The Rich Origin Of NYC's Black And White Cookies

Step into any New York bakery and you'll find these iconic, half-chocolate half-vanilla cookies sitting in the window. Black and white cookies have been around for a long time and are often associated with the Jewish community in New York City. But are these so-called cookies actually cookies? Technically, no — it turns out that black and white cookies are actually cakes. According to the New York Times, these cookies are technically "drop cakes," which are made from cupcake batter that has been thickened with flour so that it doesn't run on the cookie sheet. The resulting texture is like a softer, crumblier sugar cookie that is moist and tender.

Eater notes that some trace the origins of the black and white cookie to the half-moon cookie, which popped up in the early 1900s at Hemstraught's Bakery in Utica, NY. Eventually, half-moon cookies and black and white cookies became interchangeable terms for the same chocolate and vanilla drop cake (via Untapped New York). After all, both names accurately describe the striking design of this fondant cookie. However, there is evidence that the inspiration for this cookie came centuries earlier.

Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam

We can credit the cakey base of this and other early cookies to the Dutch settlers of the 17th century, according to Eater. The word cookie is derived from the Dutch word koekje, meaning little cake (via Culinary Lore). Other keokjes that were eaten around this time were gingerbread and macaroons. Koekjes kept their name in the early American Dutch colony of New Amsterdam until the British took over, changing the name of the colony to New York, and the term was anglicized to "cookie." So in this way, the cookie's origins are tied to the birth of the city itself (via Eater).

Chompies reports that the first official black and white cookie was invented at Glaser's Bake Shop in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants Justine and John Glaser. Their recipe emerged at the same time as the half-moon, which explains the confusion about when this treat was invented. Decades later, the cookie's association with the moon was briefly taken over by another narrative when it was mentioned in an episode of "Seinfeld." Eater mentions that in this episode, Jerry bites the cookie eating the white and black halves at once, using it as a lesson on racial harmony. This iconic scene is now part of the cookie's legend, and it even became a litmus test for judging someone based on how they eat one, per Delish. With its rich history and contrasting icing colors, the black and white cookie is a New York staple.