Vanilla Half Moon Cookies

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It’s been a long time coming, but I finally have a vanilla half moon recipe to share with you! After the massive success of Hemstrought’s Half Moon Cookie Recipe here I knew I needed to find a vanilla counterpart, and you’ve definitely been asking for one! To this day it is still the most requested recipe.

But finding a authentic vanilla half moon cookie from Utica, proved to be easier said than done.

Until now.

Today, I am sharing a vanilla version of Utica’s famous Half Moon Cookies from the cookbook Cry, Laugh, Cook! by local author Yvonne Conte. This is an authentic half moon cookie from a local family known for fabulous food and family style restaurants in the Utica area.

The side view of a hand holding a vanilla half moon cookie that has been bit into, with frosted half moon cookies on cookie sheets slightly out of focus in the background.

What Are Half Moon Cookies?

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

Half Moons are not delicate little tea cookies, these are indulgent monstrous cookies cake-like cookies, that are more of a full-out dessert. Every bakery and restaurant has their own unique take on half moon cookies, and recipes are usually closely guarded.

These cookies are immensely popular in Upstate New York, and hold a special place in the hearts of transplanted New Yorkers.

The side view of a frosted vanilla half moon cookie that has been bit into sitting on a parchement lined cookie sheet, with half moon cookies slightly out of focus in the background.

A former architect, Harry Hemstrought, opened up a little bakery in Utica in 1925. His signature chocolate cookie, half chocolate icing, half white caught on immediately with his customers. It didn’t take long for the cookie’s popularity to spread throughout Central New York, and you can now find Half-Moon cookies just about everywhere, including Wegmans.

The recipe we are talking about today is from Yvonne Conte, a well known local personality, who has had recurring columns in local Newspapers, weekly morning radio show appearances, delivered motivational speeches to corporate events, and written several books, including the collection of Conte family recipes in the book Cry, Laugh, Cook!

What’s the Difference Between Half Moon Cookies and NYC 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, cookie. 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.

The top view of 5 frosted vanilla half moon cookies on a cookie sheet, sitting of a table top. A blue and with kitchen towel sits next to the pan.

How Do You Make Vanilla Half Moon Cookies?

The Half Moon Cookie Recipe from Cry, Laugh, Cook! Is incredibly simple, and requires basic ingredient measuring, mixing and baking, but there are a few things you might want to keep in mind before you dive in:

These are cake-like cookies, and the cookie dough is very unique. It’s closer to a super-thick cake batter rather than a stiff cookie dough. The ingredients and instructions resemble a basic vanilla cake batter, and at times during the process you may start to think the batter is too liquidy, but don’t worry it will all come together in the end.

Because this cookie dough is made with shortening instead of butter, there is no need to chill the dough before baking– you can bake the cookies right away. And since we are on the topic of butter, I have not attempted to make this recipe with butter, in place of the shortening. I imagine any attempt to replace the shortening with butter would also require you to cut back on the milk slightly, as butter has more liquids than shortening.

When you are ready to bake your cookies, you can use a ¼ cup measuring cup, but my favorite way to scoop out the cookie dough for half moon cookies is to use a #20 scoop to perfectly portion out the cookie dough without all the mess of a measuring cup and spoon.

And finally, to prevent the bottoms from over-browning use light colored cookie sheets lined with a silicon baking mat.

5 half moon cookies lined on on a regtangular platter on a white wood table top.

How Do You Frost Half Moon Cookies?

Once the baked cookies are completely cooled you are going to want to flip them upside down, and frost the bottoms!

Yup, you read that right. The flat bottom side of the half moon cookie is frosted with the chocolate and vanilla frosting , not the doomed top side of the cookie. No one really knows why this is the way half moon cookies are frosted, but that’s how we roll here in Upstate New York.

Traditionally the chocolate frosting is slathered on significantly thicker than the vanilla frosting, so I find it easier to frost the vanilla side of the cookie first, and then go back and do the chocolate side.

The Conte family has been in the food business for many generations, Yvonne’s grandparents owned Conte’s restaurant on Columbia Street in Utica, and her Uncle Carl owned the North Genesee Club Dinner and the Diplomat Restaurant in Utica. In Cry, Laugh, Cook Yvonne shares her family’s treasured recipes, and entertaining anecdotes surrounding the food and meals the Conte’s shared as a family.

There is no mention in Conte’s book that this recipe for Vanilla Half Moon Cookies is from any of the Conte family establishments, but Yvonne does say this specific recipe has been made within her family for several years.

Vanilla Half Moon Cookies

Vanilla Half Moon Cookies

Yield: 18 Cookies
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 52 minutes

The vanilla version of Utica's famous half moon cookies, from local corporate culture expert and motivational speaker Yvonne Conte.



  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk


  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, divided
  • milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute.
  4. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  5. Reduce to low speed and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Beat everything on low until combined and no pockets of flour remain.
  6. Using a greased 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, drop mounds of dough 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets– 6 cookies per sheet. Make sure the cookies are uniformly round (I shape the cookie dough using lightly greased fingers).
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.
  8. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the white frosting:

    In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat 1 tablespoon butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla on medium speed for a couple of minutes, or until smooth.

    With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time and mix until combined. Add milk as needed until the frosting has reached the desired thickness to spread.

For the Chocolate frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat 1 tablespoon butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla on medium speed for a couple of minutes, or until smooth.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time and mix until combined. Add milk as needed until the frosting has reached the desired thickness to spread.

Frosting the Cookies:

Halfmoon cookies are frosted on the flat side, or bottom of the cookie. Spread vanilla frosting onto half of the cookies on the flat side. Spread the chocolate icing onto the other side.


Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 220Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 235mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 3g

Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates. Please see my Nutrition Disclaimer for more information.

More Recipes From Upstate New York…

  • Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans
    Explore Grandma Brown’s humble beginnings, its rise to local fame, and how to recreate this cherished recipe at home.
  • The Depot Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
    The Depot Restaurant’s creamy and tangy blue cheese salad dressing, a beloved specialty from a from a restaurant that once graced a historic train station in the village of Pittsford.
  • Finger Lakes Concord Grape Bread
    This quick bread originally published in The Cookbook For Goodness Taste in 1991, is a delicious way to enjoy the fall grape harvest.

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.

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  1. I grew up in Seneca Falls NY, and absolutely loved the Half Moon Cookies at Calarco’s Bakery and Rose Bakery in Auburn. This recipe nails it, right down to the frosting. I’ll be bringing a few dozen of these cookies to our next family reunion in July. Thank you so much.

  2. I’m confused on your nutrients info. Can you see if there’s a misprint in the carbohydrates…or your list of info is written confusingly. Ty. Also do you gey a lot of requests to make the Half Moons with chocolate batter instead of vanilla

  3. Many thanks for posting this vanilla version and the chocolate version of the recipe. I was getting by because Wegmans has come as far south as Virginia but they’ve recently stopped selling these cookies so now I need to make my own! Yours were the first recipes I came across and I can’t wait to give them a try.

  4. If your driving through Utica NY Northbound on Route 12, take a right on Oswego Street and immediately on your left you will see a small Hemstrought’s Store. They do not have a lot of stuff, but they sell their original half-moons there. Grab Some! If your passing through Utica Route 12 South bound – take the French Road Exit, turn left at Home Depo and a 1/4 mile more on your right is Chanantry’s Market – run in and to your right against the wall you’ll see fresh half-moons. They are created to Hemstrought’s specs and carry the name too, but they are baked right in Chanantry’s in store bakery at the rear of the store. Delicious Half-Moons!