Rainbows are a source of joy all the world over. Folklore, art and songs have been inspired by them, from Ireland to Japan and Germany to the Hawaiian islands and Hollywood. However, we in the Italian-American cradle that is the New York and New Jersey area may have claim to perhaps the best creation to share the name of this natural phenomenon: the rainbow cookie.
It may not have seven colors, but every one of its seven layers can bring as much happiness to one’s day as a rainstorm’s crown. In it, striations of toasted cream, emerald green and rose cake are pressed to form a tight crumb of dense almond cake, whose marzipan flavors are so concentrated as to send a rush of sugary ecstasy straight to the brain. They’re bound together with jelly, typically and dominantly vivacious seedless raspberry, and in its best execution, the gentle brightness of apricot. A frosting of smooth chocolate adds to the treat’s overall sweetness while also tempering it with its inherent earthiness.
To many of us native Long Islanders, this confection is a matter of course, beloved but so commonplace that many don’t even know that it doesn’t really exist outside of our region. We grew up with it; it’s ubiquitous here and often a benchmark by which a bakery is judged. We’re spoiled here, blissfully ignorant of the fact that it’s a novelty nearly everywhere else not only in the States, but in Italy as well—the flag for which the primary colors are modeled after, yet where no original counterpart even exists. In fact, they’re sometimes even called Italian flag cookies, while monikers of seven-layer and Napoleon cookies also exist, along with Venetian—a nod toward its more pastry-like nature.
They’re classic for us, an important signature of Long Island food traditions. But the beauty in tradition is that when one is mastered, it begins to evolve. Here are what some of the most creative minds from Nassau to Suffolk have done to reinvent the classic rainbow cookie into something more awe-inspiring than its natural namesake.
Sweetie Pie’s on Main
181 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor 11724
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Thanks, @thelifoodie, for turning me on to this adorable #coffeeshop, and to @sweetiepiescsh for saving me the trip to #astoria to try the famous RAINBOW COOKIE CRUMB CAKE by @queenscomfort @donutdivany @comfortlandny! It's huge and beautiful and everything I had hoped it would be. 😍 ($6.79 with tax) P.S. Stoked that they also carry @hometownbakeshop goods, too. Next time! #gourmet #cheatdayeats #northshore #longisland #supportlocalbusiness #supportsmallbusiness #mainstreet #bakedgoods #dessertporn #dessert #cake #crumbcake #rainbowcookie #mashup
For just over nine years now, owner Judy Hogan has been carefully curating a collection of locally made, instantly Instagrammable treats practically designed for moments of quiet bliss. A master work of “source”ery, this charming shop makes nothing in-house (besides coffee drinks made-to-order from Georgio’s Coffee Roasters’ beans), and instead, relies on daily deliveries from the Island’s most talented small-batch artisans. For instance, Youngs Farm in Old Brookville for pies, the now-famous Frenagels from Fiorello Dolce and birthday cake scones and bacon, egg and cheese bombs by Hometown Bake Shop.
However, one of the most obsession-worthy goodies to be had is the seasonally-hued rainbow cookie crumb cake ($6.50) by Long Island native Montana D’Alessio Barbieri of famed Queens Comfort and Comfortland in Astoria. Imagine a coffee cake texture with just a wee bit more bite, topped with chocolate that’s buried beneath a crunchy pile of buttery crumbs dusted in confectioner’s sugar and a smattering of sprinkles. The presence of both raspberry and apricot jellies and unmistakable almond flavor of the cake will leave you unsure if it’s the top or the bottom of the hefty, fist-sized slice that’s your favorite, but we can say with certainty that the charming terrace with calm water views is the best place to enjoy it.
547 Main Street, Islip 11751
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The weekend is here! Grab a rainbow cupcake and enjoy it, with raspberry filling, chocolate mousse and crunchy chocolate on top! It’s the perfect treat for any occasion!! 🌈🍪🧁🌈🍪🧁 _______________________________________________________ #rainbowcake #rainbow #weekend #tgif #cookies #cake #chocolate #vanilla #bakery #fresh #sweets #desserts #sugar #freshbaked #baking #delicious #sweetoftheday #eeeeeats #food #lovefood #tasty #sogood #longisland #ny #islip
This dollhouse of a boutique bakery is straight out of a story book; its pastel hues, Victorian touches, old world pastries, and stunning cakes adorned in swirls are transportive. But there’s substance underneath the beauty here, as owner Cindy Simon prides herself on using only the finest, unaltered ingredients in her goods. She eschews cost-cutting additives like lard and oil substitutes, instead using strictly pure butter and cream and—most importantly for this list—real almond paste and preserves made and cooked down right on the premises.
