Passover Rainbow Cookies

For a classic New York treat, bake up a batch of these layered rainbow cookies from cookbook author Shannon Sarna. She uses matzo cake meal and almond flour to make a kosher for Passover version of the colorful cookie.
Passover Rainbow Cookies Recipe photo by Taste of Home

If you bring a platter of rainbow cookies to a party, they’ll be the first to disappear. These colorful chocolate-covered confections draw you in with their unusual appearance and taste so good it’s impossible to eat only one. You may also know them as rainbow cake, which makes sense since rainbow cookies are really a layered dessert made from three layers of spongy almond-flavored cake, two thin layers of jam, and two coatings of chocolate glaze.

All that stacking and layering sounds like a lot of work, but Shannon Sarna believes it’s time well spent. Shannon is the author of the Modern Jewish Baker cookbook and the editor of Jewish cooking website The Nosher, and she puts special care into making the cookies that have become her family’s most beloved dessert.

The time she spends in the kitchen with her children is particularly precious. “There are a lot of demands on parents,” Shannon says, “but being in the kitchen—talking and baking side by side—is a time you can slow down a little bit.”

Trio of Daughters and Mother Mixing Chocolate Glaze in a Large Glass BowlDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

What are rainbow cookies?

A rainbow cookie is a seven-layer cookie made by sandwiching jam between layers of brightly colored sponge cake. A silky chocolate layer coats the exterior and turns into a crisp shell as the cookies set. There’s some debate about whether the pastry is a cookie or a cake, and even the name might change from bakery to bakery. (They might be called Italian rainbow cookies, Venetian cookies, tricolore, tri-colored cookies, seven-layer cookies, Neapolitan cookies or Italian flag cookies.)

The cookies originated in Italian American communities in New York City. To honor their ancestral heritage, bakers dyed the cookie layers red, white and green—the colors of the Italian flag. Jewish bakeries began making a kosher version, and the cookies became popular at synagogues and Jewish celebrations. There’s even a Hanukkah version featuring blue layers.

Shannon says this type of multicultural influence, as recipes are passed down from generation to generation, is one of the things she likes about Jewish baking and cooking: “Jews are from all over the world, but there’s also a universality. Jewish baking looks like so many things.”

How to Make Kosher for Passover Rainbow Cookies

There’s a difference between kosher and kosher for Passover. During the spring holiday of Passover, there’s no chametz, or leavened food, like wheat, spelt, barley and rye.

When it comes to Passover recipes, especially for dessert, Shannon says many of them are “basically gluten-free baking.” She usually focuses on flourless cakes, candies and other sweets. But to create a Passover-friendly version of rainbow cookies, almond flour and matzo cake meal take the place of regular flour.

Ingredients for Passover Rainbow Cookies

A Stack of Passover Rainbow CookiesDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

  • Eggs: Set the eggs on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking. Room-temperature eggs incorporate more easily into the cookie batter.
  • Sugar: In addition to adding sweetness, sugar helps the cookie layers stay soft and moist.
  • Almond paste: This gritty nut paste is different from marzipan, so don’t get the two confused. Cut the paste into several small pieces, and it will blend more evenly into the batter.
  • Margarine: This recipe uses margarine to make dairy-free cookies. If you’re not keeping kosher or avoiding dairy, you can substitute unsalted butter.
  • Almond flour and matzo cake meal: These two flours take the place of wheat flour. Don’t use matzo meal here: It’s too coarse for these cookies. Matzo cake meal is finely ground and has the consistency of flour.
  • Food coloring: Red and green food coloring give the cookies a colorful appearance.
  • Raspberry jam: Look for a seedless jam. The cake layers are soft and spongy, and you don’t want any crunchy seeds to ruin the texture.
  • Dark chocolate chips: If you plan to substitute other chocolate chips like semisweet chocolate, check the packaging for soy lecithin. This ingredient is made from soybeans and shouldn’t be used if you’re avoiding kitniyot on Passover.


Step 1: Prep the batter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease three 8-inch square baking pans. Line each pan with parchment, and grease the parchment.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, two to three minutes. Gradually add the almond paste and mix well. Gradually add the margarine, almond flour, matzo cake meal, salt and vanilla extract.

Editor’s Tip: If you don’t have three 8×8 pans, don’t feel like you have to go out and invest in new ones! You can use disposable pans.

Step 2: Dye the batter

Divide the batter into thirds. Using the food coloring, tint one portion red and one portion green. Leave the remaining portion plain. Spread each portion into a separate prepared pan.

Test Kitchen Tip: Use a kitchen scale to weigh the batter when dividing it into thirds.

