Rainbow Cookies

published Dec 3, 2021
Rainbow Cookies Recipe

A mainstay of any cookie platter, rainbow cookies are layered perfection.

Makes32 (2-inch) cookies

Prep35 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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rainbow cookies with red, yellow and green centers, cut up into squares
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

These eye-catching cookies have a cult-like following. If you love them, your love is deep. If they are new to you, let me introduce you to your new favorite cookie. Rainbow cookies are colorful layers of almond cake and jam that are draped in chocolate. They are a classic in Italian-American bakeries, and for good reason — they’re absolutely irresistible.

This recipe is a straightforward, streamlined version of what can be a tricky dessert to make at home. I recommend you read through all the instructions and gather everything you need before you start baking. This will ensure you get a beautiful batch of rainbow cookies with ease. 

What Are Rainbow Cookies Made of?

  • Cake: The three layers of cake are made from almond paste, butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. They get their distinct flavor from the addition of almond extract. To achieve the three vibrant colors, you divide your batter into thirds and color two of them with food coloring.
  • Jam: In between each layer of cake is a thin schmear of jam, either apricot or raspberry. Make sure you choose a jam that is smooth or seedless without big chunks of fruit.
  • Chocolate: Lastly, the whole slab of stacked cake gets a smooth slick coating of melted semi-sweet chocolate. 

Is Almond Paste the Same Thing as Marzipan?

Almond paste and marzipan may have a lot of the same ingredients, but they are not interchangeable. Almond paste is less sweet, softer, and is used as an ingredient in baking. Whereas marzipan is sweeter, has a firmer texture, and is often used to mold shapes or as an outer coating for baked goods. You’ll want to purchase almond paste to make these rainbow cookies. 

Credit: Olivia Mack McCool

Should I Refrigerate My Rainbow Cookies?

These cookies will keep very well for up to four or five days in an airtight container stored at room temperature. But storing them in the refrigerator will extend this even further. If it’s warm in your house, I’d recommend going straight to the fridge so they hold their shape well. 

Rainbow Cookies Recipe

A mainstay of any cookie platter, rainbow cookies are layered perfection.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Makes 32 (2-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info


  • 3 sticks

    (12 ounces) unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 7 ounces

    almond paste (not marzipan)

  • 1 1/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons

    almond extract

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • Red gel food coloring

  • Green gel food coloring

  • 1 cup

    smooth apricot jam, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups

    semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 8 ounces)


  1. Place 3 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened, about 1 hour.

  2. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat 3 (9x13-inch) baking pans or quarter sheet pans with cooking spray, then line each one with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposite sides like a sling. (See note below.)

  3. Crumble 7 ounces almond paste into the bowl of butter. Add 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add 4 large eggs and 2 teaspoons almond extract and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined.

  4. Divide the batter equally into 3 separate medium bowls (about 14 ounces each). Add about 5 very small drops red gel food coloring to one bowl of batter and stir until well-combined, adding more coloring as needed until the batter is a deep salmon pink. The cakes will be much brighter after baking. Repeat adding 5 very small drops green gel food coloring into a second bowl of batter until the batter is a bright green. Leave the third bowl of batter undyed.

  5. Transfer each bowl of batter into a separate baking sheet and evenly spread with a small offset spatula or rubber spatula. Don’t worry if the top isn't perfectly smooth — they will even out in the oven.

  6. Bake, rotating halfway through, until the tops look dry but not browned, 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool completely, about 45 minutes. If using 1 pan, let the cake cool in pan for 5 minutes before lifting the cake out to cool on a wire rack. Alternatively, place them in the refrigerator or freezer to cool faster.

  7. Transfer the green cake to a large cutting board. Top with 1/2 cup apricot jam and spread into a thin layer. Remove the parchment from the undyed layer and place on top of the green layer. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup apricot jam. Remove the parchment from the pink layer and place on top of the undyed layer.

  8. Cover the cake with another piece of parchment paper. Place a baking sheet on top of the cake and weigh it down with a few cans. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

  9. Place 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until nearly melted, about 90 seconds total. Stir until completely smooth.

  10. Remove the cans, baking sheet, and top layer of parchment paper from the cake. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the cake so they are even. (You can save these scraps to snack on or serve over ice cream.) Using an offset spatula or small rubber spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top and onto the sides of the cake.

  11. Refrigerate the cake until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Fill a tall glass with hot water and dip a chef's knife inside. Dry off the knife then cut the cake into 2-inch squares, warming and drying the knife before each cut to minimize the chocolate cracking.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: You can swap in an equal amount of raspberry jam for the apricot jam, although the color may bleed a little more.

Sheet pans: If you don’t have three 9x13-inch pans, bake the cakes in batches, letting each layer cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

Storage: Store rainbow cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.