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

174 Comments

  1. Just made these, and they are excellent! Subbed golden syrup for the corn syrup because I only had dark corn syrup. Was so intimidated to make these, but you really walk us through step by step!

  2. Hi Sally. I love this recipe! I did have a question for you though. Is there a way to make these cookies into cupcakes? There used to be a bakery many years ago in Brooklyn that made black and white cupcakes that I miss terribly and I was hoping you could help me figure out how to modify the recipe to make cupcakes or if I could bake this batter in muffin tins. Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Joe, I haven’t tried this cookie dough/batter in cupcake pans so I’m unsure of the bake time and what the exact texture would be like. How about my vanilla cupcakes instead? They’re light and fluffy. You could use these icings.

  3. Mary Crawford says:

    Hi! Just made these for the first time! They were not as thick and fluffy as I had hope and were kind of chewy…where did I go wrong??

    1. Hi Mary, I’m happy to help troubleshoot. Did you change anything in the recipe? It sounds like they could have been under-baked as well. Make sure you are spooning and leveling the flour, too.

  4. Hello! Can you substitute the corn syrup with anything? Thanks!

    1. Hi Amanda, I don’t recommend skipping the corn syrup– it’s what helps the glaze “set” and gives it that gorgeous shiny appearance. In a pinch you can try a homemade simply syrup – or even honey.

    2. Hi Amanda – It’s months later, but in case anyone is wondering the same thing, I have a corn allergy in my household, and I have subbed Lyle’s Golden Syrup (a British stable that can be found in import stores and World Market). You can also use brown rice syrup or Steen’s if those are available. What you are looking for is an Invert Syrup – these have been heated in such a way that it prevents crystals from forming. Adding an invert syrup to a recipe is a way of keeping that food (in this case icing) supple. If you have a candy or instant read thermometer, you can also make your own, but I don’t have that recipe off the top of my head. In a recipe like this one, you could omit it, but it will change the texture of the icing. Not a deal-breaker, but if you’re looking to duplicate something you’ve already tasted, it will be slightly “off”.

  5. Hi… I made this recipe today using King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure flour instead of AP flour. I used all other ingredients as listed, except I needed more milk for the icing to get the desired consistency. The cookies came out great! The texture and taste were comparable to the glutened cookie. If anything, maybe slightly less cake-like. But, overall, I am very happy with the outcome!

  6. Hi Sally,
    I love this recipe so much I made it a second time within days!
    Quick question – I have a lot of leftover icing. Can that be refrigerated or frozen so I can use it on a future batch?

    1. Hi Carolyn! Freezing the leftover icing isn’t a problem. Let it thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If it seems too watery/thin, you can whisk in more confectioners’ sugar.

  7. The cookies were not as fluffy or cake-like as I had hoped. The flavor was good, though. The icing was also a bit runny and didn’t set well even after being in the refrigerator for more than an hour.

  8. Would chilling the dough help the cookies rise and not flatten?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rich, If the batter doesn’t look super thick, you can always try to add a little more flour (see recipe notes) or chill the cookie dough before scooping. That should help!

  9. They taste great and the frosting is perfect, but… Mine came out really flat. I tried two batches – one with chilled dough and one not. They both baked up nice and fluffy and then flattened as they cooled. Any guesses why?

    1. Hi Jenn, thank you so much for trying this recipe. I’m concerned that the cookies puff up so much and then flatten. Usually this is a sign that the baking powder/soda are off. Your dough may benefit from an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. (1 teaspoon total.) You can also try replacing both. I find they lose strength after about 3 months.

  10. Any substitute for the corn syrup that will still get a shiny effect??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Talia, We don’t recommend skipping the corn syrup– it’s what helps the glaze “set” and gives it that gorgeous shiny appearance. In a pinch you can try a homemade simple syrup – or even honey.

  11. Whatta great recipe! First time I ever made them..
    .and they look like they came out of a bakery! Will be my go to recipe.

  12. We used King Arthur gluten free as well and it worked perfectly with no other adjustments.

  13. I am curious. All of the black & white cookies I grew up with in NYC had a subtle lemon flavor to the cookie itself. I don’t see any mention of lemon in your recipe. Can you elaborate please?

    1. As a New Yorker myself, the true Black and White doesn’t have any lemon in it (e.g., Glasers) . Typically, the Italian bakeries that serve black and whites put lemon in theirs, because they are pretty lemon heavy with all desserts. Lemon really overpowers a good black and white cookie and is much better without it.

  14. I am curious. As I am on a No-Salt restriction, can these be made without the salt? I already have substitutes for baking soda and baking powder and I usually use coconut creamer instead of whole milk.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Arlynn, While you could skip the salt, the cookies and especially the icing will be very very sweet without it.

  15. Thank you so much for this recipe. These are very nostalgic for me and I just loved making them (RIP Glasers bakery in NYC ❤️) and sharing them.

    I made them last night. My daughter could not stop tasting the batter and icing, it was a hit! Maple syrup worked beautifully in place of corn syrup. I halved the icing recipe as we like just a thin layer to cover and not too thick. We still had left over. Also good to note, the white icing looked beige when first mixed but dried mostly white.

