Just Because It’s a Legend, Does It Tastes Good?

by Anne Maxfield on February 3, 2014

Accidental Locavore Black & White CookiesA long-time friend of the Accidental Locavore’s BFF brought over a black & white cookie the other day. For those of you who aren’t accustomed to New York’s most iconic cookie, it’s a big cake-like cookie, iced with a chocolate and white glaze. Like an egg cream, it’s the stuff of legends and a deli classic.

After the ritualistic decision as to who wanted which half, we split it up with everyone getting their preferred section. This one was pretty standard deli fare, a bit dry and difficult to distinguish (flavor-wise) the black from the white. It got me wondering if these were like cannoli– was there a good black & white cookie out there, or was it just another urban food myth?

There are places in Manhattan known for their cookies, but I decided to take the path of least resistance – in other words, I wasn’t traveling cross-town to buy a cookie. Carnegie Deli is right near my apartment, and since it’s pretty iconic, it seemed like a reasonable place to go. Their cookies are really large and very domed (unlike the standard deli fare one). For some reason, almost all black & white cookies are wrapped in plastic, and this was no exception. A cute Carnegie Deli sticker and matching napkin made me feel like it was worth my $3.50, until I tasted it. Large, dry with little or no taste (apart from sweetness), the only thing that really differentiated the chocolate side from the white side was a slight hint of lemon zest in the white icing. One bite of this was more than enough and won’t make anyone a fan.

Accidental Locavore Carnegie DeliThe second one came from Zaro’s in Grand Central. It was about the same size as the Carnegie Deli one, but surprisingly, didn’t come wrapped in plastic. Not quite as domed as the other one, it was moist and threatening to fall apart. The cookie part was thick and cake-like, with a decent crumb, moist and tasted like good yellow cake. There was a definite difference between the black side, which did taste like chocolate and the white, which just tasted sweet. Hands down the Zaro’s cookie was the winner and was actually a pretty good cookie. However, if all you ever get to taste are the ones like Carnegie Deli or your corner shop, there are better options for empty calories.

Along with the plastic wrapped tradition, is there also one that says the chocolate icing (or fondant if you believe Wikipedia) goes on last?




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Accidental Locavore King CakeMany of you may be old hands at King Cakes, but for the Accidental Locavore this was a culinary first! It’s an old New Orleans tradition, usually connected with Mardi Gras, but according to the (very long) history that came with my cake, it was actually something that was baked and eaten during the Epiphany season (from January 6th to Ash Wednesday). Since the US is a country with a short attention span for everything, including religious traditions, it’s become associated with Mardi Gras celebrations.

Now, I’ve seen King Cakes before but was never terribly curious about what lay under lumpy rings of dough with the garish green and purple icing. And even when I’d read about them on the Internet and had seen some celebrity chef’s new take on it, it was just never something I would find myself craving. So how did I end up with a massive box being dropped on my doorstep on Fat Tuesday (in case you were wondering what Mardi Gras translated to)?

Accidental Locavore King Cake BoxThe friend who has the patience to edit my blog (and knows how grateful I am!), is good friends with someone from NOLA. In emails back and forth about some recipe or another, the King Cake came up. I asked what was in it and shortly thereafter, found myself in possession of one.

If you haven’t had one, it looks like a coffee cake with a LOT of sugary icing and colored sugar. A plastic baby is baked inside and the lucky person who gets the baby is either considered King for a day or is responsible for supplying the next cake. As it turns out, the frosting colors are there for a reason, which made me feel better (not being a fan of purple in any form, but especially frosting). The gold, green and purple signify power, faith, and justice and in some circles, the Three Kings.

Now you’re wondering how it tasted. The cake itself is a good coffee cake, which made me nostalgic for coffee cakes – something that seems to have disappeared or morphed into muffins (it might be time to see how my friend Alan’s mother’s coffee cake recipe has held up over the years). The icing and sugar hurl it into a sugar stratosphere that is rarely encountered. A slice combined with tea or coffee is enough to launch a long-lasting sugar and caffeine high.  But, like many seasonal goodies, once a year it’s a treat!

My friend said “It is the spirit of New Orleans in flour/sugar form, and that spirit is a good thing – fun, family, friends, parties.” Who can argue with that? Laissez les bon temps rouler!