believe the red is made with beets and the green with kale, and they don’t add any flavor. They’re not as bright, but if you hate food coloring they do the trick.
These are a Christmas staple in my house and I’ve used this recipe for a few years now. This year I’m dairy free…do you think vegan butter will work, or would shortening be a better substitute?
I know this is very old…but dairy free butter does work texture wise, but it just doesn’t taste the same. I wonder of a little butter flavor extract would help?
I live in Germany, a country without lmond paste. Is there any way to substitute with marzipan,which is probably too sweet but maybe I can reduce the sugar? Or possibly with ground almonds and some extra butter? Any advice?
Maybe you can make your own but I think marzipan is fine .. the sugar content per 2 tbsp serving of almond paste is 16g.. the ingredients are blanched almonds, sugar, water,natural flavor (whatever that is) & potassium sorbate probably as a preservative .. I sincerely hope this helps my friend .. sincerely, Jen :)
This recipe is amazing. Anyone here comparing should make this one over whatever other recipe you’re considering. I’ve been coming to this site to make this recipe for years (including a slew of others, as well as the icebox cake with homemade cookies — I always trust her recipes), and everyone I’ve sent them to as gifts has said they’re the best, better than any bakery and better than their own and their mom’s. I’m from NY and live on the West Coast now, where you can’t find rainbow/seven layer cookies, and I used to have Veniero’s shipped when I was craving them. The truth is, I never even liked rainbow cookies until I had Veniero’s, because they are so good. But, I’m pretty sure these are better, and I never order cookies anymore from NYC when I can make them better on my own. They’re time consuming but they’re so worth it. And the feedback from everyone does great things for your self esteem :)
I love this recipe! I make it with seedless raspberry instead of apricot and temper the chocolate so you get that nice snap when biting into them. I measure out where I want to cut the cookies, lightly score the chocolate with a pairing knife, then use a sharp bread knife to gently saw through the chocolate and press through the cake layer and bottom chocolate layer. I actually triple the recipe and make each batch all one color. These have become a must on my holiday cookie plate.
I might have to try the raspberry one next year. That sounds awesome.
So I’ve been making this every year for the past … actually, I don’t know how long. Clearly not more than 9 years, but probably more than 5. They’re the showstopper in the tins of cookies I bring to relatives, even if the chocolate cracks a bit.
Like others, I can only find almond paste in 7 oz packages. I ended up using two boxes of it, and multiplying all the other cake layer ingredients by 1.5, but still using a 13×9 pan. The layers come out a little thicker, and thus I need to adjust the cooking times, but other than that it’s fine. They just make a taller cookie.
I grew up eating these in New Jersey and I am so, so excited to make them! But holy cow, all the inverting sounds scary. Any tips on how to flip these cakes without breaking them?
ps: if you’re in north Jersey anywhere near Bloomfield, get thee to Gencarelli’s. Best bakery-made seven layers I’ve ever eaten, and they’ll be the gold standard I’ll be thinking of when I make these.
Dear Deb, I’ve been eyeballing this recipe for a number of years, and decided that this Christmas was the time to tackle them.
I had been put off by the number of comments, both here and on Epicurious, that had people frustrated by this recipe. I have twenty+ years of experience as a pastry chef, so I decided to read each comment, and try to analyse what had caused the problem. I hope my notes will help others, because, although time-consuming, these are absolutely delightful!
1. Use a jelly roll pan, not a deep-sided pan. The layers are thin, and much easier to spread out evenly with an offset spatula if you don’t have to manoeuvre around high sides to the pan.
2. Don’t butter the pan. The original recipe is pre non-stick baking paper. By lining the pan with non-stick, and using bulldog clips to hold the paper in place, it’s much easier, and quicker to get the batter spread. Too much manipulation of the batter deflates all those egg white bubbles. Also, no problems with the chocolate adhering, re. your notes.
3. The biggest problem appeared to be people feeling there was insufficient batter for each layer. Reading the recipe as is, I realised that what was probably happening was the batter was deflating and reducing in volume by mixing in the colouring. My approach was to set the egg whites aside while I made the almond batter. I then weighed out three equal bowls of the almond mixture, beat in the colouring for each. I also added cherry essence(Boyjian brand)to the pink layer, and pistachio (LorAnne natural pistachio) to the green, and only put almond extract in the blond batter.
