Black and White Cookies

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Recipe photo
Hands-on time:
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Yield: 2 dozen large (4") cookies

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Also knows as Half-Moon Cookies, or just plain Black and Whites, these jumbo cookies are soft and cakelike, and would be quite plain save for their faint hint of lemon, and the vanilla and chocolate icings on top. Their distinctive taste (and look) seem to be the main attraction for kids... and truth be told, their parents as well.

Informal research tells us these cookies are New York City natives. In fact, we've seen a recipe titled New York Black and White Deli Cookies; and the corner deli is where you'll most likely find them in NYC, as the sweet counterpoint to a pastrami on rye and a half-sour.

Black and White Cookies

star rating (11) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 2 dozen large (4") cookies
Published: 01/01/2010



  • 1 cup butter*
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil, or 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup milk (regular or low-fat; not nonfat)
  • *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon

Vanilla icing

  • 3 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract*
  • *For the whitest icing (at the cost of reduced flavor), omit the vanilla

Chocolate icing*

  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (chips, or chunks), melted
  • *See "tips," below.

Tips from our bakers

  • Note that the chocolate icing recipe as printed makes a generous amount; you could probably ice 2 or 3 additional (whole) cookies with what's left over. We figure too much icing is better than not enough; and to write the recipe to make just enough would have resulted in lots of odd-amount ingredients. So go ahead and spread it thickly; there should be plenty to go around.
  • Red and white cookies are a nice holiday variation on this recipe. Make red and white cookies simply by making a double batch of the white icing above, and adding red food coloring to half.
  • For a simpler chocolate icing, combine 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional), 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat until the cream is steaming; stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Spread on cookies while warm.


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1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) To make the cookies: Beat together the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, lemon, and vanilla till well combined.

3) Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4) Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there's no need to beat.

5) Using a muffin scoop or a 1/4-cup measure, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. With wet fingers, or the wet bottom of a measuring cup, flatten/spread the dough to a 3"-diameter circle. Leave 2" to 2 1/2" between each cookie; they'll spread.

6) Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they're set, and are perhaps a very light golden brown around the edges. If there's no sign of brown, that's OK. Cookies baked for 10 minutes will be quite moist. Cookies baked for 12 minutes will be drier, and more "authentic." Bake for 11 minutes for an in-between cookie.

7) Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them right on the pan. As they cool, prepare the icing.

8) To make the vanilla icing: Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, and hot water. For a nice vanilla flavor, add the vanilla; for the whitest icing, omit it.

9) Spread the icing over half of each cookie. Place them on a rack to set while you make the chocolate icing.

10) To make the chocolate icing: Combine the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, hot water, and espresso powder. stirring till smooth.

11) In the microwave, or in a pan set over very low heat, melt the chocolate.

12) Add the melted chocolate into the sugar mixture, stirring till well combined.

13) Spread the icing on the uncovered half of each cookie. You'll have a generous amount of icing, so don't be afraid to pile it on.

14) Set the cookies back on the rack, and allow them to rest for about 30 minutes, till the icing is set.

15) For best storage, wrap each cookie individually, in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature.

Yield: 2 dozen large (3 3/4" to 4") cookies.


