The end of October—and Vegan MoFo—is nigh. To be honest, I’m looking forward to making some simple, vegetable-forward food for a while after cooking so many decadent dinners and desserts for the past few weeks. And eating out and restaurants and events. But it’s still October, so bring on the dinners, desserts, and Halloween candy! To segue into Halloween and a weekend full of sweets and treats, I made vegan Italian Rainbow Cookies for today’s MoFo post!
A Showstopper Dessert
Today’s Vegan MoFo theme is “showstopper dessert”—the fanciest desserts of them all—hence the Italian Rainbow Cookies! Or maybe you know them from one of their many other names: Napoleon Cookies, Seven Layer Cookies, Seven Layer Cake, Tricolor Cookies, or Italian Flag Cookies (because they resemble the Italian flag once cut). These cookies are traditionally made with a whole lot of eggs, so vegan Italian Rainbow Cookies were a bit of a challenge at first.
Vegan Italian Rainbow Cookies
These cookies, or cake, rather, are made from layers of multicolored almond sponge cake with apricot jam between the layers, and a healthy coating of chocolate. Some recipes will even instruct you to coat the underside of the cake in chocolate (making 7 layers), while others leave the bottom bare, including mine. So I guess I cheated and made Six Layer Cookies.
Italian Rainbow Cookies have been on my “to-make” list for years! I even wanted to put them in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, but for one reason or another, it never happened. The recipe requires some specific ingredients most people wouldn’t have hanging around the kitchen at all times: apricot jam, almond paste, and lots and lots of chocolate. It also needs to press for several hours to overnight. Don’t let that scare you off from the recipe—it’s not too complicated once you plan ahead!
While you can easily find almond paste in grocery stores, be aware that many brands contain egg. I opted to make my own vegan almond paste, and included the directions with the cookie recipe. The recipe below makes just enough for the cookies, so double or triple the almond paste recipe in case you’d like to have extra for another recipe.
Get the recipe:
- 3/4 cup blanched almonds
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons aquafaba
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional, for extra flavor)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces (2/3 cup) almond paste
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 cups non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3-3/4 cup apricot jam
- 1 1/2 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- Place the almonds in a food processor and process until they start to release their natural oils and become crumbly and "wet" looking, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients and process until the paste collects into a ball.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8x8-inch baking pans with parchment paper.
- Combine the sugar, extracts, and almond paste in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment. Mix until smooth, then gradually mix in the canola oil.
- Pour the apple cider vinegar in the non-dairy milk and let sit until it curdles, 2-3 minutes. Soy milk will curdle the most, so don't worry if it doesn't visibly curdle if you're using a different milk.
- Gradually pour the milk mixture into the wet ingredients, stirring constantly.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the batter, stirring after each addition, until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Evenly divide the batter into 3 bowls. Dye one of the dough portions green, and another red. Leave the third plain.
- Transfer the doughs into the three prepared pans, and smooth the tops.
- Bake for 17-18 minutes, until springy. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire racks.
- To assemble, spread a thin layer of apricot jam on top of the green layer while still in the pan, then remove the plain layer from its pan and place on top. Spread a layer of apricot jam atop the plain layer, and then top with the red layer.
- Line a cookie sheet or cutting board with parchment paper, then invert the pan of cakes atop the parchment to remove from pan (the bottom of the green layer should be on top).
- Cover the cake with plastic wrap, then top with a cookie sheet and evenly weigh down with heavy items in your fridge (cartons of milk and big leftover containers are good). Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Remove the pan from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Slice the edges off so you have a perfect square.
- Place the cake on a wire rack, and place the parchment-lined cookie sheet underneath the rack.
- Melt the chocolate with the shortening in a double boiler or microwave, until smooth, then pour over the cake, smoothing the top and sides with a spatula. Let set at room temperature.
- Once the chocolate is set, cut the cake into rectangle cookies, an inch or so wide.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Because the recipe “fails” are rarely discussed on food blogs, I wanted to share my first couple of attempts with these vegan Italian Rainbow Cookies. Since these cookies typically contain whipped egg white, I decided to whip aquafaba to stiff peaks and fold that into the dough. To avoid wasting too much almond paste if the cake went awry, I tested it with just one layer. Problem is, I completely forgot to add the flour! Whoops.
I tested the aquafaba-based recipe again, this time making all three layers (and I made sure to remember the flour). Instead of a fluffy sponge cake, I got a thin, sticky, and crunchy mess that turned to mush overnight (see the photo to the left).
After that, I decided to approach this recipe with an actual tried-and-true cake recipe, one I know would hold up during the “smushing” stage. This one doesn’t use whipped aquafaba, but you won’t have to worry about holding your breath and crossing your fingers while waiting for the cakes to finish baking.
Are there any “fancy” desserts you’d like to see veganized?
📌 Pin it for later: