This post is sponsored by Imperial Sugar! I’ve used Imperial Sugar for years and I am thrilled to be partnering with them. Thank you for supporting the partners that keep the bake offs coming!
Did we find the ultimate black and white cookie? At the very least, I found my ideal recipe, so let’s get onto the results. (And if you don’t know what a black and white cookie is, more on that below.)
METHODOLOGY // RESULTS // FACTORS // ANALYSIS // RECOMMENDATIONS
- 38 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were baked the day of tasting
- All cookies were baked on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
- All tasters ranked each cookie on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- All ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- Swans Down cake flour
- Unsalted and salted Land O Lakes butter
- Crisco shortening
- Kirkland vanilla extract
- Daisy sour cream
- Karo corn syrup
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Diamond kosher salt
- Ghiradelli Bittersweet 60% chocolate chips
- Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
- Cafe Bustelo instant espresso powder
- Imperial granulated sugar and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
What are Black and White Cookies?
Black and white cookies are soft and cakey vanilla cookies that are frosted with half chocolate, half vanilla frosting. Occasionally the cookie or the vanilla frosting may be infused with lemon flavor (and sometimes a layer of apricot jam may be spread under the frostings).
Most people seem to agree that black and white cookies originated in New York–some believe that they originated from Glaser’s Bake Shop) while others believe the “half moon” cookies from Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica, New York may be the original inspiration.
It is not clear the connection between these [Hemstrought’s] cookies and the ones at Glaser’s Bake Shop. It is assumed that they share a common German root, but the cookies are distinct enough that many believe them to be two separate cookies. While black and white cookies are more flat with a shortbread base and fondant icing, half-moon cookies are more dome-shaped and use a cake base with frosting.Untapped Cities
Most of the black and white cookies that I tried in New York veered on the side of a cake base vs. a shortbread base–ie. they were quite cakey, which I prefer. It seems that more authentic black and white cookies should have a drier texture with smooth and shiny frostings. I was informed after the bake off that an important component of a black and white cookie is an overlap in the vanilla/chocolate frostings (makes for the best bite).
Many tasters commented that some of these recipes didn’t quite hit on a traditional black and white cookie, perhaps because freshly baked cookies tend to have a moister, cakier texture than packaged bakery cookies. Also, a note that you’ll see our frostings as made tended to err on the thinner side, but frosting consistency is an easy thing to adjust to taste.
Where is the Best Black and White Cookie in NYC?
In my humble opinion (and in the opinion of many people who responded to my Instagram inquiry), William Greenberg takes the cake. The cookie has the perfect level of softness and slight moistness, there’s great flavor, the texture of the frostings are almost chewy-tender without being too soft and messy, and the flavor of the chocolate and vanilla frostings are also flavorful without being saccharine. Donut Pub was my second favorite from the trip! (A little drier but INCREDIBLY fluffy.)
Leave me a comment if you think I got this answer totally wrong!
Okay, back to the bake off. Per usual, I would happily make most of these recipes again. My top 3 didn’t quite match the chart below, but overall I feel these rankings are generally aligned with my preferences.
As always, there is always the potential for baker’s error in these bake offs, so just because a recipe is ranked a little lower doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving it a try if it sounds good to you! I really believe that each recipe has its own merits, even if it wasn’t sufficiently appreciated by my group of tasters.
- Dairy (sour cream vs. buttermilk vs. milk vs. heavy cream): This was the most variable component across recipes. While I loved the moistness that sour cream brought to some of the cookies, the buttermilk cookies were consistently lighter and airier (especially in comparison to the milk/heavy cream-based recipes). Like sour cream, the buttermilk adds a hint of tang and also helps tenderize the gluten, making for a softer yet voluminous texture.
- Fat: The grand majority of recipes were butter-based; only Of Batter and Dough incorporated shortening in addition to butter. Though there were some comments that the flavor of this cookie wasn’t as good, I think the butter managed to carry the flavor for the most part, and I don’t think the texture was significantly changed by using shortening. My bottom line: if you prefer to use all butter, by all means! No need to reinvent the wheel.
- Flour: The only recipes to stray from using all all-purpose flour were America’s Test Kitchen (all cake flour) and Junior’s (half cake, half AP). Ultimately, using all cake flour did not seem to benefit the texture. While ATK did have a tender bite to the cookie, it was also quite thin and crumbly, which may have been a result of using a flour with less gluten. My bottom line here is similar: no need to stray from using all-purpose flour.
