Black and White Cookies

Black and white cookies are soft, cakey cookies covered with a thick layer of icing flavored with both vanilla and chocolate.

Three New York City black and white cookies on a plate.

Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Black and white cookies are soft, cakey cookies covered with a thick layer of icing flavored with both vanilla and chocolate.

They’re a New York City classic and a famous staple of the city’s bakeries and delis. The cookies stay soft thanks to cornstarch and sour cream, and they’re bursting with vanilla flavor and a subtle hint of lemon.

Whenever I see them at a gathering, the black and white icing seems to suggest black-tie sophistication and that there’s surely something to celebrate.

Don’t let black and white limit you though, these cookies are easy to jazz up for a holiday or themed party with colorful icing, sprinkles, or edible glitter.

Tips and Tricks for Baking Black and White Cookies

Black and white cookies may seem intimidating, but they’re easier than you think. Here are a few tips to ensure delicious cookies and professional-looking clean lines in the icing.

  • Use room temperature ingredients in the batter. When the ingredients are at the same temperature, they incorporate and emulsify better.
  • Take the butter out of the refrigerator ahead of time. Don’t be tempted to heat the butter because if it melts too much, the cookies will spread more.
  • For even cookies with a uniform, round shape, use a 1/4 cup (2 ounce) cookie scoop to portion them. Space them further apart on the baking trays than you normally would. If your pan usually fits 12 cookies, only place six cookies on a tray.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely before icing, or the icing will melt.
  • Ice the flat undersides of the cookies, not the rounded tops.
  • The best tool for spreading the icing is a small offset spatula. An offset spatula offers the precision you need to apply an even layer of icing with a sharp, straight line. If you don’t have an offset spatula, a butter knife will work almost as well.
  • I find it easier to ice the cookies one color at a time, and chill them in between for the icing to set. Apply the white icing to half the cookie, then refrigerate the cookies for 15 minutes. Allowing the white icing to set before adding the black icing. It helps get a clean line and prevents the colors from running together.
Overhead view of black and white cookies on a piece of parchment.

Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

How to Make Deep Black and Bright White Icing

If you want the white icing to be a brilliant white and the black icing to be pitch black, you can boost the contrast with a couple of substitutions.

While regular vanilla extract won’t color the icing too much, you can substitute clear vanilla extract if you want the icing to be stark white.

This recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa in the icing because it’s darker than the reddish-brown color of natural cocoa powder. You can use natural cocoa if that’s what you have on hand; it just won’t be as black. To make jet-black icing, try black cocoa powder, which is an extra-dark ultra-Dutch-processed cocoa.

How to Jazz Up Black and White Cookies

Black and white may be formal attire, but don’t feel limited by traditions. Whether you make these for holiday parties, New Year’s, or other fun celebrations, it’s easy to add some glamor to black and white cookies.

Change the colors: Take your cookies from black and white to technicolor with food coloring. Gel food coloring works best with this type of icing. With liquid food coloring, you will need to use a lot more. You could also try natural food colorings like matcha powder for green or freeze-dried fruit powder or fruit juices for other colors. Be sure to adjust the thickness with more or less milk to compensate for the added liquid or powder coloring.

Use sprinkles or edible glitter: Top the cookies with some sprinkles, edible glitter, or luster dust. Add the sprinkles or glitter before the icing sets so they stick. Apply luster dust to the icing after it has set. Luster dust can be brushed on with a dry brush or mix a couple of drops of vodka into the luster dust and use a paintbrush to paint it on.

Side view of the perfect black and white cookie with a bite out of it.

Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

Storage Instructions

Because of their cakey texture, black and white cookies are best eaten the same day they are baked. They will keep for up to 3 days, stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

If you’d like to make them ahead of time, it’s better to freeze the cookies after baking. Making the batter and chilling it beforehand will not work. The batter should be baked right away because the baking powder activates once wet.

Black and white cookies can be frozen, frosted or unfrosted, for up to 3 months. Layer them between pieces of parchment and store in an airtight container or zip top bag. Thaw them in the fridge overnight, then bring them to room temperature before serving.

More Frosted Cookie Recipes

Black and White Cookies

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 16 mins
Chill Time 15 mins
Total Time 61 mins
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

  • For the cookies
  • 1 3/4 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (28g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (113g) sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, zested (optional)
  • For the icing
  • 3 cups (340g) powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (21g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Special equipment
  • Offset spatula

Method

  1. Preheat oven and prepare baking sheets:

    Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. Combine the dry ingredients:

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

    Mixing the dough in a glass bowl for a perfect black and white cookie recipe

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  3. Beat the butter and sugar:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

    Mixing the dough in a glass bowl for a perfect black and white cookie recipe

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  4. Incorporate the eggs:

    Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The batter should be smooth and fluffy.

    Mixing the dough in a glass bowl for a perfect black and white cookie recipe

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  5. Alternate dry ingredients and sour cream:

    Add half the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until incorporated. Continuing on low speed, pour in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest (if using).

    Stop the mixer and with a rubber spatula scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

    Add the rest of the dry ingredients and continue mixing on low speed just until combined and no pockets of flour remain. The batter will be very thick, much thicker than cake batter, but not quite as thick as cookie dough.

    Mixing the dough in a glass bowl for a perfect black and white cookie recipe

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  6. Scoop cookies onto baking sheets:

    Scoop the cookies on the prepared baking sheets using a 2-ounce cookie scoop or a greased 1/4 cup dry measuring cup. Space them at least 3 inches apart, 6 cookies per tray, so they have room to spread.

    Black and white cookie dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  7. Bake the cookies:

    Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 16 minutes, rotating the sheets between oven racks halfway through the baking time, until the edges are golden brown and the tops spring back when gently touched.

    Baked black and white cookies without frosting.
  8. Cool the cookies:

    Remove the pans from the oven and place the baking sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the racks to cool completely before icing.

  9. Make the white icing:

    In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons milk, and vanilla extract. The icing should be thick but spreadable, similar to peanut butter. If it is too thick, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time until you reach the proper consistency.

    Making the white icing for perfect black and white cookie recipe.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  10. Make the black icing:

    Transfer half the white icing (about 2/3 cup) to a medium bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and cocoa powder to the icing in the medium bowl. Stir until completely smooth.

    The chocolate icing should be the same consistency as the white icing, slightly thicker than Nutella. If it is too thick, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time until you reach the proper consistency.

    Making the chocolate icing for perfect black and white cookie recipe.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  11. Ice half the cookies with white icing:

    Use an offset spatula to spread about 1/2 tablespoon of white icing on half of the flat (bottom) side of each cookie. Refrigerate the cookies for 15 minutes to allow the white icing to set before adding the black icing so they don’t bleed into each other.

    There will be extra icing, so you can be generous. Leftover icing can be saved in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days and can be used to glaze anything from cinnamon rolls to scones.

    Spreading icing on New York City black and white cookies.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  12. Ice remaining half of cookie with black icing:

    Spread about 1/2 tablespoon of chocolate icing on the other half of each cookie.

    Spreading icing on New York City black and white cookies.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon

  13. Allow cookies to set and serve:

    Allow the icing to set completely at room temperature before serving, about 1 hour.

    New York City black and white cookies on a baking sheet.

    Simply Recipes / Cambrea Gordon