Upstate New York’s Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Sharing is caring!

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, 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.



  • 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


  • 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



  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.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Glad to see someone else loves these (Halfmoon Cookies) as much as I do. The only difference in your recipe and mine is I use heavy cream in place of milk. They stay soft and fresh for at least 6 days as a double batch have never lasted longer than that (devoured).

  2. Here’s my grandmothers’ half moon recipe we made all the time as a kid with absolutely no problems. Wife & I have been trying to get it to work and been successful only once out of a dozen tries. They just don’t rise. And I used to bake with my mother all the time, no problems. We’ve tried new baking soda & powder, sifting the flour before and sifting the flour after measuring it and changing oven temperatures but just can’t get them to rise. I can tell you that when it says cream the Crisco and sugar they mean mash it together with a spoon until it’s one. It’s actually very similar to the recipe in this article except Crisco instead of butter and what appears to be proportional differences in liquid and flour. I always felt taste was better with sour milk rather than buttermilk.

    3/4 Cup shortening
    1 1/2 Cups Sugar
    Cream together then add
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    Beat until well blended
    Add SIFTED dry ingredients alternately with 
    1 cup buttermilk (or sour milk)
    3 cups sifted flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    The vanilla frosting was simply ‘can milk’ (I think it was Carnation evaporated canned milk like they used to use in coffee back then), vanilla to taste and white powdered sugar.

    Add Hersheys cocoa to taste for the chocolate frosting.

    (There’s only one thing I haven’t tried. Back then we Crisco’d the metal cookie sheets and put the dough directly On metal. I just realized we have been trying on parchment paper. Could that be the difference??)

    If you try it with any luck post here!

  3. Thank you for these upstate recipes…. I can’t wait to try this recipe. The one I’ve been making doesn’t come out fluffy, but rather thin. I noticed in the vanilla recipe you specifically say to use shortening (that you haven’t tried it with butter) but the chocolate recipe states to use butter. I’m curious what the difference would be? I hope to hear back from you. //upstate New Yorker.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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!

    1. @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.

  7. I tried this recipe and the cookie was great, but my “frosting” was more of a glaze and only made enough for the vanilla half…

  8. 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). 🙁

    1. @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. 🙂

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

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

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

  10. 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!

    1. @Barbara, exactly! Its hard to get some people to listen that they aren’t (people who’ve never had both get hung up on the visuals!). Glad you enjoyed a taste of CNY!

  11. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. Hi!
        I have just a few comments to add. I worked at a bakery (The Gingerbread Bakeshop) in the Utica Area and we had the same original recipe for the halfmoons that came directly from Hemstrought’s (the owners of the Gingerbread Bakeshop had worked directly for the original bakery). We did not frost the finished side of the cookies, we flipped the cookies over and first frosted with the chocolate half and then frosted the white half.
        Hope this adds to the history of the cookie!

        1. I was going to mention that, because the rounded side should be on the bottom, with the flat surface frosted. So delicious!! I am excited to bake them!

        1. Hi Tommi,
          I have been testing out vanilla half moon cookie recipes for a while now. I’ve been looking for cake-like cookies that consistently turn out well.
          As soon as I find a recipe I am happy with I will share it here on the blog!

          1. I have been making the vanilla cookie half moons for about 55 years. Made about 100 of them for a college team lacrosse game.Betsy Stoker scotsdale03@ aol.

        2. Which was the original? Chocolate or vanilla cookie? When I was a kid in the 80’s, the vanilla cookie was far more common to find around the Camillus/Fiarmount area.

    2. 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.

    3. @Melody Crenshaw,

      I worked at the Home Dairy while in college (’75-’79).
      The Averys were extraordinary employers- I loved working Saturdays and having lunch from the cafeteria in the back. It was where I learned to inscribe birthday cakes and pipe buttercream roses. It was a very unique time, sadly long gone.

      Ellen Gray

    4. Ellen and Melody, thanks for the trip down memory lane to The Home Dairy in Ithaca, NY where I grew up. I have never found a half moon cookie as good as theirs and miss them too. I have been living in Utah for 35 years now and still here I am, looking up recipes for half moon cookies, hoping one day I will make one that rivals The Home Dairy’s!

  12. I made these when I first saw your recipe 2 years ago…we could t stop eating them so I decided to not make again any time soon…it’s Christmas Eve, we’ve had several “Christmas cookies” all week…so tonight Santa (and the neighbors!) are getting half moon cookies! Thanks for a great recipe, it made for a fun night with my 15 year old making a classic I grew up on!

  13. I want to make these into mini half moons instead of the full size cookie itself. What size scoop would you recommend? And would I press it down to only a 1inch circle? Thank you I can’t wait to try this recipe!!!

