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Food & Recipes

Black and White Cookies Recipe Is a Dessert Dream: Soft, Cakey + Coated in Two Flavors

Learn the best tips for icing your cookies and baking them until light and fluffy

Forget roses and sonnets— cookies might just be our number-one love language. From classic sugar to melty chocolate chip, these treats can make any day better. While many beloved varieties exist out there, lately we’ve been craving classic black and white cookies. Soft, cake-like and topped with glossy chocolate and vanilla icing, these cookies give you two flavors in one indulgent bite, no decision required. Plus, they only take 30 minutes to bake with this easy recipe. And if you’ve never iced a cookie before, we have just the guide for you. So, keep reading for all the tips you need to whip up your own batch at home, plus how to make them giant-sized (yes, you read that right). Here’s your guide to black and white cookies.

What are black and white cookies?

Walk into any New York City bakery and chances are you’ll probably see black and white cookies on display. Also known as half-and-half or half-moon cookies, this Big Apple staple boasts a rich history. Some believe they originated from Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan, founded by Bavarian immigrants in 1902. Others trace their roots to half-moon cookies served at Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica, New York. Check out this Insider Food video to learn more about black and white cookies.

They may look like cookies, but black and white cookies have more in common with cake. They feature a cakey base topped with two flavors of icing on each half, chocolate and vanilla. The icing acts as a thin glaze, like a glazed donut, that coats the flat side of the cookie. While traditional cookies lean crisp or chewy, black and white cookies have a tender crumb and soft exterior.

To achieve these unique qualities, black and white cookies require ingredients usually found in cake batter. While some recipes call for cake flour, all-purpose flour prevents crumbling. Additionally, a combination of baking powder and baking soda give these cookies their distinct shape and feel. Unlike traditional cookies, black and white cookies often contain either buttermilk or sour cream to provide moisture and texture.

Mastering the art of icing

black and white cookies being iced
TD Dolci/Getty

You can’t have black and white cookies without that smooth, glossy chocolate and vanilla icing. Unlike the thick, buttery frosting you might on other treats, this coating is thinner and hardens after cooling for a satisfying crack with each bite. And while frosting requires whipping butter or cream until fluffy, icing consists of powdered sugar mixed with milk or water and vanilla. It tastes sweeter and has a smooth, glossy finish.

Making icing

Creating the perfect icings for black and white cookies comes down to consistency and flavor. To make the vanilla icing, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. If the mixture looks thick, add more milk or water; if too thin, add more powdered sugar. Then, pour half of the icing into a separate bowl and add the cocoa powder. Finally, use a small amount of light corn syrup in each bowl for a glossy finish. Light corn syrup also helps prevent the icings from becoming too thick or grainy. They should flow smoothly off the back of a spoon. You can also test them on one cookie and adjust as needed.

Icing your cookies

Before icing your cookies, first make sure they have completely cooled so you don’t end up with melted icing. We recommend making the icings once the cookies come out of the oven. You’ll also want to work efficiently so that the icing doesn’t set in the bowl.

Next, use a small offset spatula or the back of a butter knife to spread the icing evenly over the flat side of each cookie. Aim for gentle, back-and-forth motions until a thin layer forms. Allow one icing to set before icing the other so the colors don’t run together. Finally, let the fully iced cookies sit at room temperature for a few minutes until the icing sets. This will prevent smudging when serving or storing.

Tips for baking black and white cookies

Baking cookies that taste and feel like cake might sound like a big challenge. But these cookies don’t come with any surprises. And with these expert tips, you’ll be whipping up a perfect batch in no time. Below, Chef Alina Eisenhauer of Chef Alina LLC shares some of her secrets.

1. Choose your dairy

When it comes to the right dairy product for your cookie batter, most recipes use buttermilk or sour cream. Buttermilk lends a lighter and more tender texture, while sour cream adds richness and moistness. Sour cream also reacts with the baking soda to produce more lift. While you can’t go wrong with either, experiment to see which you prefer.

2. Use the right ingredients

“The secret to the traditional bakery flavor is a combination of vanilla extract with just a touch of almond, lemon and orange,” explains Eisenhauer. “They will still be delicious with just vanilla, but the combination of extracts takes them to the next level.”

Additionally, she recommends using a scale to “weigh your ingredients for the best results — this is a good rule of thumb for all baking.”

3. Reverse creaming technique

“It is the perfect solution to the most common issue with this cookie — they can often be dry or they dry out after the first day and have a very short shelf life,” says Eisenhauer. “Reverse creaming is most often used in high ratio cake recipes where the flour and sugar amounts are equal or close to equal.”

Eisenhauer explains that it “starts with blending the fat into the dry ingredients. The fat coats the flour particles more evenly, contributing to a softer texture. This creates baked goods with a tender, fine crumb. Reverse creaming also enhances moisture retention in the final product, which helps to enhance shelf life.”

4. Baking your cookies

For even baking, “the more round and uniform in shape your drops of batter are, the better your final cookies will look.” Use a measuring cup to scoop your batter onto the baking sheet. Try to keep them evenly spread apart so they don’t bake into each other. Finished black and white cookies should have lightly browned edges and feel soft in the center.

Vegan and gluten-free alternatives

You don’t have to miss out on the fun even if you follow a different diet. For vegan or non-dairy cookies, simply swap the dairy products for plant-based alternatives like almond milk or vegan butter. The good news extends to gluten-free bakers as well. Many gluten-free flours can replace all-purpose flour.

Eisenhauer shares her delicious recipe for gluten free black and white cookies using the reverse creaming technique.

Easy black and white cookies recipe

Black and white cookies make the perfect on-the-go dessert, crowd-worthy treat or even a gift. This easy recipe from Preppy Kitchen uses Dutch processed cocoa powder for an intense, chocolatey flavor and deeper color.

Black and White Cookies

black and white cookies with milk


  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. water, plus more as needed
  • 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. cocoa powder, Dutch process preferred


  • Active Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 33 minutes, plus 1 hour of chilling
  • Yield: 8 cookies
  1. Cookies: Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl, then whisk together and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, then add sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla, then scrape bowl down and mix once more.
  3. Add flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating batches starting and ending with the flour, while mixing and scraping bowl.
  4. Use a ¼ cup cookie scoop to drop balls of batter onto lined baking sheets. Leave about 4 inches between each cookie. Bake on center rack for 13 to 14 minutes or until centers are springy. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool them upside down.
  5. Icing: While cookies cool, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, corn syrup and water in a large bowl, then mix until smooth, adding more water as needed to thin. Transfer half to another bowl and add cocoa powder, water and corn syrup. Mix until smooth.
  6. Use a small spatula to cover half of each cookie in a thin layer of vanilla icing. Allow icing to set, then cover other side with chocolate icing. This time, use the spatula to push chocolate right to the center, and allow to set completely.

Storage notes

Black and white cookies should be eaten within 24 hours of baking for the desired soft bite. However, they can last up to three days in an airtight container at room temperature. After that, you can store them in the fridge for another one to day days (if you have enough left).

Black and white cookies can be frozen either plain or iced for up to three months. Make sure to thaw them completely in the fridge before baking or icing. We also have a pro trick for reheating cookies so they taste oven fresh.

For more sweet cookie recipes, check out these stories below:

Carrot Cake Cookies Combine 2 Treats in 1 Delicious Bite — Easy 30-Minute Recipe

Blueberry Cookies Are the Ultimate Soft and Chewy Treat — 3 Success Secrets + 2 Recipes

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies Are *The* Ultimate Fall Treat — 2 Delicious, Easy Recipes

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