Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

I don’t know if you guys remember, but about a year ago, Nate’s family friend Henny passed away unexpectedly. It’s been weird trying to come to terms with the fact that we won’t ever see him again. We didn’t see him on a regular basis, so it didn’t sink in right away. He used to invite us to his Brooklyn apartment for delicious home-cooked meals every few months so when we hadn’t been there in a while, it hit us that we’d never go there again.

Aside from Henny’s dinner parties, the one tradition we shared was including him in Nate’s mom’s Christmas dinner. I’m not sure when this started as it was before I entered the picture, but he always played a part at Christmas. Henny was Jewish so he didn’t have his own Christmas to celebrate and since Nate’s Christmas is just his immediate family, another guest was always welcome. 

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

Henny was in charge of cooking the main course, beef and he also brought dessert. This usually consisted of some sort of chocolate cake and his famous rainbow cookies! He used to only make these rainbow cookies at Christmas and we always looked forward to them. He always made enough for us to take leftovers home with us since Nate loves them, and they’re one of my favorites too.

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

When Christmas was approaching this past year we already knew it was going to be different since Henny wouldn’t be there. Rather than trying to recreate the past and have a crucial part absent, we decided to revamp it. Since none of us actually liked eating beef (we never told Henny this), we decided to go with a vegetarian menu with plenty of sides. Dessert was a Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe coming soon). But the one tradition we couldn’t omit was Henny’s Rainbow Cookies- it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

We emailed Henny’s girlfriend and after some searching through his old recipe collection, she sent us the recipe she thought was the one he used. It was a recipe from a 1999 edition of Gourmet magazine and I followed it to a T. The cookies came out exactly like Henny’s and I know he would be proud. I guess he really was there with us this year in spirit :)

Rainbow Cookies ~ ElephantEats.com

 Since I didn’t change a thing, you can find the recipe online here. I just have a few helpful notes:

  1. Don’t worry about having the right size pans. These cookies don’t spread at all so you can just line with parchment and draw on the parchment so you know where to spread the batter to.
  2. Use a small offset spatula to spread. It will be really hard to spread it since it’s so thin but just do the best you can. 
  3. Wait to trim the cookies until after you’ve assembled the layers with the jam and they’ve set in the refrigerator. I didn’t do this and the layers shifted so I ended up having to trim then twice. Not a big deal but just figured I’d mention it.


  1. so sorry to hear about your friend’s passing-a very good idea and very creative too.

  2. Such a lovely post. Food – and so many other traditions – are such a wonderful way to remember loved ones. Amazing how memories can all come flooding back in the best of ways…

  3. Food does so much for our hearts sometimes. LOVE these cookies and your post.

  4. Aww it’s so sweet of you to remember your friend through food! I’m sure he was smiling down on you. And your rainbow cookies look beautiful!! They are seriously my favorites.

  5. Amy, it’s so sad about your family friend.
    It’s good of you to keep him a part of your holiday tradition and to remember him with this delicious recipe. I’m sure he was a great person.

  6. I’m so happy you were able to honor Henny’s memory and what better way than through delicious food?

  7. That is so sad to hear of your family friend, but how it is that food keeps us close to them. That’s how I stay close to my mom’s memories. This is a labor intensive cookie for sure – definitely one made with love and patience!! Looks absolutely perfect!

    • Thanks, Linda :) I’m glad you have so many family recipes that’s it’s easy to stay close to your mom’s memories. While these were labor intensive, they actually weren’t that bad. The time can easily be split up while you’re doing other things.

  8. I am so sorry to hear about your friend- what a great way to remember him!

  9. We too had a family friend who would always spend Christmas with us. It has been a few years since he passed, and since I’ve also been all grown up and moved away (sad face) it’s been sort of a double whammy for Christmases being forever changed.

    Food is so great for preserving memories. These are lovely cookies, I’ll have to give them a spin.

  10. Sorry to hear about your family friend Amy, it’s so nice that you were able to honor his memory with this great recipe – the cookies are so pretty.

