Italian rainbow cake has fluffy, moist, layers just and is full of almond flavor. Colorful cake layers are sandwiched with raspberry jam and the cake is topped with a thin sheet of chocolate. It’s a scrumptious and festive dessert that can be served for any special occasion.
You’ll feel like you own a New York Italian bakery once you trying make rainbow cake for the first time! Even though it takes a little time to put together, the actual process is very easy and everyone will go crazy for it.
My two other favorite Italian desserts are homemade cannoli and Cuccidati. Layered jello pie is another easy dessert that has beautiful layers, and you can never go wrong with the classic Neapolitan cake.
- unsalted butter, milk, and eggs – be sure all of your dairy is room temperature to get the smoothest batter.
- almond paste – be sure these are in small pieces so the cake isn’t lumpy.
- white cake mix – any brand will work.
- almond extract – adds an extra punch of almond flavor.
- Food coloring: you’ll need green, yellow, and pink.
- raspberry jam or jelly – avoid using raspberry preserves. This layer needs to be very thin, and you’ll also want to be sure it’s seedless.
- semi-sweet chocolate chips and shortening – for the chocolatey top and bottom.
For a full list of ingredients and their measurements, 📋 please view my printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
For the ultimate sweet treat, serve this layered delight with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- (3) Quarter Sheet Pans (affil)
Substitutions and Variations
- Layer colors – adjust the amount of food coloring used to change up the colors or to create a different shade if desired. You can also skip dying the white layer to reduce coloring or if you like that color combo better.
- Jam – some use apricot jam instead of raspberry.
PREP: Grease 3 quarter sheet baking pans with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 1: Break apart the almond paste into as small pieces as possible or grate it to break it down. In a large bowl, beat the butter and almond paste until well combined.
Step 2: Mix in the cake mix, eggs, milk, and almond extract. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Step 3: Divide the batter into 3 bowls.
Step 4: Add the red food coloring to one, the green food coloring to the next, and yellow to the last bowl.
Pro Tip: For more even baking, rotate the cake pans halfway through baking.
Step 5: Transfer each set of cake batter to the prepared pans. Bake for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Allow the cakes to cool completely.
Step 7: Leave the green layer in the pan and spread a layer of jam on top. Remove the yellow cake layer and stack on top of the jam. Remove the parchment paper. Add another layer of raspberry jam.
Step 8: Stack the red layer on top of the yellow. Wrap the cake layers (including the bottom pan) in plastic wrap. Place one of the empty cake pans on top of the wrapped layers. Sit a skillet or heavy cans on top to weigh it down to compress and chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator or overnight. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, set the weights aside. Lift off the top pan and remove the plastic wrap.
Step 9: Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave with the shortening until melted and smooth.
Step 10: Place a piece of parchment paper on top of a cutting board and turn the cake out so the green layer is on top. Remove parchment paper. Pour half of the melted chocolate on top and spread a thin layer over the green cake. Chill for 15 minutes or until the chocolate has set.
Step 11: Remove from the refrigerator and repeat on top of the red layer. Create swirls or decorations if desired.
Step 12: Use a serrated knife to slice down each side of the cake for straight edges.
SERVE: Cut into bars and serve.
Recipe Tips for Italian Rainbow Cake
- If you are adding the ingredients to the bowl of a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment instead of the whisk.
- Don’t skip cooling the cake. If you try to assemble too soon, they will fall apart.
- Quarter sheet pans work the best for this recipe.
- Some also like to cut the cake into small bars and consider them cookies.
- When the cakes come out of the oven, they will be puffed and uneven. That’s okay, because when we compress them they will flatten out. Stacking and weighting down the cakes will compress them by more than half the size!
This cake is also referenced as Italian rainbow cookie cake, seven layer cookies, or classic Italian rainbow cookies.
Keep leftovers in a cool spot in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Because of the almond extract and almond paste, it has very fluffy almond cake layers but is also fairly sweet from the chocolate coating, and slightly fruity from the layers of jam.
We would not recommend it, as it is a signature ingredient in Italian Rainbow Cake.
If you tried this Italian Rainbow Cake Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the 📝 comments below.
Italian Rainbow Cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 8 oz. almond paste broken into small pieces
- 2 16.25 oz. boxes of white cake mix
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Green yellow, and red/pink food coloring
- ⅔ cup raspberry jam or jelly
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon shortening optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 3 quarter size sheet pans (~9×12) with non-stick baking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and almond paste until smooth (some small bits of almond paste may remain, but try to break them down as much as possible to combine with the butter.)
- Add cake mix, eggs, milk, and almond extract and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until the batter is well combined and fluffy.
- Separate batter into three bowls (about 3 ⅓ cups of batter per bowl).
- Color each bowl of batter with the food coloring to make green batter, yellow batter, and pink batter.
- Transfer each bowl of batter to one sheet pan and spread smooth. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs. (Rotate the pans position in the oven halfway through baking for even baking.)
- Allow cakes to cool completely.
- Next, we will fill, stack, and compress the cakes. Leaving the green layer in its pan, spread an even layer of raspberry jam across the top of the cake.
- Carefully remove the yellow cake layer from its pan and place it on top of the green layer. (Turning it upside down right onto the green layer is probably the easiest.) Be sure you remove the parchment paper from the yellow cake.
- Now spread a layer of jam on top of the stacked yellow layer. Repeat to stack the pink layer on top of the yellow layer.
- Wrap the three layers (and bottom pan) in plastic wrap. Now place one of the empty sheet pans back on top of the wrapped cake. Place a heavy cast iron skillet or several canned goods on top of the pan to weigh it down. We want to compress the layers together. Place the packet in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Remove the cake from the refrigerator and lift off the weights, the top pan, and remove the plastic wrap.
- Place a fresh sheet of parchment paper over a large cutting board and turn the full cake out onto the cutting board so that the green layer is on top. Remove the parchment from the green cake layer.
- In the top of a double boiler (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate chips and shortening together until fully melted and smooth.
- Pour half of the melted chocolate onto the green cake “top” and use a large offset spatula to spread it smoothly to cover the top of the cake.
- Place the cake into the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes until chocolate is set.
- Flip the whole cake over and repeat spreading the remaining melted chocolate over the top of the cake (the pink layer). You can make swirls or decorations in the chocolate if you wish.
- Chill until the top layer of chocolate is set.
- Slice straight down each side to form four straight edges to the cake. Cut into pieces and serve.
- If you are adding the ingredients to the bowl of a standing mixer, use the paddle attachment.
- Don’t skip cooling the cakes. If you try to assemble too soon they will fall apart.
- Quarter sheet pans (affil) work the best for this recipe.
- Some also like to cut the cake into small bars and consider them cookies.
- When the cakes come out of the oven, they will be puffed and uneven. That’s okay, because when we compress them they will flatten out.