- Egg content: In general, the egg content was fairly consistent across recipes (roughly 1 egg per one cup of flour). However, Baked, which took the #1 spot, was the only recipe to incorporate an extra egg yolk. Extra yolks generally add more fat, richness and tenderness to a recipe without the extra liquid of an egg white. (We’ve seen this as a winning element before in the peanut butter cookie bake off!)
- Corn syrup: Though I thought that corn syrup was incorporated into the frosting to keep it more soft/chewy, most of these frostings ended up drying into a pretty firm and snappy consistency after half a day. (Unlike the bakery William Greenberg–their frosting remains supple even when fully dry. I suspect they use a much higher proportion of corn syrup.) This article explains how corn syrup in royal icing can lend more shininess (but not necessarily softness), which explains the spectrum of glossiness in these cookies.
- Lemon: A divisive ingredient! Some love lemon in their cookies, some hate it. For the most part, people (including me) generally preferred the flavor of fresh lemon zest in the cookie over lemon extract. It was pretty stunning how clearly the fresh lemon zest came through vs. the muted flavor of artificial extract.
- Cocoa vs. chocolate: If left to my own devices, I would only ever use cocoa in frosting because melting down chocolate is not my favorite task! Tasters were all over the map with their feedback on the frostings, but in general people seemed to like the deeply chocolatey flavor of cocoa-based frostings like Baked and Epicurious. Interestingly, I got a few comments that semisweet or unsweetened chocolate frostings like Ina/New York Times were too bitter/intense, but that’s a personal preference. I personally feel that cocoa gives great flavor and is easier to work with, so I’ll likely stick to those recipes in the future.
Video Review of the Best Black & White Cookie Recipes
This is my favorite tasting review video to date! Check it out for some footage of tasters eating cookies in Prospect Park. And of course you’ll see me doing my best to review the flavor and texture of each cookie.
Analysis of the Best Black and White Cookies
America’s Test Kitchen: a thin, toothsome cookie with a thick, sugary frosting
America’s Test Kitchen offers a couple versions of black and white cookie recipes. I tested their recipe with all cake flour, milk and lemon extract (one of their other recipes is extremely similar to Ina Garten). This recipe is proportionally similar to King Arthur but came out far flatter, which is likely due to the lower proportion of egg and use of all cake flour.
Thin and pale, these cookies had a more dense crumb and toothsome bite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t detect much flavor in the cookie itself because the frosting was overpowering. While the vanilla frosting had a strong one-note sweetness, we also found the frosting to cookie ratio was excessive.
I probably wouldn’t make this cookie or vanilla frosting again, but if you like a thinner cookie base, this cookie might pair well with a lighter icing like Epicurious’ vanilla icing! While I don’t have any quibbles with a chocolate ganache, this melted chocolate-based ganache didn’t have as deep a cocoa flavor as some others and some tasters noted that this style is not as authentic.
- Ganache is too rich for a B&W cookie. Tastes good but doesn’t taste right. Cookie a bit dense.
- Mostly just frosting; there wasn’t enough cookie (in height) to stand up to the overpowering fondant sweetness
- Thinnest/chewiest cookie and not a lot of flavor. Chocolate frosting was a little grainy
- Flat, not particularly flavorful, very sweet. The chocolate frosting was very far from the look of a traditional B&W. It was also quite thick while the white was much thinner so the balance felt off.
- Frosting is too thick for the cookie (mouthfeel) cookie texture gets lost. Vanilla frosting was way too sweet and chocolate was tasteless
- Maybe the most authentic, in a bad way? Kind of waxy and tough, too sweet but no flavor
New York Cult Recipes: a tight-crumbed, spongy cookie with little flavor
As a buttermilk-based cookie recipe, I was surprised that this texture hit very differently from the other buttermilk recipes (Baked and Epicurious). I think the relatively low amount of butter and higher amount of eggs in this cookie contributed to a thick, almost drying cakey texture. It was quite close-textured and spongy relative to other cookies–one taster described the texture as a “cold pancake.”