When the batters were coloured, I then beat, in a clean bowl, the egg whites and sugar (to soft peak, not stiff. Stiff whites do not expand their bubbles in the oven to the degree that soft peaks do. Also stiff are harder to fold into a firm batter than soft peak ones.
I did briefly contemplate weighing and dividing the egg whites, but decided that that was a little obsessive! Can you tell I take my baking a little seriously!! I used a large ice cream scoop to apportion the egg whites as evenly as possible, then folded each bowl of batter only when it was about to go in the oven. In this way I had beautifully fluffy batter, that was no problem to spread across the whole pan.
While I waited for the layers to cool, I heat and sieved my jam. Since these are very special cookies, and I had a cupboard full of liqueurs for Christmas, I used raspberry jam and Chambord liquor for the pink layer, and apricot jam and Luxardo apricot liquor for the green layer. I didn’t bother to measure these, just heated up a generous quantity, simmered it to a sticky consistency, used enough on the layers to give a thin coat, and kept the extra to dollop on ice cream.
The cookies turned out beautifully, and were very well received at the end of Christmas dinner. My family and friends here in New Zealand had never seen these before, and they looked so pretty on my Christmas china.
Oh, and the tip about slicing them while frozen had the added bonus of being able to cut off just a bar or two at a time, and have a stash in the freezer for dropper-in guests. The wee slices defrost so quickly, they’re ready to eat by the time coffee is made.
Apologies for being so long-winded, but these are so good it would be a shame if your readers didn’t make them. Cheers from the South Seas, Karen Brown
THANK YOU!! I didn’t see this until after I’d made the cookies but I will be incorporating your tweaks next time.
I confess I missed this last year, but these are fantastic tips. I’ll try them out next time I make these and see if I can update the recipe to make it easier for everyone.
Deb, thank you for bringing this holiday tradition to my family. We’re from the east coast and sorely miss our NY bakeries! Each year, these cookies come out almost perfectly. I just have one problem with bubbles in the batter resulting in air holes in the cake. I always wonder if I’m deflating the batter too much when stirring in the food coloring. I would love an update to this recipe!
Thanks for all you do to keep us full of baked goods. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.
I’m not clear on how much batter per layer?
I’ve made this recipe half a dozen times and it’s perfect every time! Better than any bakery version I grew up with. I use apricot jam with the green layer and raspberry with the red layer. It’s worth it to use a double boiler to melt the chocolate; I found it cracked more when cut after being melted directly in a pan. If I need to bribe anyone or make a fellow ex-NYer happy, these are my go to.
I would like to make these now and save to eat at My Christmas family gathering. Do you have an idea of how long these can be frozen for? By the way I made this recipe two years ago and it was delicious!
They can freeze for a very long time, it’s usually more an issue of your freezer, where some will impart a freezer-y taste sooner than others. But 2 weeks shouldn’t be an issue regardless. Wrap it plastic, two layers.
How long would they be likely to last NOT in the fridge? I’m dying to do these as part of my Christmas cookie roundup this year, but need pretty hardy cookies that can be stacked and don’t need refrigeration.
They’re like petit-fours so they’re not going to go bad, but they’re cake-like; they’re not going to hold a lot of cookie weight well.
My mom is legendarily allergic to almonds but knows how much we love these — they’re my favorite treat in the world — so she makes them with rubber gloves on. We like to do a raspberry jam instead of apricot, or a batch of each.
My grandfather had a traditional Jewish bakery and they used to make these – but out of food coloring-dyed scraps! 😬
How could one substitute freeze dried fruit for color and better flavor?
It’s tricky. I tend to work it into the flour or sugar but it’s not a clean swap for flour because it’s… gummier. It’s worth trying, however. It could be delicious.
Is it possible to add a printing feature to your recipes? Right now I am copying and pasting them into a Word document. Would be awesome if they could be in a format that was easily printable. Thanks!
There is a print icon that leads to a print template at the bottom of each recipe, where it says “DO MORE:” You can also click CTRL + P from any recipe post and it will take you to a streamlined print template.
