Half Moon Cookies

Saturday, November 3, 2018
Whether you're a fan of chocolate of white half-moon cookies, I have both recipes right here for you.

If you grew up in Utica New York like I did, you sure know what kind of cookies these are, soft,  and uniquely delicious.

You also know that Utica is famous for Tomato Pie, Italian Greens, Italian Lemon Ice, Pizza Fritta, Chicken Riggies, Manny's Cheesecake, Oscugnizzo Pizza, and Rosato Chocolate Cookies.

If you are looking for a recipe on how to make a copycat half-moon cookie from Upstate New York, you came to the right blog!

Upstate Utica NY is famous for these and where I grew up.

Half Moons or as some other states and areas, refer to them as (Black and Whites), but not as we call them half-moons period, in Upstate Utica, New York they are totally different.

The origin of the black-and-white cookie in New York City is commonly traced to Glaser's Bake Shop in Yorkville, founded in 1902 by Bavarian immigrants.

Half-moon cookies, however, can be traced to Hemstrought's Bakery in Utica, New York, around 1925.

The cookies have fluffy buttercream not that pasty type of thick icing and the cookies are light and delicious not dense we also have a tip to keep them shining with a glossy look.

Sure there is always a debate about something, but I can tell you after over 30 + years of making this cookie recipe, you are going to smile with a cherished memory if you live anywhere near Utica.

These half-moons are fabulous and if you're a black and white fan you're on the wrong page!

central NY half moon cookies

So Many Varieties in Local Bakeries

When I was growing up in Utica, New York, I remember vanilla cookie half-moons, later came chocolate cookies then all kinds of toppings and flavors came out over the year.

I have made all-white frosted with coconut, jelly and coconut, milk chocolate, and white frosting. Dark chocolate frosting white frosting and even peanut butter frosted!

Hemstrought's was the go-to bakery and the originator as it's written all over the net. Star Bakery had a version in New York Mills, and Holland Farms had the biggest variety and still does to date.

During the holidays, we just add colorful themed sprinks on the white icing for festive half moon cookies!

half moons with pastel sprinkles for Easter

A Utica Bakery When it All Began

Hemstrought's is the popular pick and Holland Farms for the best half-moons in the Utica, N.Y., and Yorkville area.

If you have had the pleasure to visit this iconic area for half moons, don't miss the opportunity to try your best, you'll be back again for sure.

My trip home wouldn't be complete without stopping by those local fantastic bakeries at home and picking up Hemstrought half moons, pusties filled with pudding, and of course, the best local bakery Italian breads I grew up with.

These are half moon vanilla cookies made with two kinds of frosting chocolate and vanilla frosted.

Chocolate Moons Were The Most Popular

My recipes are all made from scratch along with the frosting, most of my tips came from local bakeries, and had to cut down the recipe because of the several pounds of flour used in their recipes.

These chocolate or vanilla come out great however the chocolate originals always remain the favorite in our home.

Decorating them for the holiday is a tradition with coordinating sprinkles that are festive, this cookies are on our Christmas trays every year.

Baking The Cookies

I have always used parchment paper to bake them on, then invested in the Silpat mat and they perfectly brown and cook evenly either way.

The cookie sheets on straight metal will provide a crispy bottom and need to be soft like a cake not crispy.

These are half moon vanilla cookies made with two kinds of frosting chocolate and vanilla frosted.

Chocolate is the Original Cake 

We go back and forth in our home for chocolate or vanilla half moons for the cake, so we've included both recipes for those who prefer the originals.

I always have to make both and although most bakeries in Central N.Y. are chocolate, you can decide which you prefer and the kinds of icing recipes we provide.

Buttercream is what we grew up with in local bakeries but some of them changed to a whipped cream style icing, depending on which bakery you've enjoyed your half moons from, you will have to decide which one you like the best in flavors.

these are baked chocolate half moon cookies cooling

The History of Half-Moon Cookies

The icing is always fluffy buttercream and smooth with a few spread lines for half moons originating in Central N.Y.

Every area takes pride in its traditions, and Utica New York has been the home of  Half Moon Cookies since 1920, Harry B. Hemstrought crafted his famous Halfmoon recipe in what began as a small bakery on Genesee St. in Utica, New York.

Store-bought as shown below with smooth icing, are what we would consider black and white and not half-moon cookies.

Many areas will have a different take on how these are made, icing, cake, and the name, but our local Central New York bakeries are always half moon, again never black and whites!

