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How to bake Rainbow Cookies and live to tell the story

Before we dive into this tutorial for how to bake rainbow cookies, I need to ask you, if you’re really prepared to do this. Do you have a friend who can bake or a local bakery you want to support? If you’re like “Mayyyyybe…and why is she trying to dissuade me from baking rainbow cookies?”, don’t say you weren’t warned. This is your last chance to bow out.

Because learning how to bake rainbow cookies is not for the faint of heart.

But when you’re hosting a rainbow themed birthday party, PRIDE party or any rainbow festivities, you know you need to deliver that wow factor and rainbow cookies are just that. They’re the “These are amazing! How did you make them?” cookies, that everyone thinks you’re a master chef.

The answer is through blood, sweat and the loss of your sanity. Seriously.

How to bake Rainbow Cookies

Now. I knew I had to bake the Rainbow Cake for our daughter’s birthday party – that was a given. You can find the Easy Rainbow Cake Cheat Version here. Yes, I have a cheat version because that cake is another “I had no business baking a rainbow cake but tried anyway” story.

Do you notice a theme here? I promise I am decent baker but this party was out to kill me. 

Back to the cookies.

When I saw the Rainbow Slice Cookies at Good Life Eats, that was it. It was come hell or high water, I needed to make these.

I started out with good intentions and all my supplies and then…

The first batch was ruined. Here’s what I did wrong so you do not do this.

I started with a simple sugar cookie recipe (that serves at least 48 – do a recipe calculation for more if you can) and added gel food coloring.


Divided equal amounts of dough into 6 separate bowls.


Add food coloring.


Mix. Use hands in gloves instead of a spoon. Seriously.



Knead with hands.

Regret doing upper body day at the gym that morning.


Dough meet Ziplock sandwich bag.


Put layers in fridge to chill.

This is where it all went to hell. Learn from my mistake. DO NOT DO THIS.


Take the dough out of the fridge and cut the Ziplock bags open.


You’re supposed to place the layers on top of each other, then wrap them in plastic cling wrap and put them in the freezer. This should ideally create a sugar cookie rainbow dough that you can then slice and bake.


I don’t know what on earth didn’t calculate from my brain to my hands operating the rolling pin. I was supposed to roll each square of dough into a roughly 6 x 9 inch rectangle.

This is obviously NOT a 6 x 9 inch rectangle.

9 x 12. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

By this point the sugar cookie layers were thin, flattened and stuck to each other. I couldn’t peel them back without mixing the colors.

Believe me, I so would tried.

For the record, a standard Ziplock sandwich bag is 6.5″ x 5 7/8″

This was the worst time ever to have a brain fart moment of “Why did you even roll the dough?”

I knew I had royally messed up.

It way too thin. It is NOT supposed to look like this. 

I thought, Ok let’s try and salvage this. Maybe I can make rainbow stick cookies.

Into the freezer they went to harden the dough.

I later cut them into slices and attempted to bake.

Batch #1.

Burnt to a crisp in just 8 minutes of baking at 350 degrees.

Batch # 2.

6 minutes in 350 degrees. Better but the colors bled into each other. Not the effect it was supposed to have.

Did I mention they tasted like crap because the recipe I followed (not the original one) was obviously a bad sugar cookie recipe?

Let me tell you, this photo does them way too much justice.

I was so determined at this point to make these cookies.

So I re-did them.

Yes the whole process. Which by the end of it, I was a master dough kneader. And my arms were killing me. KILLING.

What did I do differently this time?

This time, all I did was cut the dough out of the Ziplock sandwich bags and lay them on top of each other. As seen in the photo below. Which I should have done to begin with. Duh.


And I used a different sugar cookie recipe. 

TIP: Whatever sugar cookie recipe you use, make sure it it one that does not spread when baked. 

Wrapped it in plastic cling wrap.

Froze the dough. Say that to yourself again.


Then I cut and sliced the dough when it was practically still rock solid.

This made a HUGE difference in the colors not bleeding into each other. If you attempt to do this in a hot environment, your dough will melt and you lose control over your color layers.

It was very late at night at this point. I know, you think I am crazy. This is how much I love my kids. And I am stubborn.


Here is the thicker rainbow cookie batch, sliced and ready to go into the oven.


This is what they’re supposed to look like.

