If you’re not from New York, your only knowledge of black and white cookies might be limited to that famous Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about the bicolor cookie representing racial harmony (it doesn’t, it’s just a cookie). But black and white cookies aren’t just a made up set prop– they are a real New York “thing” and if you know where to go, these delicious cookie-cakes can make a great New York City souvenir.
New York’s Black and White Cookies– not exactly a cookie
A black and white cookie is not really a cookie– in technical terms, it’s actually a drop cake, sort of like a cupcake or sponge cake, but with extra flour added so the cookie keeps its shape. After baking, this cake-like cookie is then frosted with chocolate ganache on one side, and vanilla fondant on the other.
Black and White Cookies: Just a Gimmick or a tasty Dessert?
Black and white cookies can be found at nearly every deli and bodega around New York City. If this was your only introduction to the cookie, you might dismiss it as a cheap gimmick– an oversize cookie that looks intriguing but tastes just like any other frosted cookie– sugary and bland. And similar to the recent scandal when we learned that all fruit loop colors are really the same flavor, you might find that the chocolate side of a deli black and white cookie tastes strikingly similar to the vanilla side.
But bodega black and white cookies are poor imitations of the real thing, not worthy of their calories count. Don’t waste your time with these disappointing knockoffs– instead, find a real bakery, one that makes a proper black and white cookie, and you’ll understand why this ubiquitous cookie has become part of New York City’s culture.
For the Best Black and White Cookies in New York City, Head to William Greenberg Desserts on Manhattan’s Upper East Side
How do you find New York City’s best black and white cookie? Google it, of course. Topping nearly every local expert’s “top cookie” list is William Greenberg Desserts on the Upper East Side.
For years, I lived just a few blocks from William Greenberg and stopped in often for their addictive black and white cookies, brownies and other tasty treats. At the time, I had no idea that their black and whites were anything special– I thought all black and white cookies tasted this way. Seeking a snack in midtown one day, I quickly learned otherwise. It only took one bite of a bodega black and white cookie to realize that William Greenberg was the holy grail of black and white cookies.
In the interest of research for my readers, I revisited my old neighborhood to ensure William Greenberg’s black and whites are still up to snuff. I popped into their store and picked up a pre-wrapped cookie (they are baked fresh daily, but wrapped in plastic as the frosting can be messy).
Is it worth heading to the Upper East Side just to get a black and white cookie? I would say yes, absolutely. But there is a lot more to do on the Upper East Side than just eat cookies– for starters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the “Met”) is only a block away.
Although I ate my black and white cookie right away, can you bring them home as a NYC souvenir? While it is true that they are perishable (fresh black and white cookies keep for up to three days, bodega versions have preservatives and will keep much longer), according to the baker, you can also bring them home and freeze them. To freeze, keep them in their original plastic wrap and place in a ziplock bag.
How do you eat your black and white cookie– do you eat one side first, or take alternating bites?
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Souvenir Finder Shopping Tip Sheet
- What to Buy: Black and White Cookie
- Where to Get it: William Greenberg Desserts, 1100 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10028 (212) 861-1340
- What to Know: Cookies are huge, great for sharing. Eat within three days of purchase.