Black and White Cookies: the 10 Things You Didn't Know

The black and white is like the street cart pretzel; both relics of a bygone NYC with lower rents and pre-steroid Yankees. And while, for the most part, the ubiquitous cookies have been replaced with cloying shrink-wrapped versions of their former selves, we still love 'em. So much so, we decided to (gasp!) learn something about them. Here're 10 things worth knowing about NYC's most famous cookie:

1) They aren't even cookies
The cookies are technically "drop cakes", which're made from a batter resembling that of a cupcake. Bakers just add in an extra heap of flour so that the dough holds its famous not-quite-a-cookie, not-quite-a-cupcake shape.

10 Things You Didn't Know about Black and White Cookies

2) Only New York City calls them "black and white cookies" 
In New England and upstate New York, they call 'em Half Moons. In the Midwest? Harlequins.

3) WWII made the cookie popular in Germany
It's rumored that post-war, GIs brought them over to Germany, where they were referred to as (third weird nickname alert!) Amerikaners. There, they tended to be sold with an all-vanilla glaze.

10 Things You Didn't Know about Black and White Cookies

4) Even though they're associated with NYC, the cookie was actually born Upstate
While this is semi-murky territory, it seems that in the early part of the 20th century, Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, NY was thought to have sold the first OG black and white. They would frost their cookies, which they dubbed Half Moons, with vanilla buttercream and chocolate fudge -- a rarity in NYC, where we prefer slicker chocolate and vanilla fondants.

5) The base isn't just vanilla
All good versions have a slight lemon flavor to help cut through the sweetness and save the cookie from being boring... if you think vanilla cake is boring.

10 Things You Didn't Know about Black and White Cookies

6) Speaking of vanilla, the first versions were actually made with a chocolate base
Supposedly, bakers swapped out the chocolate base in favor of vanilla because it proved to be far too rich, but you can actually still find choco-based ones Upstate.

7) When frosting the cookies, there are rules
This doesn't apply to versions with fondant, but when it comes to Half Moons, both frostings should be applied extra-thick, one frosting should always be slightly taller than the other (we vote chocolate), and the chocolate frosting should be incredibly rich, thus inspiring you to take bites of vanilla for relief.

10 Things You Didn't Know about Black and White Cookies

8) Despite people outside of the city kinda hating them, the black and white cookie is far from an artisan local treat
It's actually about as mainstream as Justin Bieber these days; the cookies are available across the country thanks to companies like Entenmann's and Starbucks, who sells mini-versions at all of its stores. According to several cookie sources though, all of those are worse than NYC's.

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9) It made a cameo on Seinfeld
Okay, you probably knew this one, but the cookie became a hot sweet tooth commodity across the nation after the episode "The Dinner Party", when Jerry stands in line nibbling on a classic black and white and proclaims, "Look to the cookie," as he realizes, according to The New York Times, the cookie's "eloquent plea for racial harmony." 

10) Obama also used it as a metaphor for race relations
Standing in a deli in Southern Florida on the 2008 campaign trail, he risked a copyright suit from Queen Latifah and dubbed them the "unity cookie" for their absurdly obvious metaphor.

Khushbu Shah is a freelance food and drink writer who aspires to one day write a joke that makes it onto a Laffy Taffy wrapper. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.