Black and White Cookies

Classic black and white cookies are a mainstay of New York City shops and bakeries. Bursting with vanilla flavor and boasting a super soft texture, these large cake-like cookies are topped with thick vanilla and chocolate icings.

overhead image of black & white cookies

This New York City-style black and white cookie recipe comes from the highly talented, knowledgeable, and influential team over at America’s Test Kitchen. The first time I worked with them was to help promote their Naturally Sweet cookbook a while back. (Remember those chewy chocolate chip cookies with unrefined sugar? Delicious!)

ATK’s latest cookbook – The Perfect Cookie – is dedicated to something we ALL have in common: a deep love for cookies. There’s 250 cookie, brownie, and bar recipes packed inside!


Tell Me About these Black and White Cookies

  • Texture: These are super soft and cakey cookies with a thick, creamy icing that crackles when you bite into it. (Sort of like the glaze on doughnuts.)
  • Flavor: The cookie itself has the flavor of basic vanilla cake, but the icing is the star here. Thick, sugary sweet, and of course vanilla and chocolate flavor. 
  • Ease: Don’t be intimidated! This black and white cookie recipe is a lot easier than I originally thought. You’ll need a few special ingredients like corn syrup and sour cream, but the rest of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry. 
  • Time: There’s only about 25 minutes of prep work, but you’ll need to let the icing set so the icings don’t run together. The great news is that this cookie dough doesn’t require any dough chilling. See all of our no cookie dough chilling recipes including our giant chocolate chip cookies.

stack of black & white cookies

The Perfect Cookie cookbook from America's Test Kitchen

Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t

What I love most about ATK’s The Perfect Cookie cookbook – and what I know you’ll appreciate as well – is the comprehensive breakdown of each recipe. Why it works, how it works, tips, tricks, lessons, troubleshooting, and more. It’s the book for the baking nerd in all of us. Here are a few of the things that really worked in these black and white cookies:

  1. All-purpose flour: America’s Test Kitchen tried to make these cookies with cake flour at first (because they are supposed to be cake-like cookies), but the cake flour made the cookies too crumbly. For best results, use all-purpose flour. 
  2. Salt: After I tried my first test batch, I found the cookies to be cloyingly sweet. Obviously they’re intended to be sugary cookies, but increasing the salt to 1/4 teaspoon helped balance out that sweetness.
  3. Sour cream: We’re confident sour cream is the secret to perfect homemade black & white cookies. This ingredient creates that iconic texture. It also reacts with the baking soda to produce enough lift in the cookies. (You’ll also need baking powder. Remember why some recipes call for both?)

Overview: How to Make Homemade Black and White Cookies

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through it quickly so you understand each step before we get started. 

  1. Whisk dry ingredients together. This includes flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Mix wet ingredients together. Cream butter + sugar together first, then add eggs + vanilla extract.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream. Expect a very thick batter/dough.
  4. Scoop + bake. Using a greased ¼-cup dry measuring cup, scoop 1 mound of dough per cookie onto your baking sheet (no more than 6 cookies per sheet). Bake until the edges are lightly browned. 
  5. Make the vanilla icing. Whisk confectioners’ sugar + 6 Tablespoons of the milk + corn syrup + vanilla extract + salt.
  6. Make the chocolate icing. Transfer 1 cup of the vanilla icing to a separate bowl. Whisk in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of milk + cocoa powder to make it chocolate. 
  7. Frost the cookies. Using the flat side of the cooled cookies, spread vanilla icing on one half, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Then spread chocolate icing on the other half and refrigerate for 1 hour until completely set.

cookie dough in a glass bowl

cookie dough on a baking sheet before baking

cookies with vanilla icing on half and a glass bowl of chocolate icing

black & white cookies

So, which half of the black and white cookie do you prefer – the chocolate or the vanilla? Get your ingredients ready because we’re about to find out!