It is a lot of work, but SO worth it! They turned out beautifully. I made mine gluten free — still perfect! Great recipe. DO follow the tips at the end. Thanks for sharing!
PLEASE share how you made them gluten free! I am trying to revise my recipe now!!
Deb’s comments and tips from other reviewers were so helpful. I think mine turned out pretty great for a first try. I am curious about the suggestion others made to skip the two step egg incorporation. After mixing in the food coloring (and weighing and separating the batter) I am not sure I achieved much in the way of lightness. I am also very curious on the total height of the layers. Mine were much thinner than I anticipated. Hard to tell from the pics if that was correct or not. (Wish I could add a photo to this post.) The flavor is fantastic. I really like the combo of raspberry jam with almond so will try that next time. Mine ended up cutting pretty well from frozen, but I feel like there is a fine line there between ‘too frozen’ and cold. Nonetheless, a fantastic addition to my Christmas cookie tray and another great one from Deb. Thank you!
I have skipped the two egg step for many years, and they have turned out wonderful. Yes, the layers are thin, when you stack them, add chocolate and jam, mine usually stand around an inch high or so. The denseness is what makes them luscious, I think!
Enjoyed making this and the finished product was the highlight of the cookie exchange party. Folding in the egg whites and then mixing and food coloring after folding seemed a bit counterproductive – do I also fold in the food coloring so as not to deflate the batter? My cakes were a touch dense but still looked and tasted beautiful. Thanks for the great recipe!
Angela, I’ve seen some recipes where the egg whites aren’t separated at all, which, although I do separate mine, makes sense to me: you compress the baked layers, thereby smashing out the volume provided by the whipped egg whites.
I am scared senseless to make a legit génoise (a French sponge cake with no leavened but the air whipped into the eggs) because I tend to mix things too thoroughly, but I have no problem making these cookies from the (slightly different) recipe I use.
These came out PERFECTLY!!! Took forever (about 3 hours hands-on time), but was not difficult to execute. I found the easiest way to spread the batter in the cake pan was to push it down with slightly damp hands and then smooth it with a spatula. I used seedless raspberry jam to avoid the straining step and just eyeballed it. I ran the knife under hot water between each cut when I made the lengthwise slices. Thanks Deb, for this absolutely perfect recipe and notes!
Success! These came out so beautifully and so delicious. I had trouble spreading the dough in the pan like others but in the end it baked up beautifully; I might try a slightly smaller pan next time or I may try adding the egg whites in after the food coloring, as some have suggested. In the end I also used another commenters idea of cutting them as soon as the 2nd layer of chocolate is spread on top and that worked wonderfully as well. Thank you, Deb, for a new Christmas tradition!
Is there a trick to inverting the layers? I cooled them all and got them off the pan with the wax paper just fine. The bottom layer was easy enough to flip, but once it was time to put the next layers on top of the jam, it was hard. I couldn’t flip it on top without it falling and cracking. I ended up breaking it into large pieces and placing on top of the jam layer.
Try freezing it until it is firm so it comes out more easily as a “board.”
Having the cake just slightly underdone will help prevent the cracking. It is a crazy leap of faith when you make the second “flip” of the cake layer, though!! Lol….btw a little crack is easily disguised with jam and the third layer.
I’ve been making these cookies for 14 or 15 years using Carole Walter’s recipe from “Great Cookies.” Hers use more almond paste, seedless raspberry preserves between layers and strained apricot preserves basted over strips of cookies, more chocolate (they’re coated top and sides as strips), and require more pressing time.
More almond paste obviates the need for almond extract.
The raspberry preserves provide more of a visual contrast between layers.
The almond preserves provide moisture, so you don’t have to underbake the layers.
More chocolate amplifies the cutting problem, but…more chocolate.
And one year, pressed for time, I weighted mine for less than Walter’s minimum time – but still more than this recipe requires – and boy, I could tell the difference. It’s a mistake I won’t repeat!
I don’t know about removing the almond extract though!! I always add more than the recipe calls for, but my family loves for the almond flavoring to come through.
