Six Italian rainbow cookies on a marble slab

Italian Rainbow Cookies

4.82 / 22 votes
Italian Rainbow cookies are popular at Christmas, when they are called Neapolitan or Venetian cookies, perhaps to denote the colors of the flag of Italy. They are sometimes associated with the Passover holidays (when made with matzo cake meal instead of flour).
David Leite
Servings80 cookies
Calories88 kcal
Prep Time1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time2 hours


  • 12 ounces (1 1/2 8-ounce cans) almond paste
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled or 1 1/2 cups sifted matzo cake meal, spooned in and leveled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 8 drops green food color
  • 8 to 10 drops red food color
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
  • Up to 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


Make the layers

  • Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly butter the bottom of three 12 1/4 x 8 1/4 disposible aluminum baking pans or three 1/4 sheet pans. Line the pans with parchment paper, then butter the parchment and the sides of each pan.
  • Break the almond paste into pieces and place it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for 10 to 15 seconds, or until finely chopped. Alternatively, shred the almond paste on a box grater.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed just until smooth. Increase the speed to medium, add the grated almond paste, and beat until lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Pour in the sugar in a steady stream, beating for 1 minute longer. Then add the egg yolks and the vanilla, beating well to combine. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  • Combine salt and flour, and at low speed blend in three additions, just until incorporated.
  • In a clean mixer bowl, using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating until firm peaks form. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the mixture, then fold in the remaining egg whites in two more additions.
    Rainbow Cookies batter in stand mixer bowls.
  • The batter should actually be a stiff dough.
    Close up shot of rainbow cookie batter with spatula in it.
  • Divide the batter into thirds (each measuring approximately 1 2/3 cups) and place into three separate bowls.
    Rainbow Cookies batter divided into 3 plastic containers.
  • Tint one portion with the green food coloring, blending until evenly colored. Tint another portion with the red food coloring, again blending until evenly colored. The remaining batter is not colored.
    3 plastic containers of Rainbow Cookies batter colored green, red and white.
  • Spread the batters in the pans, using a small offset spatula to push the stiff batter into the corners of the pan and smooth the surface. Be sure the batter is evenly distributed, especially into the corners of the pans. If the batter is tricky to spread, try lightly wetting the back of the spatula with a very small amount of water.
    Rainbow Cookies batter divided between 3 baking sheets.
  • Bake the cakes for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch but not browned. (If you’re going to err with the baking time, it’s actually better for the cakes to be slightly underdone as opposed to overdone.) Let the cakes rest in the pans on wire racks until cool enough to handle, then invert each pan and peel off the parchment.
    Rainbow Cookie cakes baked and cooling on cooling racks.

Assemble the layers

  • Have ready a large sheet of plastic wrap placed on a cookie sheet. Invert the green layer onto the plastic, top side down. Using a small offset spatula, spread the surface evenly with 2 tablespoons of the raspberry preserves. Place the plain layer, again top side down, on top of the raspberry preserves. Align the two layers and press them together. Spread 2 tablespoons of the raspberry preserves over the plain layer, again using a small offset spatula. Then place the pink layer, top side up, on top of the raspberry preserves. Be sure that the three layers are evenly aligned, then press them together again.
    White rainbow cookie cake on silver tray after it is baked.
  • Wrap the layered stack tightly with plastic, sealing the ends securely, and place it on a clean cookie sheet.
    Red rainbow cookie caked baked and resting on silver baking sheet wrapped in plastic wrap.
  • Place another cookie sheet on top of the wrapped stack and weight it with two or three heavy cookbooks to compress the layers. Let the stack rest at room temperature for at least 24 hours, turning it over once or twice during the weighting period.
    Weighting the stack of sandwiched rainbow cookie cake layers.