Despite having lemon zest in the batter, it also lacked flavor for me. Interestingly, tasters seemed quite split on the texture (some liked it, some hated it), but most agreed that the flavor of the cookie was a bit bland. The flavor of the cream and butter-infused chocolate frosting was delicious (this was one of the softest frostings that never quite firmed up) while the vanilla was extremely sweet. While I probably wouldn’t make this recipe again, I can see why spongy B&W cookie fans might love these!
- Love the pillow top softness, delicious real chocolate flavor and shocking for me, I like the lemon (is it fresh juice/zest??)
- The cookie itself was spot on – I personally don’t loooove the lemon in my B&W but I appreciated that this wasn’t as overpowering. The frosting was very good – similar to a cake frosting. I’d possibly eat again but prefer others over this one
- Texture was great, but cookie was more bland. The white frosting was VERY sweet and tasted like pure sugar.
- Didn’t love the texture; a bit dry and bready
- Flavor was bland, white especially. Chocolate had good flavor. Cookie was a little dry but overall texture was alright.
King Arthur: a hefty, slightly bready cookie that is addictingly fluffy and a little dry
Another milk-based cookie like America’s Test Kitchen, King Arthur had similar recipe proportions but added slightly more flour, an additional egg, significantly more baking powder, and lemon zest instead of lemon extract. This resulted in one of the thickest batters, which accordingly turned into the thickest of cookies. KA notes that you can bake the cookies slightly longer for a drier, more authentic texture–I shot for the more “in-between” cookie texture.
Although I loved the fluff and heft of these and found them addictive in a scone-like way, they were also a little breadier than ideal with a slightly bland flavor. The frostings as we made them were also quite thin, which threw off the frosting to cookie ratio (though my frostings looked different from the photos, so there’s likely an element of baker’s error here). If you like dunking your cookies in coffee, I could see this being a delightful pick (with the slightly drier, super thick texture). I would try to make the frostings thicker next time!
- Vanilla frosting on point! Cookie a little dry- but it was nice how thick it was!!
- Huge cookie height, a tad dry. Kind of flavorless, even the chocolate? Not as balanced as others
- The frosting was closest in appearance to a traditional B&W (thin, smooth and shiny) but the cookie was thick and dry and the frosting was so thin that it almost didn’t seem frosted. Ratio was off.
- A little bit dry, but I like the thick, softer texture. Balance of frosting/cake sweetness is good – missing the vanilla in the white frosting
- Struck me as a bit bread-like, reminded me of a scone. Not enough frosting.
Of Batter and Dough: a cakey, close-crumbed, slightly drier cookie with a ganache-like chocolate fondant
This was the only recipe to use a combination of butter and shortening as the fat for the highest fat ratio. The dough is also enriched with sour cream, lemon extract, a lot of vanilla and a little corn syrup.
Surprisingly, I found this cookie quite cakey and slightly denser with a slightly dry texture. It had a similarly heavy crumb to NY Cult Recipes but with a slightly fluffier texture. Flavor-wise, the lemon flavor felt quite muted but vaguely artificial. A simple vanilla glaze dries smooth and thin in contrast to the thick, ganache-like frosting that dries quite firmly on the other half. I likely wouldn’t make this cookie again due to the use of shortening, but if you like lemon-spiked cookies, this could be a good option.
- Really liked the texture–it was most like a cookie and less cake-like. Less sweet and more complex tasting.
- Moisture and texture were great. Liked the citrus and chocolate.
- Texture was dry and crumbly which I didn’t love. But flavor with a little lemon was nice!
- It was a tad dry and the citrus was a bit too strong for me, but overall still tasty!
- Strong lemon taste. More cookie-like and dense crumb so it doesn’t have the cake feel of a typical B&W cookie.
- This tasted like a lemon cookie with chocolate frosting with a crumbly, dense, almost mealy texture that I didn’t love.
- Citrus strikes again – not for me, tastes overly sweet and like artificial orange extract
Junior’s: a light, cakey cookie with pronounced saltiness, slight crumbliness and subtle lemon flavor
This copycat recipe from Junior’s Cheesecake Restaurant was the only recipe to use heavy cream in the batter of the cookie. It also stood out for its use of both all-purpose and cake flour plus lemon extract. These were very light, cakey cookies with slightly more dense, crumbly bite and pronounced salt level.
Like Of Batter and Dough, if I ate these as a standalone cookie, I think I’d enjoy the subtle lemon flavor, but in contrast to other recipes that used fresh lemon zest, I found the lemon flavor a little artificial tasting. The standout feature for me was the flavor of the glossy, bittersweet chocolate-based chocolate frosting–one of my favorites!