    Question, how can I get the darker chocolate color typical of b&w cookies? Mine were more brown & white.
    And I find icing often tastes too strongly of confectioners sugar (does that make sense), is there a trick to tamp it down?

    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dana, We are so happy you enjoyed this recipe! For the icing you can use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder which will give it a darker color and a deeper chocolate flavor.

  16. These were SO GOOD!

  17. My 13 year old made these cookies for me and they are perfect! They are my absolute favorite cookie. This recipe is DELICIOUS! We use your site often for both savory and sweet treats. Thank you for treating us to your recipes.

  18. These are amazing and taste truly authentic! I doubled the cookie batter recipe and stayed true to the exact ingredients and measurement, then did a single batch of the icing after reading reviews and it was the perfect amount! 10/10! I know a lot of people contemplated the liquid to sugar measurement in the icing, but for how the icing is supposed to be on these cookies (thicker, almost like a fondant rather than thin icing or whipped frosting…) it was absolutely PERFECT! Thank you SBA!

  19. Carol O'Neill says:

    Can I double this recipe? Also can I substitute buttermilk for the sour cream?
    Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carol, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling. Instead of the sour cream, you could try plain yogurt in its place. Hope this helps!

  20. I’ve made this recipe 3 times now with cup4cup gluten free flour and they come out AMAZING! Thank you for including the weights because that makes things so much easier! Thank you for this recipe!

  21. Cookies are perfect icing not so much. I used cocoa but the chocolate taste and looks like milk chocolate instead of the dark you find at bakeries.
    The white side was extremely thick ,so I added more milk to make it spreadable but I still didn’t get right consistency.
    What did I do wrong.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denise! Using a dark cocoa powder or Dutch Process will give the chocolate icing a darker and richer flavor. How did you measure your confectioner’s sugar? It’s easy to over-measure – we suggest using the spoon and level method. You can thin icing out with milk as needed. Thank you so much for giving these a try!

  22. I made black and white cookies two years ago and they were good. I thought I used this recipe but this wasn’t it. Cookie is not the same as NY and should be less powdered sugar or more milk.

  23. I made these cookies exactly as the recipe said, and they came out absolutely amazing!! The only thing I did slightly different was I made them smaller, so instead of having 12 large cookies, I had 24 small cookies, and I baked them for about 9 minutes. The consistency and flavor of the cookies was PERFECT! I had noticed some other reviewers suggested doubling the icing recipe, but I decided not to, and I had more than enough of both the chocolate and the vanilla; in fact, I had to put them into containers because there was so much, and I love icing, so there was a generous layer on the cookies. One thing I do highly recommend is getting the Dutch cocoa because I used regular Hershey’s, and the icing was slightly bitter. Also, don’t be afraid to add some extra milk to the icing recipe as my consistency was slightly off and the extra milk made all the difference!

    1. These cookies are delicious! To make more cookies to share, I used 2 tablespoons of dough instead of 4 for each cookie and cut the baking time to 8 minutes. Beautiful results!

  24. Alison Kalinski says:

    These cookies are perfect! I never made black and white cookies or used corn syrup so I was a little nervous but they came out so good! Great pandemic baking project with my kids- fun to make and more fun to eat – thank you Sally I love all your recipes!

  25. Hello,
    I LOVE this recipe! I was thinking of making it for galentines day this year but I do not have time to test it out so I was wondering if you thought adding a couple drops of red food coloring to the batter would alter the cookies (besides the color of course)! Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jenn, You can add food coloring to the batter with no other changes. Enjoy!

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

  27. Delicious! Thank you for the recipe. Has anyone made the cookies smaller? 24 instead of 12? If so, how did they come out?

  28. My husband is a HUGE Seinfeld fan, and the past couple of months he’s been making random comments about black and white cookies and quoting from the show. Yesterday I made these cookies for him, and you should’ve seen his face when he saw the finished product! I had to listen to him reenact the entire scene from Seinfeld about the cookies, but in the end it was worth it to see how much he enjoyed them. I did, too! Now he tells me I need to make babka…I guess I know what my next baking project is going to be!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tina! How sweet of you to make these for your husband, we’re so glad they were a hit. We LOVE babka – would love to hear how it goes!

  29. I’d like to make these half the size, so instead of 1/4 cup could I just use 1/8 cup? How would that effect the baking time?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi John! You can make smaller cookies, around 2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) of dough each. Or even a 1.5 Tbsp cookie scoop works, too. The baking time will be shorter but we aren’t sure of the exact baking time needed.

  30. Hi!! I’ve made these a few times and am improving as I go along. Sometimes my cookies are oblong (rats!) but not too many! I’ve been working on trying to get the icing to look super smooth – again, I’m improving. I love black and white cookies, having grown up in NJ, and these are delicious. My friends and family enjoy them. We decorated them at Halloween – such fun!

    They are wonderful with a nice cup of tea. If you follow the recipe, they will be amazing! Enjoy!

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