Black and White Cookies

The black and white cookie is a favorite of my Brooklyn-born husband, and–under his influence–it is now one of my son’s favorite, as well. To please them, I have worked out a recipe that makes very authentic tasting cookies.

In case you are not familiar with this treat, the black and white is a lemon and vanilla scented drop cake that is coated on the bottom with vanilla and chocolate icing. I suspect that bakeries use commercially made poured fondant for the icing. (see here for how to make, see here to buy), Most recipes for this cookie suggest a powdered sugar based icing that approximates poured fondant.

My recipe is based upon one that appears in Jill Van Cleave‘s ode to old fashioned bakeries: The Neighborhood Bake Shop (a wonderful cookbook that come out in 1997 and which seems to be out of print). Jill Van Cleave’s recipe is very similar to another recipe ( an alleged clone of Zabar’s recipe) that is hugely popular (Smitten Kitchen, NYT, Recipezaar, allrecipes).

The difference between Jill Van Cleave’s recipe and the Zabar’s clone? In Zabar’s clone, the butter is creamed with the sugar, before eggs, milk, and then flour is added. In Van Cleave’s recipe, the eggs and sugar are first beaten together and then melted butter, milk, and vanilla are added in before the dry ingredients are added. Van Cleave’s recipe also has less flour and slightly less sugar.

Here is what I did differently: I swapped out the melted butter and milk for oil, water, and a touch of meyer lemon juice. The box of black and white cookies that we buy is dairy-free and the ingredients list oil and water, so I knew that this switch would make authentic tasting cookies.

I also took some advice from a commenter on allrecipes (Kathy. aka Hoosier2B) in regards to the mock poured fondant icing.

These were the major changes, but I made a few other adjustments as well.

For next time, I might try more lemon juice. The texture probably would be improved by using cake flour or at least swapping out a couple of tablespoons of flour with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Some of my cookies were ever so slightly thicker than I would like–I could have flattened them just a little teeny bit with a small icing spatula before baking. But slightly thick is good, too.

Dairy-Free Meyer Lemon Scented Black and White Cookies
Freely adapted from a recipe in The Neighborhood Bake Shop
Yield: 10-14 cookies, approximately 3 1/2″ in diameter

Whip together until light yellow:
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar

Mix into the egg mixture:
6 Tablespoons safflower oil
3 Tablespoon meyer lemon juice (1 lemon–this is subtle flavoring; you can add more and reduce the water accordingly. Or you can use all water and add a bit of lemon extract or lemon zest)
5 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stir in:
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (original recipe called for half cake flour, which is preferable; another option is to swap out 2 Tablespoons of flour with the same amount of cornstarch)

The mixture will look like cake batter (because it is!). Use a 2 ounce (1.4 cup)  ice cream scoop to drop rounds of batter 2 1/2″ apart on a cookie sheet that is lined with greased parchment paper (actually, the greasing isn’t absolutely necessary, but I thought it helped a bit). The batter will spread out a bit, but will still be thick. These don’t spread out so much during baking, so flatten them out now if you want flatter cookies.

See below for baked (left) and unbaked (right) cookies (see how they don’t flatten out so much?):


unbaked black and white cookie

baked black and white cookies

Before you try to flatten out the batter, give the rounds a few minutes to spread out on their own, especially if your oven is still preheating. They will spread a bit.

Bake the cookies in a preheated 350 F oven for about 14 minutes (check after 11 minutes). The tops of the cookies will be pale, but the top will feel dry and set. The bottoms will look pale as well. This is as it should be.

Make the icing:

Vanilla Icing
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons of hot water
1/2 – 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 teaspoon colorless imitation vanilla (Wilton makes this and you can get this in a craft store. Or you can use regular vanilla)

You should have a mixture that is thick enough to provide opaque coverage when you spread it on the cookie, but the mixture should be thin enough to smooth out, without leaving marks from the spreading knife or spatula.

Cover half of each cookie with white icing. You may run out just before you get to the last couple of cookies. Just make another batch. The leftovers of the second batch will get turned into the chocolate frosting.

Let these iced cookies dry out a bit so that you don’t smear the white icing when you glaze with chocolate (10-20 minutes). Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Make a batch of vanilla, or, if you already made a second batch to glaze the last couple of cookies, add in the following:

3 Tablespoons of dutch process cocoa (I just used heaping teaspoonfuls, but they were probably equal to 3 Tbl.)
1 tsp. oil
1 Tbl. light corn syrup
1 Tbl. boilling water, or enough to thin out the mixture

The cocoa make the mixture too thick and it needs thinning. I should have thinned it more, because it didn’t flatten out properly (you can see spatula spread marks a bit).

Update: the second time, I thinned it more and it worked much better.

Note: the cookies are moist and will stick to each other unless you carefully separate them with waxed paper.

Update:  I made pink and whites, too.

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9 Responses to “Black and White Cookies”

  1. Julia @ Mélanger Says:

    Delicious. I’ve only tried to make these once, many years ago. I can’t remember where I got the recipe. So interesting there are different approaches to the mixture. How many batches have you made now? 🙂

    P.S. re: your question on the red food colouring in the chocolate macarons. The red attempts to deepen the chocolate brown.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Ahh, to deepen the chocolate color–interesting! Funny how red reads as brown. I wonder why not just use brown food coloring?

      As for the cookies, the husband and kids have gobbled up all the cookies and now I have to make more. These were the most popular cookies I have ever made for my family. By request, I am going to make some pink and whites (same as the black and whites, but with pink frosting, so there is a color contrast, but also an unadulterated vanilla flavor.

  2. theteachercooks Says:

    Lemon cookies I love, but have never had these black and white cookies before. Very nice.

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks! Aside from the trouble you need to take to frost these cookies, they are incredibly easy to make and just so so good! You could make them without the frosting and increase the lemon flavor with a bit of lemon extract if you like.

  3. Pink and White Cookies « Pragmatic Attic Says:

    […] Pragmatic Attic A whole lot of this and that . . . . « Black and White Cookies […]

  4. Parshat Pekudei / Shabbat Shekalim Project: Half Shekel and New Moon Silver and Black Cookies « Pragmatic Attic Says:

    […] the recipe, go to this post about black and white cookies (I have also made pink and […]

  5. toby Says:

    Hi there! I just discovered your blog via Miriyummy’s KCC – it looks wonderful! Growing up in Chicago we never had these cookies, but they had them in Boston, where I spent a few years in the 90’s – but there they called them Half Moon Cookies. I still miss them sometimes! Maybe I’ll try making these and see how they compare with my sweet memories 🙂

  6. Sufganiyot: Traditional and Modernishe Baked « Pragmatic Attic Says:

    […] Glaze (originally created as an icing for black and white cookies, based on advice from Kathy/Hoosier2b, commenter at allrecipes) Combine: 1 cup of powdered sugar 1 […]

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