The Light Side…Or The Dark Side?

I’m sitting at a Starbucks, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi I get with having one of their Gold membership cards. I’ve become a NYC cliché just for the next hour or so, until my sister frees up from work and we can commute home together.  It’s a truly gorgeous day, the first day I’ve walked around outside without needing a coat.  By the time this post makes it to the internet, it will no longer be Friday afternoon, but some date in the future, as I won’t be posting this until I have my pictures ready to put into the post…

I’ve been meaning to post about black & white cookies since I made them for the first time the other week, the week of our Bag Hunger bake sale at work, but somehow it just got lost in the jumble of other thoughts involving baking that have been dancing around in my brain.  And also, the Bloomingdale’s cupcakes ended up upstaging them in my mind.

Apparently, black & white cookies are an “institution” in NYC bakeries, which I didn’t know until I did some reading on them on the internet.  They originated here too.  Anyway, I just wanted to do them because Bloomingdale’s is known for its black and white checkerboard flooring on its ground level, which is present in all of its stores.

After much searching for a recipe that I liked, I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which promised to be a good cookie, since her recipe was “adapted from a bunch of places, but mostly Zabar’s” — which told me that she’s probably done these cookies many times in an effort to improve them each time and this was the version she was most happy with.  I only posted the cookie recipe because I didn’t like how the icings from the original recipe turned out — I just didn’t like the way they tasted like well, just sugar and not much else.  The chocolate tasted like exactly what you’d get if you mixed chocolate and sugar.  I know, I know — what’s wrong with that?  But I was looking for a little bit more depth to the taste, and the King Arthur icing recipes (as posted below) offered me vanilla and espresso powder (for which I substituted instant coffee).

Black and White Cookies (from Smitten Kitchen)


  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 baking sheets with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.

2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix by machine or hand until fluffy. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and lemon extracts, and mix until smooth.

3. In medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add dry mixture to the wet in batches, stirring well after each addition. Using a soup spoon, place heaping spoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.

4. Prepare frosting (see below).

5. Spread frosting on half of the flat side of each cookie.

6. Ice the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting.

7. Let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container.

Note:  I followed the recipes exactly, with the exception of using clear vanilla extract for the vanilla icing.  Also, it’s best to make a little bit of extra icing, as it can be a pain to have to make more in case you run out, which I did.
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

When making the cookies, I was a little unsure about the lemon extract.  I don’t really like lemon in my baked goods (you lemon bar lovers will gasp at that and think I am missing out, I know), but I try to follow a recipe as directed especially when it’s the first time I’m making it.  So throw in the lemon extract, I did.  And I was not sorry.  It actually gave the flavor of the cookie a certain, je ne sais quoi which remains a mystery until you actually add the icing.  Strangely, when frosted, the vanilla icing brings out the lemon flavor of the cookie, which is the je ne sais quoi that registers on your tongue but escapes your brain in terms of words, leaving you going, “What is that beneath the vanilla flavor of the cake?” (and by no coincidence, je ne sais quoi, literally translated from the Français means “I don’t know what.”) when you eat the cookie without the icing.  I actually prefer the cookie without the icing!  The cookies were dense, but just soft enough and cakey (the wonders of cake flour!) — as they should be.  I could eat cookie after cookie without the icing, but with the icing, the sugary-ness deters me from eating too many.  In case you wonder how I can possibly eat cookie after cookie, this is because I made mini black & whites, not large ones. 

When it comes to eating these cookies, there are many methods employed.  Some eat the white half, then the chocolate half.  Some eat the chocolate half first.  Some, like me, eat them down the middle (usually).  I am an equal opportunity eater, after all.  I wouldn’t want one side to feel left out because I favored the other — although truth be told, sometimes I eat the vanilla side first (to get it over with) and save the chocolate for last (saving the best part for last and all).

However you eat the cookie, don’t worry — it’s all going to the same place.  I just tend to favor the dark side.  Literally.

2 thoughts on “The Light Side…Or The Dark Side?

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