Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (2024)

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.

Upstate New York’s Half Moon Cookie History

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.

Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (1)

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.

Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (2)

Hemstrought’s Bakeryis now closed, but they continue tochurn 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 andproduces 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.

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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.

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How to Make Half Moon Cookie Frostings

Full disclosure: The Cookie recipe is the original fromHemstrought 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.

Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (5)

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.

The Original Half Moon Cookie Recipe

Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (6)

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.
Upstate New York's Iconic Half-Moon Cookie Recipe (2024)


Are half moon cookies a New York thing? ›

Half-moon cookies can be traced to Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, New York, who started baking half-moons around 1925. Half moons are still very popular in Utica, and local media often debates which bakery makes the best half-moons. Half-moons are often frosted higher on one side than the other.

Where was the half moon cookie invented? ›

The cookie is believed to have been created by Glaser's Bake Shop, which was opened in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants in Manhattan. Many others believe the cookie began as “half-moon” cookies that were served at Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, New York.

What are half moon cookies made of? ›

Key Ingredients

They rise more with shortening and are softer. Since those are critical characteristics of half moon cookies, I stick with shortening. The remaining ingredients are all baking staples, including sugar, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, and flour.

What is the difference between half moon cookies and black and white cookies? ›

For one, Halfmoon cookies are much larger than black and white cookies, making them a more substantial treat. Additionally, the frosting on Halfmoon cookies is thicker and richer, with a more buttery flavor than the fondant icing found on black and white cookies.

What is the #1 cookie in the United States? ›

1 Chocolate Chip Cookie (No Further Description Necessary)

America's favorite cookie and the one dubbed “the American cookie” is the Chocolate chip cookie.

What is New York's favorite cookie? ›

Freshly baked at the city's best coffee shops and bakeries, NYC's most beloved cookies include elegant crinkle wafers, old-school black-and-white rounds and homey, familiar chocolate chips. These aren't just some of New York's finest cookies—they are some of the very best desserts in NYC.

What is the oldest cookie in the world? ›

Pizzelles are the oldest known cookie and originated in the mid-section of Italy. They were made many years ago for the “Festival of the Snakes” also known as the “Feast Day of San Domenico”.

What is a New York state cookie? ›

New Mexico – Biscochito. New York – Chocolate chip. North Carolina – Chocolate chip. North Dakota – Chocolate chip.

What does the black and white cookie taste like? ›

While the thickness of the icing layer slightly overpowered the cookie, the distinct flavors of chocolate and vanilla made up for it. Each side tasted just as good as the other — just like a true black and white cookie should.

What are Elvis cookies? ›

The Elvis: Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Why are my crescent cookies flat? ›

If your cookies repeatedly turn out flat, no matter the recipe, chances are your oven is too hot. Here's what's happening. The butter melts super quickly in a too-hot oven before the other ingredients have firmed up into a cookie structure. Therefore, as the butter spreads so does the whole liquidy cookie.

What is the 1 2 moon dessert? ›

Dessert lovers will be over the moon with the Vachon® 1/2 Moon® Chocolate cake. The delicate, creamy filling is a perfect complement to each soft and fluffy, chocolate-flavoured cake. These snack cakes are prepared in Quebec and individually wrapped for simply sweet treats.

What is a New York black and white cookie? ›

Visit just about any classic Jewish bakery or deli in the New York City area, and you're likely to encounter a unique dessert: the black & white cookie. Oftentimes available in both small and large sizes, these treats are easily identified by their “half and half” topping of both vanilla and chocolate icing.

What is the history of the half-moon cookie? ›

According to “The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets,” the roots of the black and white can be traced to Hemstrought's, a bakery in Utica, New York, which sold something called halfmoon cookies — chocolate drop cakes iced with half vanilla, half chocolate frosting — as early as the 1920s.

Is milk or dark chocolate better for cookies? ›

Balance Is Best

Since the dough itself is sweet, darker chocolate balances it out beautifully," she says.

Is Insomnia Cookies only in NYC? ›

Insomnia Cookies is a chain of bakeries primarily in the United States that specializes in delivering warm cookies, baked goods, and ice cream. Based in New York and Philadelphia, it was started in 2003 by Jared Barnett and Seth Berkowitz, both students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Are Rainbow Cookies a NY thing? ›

Yes, rainbow cookies, also known as tri-color cookies or Italian flag cookies, have a strong association with New York, particularly within Italian-American communities.

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