Before leaving NY, we lived in Brooklyn, Cobble Hill to be exact, on a quaint treelined street called Clinton. It was a lovely old Italian area filled with old-school butchers, bakeries, lovely people and Italian rainbow cookies.
Not your typical “cookie” more cake-like, but something I love and have fond memories of. Brightly colored, almond-based sponge cake with raspberry jam and a chocolate coating, these little cake-cookies have character. Although many Italian cookies use almond paste as there base, rainbow cookies or “flag cookies“, as they are often called, are, said to be, according to well known Italian celebrity chef personality Lidia Bastianich, as cookies that created by early Italian immigrants during the 1900’s in homage to the colors of their native flag.
Despite an exhaustive search, I have never found these cookies in Northern California, so I simply taught myself how to make them. I will warn you, this is a labor intensive recipe so beware. Soft but hearty, rainbow cookies which actually feel more like a cake-cookie, have a pronounced almond flavor that nicely compliment the sweet jam filling and chocolate coating.
Because of their time consuming nature (and the fact that my kids don’t actually like them as much as I do) I don’t make them all that often, but my husband and I adore them and they will forever remind me of Brooklyn so I’ll keep making them.
This cake will not be perfect so don’t panic, that’s completely ok. A pressed tri-level cake such as this will have unevenness and inconsistencies and that is completely fine. This is a fun recipe to play around with. I have made all kinds of shapes and sizes with it including a large 40th birthday cake cut out in the shape of actual numbers. Go ahead, get creative.
Italian Rainbow Cookies
- For The Cake:
- 3 disposable 9×11″ aluminum pans
- 1 (12-ounce can) almond Filling or paste
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- For The Layers:
- Red, Green and Yellow food coloring
- 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
- For The Topping:
- 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large bottle of chocolate sprinkles
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour the three baking pans. Set aside.
- Step 2 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid, fitted with a whist attachment, add the butter and sugar and mix well on medium speed. With the mixer running, add and eggs. Add the almond filling and almond extract and mix well to incorporate and until smooth (don’t worry about the lumps from the almond pieces). With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour to form a loose looking dough.
- Step 3 Divide the dough into 3 equal portions in separate bowls. Mix each with appropriate food coloring and then spread into greased pan. The mixture may be hard to spread, do your best to evenly cover the bottom of the baking pan as best as possible.
- Step 4 Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until the cakes are set. Cool completely.
- Step 5 Once cool, very gently remove the cakes from the pan and place on atop of parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, lightly trim the cakes on all sides making them flat and even in size.
- Step 6 To Assemble: Place a piece of clear plastic wrap long enough to cover all the layers on the kitchen counter. Lay the GREEN layer down on the plastic wrap. Spread about 1/2 cup jam on top of the green layer.
- Step 7 Place the YELLOW layer on top of the green layer. Spread the yellow layer with the raining raspberry jam.
- Step 8 Place the PINK layer on top of the yellow layer. Wrap the layers cake up and with plastic wrap. Compress the cake with something heavy (Pyrex dish or a heavy cutting board work well) and place in fridge to chill for about 3 hours.
- Step 9 To Frost: Once chilled, remove the plastic wrap and place cake on a piece of parchment paper.
- Step 10 Place the chocolate chips and butter in a small sauce pan and heat over a low flame. When melted, using an offset spatula, quickly spread a thin layer the size of the cake on the wax paper. Note: this will be the bottom layer of the cake.
- Step 11 Next, place the cake on top of the chocolate. Begin spreading the melted chocolate on the top and sides of the cake. Note: you may have to reheat the chocolate if it gets too firm to spread.
- Step 12 Once the cake is covered in chocolate, cover generously in chocolate sprinkles pricing lightly to get them to adhere to the melted chocolate.
- Step 13 Refrigerate cake for an additional 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.
- Step 14 Use a large slicer or serrate knife to slice cake into small squares.