Glaze the layers

  • Unwrap the stack and set it on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, trim 1/4 inch from all sides.
    Photo of all three rainbow cookie cake layers stacked on top of each other.
  • Then cut the stack into five equal strips, each measuring approximately 1 1/4 inches wide. Separate the strips and place them on a large wire rack set over a cookie sheet. (If desired, spray the rack with vegetable cooking oil spray or slick it with a paper towel ever so gently damped with a neutral cooking oil.)
    Trimming the uneven edges of the stacked rainbow cookie cake layers.
  • To make the apricot glaze place the apricot preserves and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 minute. Pass through a fine strainer into a bowl and discard the pulp. This can be made ahead and reheated just before using.
    Straining the apricot glaze for the Rainbow Cookies.
  • Brush a thin layer of the warm glaze on the top and sides of each strip to seal the surface. Chances are you won't use all the glaze. Let stand for 1/2 hour or longer.
    Brushing the warm apricot glaze on the strips of compressed rainbow cookie cakes.
  • When ready to coat the strips, fill a medium pot with 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a large bowl and set it over the simmering water to melt, gently stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Watch carefully! The chocolate should not become too hot. When the chocolate is almost melted, remove it from the heat and allow it to stand until it is completely melted. Gently stir occasionally. It is ready to apply when it is smooth, tepid, and the consistency of chocolate syrup. (Note: If the chocolate becomes too thick, warm it over simmering water until it reaches the correct consistency.)
    Melting the chocolate for the Rainbow Cookies in a bowl set over simmering water.
  • Working one strip at a time, spoon about one-fifth of the melted chocolate down the length of the strip. Using a small offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the top and sides, taking care to smooth all surfaces. Repeat with the remaining strips. Let the strips stand at room temperature until the chocolate hardens. This can take up to several hours, depending on the temperature of the room and climate conditions. Cut each strip into 5/8-inch slices.
    Slathering the melted chocolate evenly over the Rainbow Cookie cake layers.



Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 3 weeks. (Note: These cookies may be frozen, preferably before slicing.) This cookie improves with age.
Great Cookies Cookbook

Adapted From

Great Cookies

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 cookieCalories: 88 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 1 gFat: 5 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 16 mgSodium: 20 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2003 Carole Walter. Photo © 2015 America’s Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These Italian rainbow cookies are wonderful. Let me elaborate. Yes, these require a good amount of effort, expensive ingredients, three pans, several mixing bowls, food coloring, chocolate, and more than one afternoon for preparation, but the outcome is well worth it. I’ve made these cookies both with flour and with matzah cake meal so that I could serve them during Passover, and each time they turned out great. There was no significant difference between the two. These are a far cry from the dried out commercial versions of this cookie. I weighed the batter into equal portions before adding food coloring so the layers would be even. (Yes, I do obsess when I bake.) This batch remained weighted down for almost 48 hours as I was away for the weekend and it didn’t hurt the cookies one bit. There was a lot of apricot jam left over after I brushed the cookie with it, so next time I would cut it back by half.The first time I made these, I used the lesser amount of food coloring but the color was not intense enough and this time I used even more food coloring than the recipe suggested in order to get the intense colors that I have seen when I have purchased these in bakeries.These hold well in an airtight container and really do improve with age. I froze the leftover cookies (hardly any because everyone wanted to take some home.) They remained fresh and delicious even after freezing. I used the food processor to mix the almond paste rather than a grater. Read the recipe carefully and don’t let the multiple steps overwhelm you…go slowly and step by step and the rewards will be amazing.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Grab your spoons. Whether you crave sweetness or sustenance of a different sort, this simple childhood pleasure may at least bring you a little pleasure in the moment at hand.

15 mins

Scottish Shortbread

This tender, buttery, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth Scottish shortbread is as authentic as it gets.

1 hr 25 mins

4.82 from 22 votes (11 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Can this recipe be doubled? Are all the ingredients doubled and is the baking time increased. Thank you and Happy New Year.

    1. arlene, if you’d like to double this, may I suggest making two separate batches? The size of sheet pan you’d have to use for each layer of a doubled recipe would make for very unwieldy layers and I think you might run into issues with transferring and stacking them.