- Best one so far. Perfect icing texture; I kept wanting to take bites of this
- Glossiest glaze. Nice size. Lightest melt-away cookie. Both glazes and the cookie were lively and distinct.
- Again loved the addition of lemon! I think all three components stood on their own flavor-wise. Ideal texture as well, cakey but not gluey.
- A little drier but I love that it’s a little saltier than the others
- Overall a little thin and not as cakey. The level of lemon is good. Frosting is a little soft
- Maybe a hair too lemony and could have been a little more moist, but also close to an ideal cookie.
- Liked the lemon flavor but would have liked slightly more flavor in frosting and a thicker texture
- Too lemony! Didn’t taste like much else
Epicurious: a pillowy, airy, moist cookie with a crackly lemon glaze
While I thought I liked the sour cream-based recipes, it was Epicurious that brought to light the benefit of a buttermilk-based cookie–an even lighter, airier crumb. This recipe is somewhat similar to Baked but with no lemon zest and a slightly lower ratio of egg. Texturally, this is probably my favorite (though it’s a close call with NYT)–I loved the soft airiness and fluffiness and overall moisture level.
For me, the real draw was the lemony vanilla glaze. Though texturally not ideal (it’s fairly runny), it dries into a thin layer of crackly glaze that boasts great lemon flavor. It was so addicting, I found myself continuing to eat just the white side of these cookies. The cocoa-based black frosting is intensely chocolatey–I actually found it slightly overwhelming compared to the light and lemony vanilla side. I would definitely make this cookie again, one of my favorites!
- Loved the lemony flavor in the light frosting! Flavor winner for sure. More cakelike but very tender.
- Loved the cookie flavor and texture, so moist and cake like! Frosting was also great but I tend to like the frosting on B&W cookies a little firmer!
- I personally really liked the intensity of the lemon flavor and the delicate dance it did on my palette, while my peers disagree
- This was DELICIOUS but tasted more like a cupcake than a B&W. The vanilla frosting wasn’t opaque which was aesthetically different, but overall the taste was bomb (especially the chocolate icing).
- The thin glaze was too sweet and zippy for me, the chocolate was perfect. Soft and cakey are a big plus.
- Am I getting a lemony flavor? Very soft almost pancakey texture
- The cookie texture was nice and fluffy but the lemon was overpowering.
New York Times: a thick, fluffy, tender, flavorful cookie that feels like a muffin in cookie form
Melissa Clark’s journey to create the best black and white cookie is an absolute joy to watch and helped me immensely in figuring out what a black and white cookie should be. In my humble opinion, she really nailed a nearly perfect black and white cookie. Her butter, sour cream and milk-based cookie includes a tiny bit of lemon zest and almond extract.
The loose batter bakes up into extremely thick, tender, fluffy, cakey, buttery cookies that have a great depth of flavor (I can’t exactly detect the almond, but I feel it rounds out the flavor with a bakery-esque flavor to complements the slight tang). It really feels like a muffin in cookie form, which is perhaps not traditional, but a texture I find delicious. My only critique: I found the white frosting a little sweet and lacking in depth while the chocolate frosting (made with both cocoa and unsweetened chocolate) was very pronounced in contrast. I might try making these cookies paired with Ina’s frostings next time! Another one of my favorites!
- Although it didn’t look as smooth/glossy as a traditional B&W, the frosting was very very tasty and the best of the bunch so far. The texture was great and the hint of lemon was subtle. Really delicious!
- This is one of my favs so far! Frosting is nice and fudgy and the cookie is soft and moist! I liked the hint of salt but would have given it a ten if the cookie was a tiny bit more flavorful on its own.
- Best cookie 🙂 Frosting is PERFECT, great consistency and flavor. Lemon doesn’t take over and the cakes texture is just perfect. Airy but still hefty.
- Closest to what I think of as a black and white cookie.
