Introduction: Seven Layer Cookies

Picture of Seven Layer Cookies

In our home, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without these pretty little layer cookies.  My grandmother has made them every Christmas since I can remember, and also on special occasions every so often.  I always called them Layer cookies growing up, but they can be called Seven Layer Cookies, Venetian Cookies or Rainbow Cookies.  They have great almond flavor and the dark chocolate adds a really nice contrast to the sweet jam filled cookie layers.  

Step 1: Gather Ingredients and Prep

Picture of Gather Ingredients and Prep

You will Need:

4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
6 drops yellow food coloring
6-oz apricot preserves, heated and strained
6-oz black raspberry preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and pre-heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.

Step 2: Beat Egg Whites

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Beat whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks.  Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks.  Transfer to another bowl and set aside

Step 3: Mix Almond Paste and Sugar

Picture of Mix Almond Paste and Sugar

Switch to paddle attachment for mixer, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes.

Step 4: Add Butter

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Add half the butter and mix well to remove any almond paste lumps.   Add remaining butter, and beat about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

Step 5: Add Egg Yolks

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Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes.

Step 6: Add Dry Ingredients

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Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Step 7: Fold in Egg Whites, First Addition

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Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten.

Step 8: Fold in Egg Whites, Second Addition

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Then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Step 9: Divide Batter for Layers

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Divide batter among 3 bowls; I like to use a scale for this to make sure the layers are nice and even.  

Step 10: Color Layers

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Stir red food coloring into one, green food coloring into another, and yellow into the remaining bowl.

Step 11: Prepare Layers for Baking and Bake

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Chill green batter, covered.  Spread red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook a little.)

Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.  Clean pan, then line with wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake yellow layer in prepared pan until just set.  As yellow layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature.  Transfer yellow layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.  It is important that you do not stack the layers as they are cooling, or when cooled.  The layers are very tacky because of the almond paste, so they will stick.

Step 12: Layer and Fill Cookies

Picture of Layer and Fill Cookies

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with black raspberry preserves.  Invert yellow on top of green layer, discarding paper.  Spread with apricot preserves. Invert red layer on top of yellow layer and discard wax paper.

Step 13: Cover Cookies; Weight Down; Chill

Picture of Cover Cookies; Weight Down; Chill

Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan; I also like to set a heavy pan on top of the baking sheet or a few cookbooks.  Chill at least 8 hours.

Step 14: Remove Weights, Bring to Room Temperature

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Remove weight and plastic wrap.  Bring layers to room temperature.

Step 15: Chop Chocolate

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Chop Chocolate into small pieces, set aside until ready to melt.  

Step 16: Melt Chocolate and Cover Top of Cookies

Picture of Melt Chocolate and Cover Top of Cookies

Melt half of chocolate in the microwave safe bowl on defrost (low and slow) checking every so often until melted; all microwaves are different, so I won’t give time estimates, just keep an eye on it.  Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake.   Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes.  

Step 17: Melt Chocolate, Cover Bottom of Cookies

Picture of Melt Chocolate, Cover Bottom of Cookies

Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper.  Melt remaining chocolate and spread over cake.  If you feel more comfortable, or you don’t have a microwave, you can always melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.

Step 18: Slice Cookies

Picture of Slice Cookies

After 30 minutes trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.  I typically make 1″ squares, since that’s how my grandma does them, but if you like rectangles, you can cut them differently.  When cutting, I find that it is easy to cut the cookies right after the 30 minutes is up, just when the chocolate is set, if you rest them too long the chocolate starts to crack.  It’s also helpful to clean the knife blade with a warm damp rag every few passes to remove any crumbs that stick to the blade, so the cuts come out nice and even.

Step 19: Store Finished Cookies

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Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

Seven Layer Cookies
Adapted, slightly, from Gourmet, December 2005
Makes about 5 dozen cookies
active time: 1 1/2 hr; total time: 11 hr

Visit for recipe discussion.  


Sarah LeslieE made it! (author)2015-11-15

These are my favorite kind of cookies from my childhood, and you cannot buy them where I live. The recipe was perfect!

crizzo2 (author)2014-03-26

My entire family loved this
Next time I will
Try this with milk chocolate
And white I am sure it will be just as great !
Loved this recipe
Thank you !
I always wAnted to try this !
Ty for showing me how !
Dark chocolate is a hit!!!!
Made this yesterday
Only 3 pieces left
Out of 5 dozen



Jersey201 (author)2013-07-24

Great recipe! I made these last week, it took a lot of time but was well worth it in the end.

WUVIE (author)2012-12-17

It has been almost a year since I last drooled over these works of art! I'm back, this time bearing five stars that I forgot to give you last time I was here. :-)

WUVIE (author)2012-01-14

Beautiful, and very well presented! Love it, love it, love it!

supersoftdrink (author)2012-01-07

I love these cookies, and your photos are lovely! I've found that you can actually skip separating the eggs and whipping the whites separately; I've tried both ways more than once, and leaving the eggs whole (using the typical creaming method for other kinds of cookies) incorporates plenty of air and saves a lot of hassle. :)

Thanks for the tip!

sitearm (author)2012-01-08

@Heather Homemade; Hi! Sent your recipe to my (cooking) sister-in-law and daughter AND tweeted it. Cool! : ) Site

Heather Homemade (author)sitearm2012-01-08

Thanks so much for sharing! Glad you enjoyed the recipe and my site!

alexp267 (author)2012-01-08

My dad and uncle always make these cookies for Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's always been a tradition of my family to have these for the holidays. We have them because of the colors (Red white and green for the Italian flag) They're good!

Piacenza (author)2012-01-08

I love these!! My grandparents used to bring a box of cookies from the Italian bakery in Brooklyn when they came out to see us and these were my favorite.

I can't wait to try them - thanks for making this instructable!

locojmo33 (author)2012-01-07

Awesome I got some of these as a Christmas present from a friend and they were amazing!

HollyMann (author)2012-01-07

They look amazing! I will make these sometime - thank you!

ehudwill (author)2012-01-07

These sound good and they are visually appealing. Great work.

canida (author)2012-01-06

Wow, these look amazing! And you take beautiful pictures. I'll have to try this.

furrysalamander (author)2012-01-05

you should make some and send them to me.

mikeasaurus (author)2012-01-05

mmm 7 layers of delicious!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-01-05

This is such a beautiful, delicious cookie that I must try!

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