It's Unclear Where, Exactly, Black And White Cookies Originated

The black and white cookie is a quintessential American treat with a mysterious history. Its origins can likely be traced to the early 20th century, primarily in New York City. One theory suggests that black and white cookies were inspired by half moons, miniature chocolate drop cakes adorned with thick layers of chocolate and vanilla icing. Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, another claimant of the black and white cookie's birthplace, has proudly used the same recipe for over a century.

One of the most common legends states that the black and white cookie was made popular by Glaser's Bake Shop in Manhattan during the early 1900s. When Bavarian immigrants John and Justine Glaser opened their bakery in 1902, the cakelike sweet was an instant hit. The distinctive two-toned cookie became ubiquitous in bakery windows. Its simple yet striking appearance featured one half coated in rich chocolate icing and the other in smooth vanilla fondant or frosting.

The black and white cookie is often associated with its strong connection to Jewish culture, especially in New York City, where there is a sizable Jewish population. In the mid-20th century, Jewish bakeries and delis adopted and popularized the bichromatic delight, which originated from European baking traditions Jewish immigrants were abundantly familiar with. Many black and white cookies are also made with kosher ingredients suitable for a Jewish diet.

The black and white cookie is iconic

Through the decades, the black and white cookie has transcended its humble beginnings to become a beloved confectionery staple. Its widespread admiration can be attributed to its delectable taste as well as its resonance in pop culture. For instance, one of the most memorable references to the cookie comes from the '90s sitcom "Seinfeld." In Season 5, Episode 13, entitled "The Dinner Party," Jerry muses about the significance of the cookie as a metaphor for racial unity, famously declaring, "I love the black and white — two races of flavor living side by side in harmony." He then offers sage wisdom to his female confidante: "Look to the cookie, Elaine. Look to the cookie." The treat has also been notably commended by real-life bigwigs. While campaigning in 2008, soon-to-be President Obama referred to the black and white cookie as a "unity cookie" in a Jewish deli in South Florida.

Regardless of its roots, the black and white cookie continues to captivate dessert lovers with its irresistible combination of flavors and textures. Its presence in gourmet bakeries and neighborhood delis instantly fuels nostalgia. Some bakers have put their own spin on the classic recipe by experimenting with innovative ingredients (Ina Garten uses instant coffee in hers), various lunar phase patterns, and festive color palettes to create modern dessert masterpieces that uniquely pay homage to the original.