Skip to Content

Upstate New York’s Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

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.

Previous
Seneca Knitting Mill, Seneca Falls NY
Next
Lovely Lilacs

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Annie St. Germain

Friday 24th of April 2020

Wow - I grew up on these things. Born in Utica, brought up in Sauquoit (Paris Hill Rd.), Hauled off to Albuquerque, NM in the late 70s. Been there ever since. I tried baking these absolutely awesome sweet things one time, but high altitude does not seem to agree with them (I'm up over 6000 ft above sea level). :-(

Rayjan

Saturday 23rd of May 2020

@Annie St. Germain, When cooking or baking on a higher altitude you have to adjust the oven temperature to your altitude. If you Google it you can find out how to adjust the oven so recipes turn out no matter where you are. :)

Tina

Saturday 18th of January 2020

Hello I was wondering if anyone has the original recipe for Halfmoon cookies that makes the full 2400 cookie recipe

Gia

Monday 20th of January 2020

If you Google Hemstrought Half Moon cookies, look for the link that says Saveur magazine. That's where you'll find it.

Jennifer Morrisey

Saturday 18th of January 2020

I have not seen the original full-scale recipe, but maybe if someone else has they will share it here!

Barbara

Friday 17th of January 2020

I'd like to order some. Where do I get them from. I spent my childhood in Groton. My siblings and I loved these cookies. I thought they were the same as the black & white from the city. Until I had my daughter bring me some for NYC recently. Not the same thing. No where near!

Becky

Friday 28th of February 2020

You can order some from Holland Farms in Central NY.

https://hollandfarms.com/product/half-moon-cookies/

Jennifer Morrisey

Saturday 18th of January 2020

Hi Barbara, I wrote about ordering half-moon cookies before Christmas, but all of the bakeries mentioned in that article offer shipping throughout the winter months! You can find that post here: https://homeinthefingerlakes.com/how-to-order-half-moon-cookies-from-upstate-new-york-for-the-holidays/

Susannah Palmer Loiselle

Thursday 21st of November 2019

I learned of Half-Moon cookies at the Home Dairy in Ithaca, NY. Home Dairy was a chain in the early twentieth century across NY, possible other states. Dish washer there was my first job in the late sixties. The dumb waiter from the upstairs bakery opened near the dish machine, so I helped out unloading. Came to appreciate those cookies. Home Dairy has closed, a great loss to Ithaca.

Melody Crenshaw

Thursday 16th of January 2020

The Home Dairy was my stop for a breakfast eclair on my walk through The Commons to the bus stop when I was in college. Sad day when they closed.

Anne

Sunday 24th of November 2019

I lived in Clinton NY for 4 years of my childhood and have never seen half moons since moving away in 1975. I finally learned those glossy coated black and whites aren't the same thing and I'm so relieved to hear my favorite treat from the local bakery is a legitimate local favorite! Ordering some!

ROXANNE

Sunday 29th of September 2019

I thought there was Buttermilk in the original recipe?