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Black And Whites

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
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On February 3, 1994 (Season 5, Episode Number 77), Jerry Seinfeld, waiting on line in a New York City bakery, used Black and Whites as a metaphor for racial harmony and consequently made these cookie-cakes into a national sensation. Since then, everyone who comes to New York City needs to eat a Black and White. Meanwhile, native New Yorkers laugh to themselves. Black and Whites were never very good, and nowadays they’re worse. A few bakeries would bake a tender, vanilla-and-lemon-scented cake, as the one below, but most would bake a dry and tasteless cake. Now they are sold in corner grocery stores.

Not a cookie, but sometimes called a cookie, Black and Whites are made with a stiff cake batter, baked into a mound, free-form on a cookie sheet. The curved top becomes the bottom. The flat bottom becomes the top and gets slicked, harlequin style—half with chocolate, half with vanilla fondant.

No one seems to know who invented the Black and White, or where it was first created. George Greenstein, a second-generation Jewish baker who has devoted his retirement to translating the old New York neighborhood bakery recipes into contemporary home recipes (Secrets of a Jewish Baker), feels they must have been invented at the beginning of the twentieth century by a baker looking for yet another way to use his standard yellow cake. They were clever. They caught on. They got copied all over town.

Yield: 10 to 12 large cookies or 16 to 18 small ones


  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon flavoring
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flavoring

For vanilla icing:

  • 1½ pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For chocolate icing:

  • 1 recipe vanilla icing
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted


Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cut parchment paper to cover a large baking sheet. If making large cookies, trace four 4½-inch circles on each sheet of parchment. If making smaller cookies, trace four 3½-inch circles. Place oven rack in the center of the oven.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held or stand mixer, cream together the sugar, shortening, and butter until light and fluffy.

Reduce speed to medium and add the corn syrup, then the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until just incorporated.

In another large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.

On medium speed, beat the dry ingredient mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating with milk, and beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add vanilla, lemon, and orange flavorings.

To make large cookies, place ½ cup batter in the center of each circle and spread evenly with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to fill the outline. Bake one tray at a time for 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden.

To make smaller cookies, spread ¾ cup batter in each circle. Bake one tray at a time, for 8 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden.

To make the vanilla icing, combine the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir until well combined. The mixture will be thick. Cook to 100 degrees. If too thick, add a few drops of water. Remove from heat; keep icing over hot water.

Turn cookies over and frost one half of the flat side with vanilla icing. You can use a piece of wax paper as a guide for an even line of icing. Using a pastry brush (or paintbrush) instead of a spatula or knife gives the smoothest surface. To keep icing glossy, don’t go over it too much. Place on a rack to dry.

To make chocolate icing, add melted chocolate to vanilla icing. Apply the chocolate icing when the vanilla icing dries.

© 2004 Arthur Schwartz

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 18 servings and half of the icing recipes.

542kcal (27%)
56mg (6%)
0mg (0%)
63mcg RAE (2%)
61mg (20%)
150mg (6%)
7g (36%)
19g (29%)
2mg (13%)

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