Irish Rainbow Cookies for St. Patrick's Day

This is the cookie I cannot resist.

We all have something like this. Maybe for you it's cupcakes. You go crazy for cupcakes. You'll stand in line for a tiny cake with a pretty swirl and a sprinkle of something. You daydream. You doodle. This sentence is already making you crave them.

Or frozen yogurt. You love it. You think about it and immediately HAVE. TO. HAVE. IT. You leave your desk at work in the middle of the day to walk to the shop around the corner for a cool, frosty scoop. Actually, you're getting up right now, aren't you?

Girl Scout Cookies are big, I know. I don't like them. I will never understand them. But I know that they are pretty major. People buy them by the lot and stockpile them in the freezer to enjoy during the off-season.

I don't get the cookies, but I understand the desire.

(BTW, did you ever hear this amazing story about Ryan Gosling and Girl Scout Cookies? That goodness!)

My thing? My weakness? Italian Rainbow Cookies. (Some call them Venetian cookies; some call them layer cookies. You know what I mean.)

I've been obsessed with these since I was a child growing up in New Jersey, climbing up onto a chair to fish them out of the Italian bakery assorted cookie tray. I'd grab as many as I could, then run off to enjoy them in peace.

Back in 2008, I actually started a Rainbow Cookie business, selling dozens upon dozens of my signature Rainbow Cookies in a number of different flavors and colors, as well as my Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake -- a full cake-sized version of the cookie that I created to satisfy my own childhood fantasies.

It was a hit. The people loved my rainbow cookies. The orders rolled in.

"BEST RAINBOW COOKIES EVER!" they still say. I occasionally would try other bakery's cookies and think to myself, "nope...nowhere near as good as mine!" was exhausting. Juggling a full-time job and a full-time baking business meant that I was getting no sleep and that my fingers were permanently dyed red and green like some kind of weird Christmas elf. One of the boys I dated around that time mentioned that I always smelled a little bit like sugar and almonds.

I soon started to hate rainbow cookies, so I stopped. Life is too short to spend it doing things you don't absolutely love.

I still occasionally, happily, come out of retirement for a few select clients, but other than mas.

That said, for holidays and for my friends? I'm on it. The pleasure is back.

For my St. Patrick's Day party this year, I decided to pull out the shades of green for an Irish twist on the NYC classic. Moist, dense, little almond cake layers sandwiched with apricot jam and topped with a crackling layer of semisweet chocolate.

Crazy bright beauty for your eyes and your mouth.

And despite the fact that I'm meant to be in a bikini on a Mexican beach in less than 48 hours, I confess that I've been slipping into the kitchen at all hours of the night for just one more bite.

Sometimes two.

I just can't help it. They're my thing.

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Irish Rainbow Cookie Recipe (St. Patrick's Day Italian Rainbow Cookie Recipe)
Depending how you cut them, this makes between 20-40 cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
8oz almond paste, grated (this is flexible--you can use between 6-10oz with same results)
1 tablespoon pure almond extract
Zest of one whole lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
green, blue, and yellow liquid food coloring
1 cup apricot preserves
12oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 9" square baking pans with parchment paper. You can also just do one layer at a time if you don't have multiple pans.

Cream butter and sugar in the base of a mixer for 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat for 3 more minutes. Add almond paste, extract, and lemon, and beat for 2-3 more minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt, and mix into the wet ingredients until completely combined. Divide batter into three bowls.

Dye one bowl a bright shade of green by adding about 1 teaspoon of green food coloring.

Dye the second bowl a bright lime green by first dying it bright yellow then slowing mixing in a few drops of blue until you get the desired shade.

Dye the third bowl a pastel shade of green (about 1/2 teaspoon of color) then add a couple drops of blue to get the final shade.

Spread each bowl of batter into one of the prepared pans, then bake for about 9 to 12 minutes, or until edges are a bit golden and middle is set. Transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.

To assemble: lay the darkest shade of green down then top with 1/2 cup of apricot jam. Top with the medium shade, then add the rest of the jam. Top with the lime green layer. Wrap with plastic and cover with a heavy book or pan. Let chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and microwave for 1 minute or until melted, stirring until smooth. Pour over the layered cake and spread evenly. Let chill in the fridge for one hour, or until set. Cut into 1" pieces and serve.

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