Step 3: Bake the layers

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes. Then, gently remove the cakes from the pans. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and let them cool completely.

Test Kitchen Tip: Loosen the edges immediately after baking to make the cake easier to remove from the pan. These cakes are very fragile and thin, so be careful when transferring them to wire racks.

Step 4: Stack the layers

A Mother Spreading Jam on A Large Piece of Bread While Her Daughter WatchesDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

Place the red layer on a piece of waxed paper. Spread with 2 tablespoons of jam. Top with the plain layer and the remaining jam. Add the green layer, and press down gently.

Hands and Colorful Breads on a Marble Kitchen TopDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

Test Kitchen Tip: Transfer the layers using the wire rack, flipping the cake onto the wax paper to create the stack. Don’t pick up the whole cake, or it could break down the center.

Step 5: Prepare the chocolate glaze

A Person Mixing Chocolate Glaze in a Large Glass BowlDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

To make the chocolate glaze, melt the chocolate chips, shortening and salt in a microwave. Stir until smooth.

Editor’s Tip: All microwaves vary, so we suggest microwaving in 15-second intervals to avoid burning the chocolate. If you don’t have a microwave, here are some other ways to melt chocolate.

Step 6: Glaze the cookies

Trio of Daughters and Mother Spreading Chocolate Glaze on Passover Rainbow Cookies Bread/BaseDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

Spread half of the chocolate glaze over the green layer. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set.

Turn the layers over onto another piece of waxed paper. Spread the remaining glaze over the red layer. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set.

Step 7: Cut the cookies

A Person Cutting Passover Rainbow Cookies into Pieces with A KnifeDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

With a knife, trim the edges. Cut the cake into four rows. Then, cut each row into 1-inch slices.

Recipe Variations

  • Change up the filling: Raspberry jam is traditional, but you can use other flavors like apricot jam. Have fun and try your favorite jam, jellies and fruity spreads. Just make sure the filling is kosher for Passover.
  • Experiment with natural food dyes: If you don’t want to use synthetic dyes, look for natural food coloring. Beets could be used to make red tones, and matcha powder would create green hues.

How to Store Passover Rainbow Cookies

Store Passover rainbow cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also make them ahead of time and freeze them for up to three months.

Passover Rainbow Cookies Tips

Lots of Passover Rainbow Cookies on a Plate on Marble Kitchen CountertopDoug Schneider Photography for Taste of Home

How do you cut rainbow cookies without cracking the chocolate?

It’s best to let rainbow cookies warm slightly before cutting them. The chocolate on top can crack if you slice the cookies right out of the fridge. Then, when you’re ready to cut the cookies, dip the knife in hot water (just like you would when cutting a cake). Wipe it dry, and slice as directed. The warm blade will cut cleanly through the chocolate and all the layers beneath. Wipe the blade clean between slices.

Why can’t you eat cookies on Passover?

Most cookie recipes contain chametz—leavening agents, wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oats. These ingredients are off-limits for Passover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sweet treat after the Seder. There are plenty of flourless Passover desserts and treats made with matzo cake meal and almond flour.

Passover Rainbow Cookies

The name "rainbow cookies" is actually a bit of a misnomer for these classic New York treats. To make the pretty layered cookies, you’ll bake three thin cakes, spread jam between them and coat with smooth melted chocolate. —Shannon Sarna, South Orange, New Jersey
Passover Rainbow Cookies Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep: 35 min. Bake: 10 min./batch + chilling


about 3 dozen


  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces almond paste, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 to 8 drops red food coloring
  • 6 to 8 drops green food coloring
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • GLAZE:
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • Dash salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line bottoms of 3 greased 8-in. square baking pans with parchment; grease parchment. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add almond paste; mix well. Gradually add margarine, almond flour, cake meal, salt and vanilla.
  2. Divide batter into thirds. Tint 1 portion red and 1 portion green; leave remaining portion plain. Spread each portion into a separate prepared pan.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and edges begins to brown, 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before gently removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. Place red layer on waxed paper; spread with 2 tablespoons jam. Top with plain layer and remaining jam. Add green layer; press down gently.
  5. For glaze, in a microwave, melt chocolate chips, shortening and salt; stir until smooth. Spread half over green layer. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until set. Turn over onto another piece of waxed paper; spread remaining glaze over red layer. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until set.
  6. With a sharp knife, trim edges. Cut into 4 rows; cut each row into 1-in. slices.

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie: 32 calories, 2g fat (1g saturated fat), 6mg cholesterol, 21mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.