Lisa, with 12 oz. of almond paste vs. the 8 oz. called for in this recipe, I’d be surprised if your family missed the almond extract. The paste adds more texture as opposed to a splash of extract, too. But some people just don’t like change. I know my peeps would riot if I changed up the recipe I used! :)
Yikes, typo up there – there are no “almond preserves.” That should be “apricot preserves.”
I’m not a Apricot fan but love the traditional Raspberry in the middle that’s what’s popular here in NY: or does the Apricot make these
There’s something about the little bit of tang of the apricot with the almond/chocolate that makes apricot, in my opinion, delectable, lol. I make half of mine with apricot, and half with raspberry. Love them.
These were amazing! They look so impressive and taste fab!
I made them for my holiday party , kept the rest frozen and cut off pieces if I need to take a treat anywhere.
Well worth the effort!
Easy but time consuming and well worth the effort!
Deb- I have been making these for decades. Every. Single. Year. Note –
I only cover top with chocolate but might try your way.
A trick- run tines of fork through the warm chocolate the long way then run a knife line perpendicular to the tine marks every 1.5” or so. Don’t cut into cookie just score the chocolate. When the chocolate cools it is very easy to cut through based on the knife marks and no melted chocolate gets on the actual cookies themselves . The cookies look nice on top thanks to this process.
I’ve been making these for the past few years and they’ve become a holiday tradition. To make them a little healthier I made a few adjustments and still think they’re delicious. I make my own almond paste with almond meal, honey and water in the food processor (there are lots of simple recipes online). For the cookies I sub 1 cup potato starch and 1 cup tapioca starch for the flour and an equal amount of maple sugar for the sugar. They turn out great and keep well in the freezer for last minute visitors or holiday parties ;).
A lot of work, but well worth the effort. I also found the batter to be not enough for the 9X13 inch pan. I ended up using a 9×9 ” pan, and that seemed to work much better. I added a little butter and corn syrup to the melted chocolate. No problems with this not sticking, and it cut like a dream with a serrated knife. Thanks for the great recipe!
My 40 year old son has requested a cake of this sort. Have you ever served this whole?
Hi Deb i just left a comment and then found yiur raspberry almond kayer cake. Thanjs for your wonderful existence
What could I substitute for the almond paste?
I can’t eat almonds or nuts (seeds ok). Will use regular flour.
These got rave reviews from a roomful of New Yorkers – the highest compliment! Several people asked what bakery I got them from and then immediately wanted the recipe when I said they were homemade. I also got offers for people to pay me to make them for them lol!
I made these for a bridal shower for my coworker who doesn’t like cake but LOVES these cookies and has complained that it’s hard to find good ones (often dry). I decided to make this recipe and leave it uncut so it could be the “cake” for the party and I wrote on it with a store-bought tube of gel decorating icing. I was worried about cutting it at the party but we actually had no problem just using a sharp knife with the “cake” at room temp. Perhaps because it had a lot of time to “set” before cutting (as you’ll see in my next paragraph)?
I made this 5 days in advance and left it in the fridge because it was the easiest place for me to store it and then realized Deb recommends room temp or freezer. I was worried it might be a bit dried out but it was still super moist, thankfully. In fact, it sat in there (in a sealed container) for 3 days before I got around to adding the chocolate which is a further testament to how wonderfully moist the recipe is because I imagine the chocolate helps seal in the moisture further.
It’s a bit of a project for sure but I found it to be fun and worth the effort!
11yrs later and I still consult this recipe every year for Thanksgiving. Thank you for continuing to make the holidays delicious!
I usually use the epicurious recipe but plan to try Deb’s this year. 2 hints that have helped me- I use my cuisnart to cut the almond paste and sugar first and I ad a judicious amount of coconut oil to the chocolate to make it smoother and to help with cutting. I also prefer to cut from the freezer and never have problems with the chocolate chipping/breaking off.
I’ve been using this recipe for years and as with the others, I always get rave reviews.
2 additional hints to make this even easier:
1: buy 3 12×9 pans so you can bake all of the layers at the same time
2: instead of apricot jam, use seedless raspberry and you can skip the straining.
