Curiously Good Cookies

When Tim and I were dating, I asked him what I should give his family for Christmas when we met them for dinner. What did they like? What could I get them that they didn’t already have? Wine was out because they didn’t drink alcohol, and it’s not like I could get them a box of fruit*.

As the date approached, Tim said “You know…my family really loves rainbow cookies. If you made them, they would love it.” He told me how his mom would save up her money in college for cookies. She would buy rainbow cookies by the pound from an Italian bakery in New York City on her way home from school, and eat them all by herself. (She is a petite lady, by the way!)

Rainbow Cookies or Seven Layer Cookies

I had never tasted rainbow cookies before, only seen them in pictures and vaguely guessed what they might taste like. I didn’t get any other ideas from Tim for what to get his family, so I guess rainbow cookies it was..

I made a whole 9×13 pan of these and put all of them (minus some test cookies :D) in a tupperware and wrapped it up.

At the Korean restaurant we were eating at, it was time for gifts and when I brought the rainbow cookies, the sisters broke out into a mini-fight deciding who would get possession of cookies. I guess Tim wasn’t kidding about the whole rainbow cookie thing.

I brought some rainbow cookies to work, too, and then I got hired to make a cake of rainbow cookies for a co-worker’s son’s birthday. This thing was really heavy. The entire cake is coated in chocolate, and because the cake had been sitting in the fridge pre-coat, it was hard to get the tempered chocolate not to harden so quickly!

Lego Man CakeMarshmallow Fondant Lego Man and Lego pieces
Like the lego man and lego pieces? It took me a while to make because they are really quite small! (almonds in back for comparison)

Fast forward 1.5 years. We are going to visit his family this weekend. Tim was on the phone with them a few weeks ago, and here’s how the end of their conversation went: Hey Tim…you know….it would be really great if Megan had time, if she could make rainbow cookies…”

When he told me this, I thought..what?! Still talking about them after a year? I guess I should make them, if it makes them this happy!

This past Sunday, Tim confirmed with them that I would make rainbow cookies for them, and there was much cheering. I guess this is the least this daughter and sister-in-law can do: make some rainbow cookies.

Baker’s warning: These cookies do take a bit of time. They are not hard to make, but they are multi-step cookies and are not for the faint of heart or impatient, so plan accordingly.

The original recipe is from Epicurious, but I definitely changed it up. How?
-freshly ground almonds instead of almond paste. If you can’t be bothered to grind almonds or buy almond flour, you can refer to the Epicurious link, which gives amounts considering the use of almond paste!
-natural sources of food coloring
-tempered chocolate to achieve a nice snap when the cookies are eaten (Tim’s dad mentioned this as a selling point of my last batch)

I now bring you the recipe for little rainbow cookies that gave me browniecookie points with Tim’s family! 

Rainbow Cookies
adapted from Epicurious 

5 large egg whites (150 g)  (50)
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar (62 g) (21)

Almond mixture
1 cup sugar (200 g) 
1 1/4 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds (150 g)
1 1/4 cups butter (280 g), softened
1 tsp almond extract
4 egg yolks (100 g)  
2 cups flour (240 g), sifted  
1/2 tsp salt 
1 Tbsp beet powder OR 25 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 Tbsp spinach powder OR drops green food coloring (optional; I skipped this because I didn’t have any left)

Filling and Topping
1 (12-oz) jar raspberry jam, heated and strained 
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13×9 pan with parchment paper, leaving enough extra paper on two opposite ends so that you can lift a thin cake out of the pan post-baking. If you having trouble getting the paper to stay put, sprinkle some water on the pan first. Also, feel free to use scissors to cut vertical slits on the 4 corners of the pan, and tuck-in one side of parchment behind the other.

2) For the meringue: Starting with low speed and gradually increasing the speed, beat egg whites and sugar with a stand mixer or hand held mixer until stiff but glossy peaks form.

3) For the almond mixture: Beat together sugar, almond meal, and butter for 3 minutes, until fluffy and homogenous. Add almond extract and egg yolks, then beat again for 1 minute. Use a spatula to scrape down stuff that has accumulated on the sides of the bowl, then beat again for 1 minute more.

4) Add flour and salt to the almond mixture, then use a wooden spoon to just combine everything so that you can’t see flour specks.

5) Take half the meringue and try to fold it into the almond mixture. The almond mixture will be very thick, so you may end up just stirring the meringue in more than folding it.

6) Once that part of the meringue is completely incorporated into the almond mixture, fold in the remaining meringue, as gently as possible.

7) Divide the batter into 3 equal parts in separate bowls. It is very helpful to use your kitchen scale here if you have one. Leave one uncolored, and add your choices of coloring agents to the other two bowls; one green, one red. Red and green are traditional, but feel free to use whatever colors you want! Or none at all. Cover and refrigerate the red batter.

8) Pour the green batter into the pan, and use an offset spatula (really helpful, if not necessary) to smooth the batter out to as even of a layer as possible. Fret not if it’s short; it will be only about 1/4 inch thick.

9) Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes until JUST set; do not overbake. You can tell that they are done because they will initially be glossy-looking as they heat up in the oven, and become more dull-looking on the surface as they set. Use a toothpick or cake tester if you are unsure. Mine were done at 8 minutes.

10) Transfer the layer to a cooling rack after taking it out of the oven.

11) Take the red batter out of the fridge. Repeat steps 9 and 10 for the uncolored/plain batter, then repeat steps 9 and 10 for the red batter.

12) Wait for all the layers to cool until proceeding to the next step.

13) Invert the green layer onto another piece of parchment paper so that the smooth side is facing up. Use half the strained jam and an offset spatula to spread the jam on the green layer . Peel the parchment off the cooled plain layer, then invert it onto the green layer.

14) Spread the jam on the white layer, then peel the parchment off the red layer, and invert onto the white layer.

15) Wrap with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (I do overnight). Put a 13×9 baking pan of the same size on top of the assembled layers, and weigh it down with cans or heavy jars.

16) Bring the layers to room temperature before coating with chocolate. For best results and a gorgeous chocolate coating that won’t bloom, temper the chocolate. For an easier approach, melt the chocolate over a double boiler.

17) Using an offset spatula, spread half the chocolate on one side and wait for it to harden (at room temperature if you tempered the chocolate), or in the fridge if you didn’t temper.

18) Invert the cake onto parchment paper, and repeat step 17.

19) Use a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) to trim the edges of the cake (baker’s treat!), then cut the cake into small rectangles as you wish. Epicurious says cut into 4 strips lengthwise, and 3/4 inch cross-wise. 

Rainbow Cookies or Seven Layer Cookies

Rainbow Cookies or Seven Layer Cookies


*Growing up in a Chinese family, I learned that it is considered good manners to bring something, often fruit, to a person’s house if they invite you over for dinner.  


  1. Peggy

    I love how you suggested using natural food coloring source instead of food colors. I give you cookie point for that!

  2. meggers616

    Thanks ma!

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