Homemade Black & White Cookies Video Tutorial

Print
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black & white cookies

Black and White Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours (includes icing setting)
  • Yield: 12 large cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

From the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen, here is a carefully tested and surprisingly easy homemade recipe for New York City style black and white cookies.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), or more as needed, see note*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 Tablespoons (145g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (80g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature*

Icing

  • 5 and 1/2 cups (660g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (measure before sifting)
  • 7 Tablespoons (105ml) whole milk, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (15g) unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. Reduce to low speed and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream. Beat everything on low until combined and no pockets of flour remain. Batter is extremely thick.
  4. Using a greased 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, drop mounds of dough 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets– 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
  5. Make the icings: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 6 Tablespoons milk, the corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt together in a medium bowl. Transfer 1 cup to a separate bowl, add remaining Tablespoon of milk and the cocoa powder. Whisk until combined.
  6. Spread vanilla icing onto half of the cookies– the flat side. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until set so that the icings do not bleed into each other. Spread chocolate icing onto other side and allow the icing to set completely, about 1 hour, before serving.
  7. Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You’ll want to bake this cookie dough right away as the baking powder is initially activated once wet. You can, however, bake the cookies in step 4, cool completely, cover tightly, and store at room temperature for up to 3 days before continuing with step 5. Frosted or unfrosted cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving or frosting.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Mixing BowlsSilpat Baking Mat | Cookie Sheets | Cooling Rack | Cookie Icing Spatula
  3. Room Temperature: This is important. The butter will curdle if some of the batter ingredients are colder than it.
  4. Batter Consistency: If your batter isn’t super thick– thick somewhere between cookie dough and pancake batter- try adding an extra 2-3 Tablespoons of flour before scooping and baking. The cookies spread too much if the batter isn’t thick enough.
  5. Sour Cream: Use full-fat sour cream in this cookie batter. Full-fat plain Greek yogurt works as well, but you’ll get the most tender texture from sour cream.
  6. Cocoa Powder: You can use either natural-style or dutch-process cocoa powder in the icing. It doesn’t matter since there is no leavening occurring. (Here’s the difference between the two.) I prefer dutch-process or a darker cocoa like Hershey’s Special Dark.
  7. Recipe reprinted in partnership with ATK from The Perfect Cookie

300 Comments

  1. Wow! I was waiting for this and they look spectacular!

    1. These are very tasty but they are crispy not soft. Good recipe

  2. Well if you say I have to bake them right now, then I guess I will bake them right now! There’s never been a better excuse for 10pm baking!! And I have never tried black and white cookies so I’m excited to try them 🙂 Been waiting all week to get a chance to bake cookies.

    1. Let me know if you try them!

      1. They are so amazing! I can’t believe I’ve been missing out all my life. Thank you for these!!

  3. Sally i am a cookie monster yet I have never tried this type of cookie before. And I am so happy that you posted this. Btw, are you due any day now? I am keeping you in my thoughts frequently. I know this is a very exciting time for you guys. Pls take your cozy slippers and Chapstick to the hospital when you go in for labor. It’ll help with some comfort.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and the advice! We’re excited. Chapstick and cozy clothes are packed 🙂

  4. MY FAVORITE NYC cookie!! I, too,  am not a cakey cookie gal, but these are definitely the exception!! May I substitute full fat greek yogurt for sour cream??

    1. Hi Amy! See my note 🙂

  5. I have ATK for years. In fact, my apple recipe comes from their lovely apple pie recipe. I also love their product review. I think my dad would love these and they are coming for a visit in November!

  6. I grew up in Upstate NY and we had cookies similar to these, but we called them half-moons and the cookie part was chocolate!

    1. I’d love to try a chocolate version.

      1. I have a recipe for the chocolate cookie version if you want it…mayo instead of eggs/oil make them SO GOOD! It’s super easy, too. Let me know!

      2. Sure! Can you email it to me? No rush 🙂 THANK YOU!
        info(at)sallysbakingaddiction.com

    2. Please send me the chocolate half moons recipe. I also grew up and live in upstate my and I always liked the chocolate cookie part. My email is [email protected] thanks

  7. Bryn Broussard says:

    Would these be similar to the lofthouse cookies in taste/texture?  I’m with you on cake cookies…blech!  But my daughter had a lofthouse at a school bday party and is in love.  

    1. A little bit, yes!

  8. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    I LOVE these cookies!  I’m a huge fan of the cakey texture of black and white cookies.  Can’t wait to try them!

  9. Woohoo! Black and white cookies are one of my favorite things to make! They’re such a classic dessert in NY and people are always excited to eat them, and really impressed they’re homemade! The recipe I have (from Brown Eyed Baker) is pretty different from this one so I’m excited to give ATK’s/yours a try. The thing I noticed immediately from your pictures is that your vanilla icing seems so much more WHITE than mine. I took out my recipe to compare and it must be because you use milk and I use water. Guess I’ll be using milk from now on!! Also looks like I better get my hands on that book. Between yours and ATK’s I’ll never have to make a recipe twice for the rest of my life ! 

