Italian Rainbow Cookies Are Brightly Colored Delicacies That Seem More Like Cakes

Growing up in South Brooklyn, the sight of Italian rainbow cookies elegantly displayed at Italian-American bakeries was a common yet magical one. To the child version of me, these cookies were vibrant, brightly-colored delicacies. And every time I walked past a local Italian-American bakery nestled on Bay Parkway, their rainbow cookies beckoned me with their colorful layers, each symbolizing the colors of the Italian flag –- much like the beloved Margherita pizza. Yet, here's the twist: While these treats might proudly wear the title "cookie," their delightful texture and layered form suggest they're closer in spirit to cakes.

Originating in America in the late 1800s with roots traced back to Italy, these treats have garnered various names: tricolore, seven-layer cookies, Venetian cookies, Napoleon cookies, or simply rainbow cookies, as they are known in American Jewish communities. The allure of Italian rainbow cookies lies in their vibrant and different-colored almond cake layers, interspersed with raspberry jam and cloaked in rich chocolate. Once assembled, baked, and chilled, the baker would slice the treat into bite-sized pieces –- resembling cookies yet tasting like decadent cake.

Looking as scrumptious and intricate as they are, if you think crafting the perfect Italian rainbow cookie is no simple feat, then you're correct. But this only adds to the allure of these cookies-slash-cakes.

Crafting Italian rainbow cookies is no easy feat

Tasting Table's Italian Rainbow Cookie Recipe, adapted from "Everyday's a Sundae" by Stephen Collucci, features a vibrant almond cake made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, almond paste, and almond extract. The preparation involves meticulously dividing the almond batter, tinting portions with red and green food coloring, and coating them with a generous spread of raspberry jam between each cake layer. Once assembled, you envelop the entire cake in molten chocolate, which solidifies into a decadent shell after about 30 minutes of chilling in the fridge.

Cut into bite-sized squares, you can call it a cookie, but when you bite it, your brain will process it as a rich cake. Revisiting my childhood memories of visiting Italian-American bakeries, it's no wonder why these brightly-colored delicacies once captivated me and still do. Italian rainbow cookies blur the line between cookies and cakes, offering the best of both worlds to the palate.