Black and White Cookies (Half Moon Cookies)
The best classic, easy NYC black and white cookies recipe, homemade with simple ingredients. Soft, moist cake-like cookies frosted in vanilla and chocolate icing. Also known as “half and half cookies” or “half moon cookies” or “Seinfeld black and white cookies.”
These cookies have such a rich history that it has become a mainstay tradition in New York City for many years. There is even a very funny episode of Seinfeld where the characters talk about the best way to eat them. For many families, this has become a classic holiday cookie, just like these Jumbo Gingerbread Men Cookies or these Snowball Cookies (Wedding Cookies).
What are NYC black and white cookies?
These are also known as “Amerikaners.” They are believed to have originated in 1902 from Glaser’s bakery in Manhattan and this was one of their popular menu items.
They are a round and soft sugar cookies with a cake-like texture. What makes them so special is that they are glazed half with black (chocolate) icing and half with white (vanilla) icing. The cookie base either has a vanilla flavor or a subtle lemon flavor although vanilla seems to be the most popular these days.
How to make black and white cookie recipe from scratch?
- Cream butter and sugar- Until light and fluffy
- Mix in wet ingredients– This includes egg, vanilla extract, sour cream.
- Mix in dry ingredients– This includes flour, baking powder, baking soda.
- Bake– Scoop out portions of the dough and drop them onto a cookie tray and bake until golden brown. .
- Prepare icing– By mixing together powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and vanilla extract.
- Split icing– Transfer half the icing to another bowl and mix in cocoa powder.
- Ice cookies– Spread vanilla icing on half of the cookie.
- Chill– To allow icing to set.
- Ice cookies again– Spread chocolate icing on remaining half of the cookie.
- Chill– To allow icing to set.
- Enjoy– Dig in!
How to ice black and white cookies?
The process is slightly different than the way we all typically frost cookies because 2 colors/ flavors are involved.
You will be icing the flat side of the cookie and NOT the dome side. Start off with spreading vanilla icing on half of the cookie. Then, chill until icing sets. Remove from fridge and then spread chocolate icing on the remaining half of the cookie. Chill again to allow icing to set. Then, enjoy!
I discussed an alternative, easier method of icing cookies in the recipe card below.
Variations for Half Moon Cookies
Make unique icing designs– Obviously this won’t be the classic appearance of these cookie but you can fill piping bags with chocolate and vanilla icing and drizzle on top of cookies in stripes or zigzag or swirl patterns.
Make a chocolate cookie base– Add cocoa powder to the cookie dough or even some mini chocolate chips.
Add other extracts– Lemon is a popular choice. Mix in some lemon extract and lemon zest to the dough instead of vanilla extract. You can also try almond extract or coconut extract or caramel extract.
Add peppermint– This would be great for Christmas holidays. Add some peppermint extract to the icings or you can mix it in the dough.
Add sprinkles– Before the icing sets, toss some sprinkles on top.
Refrigerate– Cookies can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Make sure each cookie is separated with a sheet of wax paper.
Freeze– Unfrosted cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month in a sealed container and thawed in the fridge overnight. Then, they can be iced.
Room temperature– Cookies can be stored in a cookie jar or covered box/container with pieces of wax paper, separating each cookie for up to 3 days.
Tips and Techniques
Cookie dough is thick- Do not thin it out because that will change the texture entirely.
Spread out cookie dough in baking trays- Because they will rise a lot during baking. 4-5 inches space between cookie dough is best, even if it means you have to use multiple trays.
Frost flat undersides of cookies and not the top domes– Because the icing will slide off the domed sides.
Use full fat ingredients– Because they add richness and moisture and a lot of flavor to this dessert.
All ingredients must be at room temperature– Because that allows all the ingredients to blend together smoothly and evenly.
Use dark cocoa powder– Because that’s what gives the chocolate icing its dark almost-black color.
Sour cream substitute– Full fat Greek yogurt is the best replacement.
Use unsalted butter– Because that prevents these cookies from becoming too salty.
Don’t omit corn syrup in icing– Because that’s what makes it so glossy and shiny.
Use full fat ingredients- Because they add richness and moisture and a lot of flavor to this dessert.
You must chill between icing– If you ice both colors at the same time, the colors will bleed into each other and make a mess.
Use both baking powder and baking soda– Because they are both needed to increase the volume of the cookie dough and make it rise while baking.
Line your cookie pan with parchment paper for baking (not wax paper)- Because if you don’t do it, your cookies will stick to the pan.
More Unique Classic Cookie Recipes
- Church Window Cookies
- Oatmeal Lace Cookies
- Easy Meringue Cookies
- Easy Stained Glass Cookies
- Christmas Pinwheel Cookies
- Cotton Candy Cookies
Easy Black and White Cookies
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg, vanilla extract, sour cream and mix until smooth.
- Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and mix until just combined. Please note the batter will be VERY thick.
- Scoop out portions of the batter and drop them as mounds on a cookie tray, lined with parchment paper. Use multiple cookie trays and leave a lot of space between each cookie (about 4-5 inches) because they will expand substantially during baking.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-18 minutes or until edges are slightly firm and golden brown.
- Allow cookies to cool down completely in the cookie trays.
- While they are cooling, prepare the icing by mixing together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until smooth.
- Transfer half the icing in another bowl and add cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Add a little more milk, if necessary.
- Once the cookies have cooled down completely, spread vanilla icing on only half portion of the cookies flat sides (Not the dome sides). Place them on a baking tray, lined with wax paper.
- Chill cookies in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or until the icing sets.
- Then, remove from fridge and spread chocolate icing on the remaining half portion of the cookies. Place them on the lined baking tray again.
- Chill cookies in the fridge for 30 minutes or until the icing has completely set. Enjoy! Note: Another non-traditional method of icing these cookies is to dip each cookie halfway in white icing first. Then, chill to let it set. After that, dip the remaining half in chocolate icing and let it set again. This way, both sides (the dome and flat side) of the cookie get iced and it's also not as messy as the original method.
- Read all my tips above.
- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days or at room temperature for about 3 days.