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Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow Cookies

It’s fitting that I’m sharing this recipe with you on a Sunday. In Italy, that’s when sweets are celebrated. Growing up, when I lived in Rome, every Sunday was a ritual of going to the local pasticceria with my Neapolitan grandfather, or Nonno as I called him, to pick out a sweet selection of pastries to bring over to my aunt Laura and uncle Fabrizio’s house for lunch. It has been decades since I’ve done this. Memories pour into me and bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes, I long to go back in time so I can spend one more Sunday with my Nonno or uncle Fabrizio.

Until then, I will turn to these rainbow cookies. They are, simply put, a revelation. Intimating, yes, at first. But as I quickly learned, it was all in my head. Just follow my step-by-step instructions and you’ll do great. Give yourself two days to make these comfortably with no pressure. Then, you’ll have time to stop and realize how much fun you’re having along the way.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow CookiesBeat the egg whites and some of the sugar on high speed until they hold their peaks and they’re beautifully glossy.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow CookiesHere’s the batter before gently folding in the meringue.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow CookiesHere’s the batter after gently folding in the meringue.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow CookiesDivide the batter evenly among 3 bowls and stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another. Just leave the third bowl uncolored.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow CookiesTrim the cake edges after the chocolate sets. Yes, you may have a little cracking on top, but the sides of the cake won’t have any chocolate on them. For easy cutting, I warm my knife in hot water, then wipe it dry with a dish towel between cutting the cake strips.

For ingredient substitutions, please see the detailed chart at Gluten-Free 101.

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Makes: About 60
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 12 minutes


4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
11 ounces homemade gluten-free almond paste or one 11-ounce can gluten-free almond paste, such as Love’n Bake
3 sticks unsalted butter, vegan buttery sticks or shortening, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 cups Silvana’s Kitchen Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon salt
15 drops red food coloring, or to taste
15 drops green food coloring, or to taste
One 12-ounce jar apricot or seedless raspberry preserves, heated and strained
10 ounces dairy-free bittersweet chocolate chips

If you don’t have three 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheets, you can use a 9-by-12-inch baking pan instead. Just refrigerate each batter, covered, until ready to use. Before baking, let the batter return to room temperature and clean and prepare the pan as in Step 1. You can store the cookies, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, for up to 2 weeks at room temperature or for up to 1 month in the fridge. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease three 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheets and line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends; grease again.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup of the sugar and beat on high speed until stiff and glossy. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Using the paddle attachment, beat together the almond paste and remaining ¾ cup sugar on medium speed until small crumbs form, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the butter on medium-high speed until combined, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then the vanilla extract and almond extract, if using. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour and salt; mix until combined. Using a silicone spatula, fold in half of the egg white meringue to loosen the batter, then fold in the remaining meringue to lighten.
4. Divide the batter evenly among 3 bowls. Stir the red food coloring into one and the green food coloring into another, leaving the third bowl uncolored. Pour each batter into the prepared pans, spreading evenly; bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool in the pans, then using the parchment paper overhang, transfer each layer with parchment to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Line a cooled 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends; invert the green layer onto the surface. Remove the paper and spread with half of the preserves. Invert the white layer on top; remove the paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert the red layer on top; leave the paper on. Top with a 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet; weight with canned goods and refrigerate overnight.
6. Remove the canned goods and the parchment paper. Melt 2/3 of the chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/3 of the chocolate; let sit for 5 minutes.
7. Evenly spread half of the melted chocolate in a thin layer on top of the cake. Freeze, uncovered, until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes. Cover with parchment paper, place a 9-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet on top and invert the cake; remove the parchment paper. Evenly spread with the remaining chocolate, gently reheating if necessary, and freeze to set, about 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, trim the cake edges, then cut crosswise into 6 even strips. Cut each strip crosswise into ¾-inch-wide cookies or as desired.


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13 Comments: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free 7-Layer Rainbow Cookies

Catherine Said:

Can the Almond paste be subsituted with a nut-free paste? Any suggestions?

silvana Said:

Hi Catherine, that’s a tricky one! I did a quick google search and found some options, but I can’t say how well they work or how they taste. Here’s somewhere to start, at least: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/substitute-marzipan-for-baking.html#b

Rene Said:

Your recipe looks amazing! I am just wondering what the texture of these cookies is like, are they crisp or cakey? I will be using a dairy free spread, so I assume this will make them softer? thanks!

silvana Said:

Hi Rene, the cookie texture is definitely cakey. Enjoy!

Rene Said:

Thanks Silvana! I made these last week and they were AMAZING! I used plum jam in the middle as it is the only one my boys can tolerate, and I also used natural food colourings so my colours weren’t as bright, but still! My boys were so excited that they could eat something that looked so special. When you are gluten free, dairy free, no additives, colourings or preservatives, life can look a bit grim, but you given us a very special treat! thanks :)

silvana Said:

Hi Rene,
I’m so happy to hear you and the boys loved these! Plum jam sounds delicious! Talk soon, Silvana

Anonymous Said:

For your silvana’s all purpose flour blend can i use bob’s red mill tapioca flour ? Cant find shiloh farms brand in stores, to order on it cost more in shipping then product

silvana Said:

Unfortunately, the last time I tasted Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour it had a metallic aftertaste—even after baking.

Nancy Olson Said:

Wow! this is so amazing!
i love to look at its color and appearance.

Thanks for sharing..

silvana Said:

Hi Nancy, sure! My family (and I) loved these cookies, even more than the ones we used to buy in the famous Italian-American pastry shops!

sarah Said:

Hi, this recipe looks great, what weight would 3 sticks unsalted butter be as there aren’t stick in australia.

silvana Said:

Hi Sarah, 1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup of butter = 4 ounces = 113 grams. So, 3 sticks of butter would be three times that. Hope that helps! Talk soon, Silvana

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