I made this and it was so little batter, and it hardly rose. I felt like I should have been kicked off the Great British Bake Off. I thought I whipped my egg whites to the proper stage, but the batter was so think, maybe I overworked it when folding in the whites? It was awful.
The batter is very thick and hard to spread. And the layers are thin. Keep going! They will come out great! I doubted myself too!
Thanks Janet! Unfortunately they didn’t rise very much. I’m wondering if my folding of the egg whites deflated them, with the batter being so thick. I’d say the layers are 1/4” baked…
I mean Jennifer . Sorry!
i made these last year and can attest that they are WORTH IT. all of my rainbow cookie dreams, reminiscing about the corner bakery when i was a kid, came true with this recipe — exactly as i remembered them.
they travel well, they freeze well, they gift beautifully. also a fun project for baking-inclined kinds — my nephew helped a bunch.
i am totally making them again this year.
I would really appreciate a live video of this one. It’s my second year making them, and while the flavors are good, the layers always come out too thin. I try hard to fold the egg whites in carefully but the batter is just too thick. And then you have to fold in the coloring. I just don’t see how you can do that without deflating the batter. I always end up cutting the tray in half and stacking it so it’s six layers instead of 3, but this substantially cuts the yield.
I combined this recipe from a tutorial I found on cookingwithnonna.com because it had a video on how to make the cookies. My recipe is a bit of a combo between both this one and Cooking with Nonna- there are very good tips in each one, but I do feel seeking out the other video will help you for now!
This recipe is better than any rainbow cookie I have ever had. (I am an Italian American with both parents raised in the Bronx- I know my rainbow cookies.) This is my first attempt at making them as they always seemed intimidating. I made them without the food coloring for health reasons, this weekend I am going to make another batch with beet root powder and matcha powder to see if that changes the flavor or texture at all.
Thank you for this one!
This was the second year I’ve made these. The first was amazing – moist and full of almond flavor. I used an 8 oz can of almond paste per the recipe and underbaked the layers. This year, I used Odense 7 oz almond paste because that was more convenient to get and was disappointed. Maybe I overbaked my layers by a few minutes, maybe that 1 oz really was the issue but this batch lacked in almond flavor. Definitely will use 8 oz for next time.
I have made these every year for the last seven years or so. This was the first year I made them gluten free! They are a little dry, but delish. I used the King Arthur gluten free blend that already had xantham gum. I always add 2-3 tsps. of almond extract. Yummy!! I also use a cheese grater to grate the almond paste (I use Solo every year), and it works grate (pun intended!)
Thanks for posting this comment — that GF flour is my plan for this year’s cookies so I can send some to my sis. I’ll try to figure out how to keep them from drying out.
best rainbow cookie I ever made
Thanks for this wonderful recipe. It has become an annual family tradition for us, we make them together each year at Christmas!
Finally made these after bookmarking the recipe years ago. Two suggestions (for my future self or for others): 1) Use more chocolate. 3.5 oz per side is too little. Use more like 6 oz each side and chill the first side longer before inverting. 2) Don’t trim the edges of the cake until AFTER you spread with chocolate. The chocolate drips down the sides a little, meaning you’l have to trim again (esp if you use more chocolate).
I’m trying to plan for what is likely to be a strange Passover. We always have rainbow cookies as one of our Seder desserts, so I thought I’d try to make them this year. Do you have any thoughts about a substitution for the flour to make them kosher for Passover?
I feel like I’ve seen versions that are flourless, but I’m not confident it would be an easy swap here in this recipe.
Thank you. Maybe I’ll fiddle a bit and see how a combination of cake meal and almond flour work.
Lisa, wondering if you tried this and how it turned out with almond flour and matzah meal? Happy passover!
Could you revise the recipe to use weight measurements? :)
ZOMG. Thank you! I never got a notice that you replied. THESE WILL BE MADE FOR CHRISTMAS :))
:) Hi Deb – I’ve been making these since I first discovered you a decade(!) ago. They’ve become a yearly Christmas family tradition and so happy you added gram conversions! My question: can I make these with almond flour? It’s ubiquitous now (unlike 10 years ago!) and I even have a huge Costco bag of the stuff in my freezer!
