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If you know anything about me, you know I take my cookies very seriously. And at the top of the cookie tray pyramid is my all-star, the rainbow cookie. How do I love thee? Let me count the layers.
The rainbow cookie—which also goes by Neapolitan cookie, seven layer cookie, Italian flag cookie, tricolore cookie, and plenty of other drag names—is an invention of Italian American immigrants and, honestly, nothing has ever been more perfect. Soft almond-accented sponge, stacked in neon colors that are a feast for the eyes, with a thin spread of sweet jam, and a coating of chocolate that’s both firm and soft. It’s love at first bite.
The cookies started popping up at the end of the 1800s in Italian-run bakeries and quickly became a popular Christmas tradition, even beyond the Italian community. Jewish immigrants living in the same tenement neighborhoods began asking for a kosher version of the cookie at their own bakeries. In the process, Jewish bakers swapped out the white layer for a yellow layer, moving the cookie away from the Italian flag and into rainbow territory. (The cookies are now a seasonal tradition in the Jewish community, too, with a Hanukkah-themed color swap.)
Like any good Italian kid, I learned that the minute you set foot in an Italian bakery, you order a rainbow cookie. It’s the law. As an adult, I realize I’m so attracted to rainbow cookies because they remind me of something else I take very seriously: cake. The minute I bite into one I’m already looking around for the Willy Wonka button that I can push to blow up this little cookie into a full slice of cake. I just want the joy to last forever. So when it was time to write my cookbook, Let’s Eat, I decided it was time to live my truth.
Rainbow Cookie Loaf Cake, as the name implies, is the best of both worlds. It has vibrant layers made with the signature almond flavor and spongy texture. The loaf sandwiches jam in not one, but two flavors (raspberry and apricot) because I’m indecisive. And it’s all blanketed in a glossy chocolate coat, like a Jersey wife in her new mink. Most important, the loaf cake is a thrilling scale for those of us who can never have enough.
If you’ve tried making rainbow cookies at home, you know just how tedious and time consuming they are. It takes a lot of patience and precision and you’re probably going to be crying on the kitchen floor at some point. (No? Just me?) This loaf cake version skips the tedium of extremely finicky, thin cookie layers in favor of chunky, lovable loaf cake layers.
If you’re not a crazy person who owns three loaf pans like me, the batter can sit while you bake each layer one by one. This, of course, is a perfect do-ahead step—just freeze the layers till you need them. Then it’s an easy process of spreading jam and stacking layers, wrapping her up tight, and weighing the loaf down with a few heavy cans to chill overnight. This helps the layers really stick together, lets the flavors develop, and gives the cake that dense but springy texture we all love. Then it’s just a spread of melted chocolate all over and—the worst part—waiting through one more quick chill to let it all set.
Every time I slide my knife through each perfect layer, I realize all my dreams have come true. What once felt like a chore is now one of my favorite things to make. What used to feel like a few quick bites can now sit in my fridge for slice after slice. This Rainbow Cookie Loaf Cake is equally perfect to serve for dessert, over coffee, or to have around, just to say Oh I’ll just cut off one more little piece, all day. It’s the kind of treat that satisfies my inner child and outer adult all at the same time.