    1. I know Michelle’s recipe is SO GOOD!!

  10. Like Heather W., I too grew up in Upstate N.Y. and our half-moon cookies are slightly different from black & white cookies. I actually like to use a buttercream frosting to give it more flavor, but I’m looking forward to baking these!

  11. Joanne Schaefer says:

    Those look really fancy and yummy!!

  12. My mom just got me a SECOND icing spatula for my birthday yesterday… I think it’s a sign that I need to make these this weekend – I don’t even have to wash rewash my spatula to make them 🙂

  13. I’ve never been to New York or had one of these cookies, but now I am absolutely shocked by this fact and NEED a black and white cookie right this minute. These look like a fun little weekend project to make – can’t wait!

    1. Let me know how you like them!

  14. Dale Terwilliger says:

    Where is the recipe

  15. Im just the opposite with cakey cookies- who doesn’t love a clean, easy, bite size piece of cake!? And I’ve never even heard of NYC black and white cookies, but now…I need one!

    1. I hope you try them soon!!

  16. Hi Sally,

    This is a very exciting recipe! I’d like to make these a bit smaller-to yield 24 cookies. Would you have a bake time recommendation for that? 

    I’ve not had authentic black & white cookies from
    NYC, but the Half Moon cookies from Trader Joe’s are stellar!

    Have a great day, and rest up.

    1. Just a minute or two less– until the edges are lightly browned. 🙂

  17. I lived in NY for 4 years and my 2 favorite sweets from that area are their coffee cake with the piled high streusel and their black and white cookies.
    I also saw ATK make their version on black and white cookies on their show and have been wanting to make them. My oldest son loved the idea of the vanilla vs. chocolate icing on top. I’ll have to get in thr kitchen and make some soon.
    I also love ATKs cookbooks. I have ATKs The How Can It Gluten Free Cookbook and I love it. I learned so much from their book just by reading through and learning why they use certain ingredients over others. Very educational.
    Thanks for posting this recipe!

    1. I’m interested in their GF cookbook! I’d love to learn more about GF baking/cooking.

    2. Laura Gifford says:

      My mom made black and white cookies back in the 50’s and we loved them..this recipe is a great reminder of how good they were..thank you for the receipt..laura

  18. Excited to try these! Would you recommend sifting the cocoa powder for the icing also?

    Thanks!

    1. You can, though I didn’t.

  19. Can’t wait to try out this cookie recipe.I simply adore all of your recipes.I’ve lost count on how many I have made!

  20. Samantha Werle says:

    I’m so excited to bake these for my family! They’re all from NY (I was the only one born here, in MD) and rave about these when we go up to the city… it will be nice for them to have a little piece of home here!

  21. Yum! These look so tasty!
    Kari
    http://sweetteasweetie.com

  22. I’ve been making black and white’s with a recipe from Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs for years.  My family and my friend from Brooklyn love them!  I’m going to try yours and do what I did with the chocolate zucchini cake-not tell them!  BTW, they loved the cake even after I told them there was zucchini in it.  Can’t wait to try it!  

  23. Oh. Oh yes. These are happening. I’ve gotta put my baking pants on.

    1. Hahaha your baking pants. My baking pants are stretch pants these days 😉

  24. I’m a New Yorker and I adore black and whites. Super excited to try these.

  25. Shawnna Griffin says:

    hey girl- these cookies look amazing!

  26. Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says:

    I can’t wait to try these Sally!! I wish I could grab one right off my screen!

  27. I’ll admit- I’ve never had a true authentic black and white cookie. *cowers with embarrassment* But I’ll also say that these look good enough to put any of the others out of business! Need to try this recipe!

  28. Melissa Griffiths says:

    I love ATK so much so you know I’m pumped for this cookie bible! So much yum!! These cookies are look so pretty!

  29. I love black and white cookies and have for years. My mom used to mail me some every so often when I first moved from NY. ICinn crumb coffee cake & bagels, too) I’m hoping you’ll share the chocolate based cookie you were offered in the beginning of the comments. I’ve never had one and I’d bet I’d like it as I love chocolate. Thanks!

    1. Haven’t received it yet! Excited to test it out.

  30. I have The Perfect Cookie book. I absolutely love it!!!

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