Update: This is an old post from when I first tried Rainbow Cookies. Take from it what you like. There’s another old post with a recipe for my friend Marisa’s Rainbow Cookies.
Italian Wedding Cookies, Rainbow Cookies, Tri-Color Cookies – pick the name you like. These little cakes of pink, yellow and green are less complicated than you think, but it’s helpful to know a few things before making them. After multiple batches of 3 different recipes, I have a few tips. But first, I’ll tell you a little about each of the Rainbow Cookies recipes I tested.
Food.com Rainbow Cookies
Number one on the list was a highly rated recipe from Food.com which is baked in 8 inch pans. It calls for almond pastry cake filling instead of almond paste and makes a soft, dense, very flavorful cookie that is really more like a little cake or petit four. Here they are pictured below. This was my first batch. They’re not perfect, but I was very happy with them at the time.
Culinary in the Desert Seven Layer Bars (Joe’s)
The second recipe was Joe’s Culinary in the Desert Seven Layer Bars made in a 13×9 inch pan. The layers were quite thin, and since I prefer more cake in each slice, I tried Joe’s recipe again in a slightly smaller (11×9 inch disposable pan). Better. This is a solid recipe, but it’s from Joe so no surprise there. So you can make these in a 13×9 inch pan or go with a pan that’s a little smaller.
Allrecipes.com and Gourmet Italian Wedding Cookies II
The third recipe was on Allrecipes.com and Gourmet, with the Allrecipes.com version (Italian Wedding Cookies II) having 1 oz more almond paste. I chose this one over the Gourmet recipe because I figured I needed all the almond paste I could get to balance out the 3 sticks of butter. The only change I made was to use the 11×9 inch pans again.
Here’s a photo of three Rainbow Bars from the two recipes I just mentioned. Joe’s recipe baked in 13×9 inch pans, Joe’s recipe baked in 11×9 inch pans (I sliced those a little thin. Whoops!) and the Allrecipes.com/Gourmet recipe with the 24 tablespoons of butter. My favorite was Joe’s, but baked in the 11×9 inch pans (the middle one).
Dipping Rainbow Cookies in Chocolate
This is where the fun starts. You’d think that dipping these in chocolate might be difficult, but if you freeze the cake and then cut it into little sticks, it’s kind of fun. Thanks for the tip, Eric in AZ.
For my first batch, I just spread chocolate over the top as pictured in the second (and worst) photo. For all consecutive batches, I skipped the step of refrigerating the layers and put the cooled, stacked, layers, tightly wrapped, in the freezer. When ready to coat with chocolate, I took them out of the freezer, cut into butter-size sticks, and tried different methods of coating them with chocolate.
The Right Chocolate for Dipping/Coating
Dipping is best if you have really good chocolate or couverture that’s thin and at the perfect temperature. I had an assortment of fairly decent chocolate from the grocery store plus chocolate chips and almond bark to play with. After testing lots of ratios of chocolate to butter, chocolate to shortening, and chocolate chips to both, I found the one that worked best was a 2:1 ratio of chocolate (not chips) to butter. That is, 6 oz of chocolate and 3 oz of butter. Chocolate chips work better with shortening than with butter, but I didn’t like the flavor of the shortening and threw that version out even though it worked very well for dipping. I don’t have any couverture at the moment, but that’s probably the best bet. Update: You can also use any brand of chocolate bar melted with a little coconut oil. I don’t have the exact ratio for that but will update.
Here’s a batch dipped in a mixture of 4 oz of Ghirardelli Intense Chocolate Twilight 60%) mixed with 2 oz of butter.
Now that I have some experience making Rainbow Bars, I recommend the Food.com recipe made with almond cake filling (Solo) or Joe’s recipe made with Odense, Solo or homemade almond paste. If you are using Odense (the kind in the tube), make sure to grate it before adding it to the sugar. If you don’t, you might end up with lumps of almond paste in your cakes. You can see the little lumps in mine.
