Black and White Cookies Inspired by Zabar’s

A few weeks ago Fuzz and I took a quick two night trip to New York to visit friends and do some exploring.  We usually stay Downtown or near Grand Central, but this time we stayed on the Upper West Side, which turned out to be the perfect location.  We were a block from The Museum of Natural History, steps from Central Park, and a short walk to Zabar’s, which is a famous grocery store/deli known for many things, including their Black & White Cookies.

Black and White Cookies

I was  excited to finally be at Zabar’s, but a little overwhelmed and kept bumping into people in the narrow crowded aisles.  After getting more than one dirty look, I started to feel clumsy and awkward and headed toward the stairs thinking maybe the second floor would be less crowded.  And that’s how I discovered the kitchenware section of Zabar’s, which I’d describe as the best of Sur le Table, Ace Hardware and the Michael’s cake decorating section all crammed into one small-but-large-for-NYC space.  In other words, Heaven.  After relaxing and regaining my composure by looking at baking gadgets I didn’t know existed,  I headed back downstairs to the coffee section, bought some Zabar’s Blend and got out of the store without even thinking about Black & White Cookies.

Next time I’ll pick up some cookies at Zabar’s, but for now here’s a recipe that is supposed to be similar to the cookies at Zabar’s. These are a  little denser and richer/crumblier than my favorite, but the recipe makes a larger batch and the cookies are nicely shaped.  I retooled the recipe a bit by making it all in one bowl (no need to mix the dry ingredients separately here), using Vanilla, Butter & Nut Extract since Fuzz complains that I use too much lemon, and used my favorite, old-standby, Black & White Cookie Icing.  I also used two decorating bags to pipe the icing.  These days I don’t even bother making Black and Whites without them.

I’ve made these twice since we returned home from New York and have sent a batch to school with Fuzz.  We’re trying to make them a thing here in Austin, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen even though Black & Whites are supposed to have originated from “Amerikaners” which are German, which therefore should be popular in Central Texas, but no luck.  I’ve only found one place in town that sells Black & Whites and that’s Wholy Bagel, which also has the best bagels in Austin.  Trust me on that.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Black and White Cookies Inspired by Zabar's
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Black and White Cookies that are fat, puffy, and not overly cakey. These are supposed to be similar to Zabar's, but I'm not sure they really are.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 32
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12.25 oz)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or vanilla butter & nut extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using salted butter, use only 1/4 teaspoon)**
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (10 oz) -- measure carefully
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (11.25 oz) -- weigh or stir well and measure carefully
White Icing
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz) powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of good quality vanilla
Chocolate Icing
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (8 oz) powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of milk plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon of corn syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Have ready two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Do not grease the pans because spray/butter will make the pans too slippery and the cookies may spread.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, then gradually add the milk, followed by the extracts, salt and baking powder. Stir well to make sure the baking powder is evenly distributed. Stir in cake flour, then add remaining flour. Batter should not be dry, but it should hold its shape when you plop it out on the tray.
  3. Using a VERY generously heaping tablespoon, drop the dough onto the baking sheets spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove from baking sheets and let cool.
  4. Set a decorating bag uncut and without a tip in a glass and pull sides down to make a little cuff .
  5. To make the white frosting, combine the powdered sugar, cream, milk and corn syrup in a bowl and stir until thick. Stir in corn syrup and vanilla. Add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring until batter is thin, but still thick enough to pipe from a bag (a little thicker than glue). Transfer to the decorating bag.
  6. Repeat the same steps with the black frosting recipe, only add the cocoa powder along with the powdered sugar. Transfer to another decorating bag.
  7. When cookies are completely cool, turn them over so that the flat side is up. Snip the tip off the white decorating bag and pipe white icing over half of each cookie. Repeat with the black icing.
  8. Let the cookies sit at room temperature or chill until icing is firm.
About the salt, I used a full teaspoon of Morton kosher (which is a bit coarser than table salt even though it says it measures the same), but some recipes call for 1/2 teaspoon. I don't find the 1 teaspoon of salt to be too much, but if you are sensitive to salt or like baked goods with less, feel free to cut it back to the 1/2 teaspoon. Also, If using regular table salt, it might be a good idea to start with 1/2 teaspoon.The recipe halves and quarters quite well. The cookie part of the recipe (not the icing) is adapted from a recipe in the New York Times.


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  1. T. Martin says

    How was the flavor of the cookie part Anna? I think that is the part that always turns me off…

  2. says

    Well, the flavor was delicious. I used a combination of vanilla extract and butternut flavor, so it was basically vanilla with butter flavor. Flavor is easy to play around with, while texture is mainly chemistry and more interesting. I thought the flavor of my icings were great because I used my favorite vanilla (rather than boring clear, which some people use to get a pure white color) and the chocolate was good because of the cream. Actually, I’m sure the cream is what made the frosting good ;). Maybe you are turned off by the hint of lemon in some Black & White? Overall these were good — not mind blowing or anything, but pretty, flavorful and great for parties. So far the best Black & White I ever had was one from Junior’s, but I probably just caught them on a good day.

  3. says

    I grew up eating these on Long Island. If you ever go to Starbucks you should find them there. I don’t know how good they are since I never bought any there but they look decent.

  4. says

    Debbie, I forgot about Starbuck’s. Yes, they have the little mini packs.

    I was thinking about the flavor issue T. Martin mentioned. Maybe it’s the lack of salt? Almost all of the B&W recipes I’ve seen use a lower ratio of salt to flour. At first I thought that amount would be fine and that the salt from the baking powder would make up for the missing salt, but in my first batch I felt the cookies could use more salt so I increased it and was happy. But most recipes out there have only 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt, whereas a lot of very good buttermilk cookies have more salt or use less salt and call for salted butter.

  5. Cynna says

    Zabar’s is famous for its surly staff and overpriced everything–and it’s always crowded! Although they do have have some yummy food.

  6. Lena says

    Here’s a fun story: I’m from Germany and we have something quite similar to Black & White Cookies, only that our equivalent is frosted with traditional powdered sugar icing… but we call them Amerikaner, which “roughly” translates as Americans 😀
    So beware if you come across Black & White Cookies in Germany, they are some kind of Christmas Cookies made of shortcrust pastry while our Amerikaner are your Black & White Cookies 😉

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