This attention to detail is true to every rendition of rainbow cookie sold here, of which there are enough to qualify the bakery as a rainbow cookie command center. The version that started it all is the cupcake ($4.50), whose layers swirl together like a vivid watercolor as it bakes. It’s then filled with housemade seeded raspberry jam, topped with a fluffy dollop of chocolate buttercream, and neatly encased in a hard shell of dark chocolate with a thin slice of its inspiration affixed like a bow. From this came the baked doughnuts ($3.50); a bar whose sides are sealed with chocolate rather than top-frosted ($4.50); and a cake that features oversized rainbow layers sandwiched between traditional white and chocolate cake ($28). However, nothing beats a nicely boxed cupcake as a gift—put two or more in one box and the packaging is complimentary.
45 Atlantic Avenue, Lynbrook 11563
Doughnuts are in right now, and leading the charge are Chris and Jackie Stiansen, who gained a following for their hot, topped-to-order cake doughnuts that turned into a cult legion when they developed their rainbow cookie doughnuts ($3.75). The signature rainbow look is created by frying three batches of almond-flavored dough in each of the colors, making each one essentially a mega one-and-a-half-sized doughnut. The infusion of the oil keeps it true to cake doughnut characteristics, but because each layer is then sliced, stacked and held together by generous slathers of raspberry jelly, then drizzled with molten chocolate and topped with a rainbow cookie, the flavors are unmistakable.
Made only every other Sunday due to the labor-intensive process, they’re still a sell-out risk even when made in batches of 600. You can reserve as few as two for pick-up on those production days, which are listed in a pop-up on their website—or, as many as you like, provided you call ahead. Custom batches for any other day can be whipped up for orders of a dozen or more.
Ice Cream Cottage
1590 Montauk Highway, Mastic 11950
Many of us are familiar with and adore the rainbow cookie Italian ice from island-wide favorite Ralph’s—but for those for whom only ice cream will do, there’s this year-round shop slinging homemade ice cream in your favorite flavor. This award-winning maker of preservative-free super premium ice cream has a seemingly endless list of seasonal specials, but fortunately, their rainbow cookie ice cream ($3 for two scoops) is a permanent fixture.
According to manager Paige Phelan, the base is their signature house vanilla, made festive with rainbow sprinkles and rainbow-ier with chopped up whole rainbow cookies sourced from local wholesaler Cookies United. Essentially, for those who can’t choose between Funfetti and rainbow cookie anything, this is a cream come true. Even better is that this cake/cookie mashup is available as an ice cream cake. With 24-hour notice, they’ll whip up a two-layer round cake separated by crunchies and topped with vanilla whipped icing for as little as $27.85.
Baked by the Ocean
919 West Beech Street, Long Beach 11561
Irrepressibly sassy Catherine Schimenti’s quirky LBC bakery may be relatively new to the scene, having opened less than a year ago in July 2018—but the waves it’s been making have been bigger than the ones Long Island surfers chase. She’s been slinging boldly unconventionally colored rainbow cookies and hip-hop-inspired goods in her California-cool bakery since day one, but only this April have the two been combined into one “Biggie” treat: the seven-inch Team Supreme rainbow cookie-studded chocolate chip cookie ($14).
Inspired by one of her customers and named by her Instagram followers, this bakery knows what the people want and gladly deliver it—in limited supply. They’re made every day by this Johnson & Wales-trained pastry chef, but they’re only one of the plethora of Insta-worthy creations in a display case filled with creativity, personality and visually stunning technique.
893 N Broadway, North Massapequa 11758
Okay, so you thought we reached the pinnacle of bagel insanity with the Unicorn Bagel, which is honestly pretty but also kind of pointless. Enter the Rainbow Cookie Crazy Bagel ($7.99), which nails the aesthetic and purpose portions of the challenge. Part of their collection of Crazy Bagels, the result of staff collaborations, this “secret menu” item can actually be ordered even when not featured.
Essentially, it’s their firm, toothsome plain bagel filled generously with chocolate cream cheese. Bucking tradition, it’s grape jelly that adds the fruit flavor, but chunks of their house-made rainbow cookies bring it back to tradition.
