rainbow connection – strawberry matcha ‘rainbow’ cookies
Rainbow Cookies, also known as neapolitan or seven layer cookies, are a riddle sandwiched between a puzzle and a teaser. To be accurate, these are neither cookies nor do they resemble a rainbow. They are composed of pink, green and yellow layers of almond sponge cake with apricot jam in between and a coating of chocolate over top—and sometimes on the bottom as well.
This treat originated in the Italian communities of the United States around the early 1900s. They’re most likely inspired by gelato di campagna from Sicily—a tricolor loaf of almond nougat consisting of Pepto-Bismol pink, neon green, and white layers.
These cookies are an amazing example of “food in transit.” Immigrants concocted these vibrant neon cookies to show their Italian pride. The color combination, though a bit of a stretch, references the green, white, and red Italian flag.
Today, rainbow cookies are sold year round in Italian bakeries by the pound, and are a must-have during Christmas.
As an immigrant myself, I am constantly fascinated by multi-cultural America and its range of local and ethnic cuisines. From them, I find techniques and/or flavors to incorporate into my own baking.
Strawberry Matcha Rainbow Cookies
- 20 tablespoons (10 ounces)2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 2 cups ( 10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons freeze-dried strawberry powder
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- Almond layer
- Strawberry layer
- Matcha layer
- 1/2 cup smooth apricot jam
- 1/2 cup strawberry jam
- 5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon freeze-dried strawberry powder
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder (optional)
- 2 tablespoon rum (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Butter and flour three 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1-2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add 4 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Place egg white in a clean bowl and return bowl to mixer.
3. Combine the almond paste, remaining sugar and salt in the now empty bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is in fine crumbles. Beat in 2 1/2 sticks butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth. Add flour to the mixer bowl and beat until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1/3 of egg white mixture to lighten batter.
4. Add remaining egg white and fold gently until no more white streaks. Divide batter evenly among 3 bowls. Stir strawberry powder into 1 bowl, matcha powder into another bowl and leave the third bowl plain.
5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans (one pan for each color). Dip an offset spatula in water and spread the batter to the edge of each pan, smoothing the tops. Bake until the cakes are cooked through and just beginning to brown around the edges, 8-10 minutes. (You’ll need to bake in two batches). Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.
1. Invert matcha cake layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and peel off the parchment. Spread apricot jam evenly over cake layer almost all the way to the edges. Invert plain cake layer on top of apricot jam and peel off the parchment.
2. Spread strawberry jam on top of the plain layer and top with inverted strawberry cake layer onto the plain layer and peel off the parchment. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Remove cake from refrigerator, place a cutting board on top of the cake and flip to unmold it onto the cutting board. Remove the parchment from the top of the matcha layer.
4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir in strawberry powder until well combined; pour over the cake. Dip an offset spatula in the hot water and smooth the top. Let set until slightly tacky, about one hour.
5. (if use) Mix matcha powder with rum until smooth. brush mixture on top and let set for 20-30 minutes.
6. Trim the sides of cake with a knife to make straight edges, then slice length-wise into 6 even strips, cut each strip into 8 pieces. (dip the knife in warm water and wipe it with a cloth between cuts). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.