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  • star rating 01/29/2014
  • kndmagnus from KAF Community
  • after these baked i rechecked my ingredients. yes.. it was ONE TABLESPOON BAKING POWDER.. disappointed that these black n white are more biscuit than cake like.. and concerning the white icing.. do not omit but instead purchase CLEAR vanilla.... and for extra whiteness you can use wilton's white white and add it to the icing with the clear vanilla in it..
    Yes - One tablespoon baking powder for 4 1/2 cups OR 19 ounces of flour! If your cookies were biscuit-like check your method of flour measurement so they'll be more cake like. Wishing you well in your quest for the perfect Black and White Cookie. Happy Baking - Irene@KAF
  • star rating 10/13/2013
  • Pastry_Novice from US
  • Perhaps I'm novice, but these were quite the effort. I doubled the lemon rind, which I recommend, as the cookies (pre-icing) taste similar to a pancake. I only used 2 cups of confectioners sugar for the icing, which is still VERY sweet. In fact, I don't know anyone who could eat more than one of these bad boys. I didn't have espresso powder handy, so the cookies came out brown & white. Though it seemed a good idea at the time, I don't see myself making these again. It's far too much effort for a lackluster result. I've also lost a day or two of life from all the sugar consumption.
  • star rating 07/13/2013
  • Lizz from Brooklyn, NY
  • Awesome recipe, great for making Black and Whites at home. One suggestion, decrease the confectioner sugar/water/corn syrup for the chocolate frosting. The chocolate side is softer than the white, which is hardened. Thank You!
  • star rating 10/19/2012
  • bmkontra from KAF Community
  • If you are a fan of "half moon"/"black & white" cookies, look no further. This is a home run from KAF and I'm thrilled to the gills! Since my favorite local bakery closed a couple of years ago, I haven't been able to find a decent one anywhere; the grocery store black & whites are basically inedible, and other "artisan" bakeries just don't carry these little treats, much to my chagrin (and frankly, they're far tastier than some of the high-falutin garbage I've tasted at other bakeries!). So I stumbled across this recipe and was sooooo pleased with the results. They're darn near perfect. I used a tsp. of lemon zest as I don't have lemon oil and will likely use just a *hint* more to get that perfect faint lemony taste. The frostings are also spot-on (I did need a little more sugar in the chocolate, but that was my desired consistency). I intend on adding this recipe to my arsenal. I have a baked goods stand at a local farmer's market and like to think I'm pretty discriminating about my baked goods. These little beauties are a winner and will likely sell out quickly. Thank you KAF for another delicious, superb recipe!! What would I do without you? :)
  • star rating 03/14/2011
  • Jamie from Massachusetts
  • These cookies are delicious, just like the ones I used to get from the local bakery in college. The cookies are cake-like with just the right hint of lemon, and the icing is very sweet and sugary . I made them smaller using a 2tbsp cookie scoop and cooked them for 7 min, they came out perfect. Thanks for the great recipe!
  • star rating 02/10/2011
  • Rachel from NY
  • The cookie part is amazing just like the ones I treat myself to at the bakery! However I don't really like the vanilla icing because it tastes like confectioner's sugar. I found a different one using whipped cream and the combination is unbeatable!
  • star rating 06/21/2010
  • linda from morris county, nj
  • my cookies tasted great but they were awfully lumpy. I realized they might be better if i piped them, and i think with a little practice, piping would make a more professional-looking cookie. i ran out of vanilla icing and had to make a second batch--perhaps i made it too thin and it ran off the cookie. even if i have to make 2 batches of icing again, it's all worth it. delicious cookies and out-of-the-ordinary!
  • star rating 02/12/2010
  • Elizabeth from Woodbridge, VA
  • Made these this week while snowbound in Virginia-- delicious! Valentine's Day suggestion: after frosting Black and White, put aside a little vanilla frosting, add 1 tsp raspberry extract and 3 drops of red food coloring. Put this frosting into frosting bag with small tip and use for making hearts, swirlies, initials, etc.! The bites of cookie with chocolate, vanilla AND a raspberry heart became a quick favorite...
  • star rating 09/25/2009
  • Marcia from New Jersey
  • These are great! Much better than the delis! I baked them and mailed them to my daughter in college as they held up great in shipping. The next batch, I made Orange & Black for Halloween or Fall by substituting orange juice and orange extract for the vanilla in the white icing plus adding orange food dye. Those also came out great but with a fruity taste. I also did not add the corn syrup to the white icing as I thought it made it too sweet.
  • star rating 09/04/2009
  • Kathryn H from Williamsport, MD
  • These cookies were fantastic. I gave a copy of the recipe to a friend and she prepared them yesterday. When I stopped by after work, we had a tasting and they were what I remembered as a soft sugar cookie from when I was a child many decades ago. She indicated they were easy to prepare and the finished product was really pretty. It also suggested that the icing colors and flavors could be played around with and that we would like to try the recipe with a sprinkling of just sugar on the top prior to baking. I will be making the cookies for the next tasting and we will see what changes we can make and keep the integrity of the recipe.
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