This was 6 minutes at 350 degrees. My oven is obviously wacko and very old, so your temp may vary. Just monitor them.

Better yet, try this without food coloring in your favorite sugar cookie recipe first. That way, you can judge the time where the edges start to get burnt. You do not want that. You want those cookies out of there before any browning takes place.

Repeat with entire batch. Wind up with a bazillion rainbow slice cookies.

Moral of the story is, you too can bake if you set your mind to it. And not sleep.

And for the love of all that is good and your sanity, don’t roll out your Ziplock dough!!

Here they were at the Rainbow Birthday Party!

I am never making these again. The End.

But if you decide to try and have any questions, ask away in the comments! This post was written back in 2012 and I have updated it over the years because so many people get a kick out of the story. At the very least, I am happy that I could make you have a good laugh! 

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  • Reply
    August 29, 2012 at 9:21 am

    I love these! And I may actually be brave enough to try them with all your extra warnings and tips! Thank you! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

      The hardest part I swear was kneading in the food colouring. It’s a great arm work out mind you.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

    wow, such a difference from the first batch! kudos to you for stickin’ with it. they turned out great! but, seriously, 5 kids max next year 😉

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

      You read my mind. That’s exactly what I told my daughter after the party was over.

  • Reply
    Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
    August 29, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I take it back… mom of the century. Aren’t you glad it’s over?
    The end product really does look fantastic.

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Oh my God. You don’t need cardio. You just need to bake these cookies. They’re the equivalent of 2 upper body arm days at the gym or a yoga class. How do professional bakers do this? Oh wait they probably are smart enough to use a mixer.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Try try again! Rainbows don’t happen without a little “thunder and lightning”! (ha ha)
    They turned out almost too pretty to eat. Oh come on… you know I’d eat that whole sheet!!! The kids would be fighting me for them. I’d be a horrible party-planning mom. (I’d eat everything).
    “S W E E T”, Alex.

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Thunder and Lighting. Thank you, I just sneezed Sprite out of nose laughing!

  • Reply
    Growing Up in the Garden
    August 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Those are truly beautiful cookies. That is two do-overs! Are you keeping all these rainbow delights a secret from your daughter until party time?

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 30, 2012 at 8:24 am

      I did! She was away at my parents for a week so she got the full surprise decorations and all. I’ll show that in the party finale post once all these craft/DIY posts are done. It was like Christmas morning!

  • Reply
    August 30, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Alex… you are my hero! Those cookies are amazing. You are totally rocking this birthday and I love hearing all the crazy behind the scenes hiccups because my stuff NEVER turns out as effortlessly as everyone makes it out to.

    • Reply
      Alex @ northofseven
      August 30, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Every time I read a recipe or a DIY craft that starts off with “These are so easy to make…” I know I am in for hell. They are never as easy as everyone thinks. I try to write out all the mistakes and steps because I am the type of person that really needs to see everything to really understand how they’re made. Especially with baking because what one pro baker may think is an obvious step, a novice baker will go “Why didn’t you tell me I had to do that too?!”

  • Reply
    August 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Which sugar cookie recipe did you use second time around? 🙂

    • Reply
      August 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      You’re going to hate my answer. I can’t remember. I know it was off of allrecipes .com but I couldn’t tell you which one as I rarely bake sugar cookies. My best advice is to look for one especially made for cookie cutter shapes. Thank God for food bloggers who can help you better than I can right now.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Thanks for letting me know – it’s fair enough not to remember, just figured I’d ask before embarking on this crazy adventure to 4yo rainbowdom! 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    1. Those cookies are absolutely beautiful. 🙂

    2. I wouldn’t have stressed about the colours running together, because that’s what real rainbows look like–the colours aren’t clearly delineated; they blur into each other a little.

    3. Actually, I wouldn’t have attempted this at all–I probably would have just thrown some rainbow sprinkles, or pieces of rainbow fruit rolls, on regular cookies, and called it good. So, you’re much more ambitious than I am.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2015 at 3:12 am

    What awesome looking cookies!! I’m definitely going to try these for my son’s birthday party. How long do you leave them in the fridge when they’re in the ziplock bags?

    • Reply
      December 15, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Hello! I honestly can’t remember how long I left the cookies in as this was 3 years ago. It was at least an hour that’s for sure. Just make sure they are fairly solid if anything. Hope that helps some!

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