Growing up in New York, there was one really popular dessert that you can find at all of the local bakeries.
Italian Rainbow Cookies (also called 7-layer cookies) got their name from their colors - the cookie looks like a little Italian flag, but with chocolate on it. It's layers of dyed almond cake with apricot (or raspberry) smushed in between. Growing up, I hated them. They were served at all of our family parties, and something about the filling and flavor of the cake made me squeamish.
Cut to years later, and I suddenly have an intense craving for a rainbow cookie. But I live in Florida...where you can't find them anywhere. I've had black and white cookies before, and the taste is pretty spot on. But rainbows? Nowhere to be found. I had to improvise, and that meant I had to bake them for myself. The result is more than just delicious - when I went back to NY to visit a few weeks ago, I realized that my cookies are infinitely better looking than the ones you find in stores.
The recipe is actually really easy to follow. There are a lot of steps, but even a beginner baker should be able to get through it without any major problems. You need a an oven (preheated to 350 degrees), a baking sheet, parchment paper, an electric mixer (I used a hand one), and a few bowls for mixing. This recipe involves time waiting for the cake to cool, plus 8 hours of letting the cake sit. I baked the layers, let them cool overnight, and then let the cake sit while I was at work. If you want to make these for a party, just bake them the night before so you have time to let it sit.
Start off with your almond paste. You'll have to crush it up and mix it with all of the sugar, minus 2 tablespoons. You can use an electric mixer for this part, but I've always used a big wooden spoon.
Note: Make sure you crush up the almond paste into the smallest chunks you can. The paste won't melt while it bakes, so if you have big chunks, it's going to show in the cookie and won't taste that great!
Once your sugar and almond paste is combined, add the butter and mix until it is combined. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, until it is mixed together. Then, add your salt and flour and mix until everything is combined.
In a separate bowl, add your egg whites. Use your electric mixer (on medium) to beat the whites until they are foamy. Slowly add the 2 remaining tablespoons of sugar (slowly!) while you continue to beat the whites until stiff peaks form. This will take you a few minutes, but it's an important step. If you don't have an electric mixer, then hopefully you have a strong arm. You can use a whisk to make stiff peaks by hand, but it's going to take 10-15 minutes.
Fold the egg whites into the mixture, slowly, until it is all combined. From here you're going to evenly split the batter into three smaller bowls. One bowl will stay the normal color, and the other two will get the green or red food coloring. When you're finished, you should have one plain bowl, one red bowl, and one green bowl.
I've always found this to be the most complicated step. On the parchment paper, spread out the batter (one color at a time!) until it is a rectangle. Your layer should be pretty thin - the bigger your rectangle, the more cookies you get! Bake each layer for about 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges. Do the same with the other two colors, but make sure to make the layers the same sizes! When you're finished, you'll have three cake layers.
After the cake cools, you can start stacking! Start with the green layer (on the bottom) and add a few tablespoons of your apricot filling. Spread it evenly all over the cake. You'll want enough of it to taste, but not so much that it's oozing out the side. Top it with the plain layer, then do the same with the rest of the apricot. Add your red layer to the top.
We're almost done! Take your cake and wrap it in parchment paper and plastic wrap. I did a few pieces of plastic wrap to make sure the entire thing was cover and wrapped tightly. Place another baking sheet on top, and weigh it down with whatever you have - cans, liquor bottles, whatever works. Just make sure the weight is distributed evenly!
After letting this sit for 8 hours (seriously! I did it before work, so it was all set when I got home), unwrap it and slice off any part of the edges to make sure every part of the cake has a red, white, and green part.
I used one bar of Baker's semisweet chocolate. Break it into squares and microwave it in a small bowl until it's melted. Add your shortening and keep stirring till it's all smooth and melted. Cover the cake with all of the chocolate and spread it out evenly. For an "authentic" look, run your fork through the chocolate to make little swirls. Toss it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is set. Slice up and enjoy!
Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate! And sometimes, real food!