Recipe Spotlight: Half-Moon Cookies


September 2016

Basis to Boomerang?

Rochesterians are known throughout graduate programs for their likelihood to boomerang — leaving home right after high school, traveling the world, and then returning home when it’s time to settle down. Spouses caught in the path of boomeranging Rochester natives can find themselves under tremendous pressure to celebrate regional delights. The Halfmoon Cookie is one of those that should be introduced early and often to foster a sense of delicious belonging. Once they’ve eaten a half-moon, a fiance is very likely to start “getting it” when it comes to embracing life in Upstate New York.

Who is Hemstrought?

Like most Upstate New York’s favorite regional foods, half-moon cookies come from questionable origins. Hemstrought’s Bakery in Utica, New York, lays claim to the “original Halfmoon Cookie” and has been baking up the same recipe since 1920. Whether they were the first to slather two contrasting icings atop a cakey cookie we may never know, but they do reliably deliver the delicacy to shops and individuals just about every with 3-day delivery.

Black & White — Only Not

Out-of-towners and those poor of palate are apt to mistake the moist half-moon for another two-tone pastry out of New York. The black-and-whites of downstate, however, will fail to satiate a true fan of the Halfmoon. Those inferior cookies feature a crumbly shortbread cookie and some sort of glaze. A real half-moon is based on rich, spongy chocolate devil’s food cake and topped with genuine buttercream frosting. Particularly rich variations find room for fudge on the chocolate side, but the original will have buttercream throughout. Think of a whoopie pie split in two.

Make them at home!

You can place an order with Hemstroughts, or you can make them yourself!



  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups 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


  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder



  1. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
  3. Beat the butter at medium speed for 30 seconds. Keeping the mixer running, gradually add in the sugar and cocoa powder, 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 and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until combined — about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again. With 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.
  4. Portion out mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Using a 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.


  1. Cream the butter in a small bowl. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar and 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 chocolate frosting.
  3. To the mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1-2 Tbsp of additional milk.
  4. Beat until the cocoa is all mixed in and the frosting is nice and smooth.
  5. Frost the tops of the cookies — half chocolate and half white.

From Home in the Finger Lakes.