My favorite Christmas cookies are actually tiny slices of jam and marzipan cake. They pull off the masquerade every year with smashing success! # 153: Italian Rainbow Cookies
Happy Christmas Eve and third night of Hanukkah! From my kitchen to yours, I hope holidays have been filled with delicious food and warmth so far.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I could eat these every day of December and still not get tired of them. First encountered on our trip to Mike’s Pastry in Boston (see desserts on the go), I quickly fell in love with the compact little cake that people called rainbow cookies. While there’s some evidence of a similar baked good popping up in Italian bakeries around Christmas, they’re much more common in Italian-American bakeries here in North America. From the different historical accounts I could find, it seems that this version of the “cookie” was created/popularized by Italian immigrants living in the US as a way to honor their native country’s flag.
Whatever their history, they are a delight to eat and truly satisfying to make. That crisp chocolate shell, decadent cake layers and sweet jam all lead up to the perfect bite.
We’re makin’ an enriched sponge cake over here! You know what that means – sift that flour and separate those eggs. It calls for a little almond extract in addition to the marzipan, because there’s no such thing as too much almond.
I was serious about the sifting – if there’s a single lump of unmixed flour, it’ll be painfully apparent when you slice the cookies at the end.
Everything but the egg whites, mixed to a happy, fluffy texture.
Meanwhile, the egg whites were having their own party and are now feeling quite airy. Be like the nuns in Sound of Music and try to pin that cloud down.
This is not a good dishes recipe. . . this is a use-every-bowl-in-the-house kind of recipe. Split the dough into three bowls and dye one green, dye one red and leave one be.
I don’t know about you, but lining pans is a pain the butt. A shortcut is to make the piece of parchment paper 3 or so inches larger than the size of the pan and then just snip a diagonal cut at each corner. When you place the paper in the pan, the paper will layer over itself to make a passable corner! Not perfect, but way better than measuring out the perfect sides and bottom pieces and “gluing” them in place with spray oil.
One key thing from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe is that you MUST take them out before they look completely done. They are so delicate and they continue cooking on the hot pan after leaving the oven, so the seemingly uncooked center will fix itself by the time the cake cools. SCIENCE.
Hot tip: melt and strain your jam! It’s way easier than trying to spread lumpy cold jam on delicate sponge cake.
The freezer will be your best friend from here on out in this recipe. This cake only plays nice when it’s frozen.
The beginning of a chocolate masterpiece, starring offset spatula and dark chocolate.
Oh hello there!
Post-freezer and second chocolate layer. Lookin’ fancy.
Break out your serrated knife for this step and gently slice the cake into thin rows. It’ll defrost super quickly and the jam will start to ooze so you might need to pop it back in the freezer halfway through cutting.
Each one will be a bit unique but that’s what makes it fun! Plus they’ll get eaten so fast, no one will have time to notice the slight differences in the jam layers.