- This one looked the best off the bat and didn’t disappoint. It’s so far the only one with lemon that hasn’t completely overpowered and instead complements the other flavors. The texture is on point and the frosting holds up exactly like a B&W should
- Good, dense (totally inauthentic) ganache, tender cookie with a pleasing sheet-cake finish. Not a classic NYC black and white (as if Duncan Hines made a black and white cookie)
- White side was great but chocolate side was WAY too fudgy, heavy and intense
Ina Garten: a slightly spongy, buttery, soft cookie with flavorful glazes for a well-rounded cookie
Ina’s recipe is nearly identical to the popular Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe (which comes from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe), but she uses butter in the frosting. The butter and sour-cream based recipe is fairly straightforward, though it does call for the slightly finicky step of resting the cookies for half an hour between frostings (I didn’t find this necessary with any other cookies).
These huge cookies are soft and almost spongy, buttery and flavorful. Though some tasters disagreed, I thought the flavor of the white frosting really shone here. With the addition of cream, corn syrup and vanilla, I thought the white glaze tasted more well-rounded and not as overly sweet as others. It contrasted nicely against the soft, ganache-like bittersweet chocolate glaze on top of a solid cookie. While I would prefer my cookies slightly thicker, I would happily make these again on the strength of the flavor of the cookie and frostings.
- Very moist, perfect thickness, not too cakey. Very very good cookie.
- Felt buttery, melted in mouth, sweet glaze with a clean finish.
- Soft, cakey, buttery flavor. Glaze was a bit sweet but makes up for the less sweet chocolate and cookie
- White icing tasted too much like powdered sugar, but the overall texture of the cookie was good and similar to a normal B&W cookie.
- Flavor was great, not too sweet. Chocolate flavor was good and I didn’t detect lemon which I liked
- It was a little dry, but would eat again. White icing was too sweet compared to black, which seemed not sweet enough.
- Buttery chocolate was a more bitter than the usual black and white cookie with a tighter crumb. Most of these cookies miss the mark in comparison to a traditional NY black and white cookie. It was tasty but not what I think of when I think black and white cookie.
Baked: an ethereally light and fluffy cookie with a mild tang and lemon flavor
This recipe comes from the New York bakery, Baked, and stood out for its use of buttermilk, lemon zest and an extra egg yolk. The frosting is a simple sugar/milk/vanilla/cream mixture with cocoa added for the black frosting. Besides NY Cult Recipes, this was the only other recipe to omit corn syrup from the frosting.
I loved the ethereally light and fluffy texture of this cookie vs. slightly denser textures like New York Cult Recipes/Junior’s. The cakey, airy texture was similar to Epicurious/NYT, though I found it less moist than NYT (but with a slight tang from the buttermilk). I enjoyed the extremely chocolatey flavor of the frosting using just cocoa and the light flavor of the vanilla icing. Overall, this cookie was a winner among tasters.
- What I think of when I think of a traditional B&W cookie. Nice and balanced all around, but I wish it had just a tad more lemon.
- Cookie was nice and cakey. Both frostings were flavorful and amazing–chocolate stands out! Perfect texture and moisture.
- Tastes like a cross between a sugar cookie and an Entenmann’s doughnut
- If it were a tiny bit more moist I think this would be ideal. Best icing pairing.
- Vanilla icing tastes great, probably the best. Wish the cookie and frosting layers were thicker.
- Most distinct/prominent base cookie flavor for me. A bit dry. Frosting flavors were overpowered by the cookie surprisingly!
- Delicate cookie flavor (eggy?) drowned out by aggressively sugary glazes.
Recommendations for the Best Black and White Cookies
I must stress that my recommendations are coming from someone who did not grow up eating black and white cookies. My preference is also geared towards very fluffy, moist and thick cookies. With those caveats set, my personal favorites were: New York Times, Epicurious, Ina Garten and Baked. For my ideal cookie, I am curious to try the NYT or Epicurious cookie base with Ina’s frostings.
Also, if you feel reluctant to make these because they seem like a lot of work–let me assure you that they are actually pretty easy to make! A lot of these recipes only call for making one frosting base and mixing in cocoa/melted chocolate to make the second frosting. Easy and so worth it!
Crowd favorite: Baked
Most “traditional” (per taster comments): Baked*
Best for lemon lovers: Epicurious, New York Times, Baked
Best cakey cookie: New York Times, Epicurious, Baked, King Arthur
Best thinner–style cookie: America’s Test Kitchen, Of Batter and Dough, Junior’s
*some noted lemon is not traditional
Pin this post to save it for later.
Just hover over the image and click the Pinterest button!
Where is the recipe?