Rainbow Cookies Ingredient Info
- Eggs — This recipe calls for four, and good news — you do not have to separate them. The recipe does say to beat them separately, so you will beat them on their own and then add them back to the creamed mixture.
- Sugar — Regular granulated white sugar.
- Almond Paste — I would not classify almond paste as a very common American baking ingredient. It’s readily available, but people who buy it usually know what they are doing. Don’t stress about the almond paste (like I did), just make sure to buy the kind that comes in a roll rather than a can. If you are daring, you could even make your own. I tested this one from Taste of Home and it worked perfectly.
- Butter — Any brand, unsalted
- Almond Extract — Any brand
- Salt — Table salt or Morton Kosher. If using Diamond kosher you’ll need 1 1/2 times.
- Flour — Regular all-purpose
- Food Coloring — Gel or paste type such as Wilton.
- Jam or Preserves — Anything seedless
- Chocolate — Not chips. You can use any kind of bar mixed with butter or use bar chocolate melted with a little coconut oil.
Rainbow Cookies Recipes and Tips
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 8 ounces almond paste – homemade or Odense or Solo grated
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (280 grams)
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (260 grams)
- Green food coloring
- Yellow food coloring optional
- Red food coloring
- 1 jar 12 ounce jar seedless raspberry or apricot jam, heated
- 6 oz unsalted butter
- 12 oz good quality chocolate
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray three 13×9 inch or 11×9 inch pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until thick and foamy (about 3 minutes). Pour them in a separate bowl, then add the sugar and the grated almond paste to the stand mixing bowl and beat until well-combined using the paddle. Beat in the butter, then beat in the already-beaten eggs. Continue beating as you add the almond extract and salt. With mixer on low (or by hand) gently stir in the flour.
- Evenly distribute batter between 3 medium bowls. If you have a scale, weigh the total amount of batter and divide it into three equal bowls. Mix red food coloring into one, green food coloring into another, and yellow into another. Spread batter evenly across the parchment lined pans. The batter is thick and this task is kind of a challenge. I used a rubber scraper. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely on a wire rack.
- When layers are cool, carefully loosen from pans and lift out by grasping parchment. Transfer the green layer to a large sheet of plastic wrap. Spread the green layer (top) with preserves. Top it with the yellow layer and spread yellow layer with preserves. Cap with pink layer. Wrap the plastic wrap around the stack of cakes and put the stack in one of the original pans. Put the stack in freezer. Note: Most recipes say to weigh down the layers, but I never weighed them down. Freeze until ready to use.
- On or before the day you plan to serve the bars, remove the frozen cakes from the freezer. Place on a large cutting board and slice frozen cakes into bars the size of a butter stick – about 1 inch wide and 4 1/2 inches long. Trip the edges before or after slicing. If you plan on dipping, it’s best to trim just the short sides of the rectangle and keep the long sides of the rectangle raggedy so that you’ll have a longer handle for dipping. You’re going to trim those anyway.
- Keep the sticks frozen as you melt the chocolate.
- Melt the butter in the microwave. Add the chopped chocolate to the melted butter and stir well. Return to microwave and microwave at 50% power for 30 second intervals, stirring at each interval until chocolate is melted and smooth. I did this all in a 2 cup Pyrex measure in smal batches – 3 oz of chocolate to 1 1/2 oz butter.
- You can dip the cake sticks in the melted chocolate if it’s thin enough (which will depend on which brand of chocolate you use and how much you heated it) or you can just use a silicone pastry brush and just paint the chocolate coating all over the sticks and let it set. If it looks messy, coat with chocolate sprinkles – the kind called “Jimmie’s” which are softer and less annoying than crunchy sprinkles.
- Once your cake sticks are coated with chocolate and set, trim the raggedy ends and cut into about 4 neat squares.
- I kind of lost track of yields, but if you figure you get 18 butter stick size cake sticks from an 11×9 inch pan and cut each into 3 pieces (minus the trimmings), you should get at least 54 nice size squares.