My Hometown Story in Utica, New York

There is a definite story behind these.

I actually got this recipe from a friend who had worked in the local bakery years and years ago, he cut it down after starting out with 25 lbs of flour, now long since gone and I still treasure his recipe.

I still will continue to make this recipe as it is one of the easiest and the closest to the bakery-style version.

They have been more than just a cookie in our family. Our memories shared by this cookie are numerous.

Scroll Down to Print the recipe with all Measurements for Half-Moon Cookies and Frosting Recipes

Vanilla Half Moons

  • sugar
  • shortening
  • eggs
  • flour
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • pure vanilla
  • milk
  • Chocolate Half Moons
  • flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • sugar
  • butter softened
  • cocoa sifted
  • salt
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • milk

chocolate raw half moon batter on a silipat mat

Utica New York Still has the best half-moons!

Growing up in the Utica/Rome area, this was a staple cookie in most households, house parties, bridal showers, or school functions.

Through the years they have definitely become a famous Cookie Icon for those areas, it's their part of the history that is known in every household.

This recipe is tried and true, and won't disappoint you.

these are baked chocolate half moon cookies cooling

Half Moon Cookies Pin for later

Tips for Best Results

  • Cream the sugar and shortening together with a mix and the rest by hand
  • Always use homemade frosting recipes
  • Bake on parchment
  • Use an ice cream scoop for uniformity
  • Don't overbeat the cookie dough
  • Don't overbake the cookies
  • Frost the flat side, not the tops!
  • These freeze perfectly between wax paper up to 3 months frosted or unfrosted
  • For a glistening shine in the frosting see tip below in the recipe card

half moon cookie

half moon cookies, black and white cookies, Utica Bakery cookies, cookies from Utica, Vanilla cookies, chocolate cookies
cookies, desserts
Italian, American
Yield: 12

Half Moon Cookies

prep time: 8 min cook time: 12 min total time: 20 mins
These recipes for half-moons are my childhood favorite cookies. The cookie is soft and sweet with chocolate and vanilla icing on top.


  • Vanilla Half Moons
  • 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 pure vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • For the Chocolate Lovers
  • Chocolate Half Moons
  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter softened
  • 3/4 cup cocoa, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Both recipes should proceed with the same instructions just with different ingredients
  • you can use these frosting recipes for both vanilla and chocolate half-moon cookies however I also will have other variations in the instructions for more frosting recipes 
  • Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/4 cup milk or more
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 7 tablespoons milk or more until you reach the desired consistency
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Tip PLEASE READ: to make them Glossy and shine add 1 tablespoon of Corn syrup to the frosting!!!


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees using the middle rack. Grease a cookie sheet or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat mat.
  2. Mix sugar and the shortening with a hand mixer until they are well combined. This will look grainy using an electric mixer.
  3. Add the eggs mixing each one by hand.
  4. Then add the flour alternating with milk, add vanilla, then add all the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl mix well. Overbeating this will result in a tough cookie and not soft and moist.
  5. Drop using an ice cream scoop or by heaping well-rounded tablespoons on a greased cookie sheet, (make sure these are molded to be round.) Use a floured finger if you have too to round them properly.
  6. Bake on 350 degrees hot oven at least 3 inches apart so they don't touch when they expand cooking. Bake until slightly browned on the bottom but not too dark.
  7. Around 8 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake.
  8. Cool and frost the FLAT side of the cookies.
  9. Frosting Recipe:
  10. Vanilla Basic Recipe mix all the ingredients together until smooth, add more milk if too thick.
  11. Chocolate frosting: mix all the ingredients listed for the chocolate frosting above and mix until smooth, add more milk if too thick.
  12. Second variation:
  13. Whipped Cream Frosting:
  14. (several bakeries make a cooked whipped frosting like this one instead this is vanilla only)
  15. 2 tablespoons flour
  16. 1/2 cup milk
  17. Cook, stirring constantly, until pasty consistency. Cool. (Do not use this mixture until it is really cold).
  18. In a medium-sized, bowl beat the following two ingredients together
  19. 1/2 cup shortening
  20. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  21. Beat 4 minutes.
  22. Add
  23. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  24. Beat 4 minutes.
  25. Add
  26. Cooled flour mixture
  27. Beat 4 minutes.
Fat (grams)
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Created using The Recipes Generator

Half Moon Cookies Pin for later

half moons for Easter

More Hometown Treats from Utica New York!

