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Upstate New York’s Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Upstate New York is known for quite a few unique dishes. Utica greens, Chicken French, Salt Potatoes and Grape Pie are just a few of the well known (to locals) regional specialties we can’t get enough of.

But the most iconic of all sweet treats to hail from Upstate New York is without a doubt the Half Moon Cookie.

Half Moon Cookies are a quintessential Upstate New York treat from the foodie destination, Utica. They are a soft and fluffy cookie, either chocolate or vanilla, that are iced with half white, half chocolate frosting.

A former architect, Harry Hemstrought, opened up a little bakery in Utica in 1925. His signature cookie, half chocolate icing, half white, caught on immediately with his customers. The cookie’s popularity has spread throughout Central New York, and you can now find Half-Moon cookies just about everywhere, including Wegmans.

What’s the Difference Between Half Moon Cookies and NYC’s Black and Whites?

Don’t even think of calling these Black & Whites! The Half Moon cookies of Central New York, are drastically different from the Black & Whites of New York City. Where the Black & Whites have a  thin shortbread-like cookie, Half-Moons have a pillowy, cakey devil’s food base. Black & Whites are glazed, Half-Moons are slathered with vanilla buttercream of one-half of the top and chocolate buttercream on the other, resulting in the half-moon appearance. I have always been a huge fan of soft cakey cookies, so there will always be one of my favorite cookies, EVER.

Hemstrought’s Bakery is now closed, but they continue to churn out Half Moon cookies daily at the bakery plant located 900 Oswego Street in Utica, NY for mail order. Yes, you can order them online and the original cookie will arrive at your doorstep 3 days later via UPS! The recipe used today is the original one dating from over 80-years ago. It is a handwritten recipe still tacked to the wall of the bakery and produces 2400 cookies. But if you want to try your hand at making your own Half-Moon Cookies on a slightly smaller scale, Saveur magazine published the recipe in 2000, scaled down to a more manageable 30 cookies for the home cook.

How to Make Half Moon Cookies

I feel the need to state right up front these cookies, while not technically hard to make, are pretty time consuming to make. Half-Moons are not delicate little tea cookies, these are monstrous cookies, are more of a full-out dessert. I was able to fit 5 on each of my baking sheets. I used a #20 Scoop, and rotated every single cookie sheet I own to keep things moving. The original recipe makes 2400 cookies, but trust me you will have your hands full with the 30 this recipe has been scaled down to make.

Full disclosure: The Cookie recipe is the original from Hemstrought Bakery, according to Saveur, the very recipe that was tacked to the wall of the bakery for 80 years. The Frosting, not so much. After reading a bunch of online reviews, mostly HERE, and realizing I was out of cooking chocolate I decided to go with a straight chocolate buttercream for the chocolate side.

I used a recipe for the frosting that I found on Food.com, and I have no regrets! It was easy to mix up with minimal mess and tasted delicious.

I am always on the lookout for local recipes! If you have a recipe you are willing to share, shoot me an email, or leave it in the comments, you will be credited as the source of the recipe when I publish,  and I will be eternally grateful.

Hemstrought’s Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Hemstrought’s Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Yield: 30 Cookies
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

These iconic cookies are an Upstate New York favorite! Now you can try making your own at home.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 16 tbsp butter softened
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Frosting:

  • 6 tbsp butter softened
  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Fudge Frosting:

  • Half of the vanilla frosting
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions

Cookies

  1. Adjust the oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
  3. Beat the butter at medium speed for 30 seconds to loosen it up. Keeping the mixer running, gradually add the sugar, and cocoa powder and then gradually increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy about 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, vanilla. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour in four additions and the milk in three additions (beginning and ending with flour), and mix until just combined.
  6. Give the mixture a few final stirs with a rubber spatula to ensure all of the flour has been incorporated.
  7. Use a #20 Scoop to portion out mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets about two inches apart. Using an off-set spatula, gently press each mound of dough into a 3-inch circle. Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Frosting

  1. Cream the butter in a small bowl. Blend in the confectioner's sugar, vanilla, alternately with the 1/3 cup milk. Beat until the consistency is creamy, with no lumps!
  2.  Remove just over half the frosting into a separate bowl, leaving the remainder to be turned into the fudge frosting

To Make the Fudge Frosting

  1. To the mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1-2 Tbsp of additional milk.
  2. Beat until the cocoa is all mixed in and the frosting is nice and smooth.
  3. Frost the top of the cookies, half of the cookie should be frosted with the white frosting. Half the cookie should be frosted with the chocolate.

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Sid

Thursday 16th of September 2021

The ingredient list calls for salt yet I don't see it listed anywhere in the actual instructions.

I made half a recipe and used store bought frosting (I was feeling lazy and didn't feel like making frosting from scratch) in a can and they came out great.

My tip would be to flip the cookie over before frosting and frost the flat side.

Pie

Friday 12th of February 2021

Did this get altered? I could have sworn it mentioned Utica Greens, Tomato Pie, Chicken Riggies, Salt Potatoes and Half Moons last I'd visited xD Grape Pie is a finger lakes thing xd It looks like a spell checker or errant copywriter axed chicken riggies and tomato pie ? Pusties are another local one, hmm,and there some more if the list were to be kept growing xD

Roz

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Not true about black&whites from nyc. They are also a soft cake like cookie not like shortbread at all! You can order some and try so you do not mislead people!

Cookies

Friday 12th of February 2021

@Roz, ohh, Ive had both. theyre like a tea cookie. I dont know if shortbread is the term, maybe youre right there, but theyre much different from Halfmoons, both the base and most usually also the frosting (except obviously the colour pattern). Soft or not theyre fairly often pretty dry. Id eat them with tea ant halfmoons with milk. regarding the frosting bws properly use fondant which one would never put on a halfmoon with it's angel/devil base. Occasionally people mismarket or get confused due to the colours I get. But if you've never had both, eating both will quickly make you realise theyre not similar.

Why black and white cookies aren’t actually cookies – My Blog

Monday 9th of November 2020

[…] to Home in the Finger Lakes, former architect Harry Hemstrought started a bakery in Utica in 1925. He sold a popular cookie […]

Patti

Sunday 13th of September 2020

Can you make half the recipe?

Curtis S Smith

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

@Patti, did you find a smaller recipe?

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