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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. The combination of cocoa powder and milk make the icing thinner than the coating on peanut butter half moon cookies, and it crackles when you bite into it like the glaze on these glazed doughnuts and chocolate pop tarts.
  • 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, snickerdoodles, and shortbread 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 the differences between baking powder vs baking soda and 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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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: Room temperature ingredients are 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 more on Dutch processed vs natural cocoa powder.) I prefer dutch-process or a darker cocoa like Hershey’s Special Dark.
  7. Recipe reprinted in partnership with ATK from The Perfect Cookie

Keywords: Black and White Cookies

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. As a native New Yorker living in Germany, I am planning to make these for a party to share as something from our “homeland.” However, I’m finding it really hard to track down corn syrup here. I have agave nectar and rice syrup – both have a similar consistency to corn syrup – do you think they could be used as a replacement

    1. Hi J, we haven’t tested either of those substitutions, but some readers have used rice syrup with success. You could also try a homemade simple syrup, or even honey.

    1. Hi Danielle! Full fat sour cream is best for the most tender and fluffy cookies. Light will work, but the texture will be slightly different. Same for 2% milk, which will make the icing a bit thinner, but will work!

    1. Hi Donna, We don’t recommend using self rising flour in this recipe. It would take additional recipe testing to ensure accurate results.

  2. I love these cookies. I was wondering if it’s possible to double the recipe?

    1. Hi Madeleine, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling. So glad you enjoyed these!

  3. I will try this recipe it sounds really good. I grew up in central New York State the Black and White cookies we had were Chocolate with vanilla icing and chocolate icing, not a vanilla cookie. Hemstrought’s Half Moon cookies from Utica N.Y.

  4. Had some trouble following this recipe – the quantities for the icing didn’t work for us. We followed the instructions exactly but the icing came out like thick clay that was unmixable. I was able to salvage by adding more milk, but it was way over the amount in the recipe. What could be the issue here? We triple-checked that everything was right.

    1. Hi Elyssa, we’re sorry to hear your icing didn’t turn out well! For the confectioners’ sugar, how are you measuring it? We recommend weighing it with a kitchen scale for most accurate results, and then sifting it to remove clumps.

      1. That’s what we did! Not sure what went wrong. I just eyeballed the sugar to milk ratio to fix it.

      2. I had the same problem and my icing came out too thin. The first time I made them, they came out perfect. What went wrong?

  5. I have made these multiple times and every time I say these are the best black-and-white cookies I have ever had. The recipe is easy and comes out amazing every time.

    1. My neineighbor is turning 7 and crazy about pokemon…so my question is: can I colour half the icing red (I want to make it look like a pokemon ball: half red, half white and then I’ll just use put a chocolate strip in middle). Will the food colouring mess with icing consistency? Alternatively, can I put red sprinkles on half of it?

      1. Hi Emily, you can definitely color this icing. Enjoy!

  6. Would this work well if I baked all the batter in an 8” cake pan? I want to make a Black and White “Cookie” cake, with the same flavor and texture of the cookies, but in the size of a large cake!

    Would I need to make any modifications to the recipe at all?

    1. Hi Fateh, We have not tested this recipe in a cake pan, but if you try it let us know how it goes!

    1. Hi Katie! Unfortunately cocoa powder isn’t an easy swap in a recipe so without testing it, we can’t say for sure which ratio of ingredients to use to make these chocolate. Let us know if you do any experimenting.

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