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Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies combine simplicity with elegance, promising a delightful contrast of flavors and textures in every bite!

a black and white cookie leaned against a stack of cookies on a wooden board

In the world of classic treats, black and white cookies stand out for their sheer simplicity and striking contrast. Beloved by New Yorkers and dessert lovers alike, these soft, cake-like cookies and their perfectly divided vanilla and chocolate icing are a celebration of flavor and tradition, marrying two distinct flavors in one delectable bite!

  • An iconic New York treat. Experience a taste of New York City right from your kitchen with this classic recipe!
  • Simple ingredients, big flavor. Made with everyday ingredients, these cookies offer up a comforting flavor and texture that’s hard to beat. The combination of vanilla and chocolate icing on a soft, cake-like cookie is pure bliss.
  • Perfect balance of sweetness. With its half-vanilla, half-chocolate icing, this cookie offers the best of both worlds. It’s a delightful treat for anyone who loves a bit of variety in their sweets.
  • Fun to make. Decorating these cookies is a blast. Whether you’re baking with kids, friends, or enjoying some solo kitchen time, applying the dual icing is just so satisfying.
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a stack of three black and white cookies on a wire rack

What Are Black and White Cookies?

The iconic black and white cookie, synonymous with New York City’s rich culinary world, originated in the early 20th century from the ovens of local bakeries, many owned by German and Eastern European immigrants. While the precise origins of the cookie remain a delicious mystery, with several bakeries laying claim to its creation, its significance goes beyond mere taste. The black and white cookie reflects New York’s melting pot culture, serving not just as a treat but as a sweet reminder of the city’s historical and cultural richness.

Known affectionately as “half-and-half cookies” or “half-moon cookies” in some regions, the black and white cookie features a tender, cake-like base that’s topped with two distinct halves of icing—one vanilla (sometimes lemon-flavored) and the other chocolate—creating a simple yet profound symbol of unity.

overhead view of ingredients for black and white cookies

What You’ll Need

See the recipe card below for ingredient quantities and full instructions. Here are some notes about the ingredients required to make your black and white cookies.

  • Unsalted butter – Let the butter soften before mixing. Learn more: How to Soften Butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg – Set out the egg along with the butter so it can come to room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract – You’ll need vanilla for both the cookies and the icing.
  • Sour cream – Let this come to room temperature, too. Full-fat sour cream works best.
  • All-purpose flour – Measure by weight for best results. Otherwise, use the spoon and sweep method to approximate that accuracy. Learn more: How to Measure Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar – Also known as powdered sugar. For the smoothest icing, sift it first.
  • Milk – I prefer whole milk here for the best flavor and texture, but any kind will work.
  • Corn syrup – This helps make a stable icing that will hold up well.
  • Dark cocoa powder – This gives the chocolate icing its signature black color. If you want to use regular cocoa powder, you can add a drop of black gel food coloring to get a similar look.

How to Make Black and White Cookies

Ready to bake a batch of these beloved cookies? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Make the Cookies

  • Prepare for baking. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  • Mix the wet ingredients. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and sour cream, and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Mix in the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix just until combined.
  • Portion and bake. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (roughly 2 tablespoons per cookie), and place on the prepared pan(s), leaving at least 2 inches between the cookies. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown.
  • Flatten and cool. Place the pan on a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, either flip them over or use a flat-bottomed glass to flatten the tops. Allow the cookies to cool completely.

Make the Icing

  • Make the vanilla icing. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  • Make the chocolate icing. Place half of the vanilla icing in a separate bowl, and stir the cocoa powder into one of the bowls of icing.
  • Ice the cookies. Transfer the icings to piping bags and snip the end of each bag. Pipe vanilla icing onto the cookies, covering half of the cookie. Place the cookies in the freezer for a few minutes to let the icing become firm. Next, pipe the chocolate icing onto the other half of each cookie. Allow the icing to set before serving.
black and white cookies on a wire cooling rack

Tips for Success

  • Temperature matters. Let the butter soften and the egg and sour cream come to room temperature so that your dough mixes smoothly and evenly.
  • Flat tops are key. For the classic look and for the icing to go on smoothly, be sure to flatten the cookie after they’ve baked or flip them over to the flat side.
  • Icing technique. Apply the vanilla icing to one half of each cookie first. Let it set in the freezer for a few minutes before applying the chocolate icing to the other half. This helps prevent the colors from mixing and creates a clean line down the middle.
  • Embrace perfections. Each cookie is unique, and slight variations in the icing or shape add to their homemade charm. Don’t stress about making them look factory-perfect.
a stack of black and white cookies on a wooden tray

How to Store

Place the cookies in an airtight container, and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. For slightly longer storage, place the container in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Just bring them to room temperature before serving.

Can These Cookies Be Frozen?

For the best results, freeze the cookies without the icing. Place them in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Properly stored, they should keep in the freezer up to 3 months. Thaw them to room temperature before icing.

If you need to freeze the iced cookies, first place the cooled and set cookies in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the freezer until frozen solid. Then place them in a freezer-safe container with layers of parchment paper between layers. When you’re ready to serve the cookies, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bring to room temperature. The slow thawing will help keep condensation from affecting the icing.

black and white cookies on a wooden tray

Black and White Cookies

Yield 12 cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Simple yet elegant, these Black and White Cookies deliver the perfect balance of soft, cake-like texture and the iconic two-tone icing for a memorable treat that’s sure to delight.

black and white cookies on a wooden tray


For the cookies:

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (75g) sour cream
  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

  • 3 cups (330g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons (15g) dark cocoa powder


To make the cookies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until they're light and airy. Add the egg, vanilla, and sour cream, and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and continue mixing just until combined.
  4. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and place on the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least a couple of inches between the cookies to allow for spreading.
  5. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, either flip them over or press each with a glass to flatten. 
  6. Cool the cookies completely before icing them.

To make the icing and assemble:

  1. Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  2. Divide the icing into two bowls. Add the cocoa powder to one of the portions, and stir to combine.
  3. Once the cookies have cooled to room temperature, pipe the vanilla icing over half of each cookie. Place the cookies in the freezer for a few minutes to let the icing set.
  4. Next, pipe chocolate icing over the other half of each cookie. Allow the icing to set before serving.

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