Full-Spectrum Rainbow Cookies

Full-Spectrum Rainbow Cookies

I hope you’re sitting down, because today’s post is a doozy. You’re looking at a rainbow cookie—the same almond paste-based, cakey, chocolate-edged treat the young me raced from table to table to snag every Saturday at my shul’s kiddush. But these are not just any rainbow cookie. Rather than three colors (we Jews tended towards neon green, yellow, and pink, while the traditional Italian version is usually green, white, and red), I went for a true rainbow. Six colors. The most kid-pleasing, grownup-pleasing, lovely to look at cookie you’ll ever encounter.

I must be insane.

You know I’ll never lie to you, so I’ll just flat-out say it: Making a six-colored rainbow cookie is a bit ridiculous. It calls for a considerable amount of futzing. If you’re not up for greasing and lining six 13 x 9 pans, dividing your dough into six bowls and coloring each individually, spreading them into those six pans and baking two by two, then finding enough counter space to cool them all without your cat devouring a giant hunk of the yellow layer, then by all means go for the three-colored version. Nobody will ever know you took the easy way.

See that huge gouge? I nearly shipped Samuel kitty off to military school for that one.

And that really is the easy way—I knew I’d be complicating the coloring and baking process, so I streamlined the recipe itself. While most versions call for whipping the egg whites separately, dirtying an extra bowl (and stressing me out about whether or not I’ve reached the “soft peak” stage), mine adds whole eggs and then just beats the heck out of the dough. If you’re only making three colors, the mixing and baking portion of the recipe will take barely 45 minutes, after which you can take a break while they cool, then stack and refrigerate for several hours or even overnight before coating with chocolate. See: easy! And a truly Nap-Friendly Recipe.

Along with a junk-food-amped version of The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World (recipe coming soon for that one!), these beauties are going out to still more of my holiday-gift list. Properly packed, they stay fresh for quite a while, so they’re perfect for shipping.

Full-Spectrum Rainbow Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies

2 cups unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for pans
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Two 7-ounce tubes almond paste, grated or well-crumbled
5 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
6-8 drops violet food coloring
6-8 drops blue food coloring
6-8 drops green food coloring
6-8 drops yellow food coloring
6-8 drops orange food coloring
6-8 drops red food coloring
One 12-ounce jar apricot or seedless raspberry jam
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour six 13″ x 9″ baking pans (I supplemented the two I own with four disposable ones) and line with parchment paper; set aside.

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and salt on medium until pale and very fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the almond paste and increase speed a notch or two; beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then the extract; beat 2 more minutes. Add the flour (cover the mixer with a damp kitchen towel to keep it from clouding your entire kitchen); beat on low until just combined.
  2. Evenly divide batter into 6 bowls (I find it easiest to do this with a one-cup measure, putting one cup of batter into each bowl, then a second, etc). Add violet food coloring to one bowl, blue to the second bowl, and so on down the rainbow; stir colorings into batters. Using an offset spatula, spread the first 2 batters into a prepared baking pan. It will be a thin layer—don’t stress about making the edges and corners perfect, but do fill the pan. Bake those 2 pans until just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. If your oven bakes unevenly, rotate the pans halfway through.
  3. While the first 2 colors are baking, spread the next pair into pans. While the second 2 are baking, spread the final pair. Allow cakes to sit in the pan for a minute or two, then invert onto wire racks; cool. The cakes will feel fairly delicate at first, but once completely cool they’ll be quite sturdy.
  4. Heat jam in a small saucepan or the microwave and stir until smooth; cool slightly. Place purple cake on a cutting board or foil-lined baking sheet. Using an offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup of jam over it in a thin layer (seriously, I mean thin: too much and the layers will slosh around); top with blue cake. Spread 1/4 cup of jam over blue cake; top with green cake. Repeat with yellow, orange, and red layers, leaving the top of the red layer bare. Cover the stacked cake with waxed paper and place a baking sheet on top. Weight it down with cans and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. Melt half the chocolate with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and stir until smooth. Remove the cans, pan, and waxed paper from the cake stack (save the waxed paper—you’ll need it later). Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the top. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, to set the chocolate. Melt the remaining chocolate and olive oil together, and remove the chilled cake. Cover with waxed paper, place the baking sheet on top, and carefully invert the entire thing. Uncover and spread the chocolate over the top. Refrigerate again for at least 1 hour, uncovered, until chocolate is completely set.
  6. With a large, sharp knife, trim edges so everything is aligned nicely—if your chocolate looks like it might crack, dip the knife into a glass of hot water and wipe it dry before each cut. Cut the cake crosswise into 8 strips, then cut each strip into 6 pieces. Store tightly packed in airtight containers, and they should stay fresh for at least two weeks.

MAKE BABY FOOD: If there are no nut allergies in your immediate family these are safe for babies on finger food, but given the sugar content I’d save this for special occasions only—which, considering how much effort they require, is probably the only times you’ll make them anyway.

A NOTE ABOUT FOOD COLORING: Obviously, this recipe can’t be made without some sort of dye. There are natural, food-based colorings on the market, but in my experience they don’t provide the vivid colors I wanted here. Generally speaking, I only bust out my gel paste coloring for special occasions, and considering how much of a potchke these cookies are, they definitely qualify. That said, if your child is sensitive to food dyes, use the natural versions!