Getting Through Life One Recipe at a Time

The Black and White Cookie

During my brief stint as a New Yorker, I became obsessed with the black and white cookie. The delicate crumb and double glaze were only part of the appeal. The rest was my huge (and still thriving) crush on Jerry Seinfeld who made the cookie famous in 1994. In “The Dinner Party,” Jerry munches a black and white while musing about race relations. “If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved,” Jerry says. As a firm believer that baked goods are the key to happiness and harmony, I get it.

But where did this iconic cookie come from? And more importantly, will I ever meet Jerry Seinfeld?

For now, I can only answer the first question but I’ll keep you in the loop of updates on the second as they come to me.

The cookie’s history – like a lot of food history – is a little unclear.

Some argue it was invented in 1902 at Glaser’s Bake Shop in Yorkville, NY. In a 1998 New York Times article “Look to the Cookie: An Ode to Black and White”  by William Grimes, Herb Glaser of Glaser’s bakery remembers the treat being available in the Bavarian immigrant-owned bakery since it’s inception, 96 years ago. If my calculations are correct, that means today the Black and White cookie is 115 years old. Woof – that’s an old cookie!

Others claim that there exists an equally long cookie lineage that traces back to Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica. This theory states that the B&W is a descendent of the “half-moon” cookie, one of Hemstrought’s specialities.

While their place of origin is up for debate, almost all cookie scholars seem to agree that they aren’t even cookies…not really. Instead, the black and white cookie is a cake! A drop cake. It makes sense. The batter is wetter than a cookie’s, the texture more moist. I’d classify them as a cross between cake and cookie. Like a…uh…cakie…or some other clever name I haven’t come up with yet.

So there’s the history but what about Jerry’s request? “Look to the cookie.”

Fast forward to 2017 and, if you ask me, I’d classify these as troubled times. I’d argue we have a president determined to divide us rather than unite us. On the news: Mass shootings. Police brutality. Wildfires in California. Sexual harassment. Global warming. North Korea.

Maybe it’s too much to be solved by a cookie but maybe not. I think what Jerry was getting at in line at Royal Bakery, is that we are at our best when we work together, like the vanilla and chocolate frostings. “Black and white. Two races of flavor living side-by-side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing.” Yes. Harmony. All people, of all sorts, together and moving towards one goal. Wouldn’t that be something?

Are we too far gone? As I sit and eat my cookie down the middle, a little chocolate and a little vanilla coming together, I don’t think so.  Maybe you don’t either.

Here’s my recipe:

These cookies or cakies or whatever you want to call them are super easy and use ingredients you probably already have on hand.

First, cream together the butter and the sugar.

Next add the milk, eggs, vanilla and lemon extract.

Whisk together the dry ingredients then add them, a little at a time, to the wet.

Once the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are combined HARMONIOUSLY, use a 1 1/2-inch scoop to portion the dough. Make sure the cookies are 2 inches apart so they don’t run into each other when baking.

Bake for 18 minutes until lightly golden.

To make the glazes, whisk all ingredients for vanilla glaze in one bowl and all ingredients for chocolate glaze in another bowl. Put the cookies on a rack above parchment and glaze as you see above.

Let the glaze set for 20 minutes.

Isn’t it great? Two different flavors coming together to make a whole that is beautiful and tasty. Look to the cookie indeed!

The Black and White Cookie

  • Difficulty: easy
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Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt 

For the vanilla icing:
1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 – 3 tablespoons of water

For the chocolate icing:
1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
3 – 4 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup of cocoa powder


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Measure out all of the cookie dough ingredients.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and lemon extract. Mix until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry to the wet in small batches. Mix until all the dry is incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, portion out the dough onto cookie trays leaving 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

While the cookies are cooling make the frostings.

For each individual frosting, place all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until you have two smooth, spreadable, frostings.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, glaze one half in vanilla and the other with the chocolate.

Let the icing set for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

My research:

“The Black-and-White Cookie’s Curious History.” By Robert Sietsema – Eater.

“Look to the Cookie: An Ode to Black and White.” By William Grimes – New York Times. 

1 Comment

  1. Interesting and insightful and the cookie looks delicious!

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