Making my annual visit to this recipe to refresh my memory. I can’t thank you enough for publishing this recipe. I’ve been making them for at least the past five years and they are always a hit. Some people remember them from their childhood and are blown away with nostalgia. Others have never tasted them before and say they’re the best thing they’ve ever eaten. I’ve had people offer to pay me to make these for them! Ha! No way, I just direct them your way. I do these over the course of two days and it’s one of my most favorite parts of the holiday season. I was overjoyed when I found this recipe on your site. I’d made a lot of your other recipes before finding it but I nearly cried when I found this. Reminds me so much of my Italian mother and the bike rides we would take to our local Italian bakery to get these as a treat when I was little. Happy Holidays and thanks for all you do!
I understand the colors for these Italian cookies represent the Italian flag however I am going to dye them blue and have white layer for the Israeli flag in honor of Chanukah. (Side note:these would be adorable in pinks creams and pale yellows for tea parties. Whenever we have parties again…that is)
Where can one find a can of almond paste? I can barely scrape up one roll of it at my local grocery store.
My favorite but I do a layer of raspberry jam and one with apricot! And yes a beast to cut.
Deb, could these be left in the freezer then cut as needed?
I LOVE these cookies. They are my favorite holiday cookie for many years running and are always requested by family. And this is the exact recipe I use! They are so, so worth the time. And are always gorgeous! So glad you are showing them off here!!
I also use that Gourmet recipe, I dip my serrated knife in hot water and wipe dry for each cut. I have three pans so I can bake all at once.
I decided to make a non-traditional version of these to mimic a video game cookie from Destiny 2!
I was really afraid that the chocolate would shatter if I tried to cut it into the football shape required for the cookie, so instead of spreading the chocolate on the batch, I pre-cut the cookies before the chocolate and just carefully dipped them. It turned out great!
anyone else end up with super flat layers?
I’m torn between still making very flat rainbow cookies or just tossing
they didn’t rise at all.
How flat is super flat? Once stacked they are only about an inch or inch and a quarter. How do they taste? FYI everyone, I had a lot of trouble with the chocolate falling off when I cut them, even after putting them in the freezer for 30 minutes. I tried a bunch of things, each of which made it worse. Out of desperation, I put them back in the freezer for about an hour. That did the trick and they cut perfectly from that point forward. They are fantastic tasting and absolutely worth it.
WOW. This recipe was spot on. I loved it!!! I have put off making these cookies because of the number of steps / how annoying it seemed, but I’m so glad I dove in. I did the first half starting around 2pm, finished by 3/4pm, left them in the fridge overnight and finished chocolate in the morning. Definitely the way to go!
Notes / shortcuts:
I didn’t grease my parchment paper, cake didn’t stick at all and it also meant the chocolate stuck to the cake great. I didn’t separate the yolks / whites and it came out totally fine. The cake is nice and dense (I prefer that to the fluffier versions anyway) so if you’re feeling lazy, skip that step and you’ll be alright ;)
Only surprisingly hard part was spreading the cake into the parchment lined baking sheets – the batter is thick so it takes a lot of effort to smooth it into every corner and keep it even when it’s so thin and the parchment is sliding everywhere.
This came out exactly like the Italian bakeries – will absolutely be making it again!!!!
Hi! I got this recipe from the newspaper. My husband cut it out for me from Newsday, and there is no year or date but it’s been in my book of recipes for a LONG time. We live on Long Island, and my son’s favorite cookie in the world is this one. I never made them until about 10 years ago, but by then he had moved to California for his job, so I send them every year for his birthday, because he can’t get them out west. You are right- there are no cookies out there like these: even the bakeries in the Italian neighborhoods don’t have the moist, intensely almond flavored cake, and the bittersweet chocolate can be waxy. It’s almost like they’re an afterthought, a prerequisite for the bakery window.
I am making them today, and I know they will arrive later than I intended, but he won’t mind. He will hide some from the wife and kids, I hope, so he can have some for a few days after they dive into them, lol.. I want to thank you for taking the time to make this a great recipe, accessible to those of us who didn’t have Italian grandmas ( mine were French and German American), never before used almond paste, and were so intimidated at the process.