  11. Aw, I’m sorry to hear that, Emma. It’s definitely ok to be forced to change your traditions sometimes, because then you can make new memories :)

  12. im so sorry for the loss..this is such a sweet move on your part.

  13. consuelohoneyandfigs

    Sorry to hear about your friend. He seemed a nice person, and I’m sure he’d be super proud of these cookies. They look delicious and super pretty! Hugs! x

  14. What a great way to remember Henry. They look like really yummy cookies!

  15. These remind me of when I used to go to the pastry store with my dad and he would let us have only ONE THING… Mmmm soo good! :)

    • Aw, love that memory! My mom used to do the same with us at this italian bakery and i got to pick out a cookie :) Thanks, GiGi. So glad you stopped by!

  16. What a nice way to remember your friend by carrying on his tradition of the rainbow cookies for Christmas.

  17. Amy…I’m so sorry to hear about Henny… It’s wonderful that you have kept his memory alive with the tradition of the rainbow cookies, while recreating your new traditions. I’m sure that Henny would be so pleased… The cookies look so delicious…such pretty colors! Thanks so much for sharing.. <3

  18. What a great way to remember Henry. These cookies are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your loss and your tradition. Love and hugs!

  19. The best kinds of foods are the ones that are tied to the memory of a loved one, even if it’s bittersweet. What a lovely tribute for your friend.

  20. I’ll echo movita’s sentiment here; food is a wonderful – and often very healing – way to honor someone’s memory. I always think of it as an enhanced way to celebrate someone who has passed: not only are you thinking of them, but you’re remembering them through the smells and tastes you associate with them, which is very comforting, i think. Certainly to if you’re going through the act of making food for this purpose, you get that time (and i know these take some time to make) to reflect on that person, which is nice as well. lovely post, Amy. I remember when this happened and how sad you and Nate were, and I hope you both were able to find some comfort in remembering him.

  21. Sorry to hear about your friend – it’s always difficult, and it is so hard to come to terms when death happens so suddenly and unexpectedly.

    {Teffy’s Perks} X

  22. These look so pretty!! So happy that they brought back sweet memories! I hope that you have a great weekend :)

  23. Ahh, food traditions are a beautiful way of keeping loved ones’ memories alive. A lovely and thoughtful post, Amy—and pretty cookies to boot!

  24. Sorry about the loss of your friend. At least you have something wonderful to remind you of him. I’ve seen cookies like these before, but I’ve never tasted them. They look like they turned out wonderfully!

    • Thank you, Christin. It’s been almost a year now I think…this was just the first major even he wasn’t at. If you’ve never had these types of cookies, you MUST try them. You have to like almond flavor tho!

  25. What a lovely new tradition to celebrate your friend’s life and how much he meant to you. I want to try Henny’s signature Christmas cookies.

  26. Such a sweet way to remember a friend, lovely job girl.

  27. What a sad time for your all as you gather together and Henny isn’t with you but how awesome that you honoured his memory by recreating his signature dish. This slice looks incredible and I love the pretty layers and colours xx

  28. I often make old recipes people I love (who have passed on) used to make. It’s SUCH a nice way to remember someone. Oh and having cookies doesn’t hurt either. I’ve always wanted to make these types of cookies….. they look SO good.

  29. These are so pretty, and what a great way to honor a memory. I love when recipes have history attached to them.

    • Thanks, Nicole. Oh btw, on a completely unrelated note, I can’t comment on any of your blog posts! :( When I go, there’s no comment form at all. I don’t know if it’s my computer or something….

  30. the cookie turned out so well! it’s nice to have recipes that remind us of others.

  31. What a beautiful post, and a lovely tribute to your friend. So nice that his memory could live on in this tradition! I’ve never tried rainbow cookies but have always wanted to–thanks for the recipe and the tips.

  32. Pingback: A Wintry Gingerbread Cake |

  33. I’m so sorry for your loss. Food does create memories of loved ones, in the most unique way.

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