Black and White Cookies

published Feb 17, 2022
Black and White Cookies Recipe

Turn this classic into a luscious homemade treat.

Makes14 cookies

Prep30 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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black and white cookies on a wire cooling rack
Credit: Laura Rege

These iconic giant black and white cookies are for the New Yorker in all of us. They’re a staple at bakeries, delis, and more, in the big city and beyond. These cake-like cookies are frosted with half vanilla and half chocolate frosting, for a treat that delivers the best of both worlds.

What Do Black and White Cookies Taste Like?

Black and white cookies are actually more like drop cakes than cookies, with a hint of lemon or vanilla flavor in their crumb, making them akin to soft and tender lemon-vanilla cakes.

Black and White Cookies’ Origin

Whether you believe these cookies originated in a bakery in New York City or in Ithaca, New York (there are tales for both), there is no doubt that these cookies first popped up in the great state of New York in the early 20th century. With German and Dutch American roots, these cookies have historically been more similar to cakes than actual cookies and the cake flavor varies with some leaning more towards vanilla notes and others including lemon extract as well. The frosting isn’t always the same, either — beyond being half vanilla and half chocolate, some cookies are frosted with fondant and the others, like our recipe, with icing.

Tips for Frosting Black and White Cookies

  • Start with perfecting the icing consistency. It should be thick enough so it doesn’t run off the sides of the cookies, but at the same time just thin enough that it smooths itself out as it sets on the cookie. Adjust with a few drops of milk or tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar, as necessary.
  • To ice the cookies, flip each cookie so the flat side, which was on the pan, is facing upwards. Then hold the cookie in the palm of your hand and start with the white icing. Use a spoon to put about a tablespoon of the white icing on half of the cookie, then spread it halfway to the center and up to the edges with an offset spatula or the back of the spoon. If the frosting drips a bit, just wipe it up. If it drips too much, whisk more confectioners’ sugar into the frosting, then try again. Set the cookies back on the rack and repeat with remaining cookies until every cookie is 50% frosted with white icing
  • Then whisk the cocoa powder into the remaining white frosting and check to see if the consistency is right. If necessary, add milk a few drops at a time. Hold the half-frosted cookie in the palm of your hand again and repeat with the chocolate frosting on the remaining half of the cookie. Return the cookies to the wire rack and let the icing set for about an hour.

Some Tips for Black and White Cookie Success

  • For the best shape, use a 2-ounce (1/4-cup) capacity level cookie scoop of the batter (or ice cream scoop with the release function) to form each cookie. 
  • Space the cookies generously on the baking sheets. Black and white cookies are supposed to be big and they will spread as they bake, so make sure to leave enough room, about 3 inches between each scoop. 
  • Use Dutch process or black cocoa rather than natural cocoa powder to achieve the dark, black-colored icing.
Credit: Laura Rege

Black and White Cookies Recipe

Turn this classic into a luscious homemade treat.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Makes 14 cookies

Nutritional Info


  • 16 tablespoons

    (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 5 tablespoons

    whole milk, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 3/4 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    lemon extract (optional)

  • 1/4 cup

    sour cream

  • 3 cups

    powdered sugar, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    Dutch process or black cocoa powder


  1. Cut 10 tablespoons of the unsalted butter into 10 pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 2 large eggs on the counter. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the whole milk. Let the butter, eggs, and milk sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, about 30 minutes.

  2. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets (or as many as you have) with parchment paper.

  3. Place 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl, and whisk until combined.

  4. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract if using, and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture, room-temperature whole milk, and 1/4 cup sour cream, and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop or 1/4-cup measuring cup, portion the dough onto the baking sheets about 3 inches apart, 4 to 5 per baking sheet.

  5. Place the first two baking sheets in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until light golden-brown on the bottom, about 7 minutes more. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack, placing them upside-down. Let cool completely, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bake the remaining cookies.

  6. Place the remaining 6 tablespoons unsalted butter and remaining 3 tablespoons whole milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 3 cups powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

  7. Using a spoon and small offset spatula to frost one half of the flat side of each cookie with the white icing (1 tablespoon per cookie): Spoon the icing onto the cookie and use the offset spatula to spread it. Whisk more milk into the icing a teaspoon at a time if the icing becomes too thick, or whisk in more powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time if it becomes too thin. Return the cookies to the rack.

  8. Add 2 tablespoons Dutch processed or black cocoa powder into the remaining icing. If the icing is too thick, whisk in more milk a teaspoon at a time as needed. Frost the other half of each cookie with the black icing. Return the cookies to the rack and let sit until the icing sets, 1 to 2 hours.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or individually wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 5 days.