  14. Hi!! I want to try this recipe…looks good!! I’m also trying to find a half moon cookie pan that has the shape of cookie…like 4 or 6 in a sheet. I’ve seen one before but can’t find one. Have you heard of a pan like this?? If so where could I get a couple. I’ve looked online at bakery stores, Amazon, ect.. No luck finding a pan. Ty if could help. My email is…k*******[email protected]

    1. this sounds like a muffin top pan, I have 2 but they are hard to find. (my friend gave me hers) Maybe a restaurant supply store?

    2. A whoopie pie pan would probably be perfect. The cookie part of a half Moon sounds like it is very similar to a Whoopie Pie.

  15. I have the recipe for home dairy half moon cookies and its so different then yours we never used butter in them we used marginine and we used softened bakers chocolate in both cookies and frosting they were so good I make them at holidays

    1. Hi Linda,
      I would love this recipe if you wouldn’t mind sharing it! I know a lot of readers are looking for recipes for items made by Home Dairy. I would be thrilled if you could email it to me at [email protected]

  16. I am from Syracuse NY, and they had them @Butternut/Buttercup? Bakery the best! This was in the 70’s not sure when it closed…

    1. @Mary Sampere, Hi Mary! I live in Arizona now…and grew up in the Corning/Elmira area. I think my parents took my sister and I to your bakery on a trip. 💕 If you wouldn’t mind sharing, could you please email me your favorite vanilla frosting bakery recipe? I miss vanilla frostings from bakeries back home. Out here, there aren’t bakeries like we had there. Many thanks in advance. Happy Holidays!

  17. If I wanted to try making “two bite” sized cookies (for a bake sale during a 15 minute play intermission) what would you suggest I go with? A rounded teaspoon size scoop?

    Also, how long and how well do these keep? Airtight container, waxed paper layers, unrefrigerated.

  18. Thank you for sharing your recipe for these Chocolate Half Moon cookies. I can’t wait to try them. They really look yummy.

    1. 2 eggs
      I am sorry! I recently had to convert recipe plugins, I must have omitted it when I transferred the recipe over, but that is fixed now.

        1. You are right Marylellen! The recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups of flour! I have double checked the recipe and everything else is good!

          1. Nevermind, I see it’s updated from when I printed it off. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.

          2. 2-1/4 CUPS OF SUGAR? That sounds excessive to say the least. Are you sure the cookie takes that much sugar? If so, then I’ll skip.

          3. Yes, that is the correct amount of sugar, this recipe makes 30 very large cookies.

  19. I happened to be in Wilson hospital waiting for my mother to get out of the operating room. I wandered into the cafeteria and the mist beautiful half moon was there at the register. I noticed it was chocolate so quickly grabbed the last one. It was the best cookie I’ve had in years. Here in MA you can’t get a chocolate based black and white. I’m not sure who bakes for Wilson hospital but they made my day… Almost as much as my mothers news of a successful surgery

  20. Iam
    also from upstate NY, and as much as I like half moons my favorite cookie is Headlights do you have a recipe for those. I now live in Daytona Florida and they have nothing that even come close. ?

  21. Born and raised in upstate NY. Home Dairy in Ithaca had great half moon cookies. Moved to TN quite some years ago, and the only way I can get half moon cookies is if family visits and brings me some (from Wegmans) – or I make my own. I’ve gotten a couple recipes, which were pretty good, but can’t wait to try this one. Thanks for sharing the history and the recipe!

    1. The place to get good Half Moon cookies is in Cortland at the Grant Bakery . You use to be able to have them delivered to you in a six pack for $.25 a cookie. I don’t know if they still do.
      We live in Berkshire N.Y. half way between Ithaca and Binghamton n.y.
      Haven’t gotten them in quite a while. Sometimes we get them from Wegmans or the Store in Dryden n.y.
      Thank you for this wonderful recipie. I’ll have to go and make some up. My husband, Steve, loves t hem.

    2. Omg..I’m from Groton, NY, but worked in Ithaca years ago, and went to the Home Dairy for the their half moons all of the time..they were the best!!

      1. Groton has a wonderful sheep farm that makes Old Chatham Creamery perfect original sheep yogurt .
        Lucky you!

  22. Harrison Bakery in Syracuse, New York have an absolutely delicious half-moon cookie. Still open too.

      1. Yes – these are the best. I have family bring them to me in Wisconsin, when they visit from Elmira. There’s nothing better than half-moons with a giant glass of milk! If they can’t get them from Light’s, then they grab some from Wegmans.

  23. do you have the 2400 recipie? it feels like i need that size when ever my kids have a school gathering lol. i know some recipies dont multiply well if certain alterations are not done. i know most cake type cookie freeze well so why not.