P.s…..I LOVE your recipes, especially the toasted coconut, which my family, who profess to be lukewarm on coconut at best, absolutely devour! And, your “on caramel vs butterscotch” post was such a revelation, it opened up worlds of possibility for me! Keep it coming! Your stuff is great!
I have made these cookies for years… but have never made the *dough* ahead and frozen it before baking. Has anyone done this? More importantly – has anyone done this successfully?
These are superb! I didn’t make them, my friend did for a cookie exchange she had. I thought of making them but the amount of labor appeared tedious. HOWEVER, these are worth it!! They were even better than I imagined, I will make them next year if she doesn’t- and I discovered we both have great taste in food blogs :) I’m a huge fan deb— love your recipes and especially your writing style- very self deprecating, genuine, warm— I appreciate how you’ve set the intention to have no ads or sponsored content
I love these so much that I will be making them as gifts this year. Has anyone had success with doubling or tripling this recipe? I am concerned about the egg whites losing their height with more ingredients.
So I made these. Im from Brooklyn and moved to the Bay where the only place I see these is usually Whole Foods. Also my guy is Italian American and loves these cookies so I thought I could make these for his birthday.
I liked them but echo a few of the challenges other shared.
-The layers were very thin. Once cooked, I ended up folding each layer in half, pressing gently, to make each layer a little thicker. Since the cookies are pressed over night it wasnt a huge deal.
-I noticed that when I folded in the egg whites the batter didnt get bigger/airy so I think I may have made a misstep there? There is no levener so Im not sure where more height would come from.
-They are very almondy. Like almost overwhelmingly so. Maybe reduce extract or almond paste?
-I warmed the knife blade over heat which made cutting the cookies super easy!
-I had so many trimmed pieces. I gathered them and mixed with apricot, shaped into balls, dipped in chocolate —- make something of cookie – truffles.
I have been making these for the last 10 years now. After a few years – my girls requested them in different color combos for their birthdays at college. Friends can’t believe they are not from a bakery — except they taste sooo much better. There are tricky spots to making these- not because it’s a hard recipe. Maybe because I get a little into the details about the perfect split of batter and jam (using a digital scale.) I don’t know why this cookie makes me crazy like that. But it does and they are great. Thanks for figuring out how to bring this into the home.
Would these be ok in the freezer for a couple of weeks? I assume you simply defrost at room temp?
Deb, I love this recipe, but often end up with a lot of air bubbles in the cakes. You can’t see it on top when spreading or after the layers are baked, but they look huge when inverted or from the side view once cut. What causes this, and how can I avoid it in the future?
Deb, long time follower and finally felt compelled to post. Every Christmas I look at your recipe for Seven Layer Cookies and say, “I’m going to make those someday” but am always as quickly deterred by the time commitment and the comments about how challenging they are. However this year buoyed by my burgeoning baking skills, I decided to give them a try and was so very glad that I did.
These cookies bring back memories of when as a kid, my mother would take us to Brooklyn to visit our Grandparents. Every trip included a requisite stop at the West End Bakery where we would jump up and down in anticipation of their amazing Italian cookies. When we got the box home, my siblings and I would go straight for the prize- the coveted Seven Layer Cookie! So many years later, these cookies bring me back to that time and place and to thoughts of my Grandparents!
I did want to write and let people know a few tips and tricks that helped me as I made these. First and foremost, CHECK the pan size! I am almost ashamed to admit it but I started my first batch with a regular sized cookie sheet which obviously ended in disaster. I mention this because a number of commenters noted that the batter was too thin for them. I almost wondered it they had made the same mistake I had because when you use a quarter cookie sheet, there is no problem spreading the batter.
Next, make sure the layers are completely cool before you stack them. I popped mine in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up before flipping which worked fantastically.
Finally, double the chocolate, just in case. You may not need it all but I found it difficult to spread in and ended up using 10 oz. I also added a splash of cream as other reviewers had which made the cookies easier to cut (along with freezing as Deb mentions).
There are several great YouTube videos which will aid you with visuals if you find that helpful (as I did).
Thank you, as always, for your fantastic recipes!
