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 these 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 Food.com, and I have no regrets! It was easy to mix up with minimal mess, and tasted delicious!

 Hemstrought’s Half-Moon Cookie Recipe

Preparation 0:25 2017-04-23T00:25:00+00:00 Cook Time 0:10 2017-04-23T00:10:00+00:00 Total Time 0:35 2017-04-23T00:35:00+00:00
Serves 30     adjust servings

These iconic cookies are an Upstate New York favorite! Now you can try making your own at home.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 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
  • 1/2 cups milk

Frosting

  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 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

Instructions

MAKE THE COOKIES

  • 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.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
  • 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.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, vanilla. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • 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.
  • Give the mixture a few final stirs with a rubber spatula to ensure all of the flour has been incorporated.
  • 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.

FROSTING

  • 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!
  •  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

  • To the mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1-2 Tbsp of additional milk.
  • Beat until the cocoa is all mixed in and the frosting is nice and smooth.
  • 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.

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1 review
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53 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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. 😥

  4. 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!

    • 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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

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

  7. 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!

    WHITE HALF MOON COOKIES

    1 1/2 CUPS OF SUGAR
    3/4 CUP SHORTENING
    2 EGGS
    1 CUP SOUR MILK (1 CUP LESS 2TLBS OF MILK AND ADD 2 TLBS VINEGAR AND LET SET 5 MINUTES)
    3 CUPS OF FLOUR
    1/2 TEA SALT
    1 TEA BAKING POWDER
    1 TEA BAKING SODA

    CREAM THE BUTTER AND SUGAR, ADD EGGS AND MIX WELL. MIX REMAINING INGREDIENTS AND MIX THROUGHLY.
    YOU CAN MAKE THESE ANY SIZE USING DIFFERENT SIZE SCOOPS. BAKE AT 350 DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE COOKIE, IT COULD TAKE A BIT LONGER.

    FROSTING

    1 CUP SHORTENING OR BUTTER
    2 LBS OF CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR
    1/4 CUP OF MILK
    1 TSP VANILLA
    DASH OF SALT

    CREAM BUTTER AND SUGAR AND BEAT IN REMAINING INGREDIENTS UNTIL SMOOTH AND FLUFFY. ADD MORE MILK IF MIXTURE IS TOO STIFF. DIVIDE IN HALF

    CHOCOLATE FROSTING
    ADD 3 OUNCES OF MELTED CHOCOLATE TO HALF OF THE VANILLA FROSTING.

  8. 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?

    • 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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! =)

    • 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!

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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 🙂

      • 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.

  14. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  15. 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.

    • Fudge frosting sounded so good, but the recipe I found on Food.com 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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