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Upstate New York’s Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

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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.


Sunday 12th of February 2023

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!


Tuesday 30th of August 2022

What is a #12 scoop aquivalent


Saturday 28th of May 2022

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.


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.


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

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