Easy to follow recipe that I’ve made several times. Cookies come out perfect every year! These are a favorite in my family. Totally worth the time and effort.
Is there a reason you need to cook the jam first rather than just slather it on out of the jar?
It’s not to cook it, but to warm it so that it’s loose enough to strain.
This project is calling my name. I was wondering what you would do to make these kosher for passover (e.g no flour). Other sites seem to have 50% almond flour, and 50% matzah flour, but the other ingredient amounts are slightly different, so I’m not sure. Thanks in advance for any advice
Wondering this exactly as well!!
Just curious. Have you or anyone made this in a half sheet pan for each layer? To clarify, 1x recipe baked in a half sheet pan therefore to make 3 layers, you’ll make 3x recipe and each layer baked in half sheet pan for efficiency in making large quantities…since I do tend to make large batches of cookies during the holidays. Thank you!
I’ve been making these for years and always have two problems. How do you turn the layers over onto the others without them breaking? And, how do you get your chocolate to remain glossy after melting? I’ve tried the tempering technique but it doesn’t seem to help. I also discovered (the hard way) that a serrated knife is a must. Thanks for the freezing tip!
In Canada, as far as I can figure, we don’t have almond paste in a can, but we do have German baking Marzipan, which is softer than candy Marzipan, but I don’t know if it’s as soft as what you’re using. How soft is canned almond paste compared to regular Marzipan?
I’ve used a few kinds of almond paste. Some were firmer than others. I find grating it makes a huge difference in how the cookies turned out.
I’ve never had these cookies before, but they look tasty! I love anything with almond paste.
I LOVE these and have been totally intimidated to ever try making them. Thank you!!!! for testing it and explaining it and giving tips! I always love reading your versions of recipes (and they always work!!)
These have been on rotation every Christmas since 2009. My printed recipe is a little worse for wear!! Great tasting and a huge hit all around. Once Yu get organised with the ingredients it’s quite a simple process.
Instead of cooking all the cakes one after each other, can I just cook all the cakes at the same time?
A delicious success! Your tips made all of the difference. I was paranoid about cutting them–I froze and then let them sit for a bit before using a sharp knife. I saw videos of people cutting “point first,” and holding the knife at a diagonal. Also used a tip I saw to mix a teaspoon of vegetable oil into the chocolate to make it more pliable. Anyway, the cutting was fine!
Finally made these after thinking about it for (14?!) years and all the tips and tricks were so helpful. Bake from Scratch suggests adding 1 t coconut oil to the melted chocolate to keep it from shattering and with that I had zero issues cutting them just cold from the fridge.
Soooo glad you posted this. I grew up just outside of NYC and always had this cookies- loved them. Then I grew up, had to work for a living and here I am in Texas. Texas is great but limited on good Italian bakeries (although I am finding now that apparently so is the NE tri-state area I grew up in. Love these cookies! Now any chance you have a recipe for crullers?
Very good. I used Bonne Maman’s Orange Fruit Spread when I realized we were out of apricot preserves. It worked well–perhaps even better with the chocolate than apricot would have.
One challenge was the stiff, stiff batter. No “folding in” egg whites! I had to resort to stirring them in. Similarly, I couldn’t pour the batter into the pan as directed. I had to spread it and couldn’t make it all the way to the pan edges. The first layer barely spread in the oven.
So I traced the outline of the pan onto parchment paper and spread the other two colors as best I could, then baked them at the same time. This was marginally easier than baking them in the pan.
I used gel food coloring because, well, that’s what I use. It’s a finicky process, but worth it.
Hi! I made these last week as a trial, they turned out great! ( I make my own almond paste so it was softer than the can) So I made another batch for a friend, and had enough interruptions that I couldn’t bake the layers before I had to run out for an hour! So I covered and refrigerated the batter, then mixed the color in and baked it when I got home. It was hard to manipulate the batter because it had hardened in the fridge, and when I baked it it baked funny…bubbled on top, almost oily looking, but then dried okay, just a little gummy but only on top.
This morning I took the pan off them that was weighing them down, and the jelly had bled into the layers and the layers were dry.
Is it not a good idea to refrigerate the batter for an hour then come back to finish it? I dumped them, and am going to start again.