More than pizza, pastrami, and cheesecake, nothing says New York City like a Black & White cookie. Before moving to New York, I had the opportunity to eat inferior versions of all three of these things, but Black & Whites were not so easy to find outside of the city’s limits. On top of B&Ws’ rarity in others parts of the country, half cookie, half cake, half chocolate, half vanilla, this cookie is the embodiment of any jaded New Yorker’s indecisiveness. With so many cuisines at one’s fingertips at all hours of the day, it can be hard to make any culinary decision—and so the invention of an iconic dessert that makes it that much easier for New Yorkers to have it all, all at once.
Since New Yorkers also always expect only the best, I decided to go on a journey for the city’s best Black & White, and so commenced the Battle of the Black & White. Relying on the opinions of an expert panel of sweets-eaters, including a man who has been devouring Black & Whites for over sixty years (my father), five B&Ws were chosen based on reputation alone and judged on icing taste and texture, cake consistency, and, of course, the B&Ws’ ability to strike that perfect chord between cookie and cake. After a grueling skirmish, (much more taxing to my belt buckle than anything else), the results are in!
In last place (although, keep in mind, these are all cookies so nobody is really a loser here) is Prospect Heights’ Joyce Bakeshop. I had high hopes for these smaller B&Ws after visiting this cute and cozy location with (by far) the friendliest staff. The cookies weren’t wrapped in plastic—another good sign!—however, these were the smallest of the five, and not the cheapest ($2.75 each). Joyce Bakeshop’s buttery icing was delicious, but was gooey and so didn’t harden like a signature B&W. Furthermore, the dough was more crunchy than cake-y. In the end, it seems Joyce Bakeshop might have been trying to give a new twist to the original B&W recipe, but strayed too far from norm.
Representing New York’s corner delis is Midtown’s Ess-a-Bagel. For all chocolate lovers out there, Ess-a-Bagel’s B&W had, by far, the best chocolate icing ($2.25 each). However, the B&W is all about the ying and the yang, and unfortunately the chocolate icing was not enough to boost Ess-a-Bagel’s overall score. Slightly dry cake and a packaged taste, Ess-a-Bagel’s B&W lands at fourth.
Next came Brooklyn’s Junior’s ($2.25 each). Known for their cheesecakes, Junior’s B&Ws’ cake, fluffy and moist with a homemade taste, did not disappoint. The only thing keeping Junior’s from the top was a slightly-too-sweet icing, both chocolate and vanilla.
In second place, the esteemed and most expensive William Greenberg Jr. Desserts ($3.50 each). One would expect a lot from this Upper East Side, Madison Avenue establishment simply from the fancy name—and overall, these cookies come with the most expectations (even Oprah has given them her stamp of approval). William Greenberg Dessert’s B&Ws’ cake was moist and stayed that way the longest. Their chocolate had a hint of coffee that made it that much richer, and the vanilla icing was sweet without being too sweet.
In the end, heavy-hitter William Greenberg’s B&Ws’ slightly skewed cake-to-cookie ratio kept it from taking first prize. Instead, in first place is…(rolling pin drum roll please)….the Upper West Side’s NUSSBAUM & WU! Right next to Columbia’s campus, Nussbaum & Wu’s B&W is the biggest for your buck ($2.75 each) and their combination of fluffy cake and fondant icing struck the perfect balance between the crunch of a cookie and the softness of cake. The icing was sweet but not too sweet, and there was not too much cakey-cookie and not too little, making this B&W just right. Furthermore, obviously baked that day and having never been wrapped in plastic, Nussbaum & Wu’s B&W tasted the most homemade. Congratulations Nussbaum & Wu, you are the winner and will undoubtedly be helping Columbia’s students reach their freshman fifteen for many years to come!