La Roma Bakery
1611 Smithtown Avenue, Bohemia 11716
If there are two desserts we Long Islanders do extremely well, it’s New York cheesecake and rainbow cookies. Here, we have both: a cake base that is essentially a giant round rainbow cookie, with a two-thirds proportion of light, cream cheese cake baked and poured over it. A shiny chocolate ganache, draped over like a smooth satin blanket, makes for a layer your knife will just itch to cut. With such richness, the delicacy of apricot is sure to be overshadowed, so a double whammy of the raspberry layers in the rainbow cookie part makes obvious sense.
This rainbow cookie cheesecake ($24 in-store) is a recent addition to a nearly 60-year-old family tradition, as is the pastry shop itself. Owner Guerino Zambrano opened this location just this past October, in 2018, taking up the mantle his immigrant father put down when he sunset his Canarsie, Brooklyn bakery. Now, with his brother, the Zambranos are back at it, innovating staid recipes with renditions like this rainbow cookie version and Linzer tart cheesecakes, and offering conveniences like nationwide and regional shipping.
The Rolling Pin
1387 NY-25A, Setauket 11733
184 W. Main Street, Bay Shore 11706
The flavors are of tantamount importance, but one of the most distinctive traits of rainbow cookies are their density. Yet not everyone is into that heavy feel. Some textural eaters love the light fluff that only a true cake can offer, that ethereal softness that only fine flour can provide. Because, honestly, sometimes, you just need cake. Not a whole cake, but some cake. But when bought by the slice, the sides can dry out, or it may not be enough icing to silence that squeaking sweet tooth. For that, the mini rainbow cookie cake ($5) is just the trick.
Three three-inch-wide layers of tri-colored cake are filled with raspberry jelly; chocolate ganache enrobes the entire thing. Together, it removes the need to choose between cake or cookie. So yes, let [us] eat cake.
556 North Country Road, St. James 11780
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We 🧡 gloomy Monday’s, mostly because it gives an excuse to brighten the day up with a latte as pretty as this one 🌈⚡️ We’ll be here til 5 if you wanna come and sip on an Iced Rainbow Cookie Latte like this one, it’ll turn your Monday around REAL QUICK 😏 ( peep 👀 our new paper straws because #savetheturtles 🐢 ) #soulbrew #soulbrewsj #longislandny #newyorkfoodie #coffeehouse #brunchnyc #coffee #latte #icedcoffee #coffeeart
Who says you can’t drink a cookie? General Manager Tori Toscanini certainly doesn’t—this popular cafe’s rainbow cookie latte ($4.50) is one of Soul Brew’s signature drinks and has been a staple since their doors opened in 2016.
A lot of experimentation with went into this well-thought-out beverage. “The key is our Amaretto syrup,” she says, and the crowd has spoken: mixed with the right proportion of raspberry and dark chocolate enhancements, all from premium makers, it’s a dead ringer and a top seller. But don’t forget to snap a picture before you sip it! The presentation is a Millennial’s dream here, with drizzles of brown, red, and sparkling green sugar on the hot, while the iced version is served in with ribbons of colorful syrup dripping down the inside of a Mason jar mug and topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.
Bay Shore Bean
47 E. Main St, Bay Shore 11706
If the opportunity presents itself for you to simultaneously eat and drink a rainbow cookie, you go ahead and do it. A permanent part of this particular Bean’s location rainbow cookie latte ($3.80) and seasonal/secret menu-status at the Patchogue and Babylon outposts, it’s a perfect way to go over the top on your favorite dessert when you can pair it with a hunkering slice of rainbow cookie cake ($7.49), too. The latter is a fully ganache-enrobed, double-stacked giant rainbow cookie square made by a local bakery. Put together, and you’re doubling the rainbow and doubling the fun.
2100 Merrick Avenue, Merrick 11566
The Long Island dessert mash-up to end all mash-ups can be found at this Italian restaurant, where Cupcake Wars and, most recently, Bake You Rich contestant Andrew Mincher currently holds court as resident baker. By this, we can only mean the Peanut Butter Blast Cake ($10), his entry to the latter show and available only here. As the base is what he calls “peanut butter and jelly rainbow cookie” cake base, where almond gets another co-star with the addition of our favorite legume while raspberry continues to play the supporting role. Cannoli cream separates this from the next layer, which is brownie topped with peanut butter mousse and then chocolate ganache.
However, if this extravaganza is too many flavors for one palate to handle, there’s always the rainbow cookie cheesecake ($8.50) where you’re pretty much guaranteed a hunk of cookie with every bite. Not only is the chocolate-glazed top garnished with crumbled rainbow cookies, but the crust and actual cheesecake is infused with almond paste and studded with from-scratch cookies. So while the layered pastry may be a “blast” of flavor, this other popular favorite packs a punch all its own.
