Are you ready for a little Christmas in July? I was going to wait until the holidays to post my son’s tri-color Italian cookies, but he made them for a party this past weekend, and I figured I might as well share them now. And, while it would have been nice for me to take pictures of the process, he was making them late at night, long past my bed time. (The older I get, the more I want to turn in by 9 p.m. Since I’m not even 50 yet, I imagine I’ll hit the sack right after lunch by the time I’m in my seventies.)
Anyway, these cookies, which actually are layers of sponge cake, are popular around the holidays, but can be found in Italian bakeries all year long. I guess they’re more of an Italian-American thing, and are sometimes called “rainbow cookies.” Food coloring is added to the cake layers to mimic the Italian flag. (You have to use your imagination a bit, since the flag is red, white and green, while these tri-colors are pink, yellow, and green. But who cares, since they’re out-of-this-world delicious?)
The predominant flavor here is almond, from the almond paste baked right in there. Plus, my son ups the ante by soaking each layer of cake with Amaretto. Oh, yes. Then, apricot preserves coat the bottom two layers, and glossy, semi-sweet chocolate serves as the icing on top. Oh, my, my.
And while it would be perfectly acceptable (and convenient!) to buy the almond paste to use in your tri-colors, my son makes it from scratch, which really gives the cookies a fresh taste. He even blanches the almonds in a saucepan on the stove and peels off the skins. (I don’t have the patience for that, so recommend just buying blanched almonds.) Then, he grinds the nuts, makes a honey simple syrup, processes them together into a paste, cuts in butter…it’s a labor of love, I tell you! I’ve included all the almond paste details in the recipe, in case you’re feeling ambitious.
Just one last note before I go eat more cookies — I mean tackle my to-do list. I’m providing the amounts needed to make 110 cookies, using a large, rimmed baking sheet (18×13) for each cake layer (using three baking sheets total). Since my son makes the tri-colors for special occasions like Christmas or a party, and they freeze really well, it seems prudent for us to go with a large batch. It would take nearly as much work for just 36 cookies. But, if you aren’t looking for an Italian-sized yield, you can just use 1/3 of all the ingredients and divide your cake batter evenly among three 8×8 pans. Va bene?