New York Style Pusties
Rosato Cookies
Chicken Riggie Fest
Upstate NY Greens
Tomato Pie Upstate NY Style
Italian Lemon Ice
Pizza Fritte Feast Fried Dough

Disclosure: This recipe was originally shared in 2009. It was edited and re-published in 2020


  1. You can post this every year and I don't think I'll tire of it.

  2. I love black and white cookies. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  3. Hey Claudia, when I was a teenager, i worked at a Jewish bakery. We always had this type of cookie (they called them black & white cookies). They are delicious, and yours look extra yum! Thanks...

  4. Black and white cookies are such a treat! I wish I had one right now for breakfast...

  5. I've always wanted to make these and I have no idea why I have never gotten around to it. Yours look so delicious!

  6. Being from NY. You see these cookies all over the place... for some reason I remember them being called Joey's? I might need to whip up some of these for nostalgic reasons.

  7. I love that you did these as a drop cookie as opposed to a rolled and cut. I'm far too lazy for the rolling and cutting part. The cookies look beautiful.

  8. They were a staple in NY when I was a kid, but have gotten so hard to find. I guess I'll be making my own now.

  9. Very pretty and so simple too your recipe suggests. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I've never had one of these before! They look divine.

  11. Love the name of the cookies and they look delicious.

  12. Black and White cookies sing New York to me. Beautiful!

  13. Fantastic! Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode, "Can't we all just get along? LOOK TO THE COOKIE!" :) I'll get along with anyone with these in tow.

  14. what a wonderful cookie! I think a plate of these would go really good right now!

  15. all I need is a big glass of milk

  16. I looove this cookie.

    Always reminds me of Seinfeld. Hehe.

  17. If I ever visit NY, I will not leave until I track these down LOL They look gorgeous!! Thanks for sharing your recipe, which I've bookmarked :)

  18. We called them half moons and my old boss use to own Hemstroughts. When iZ worked for him at Met Life and made a giant cupcake cookie jar for him in ceramics I guess he finally put it to good use.

  19. I can't wait to make these! P&C in my hometown had the best ones, imo, back in the '80s. I just went to Corso's Bakery at the Fair and they made me want to eat a million of them. So glad I came across this. Thanks for posting!

  20. LOVE half moon cookies! I grew up in Binghamton but have lived on Long Island, NY for 25 years. Everyone calls them black and white cookies here so I had to google it today to see why I always called them half moon and then I found your recipe and I found my people! :) I will definitely make them soon! (Also, used to spend 1 week every summer at Sylvan Beach near Utica ...memories!)Thanks for the recipe.

  21. Hemstrought`s are the best. Is it true their chocolate frosting recipe is patented? My mother mentioned that when I was very young, and for some reason I never forgot the mention-

  22. Yummy! Ready for the cookie season :-))

  23. When making these larger on a pizza pan, is the baking time changed? Also, how much batter do you use on a pizza pan?

    1. The bakeries used a 12 inch pan and used a toothpick in center to check whem done

  24. OMG I have been searching for this recipe, this specific recipe from Utica. I cannot believe I found it! I grew up in upstate NY and the neighbor was from Utica. She made these cookies for me as a child all the time, and I've tried and tried as an adult to find the recipe. All the recipes I've found don't have the right frosting, and many of them don't have the right cookie recipe either. I am SO EXCITED to make these RIGHT NOW.

  25. Why did my cookies flatten out

    1. I have never had that happen with this recipe but I can give you tips on what could happen. If you grease a pan instead of parchment or a silpat mat grease can flatten cookies. Old baking powder will also have this happen. Not using the exact amount of flour and too little can make that happen. One last thing that can happen is over measuring sugar. Those all the things can can cause a cookie to go flat, but again after making these since 1974 with no issues, I can't really know for sure. Good Luck sorry they didnt work out for you.

  26. Christine St.hilaire BlockMarch 6, 2024 at 5:21 PM

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I also grew up in Utica New York but since have moved. My Dad owned a small bookstore in the mall when I was a kid and I remember going to that small Hemstraught's bakery in the food court. I cherish the mini half moons I grabbed on my last visit in my freezer - saving them for a rainy day. Thanks again!

  27. Thank you so much for posting this recipe! My Dad owned a small bookstore in the mall and I have fond memories of going to that Hemstraught's bakery in the food court. I have since moved away from Utica but last time I was there i got some mini ones they now make and they are in my freezer waiting for a rainy day! Thanks again!


Remember to use the search option for a recipe you're looking for and thanks for all your kind words and support. We love our readers all the best Claudia