    1. I grew up in Binghamton, NY and we got out Half Moons from DiLacia’s bakery. The joy of my childhood were these cookies. Sorry to see them disappear, but thankful for this recipe

  24. Do any of you remember the old Tully Bakery? They even delivered to the country NYS folks at their homes

  25. Can’t wait to try this chocolate recipe. I’ve had the following recipe for white half moons for 35+ years and don’t remember where I got it from. It has always been a favorite with my family. Hope you enjoy!


    1 1/2 CUPS OF SUGAR
    2 EGGS
    1/2 TEA SALT



    1/4 CUP OF MILK



        1. No Joy, I am so sorry it was a problem on my end, but I believe it is fixed now! Please let me know if you continue to have problems!

    1. When you say cream together butter & sugar you meant shortening & sugar right?
      And how long do they cook for ?
      Also do you put these on parchment paper to bake them?

  26. Actually, the 900 Oswego Street in Utica building is vacant. That address is still printed on the packaging, though. No idea where they are really made now. In a hollow tree, maybe?

    1. LOL! But that is interesting because it is the address given on their website, I am going to contact them and see if I can get an updated location!

  27. I grew up in CNY and in the winter you wanted something full of energy. had halfmoon cookies all the time. the ones that come out of the stores are like cardbord full of sugar.

  28. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for finally clarifying what Upstate New York people have known all along… that Half-Moon Cookies are made using a Devil’s Food CHOCOLATE cookie-base… NOT a white or yellow cookie-base… if it’s not CHOCOLATE, then it’s NOT a real Half-Moon Cookie! We used to buy ours at Lynch’s Bakery in Chittenango, New York… another business that sadly has ceased to exist, but the legend of their Half-Moon Cookies lives on. I wonder if their recipe is the same as Hemstraught’s… guess I will have to bake them and find out! =)

    1. OMG!!!!!! I grew up in Chittenango, NY. Lynch’s Bakery was our treat! I remember Sundays were walking over to the Victory market to buy the Sunday paper. Then going across the street to Lynch’s for donuts. My mouth is watering now remembering the smell! We LOVED their half-moon cookies and the donuts! We’ve since lived in Rochester, NY and now, NC. My sister and I have even tried to bake those cookies and donuts, but nothing has compared. Wegmans comes close, but just not the same!
      If anyone from the Lynch family ever reads this, and if you have the recipes from that bakery, I know there are those of us out here who would GLADLY pay you for those treats!!!! : )

      Thanks for the memories!

  29. On the ones I have always had, the bottoms…not the tops…. of the cookies were frosted, the circle is more perfect that way.

  30. One person in Publix here in Central Florida knew what I was talking about when I ordered two Half Moon Cookies. They are Black and Whites here. Don’t taste as good down here and Florida, that’s a lousy name for a great cookie.

  31. Ate many of these cookies when I lived in the Utica area. My grandmother and then my mother lived one block from the Owesgo St bakery. I attended grade school
    two block from this store. Going to Lincoln Grade School. The cookies were and still are wonderful.

      1. Hi! I am just stumbling on this recipe after I just picked up two dozen cookies from Holland Farms in Utica. I was thinking how I would love to learn how to make these on my own since we live in Virginia and don’t get to Utica often. Did you ever figure out how to make these with a vanilla bottom? Thank you!

    1. I used unsalted, if I were to do it with salted butter I would probably reduce the salt the recipe calls for by half, or more.

  32. I’ve been eating these all my life, but I learned some interesting new facts from your post. And awesome pics as usual!

    1. Thank you, Sue! They are such a unique cookie with an interesting back-story, and pretty darn delicious too!

    1. LOL I felt the same exact way about salt potatoes! My mind was blown that they are an regional Upstate New York food, I still haven’t figured out what the rest of the country is eating with their chicken BBQ’s 🙂

      1. They are probably eating mashed potato salad with their BBQ. In some areas they may call it creamed potato salad. In TX they probably have barbecued beans, potato salad and cole slaw.

  33. When I lived in CNY I always complained about how heavy the food seemed to be… All the time! Now I crave riggies and half moons and polish food pretty much daily. These cookies will make an appearance in my home very soon.

    1. Ha, I never really thought about that… We sure do know how to create calorie heavy dishes here! I haven’t had a garbage plate in about a year, and have been craving one. Horrible for my waistline, but SO good 🙂

  34. Excellent move going with the buttercream for the chocolate side! I treated myself to a delivery of Hemstrought’s half-moons for my birthday at the end of last year. The shipment arrived a few days early…and no cookies survived to see the actual day.

    1. Fudge frosting sounded so good, but the recipe I found on was just so easy, and it turned out great in the end! I think half-moons are an excellent birthday gift, they wouldn’t last long in my house either!