Hummus Mediterranean Grill
1066 Main Street, Holbrook
680 Middle Country Road, Selden 11784
We don’t know how they did it, but we’re not inclined to question magic. As a part of this family-owned, quick-serve restaurant’s Hummus Fit meal-prep service, they’ve somehow come up with a nearly guilt-free way to eat rainbow cookies, thanks to chef-owner Tony Mavruk. Enter macro-friendly rainbow cookie overnight oats ($6), boasting 48 whopping grams of protein, and, according to Hummus Fit Head of Meal Prep Management Liana Mavruk and the nutrition students who analyze their recipes, made with less than 10 grams of sugar and flavored using organic extracts and natural sweeteners. A whole jar is only 495 calories, and believe us when we tell you that it’s the perfect mash-up of chewy, satisfying oatmeal texture and rainbow cookie flavor.
Chunks of rainbow cookies by one of our area’s most-used distributors are suspended between swirls of sugar-free raspberry jam, and Greek yogurt amps up the satiation factor, which may or may not help keep you from licking the jar. Cinnamon bun and birthday cake flavors are also part of their offer, but to be honest, we haven’t had the willpower to stray.
Soft, chewy cookie middles are sometimes the best part of a cookie. Stuff it with a small batch-baked, homemade rainbow cookie and you might be at as high a risk of your head exploding from the cookie inception as the treat itself from so much filling. These towering, palm-sized rainbow cookie-stuffed chocolate chip cookies ($3.50) are a brainchild of Melissa Schack’s online bakery, but now, they’re available at Bagel Master in Syosset regularly, and in other local shops featured in her Instagram Stories. She ships nationwide and offers local delivery for orders of a dozen or more, so if ever they’re sold out, you still won’t have to fear missing out.
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend!☘️This is always one of favorite holidays because it means spring is around the corner + green beer 🍺! It may look more red in the picture 🙈but this custom rainbow cookie crumb cake is repping the Irish flag! 🇮🇪 • • • • • #longislandeats #longislandfood #rainbowcookiecake #rainbowcookies #yummy #dietstartsmonday #cakegoals #crumbcake #longislanddessert #sweets #longislandbusiness #longislandbaking
One slice of rainbow cookie crumb cake ($45) not enough? Not to worry—this home processor picks up where Sweetie Pie’s on Main and Comfortland drop off. From her facilities in Bethpage, Amanda Morales makes custom versions with raspberry filling for crowds as big as 20 – 23 ($80) in colors and shapes of your choice, so that you, in turn, can pick up the party.
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Who wore it better? The bagel or the butter?🌈🍪🤣 •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• •• #laurelsbutter #limited #jellyfish #fitmom #fitnessmotivation #fitfam #workout #shredz #peanutbutter #almondbutter #farmersmarket #healthyfood #cleaneating #weightloss #shredded #gymtime #getfit #handcrafted #eatfresh #fresh #yumm #healthychoices #healthyfood #goals #foodlover #foodblogger #trythis #youllloveit #holidays #christmas
Christmas in July? Here’s hoping, because the rainbow cookie butter ($10) is typically only seasonally available in the winter months of November to January to brighten up those bleak days … unless pop-up productions and promotions like that above come up. Sold through the website, farmer’s markets and select local distributors, this five-ounce butter by Laurel Bickford has a layer for every ounce: almond butter baselines, raspberry preserves, a fudgy dark chocolate pecan, and sprinkles just for fun. Like all proper rainbow cookie goods, this flavor is tremendously labor-intensive to make, so stocking up or special ordering (perfect for wedding favors!) is a must when you see it hit the market. Because when a rainbow is rare and you can bottle it for a rainy day, why the heck not?
Lake Grove, Bethpage, Copiague
Lake Grove, Bethpage, Copiague
You can tell a corporate company’s got roots in the New York/New Jersey area when this flavor starts to appear in their portfolio. Inspired by one of their category managers, this flavor was developed to be a “fun, fruity flavor that had a light and flavorful taste for the beginning of spring,” shared the organization’s PR lead Russ Mensch. It’s subtle, with hints of almond alongside raspberry jam and a chocolatey finish that suggest the cookie, and availability in hot or iced—for now. This seasonal, limited-time flavor is only valid until May 19, but they’ve been known to bring back favorites like their Kris Kringle (vanilla, coconut, sweet cocoa). I say let’s take it up with corporate.