Upstate New York’s Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

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.

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.

Making The 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.

The Frostings

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.

This Post Has 76 Comments

  1. I thought there was Buttermilk in the original recipe?

  2. 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!

  3. Can the half moons be frozen and if so have you tried it?

  4. Holland Farms in Utica NY makes amazing half moons!!

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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…

    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?

  7. Does anyone have a recipe for the cheese danish they use to make at home dairy in Utica?

  8. 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

    2. Can you send your recipe to me Wanabbowl@aol .com. Or post on my FB page? Thanks

    3. Do you have the recipe for the cheese danish they use to make at home dairy?

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. Does Hemstrought’s ship to stateside military bases?

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

  13. Hi was ready to make these and notice you don’t state how many eggs are used. Thanks

    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. What about the flour?? Just 3/4 cup?? Doesn’t seem right

        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. And only 1/4 cup sugar?

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

          3. 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.

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

  14. 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

  15. Can you substitute any other flour for the white flour? My Yankee sis is craving these but is omitting white flour from her diet.

  16. 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. ?

  17. 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!

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

  19. I had them, their good. but A place in Elmira NY makes a hell of a Half moon cookie

    1. Lights Coffee Shop and Bakery
      211 W 2nd St, Elmira, NY 14901

      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.

      2. For sure! Lights is a family favorite of ours!

    2. AMEN,PAISAN! Gonna bake some today.

  20. 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.

  21. I can’t believe it! My dad used to bring these home when he worked for the old McCurdy’s. You are probably too young…
    Shared and pinned and loving!! ♥

    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

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

  23. 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. Thank you for sharing this recipe Nancy! I can not wait to try it!!

      1. Unfortunately, I can’t see the actual ingredient list above in the recipe. Am I missing something?

        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!

    2. Tully Bakery made the best. Everything they made was delicious.

    3. 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?

    4. Nancy you made my day!!!!

    5. Thank you so much for this recipe! Looks just like my Mom’s old recipe that I could never find!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

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

    1. You are right Kejor! Traditionally, it is the bottoms that are frosted.

  28. 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.

    1. I have also thought the naming of the Black and White cookie is rather uncreative!

  29. 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.

  30. Would you just omit the cocoa for white cookies?

    1. I am not sure, I haven’t made vanilla half-moons yet. But it seems there is a hint of lemon in every vanilla half-moon I have ever bought. I will be trying out some vanilla versions soon, King Arthur Flour has a promising looking recipe on their site.

    2. My 30 year old white half moon recipe calls for soured milk, using lemon juice to sour it.

  31. Did youbuse salted or unsalted butter?

    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!

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