While pre-packaged baked goods now dominate many childhoods, when I was growing up, most desserts came fro the neighborhood bakery. I have no idea how much time has enhanced my memories of these treats, but the most tangible losses are those that cannot be replaced in today’s markets. One of my favorites was the half-moon cookie. The oversized cake-like cookie had one half covered in white vanilla frosting with the other coated in chocolate frosting. On special occasions (like Halloween), the white frosting might be tinted a celebratory orange, but the concept was the same.
In our household (and hopefully most). there were rules to the half-moon cookie. While you could approach it in any way you wanted (chocolate first, vanilla first, or some combination), in no way were you allowed to selectively eat only one half. Nor could you save one half for later. You approached it when ready, then devoured the whole thing in one sitting. Now some may think they’ve seen this cookie before as the “black and white”. Nonsense. That is a completely different species. While there are superficial similarities, the black and white (at least those I’ve seen) are much smaller, with a denser cookie and a firm icing rather than a buttercream frosting. The half-moon is really more of a cupcake-cookie hybrid.
I thought I had seen my last half-moon years ago, but I some web-searching led me to a reportedly original recipe for the Hemstrought Bakery Half-Moon Cookie. While I don’t know anything about the Hemstrought Bakery, the pictures looked promising and it was certainly in the realm of possibility that my local bakery (Lederman’s in Newton, MA) had adopted a version of this bakery’s creation. The recipe looked doable, though I found a version that simplified the frosting recipe by deriving the chocolate frosting by adding cocoa powder and milk to half of the vanilla instead of creating a completely separate batch. Even this simpler recipe (which had been scaled down from the bakery’s published instructions) seemed to create an intimidating amount of cookies that risked overwhelming the capacity of even my ravenous children. I scaled it down further and set to work. The simplified recipe instructed me to scoop the cookie batter using a #20 (three tablespoon) scoop, but it quickly became apparent that this produced monstrosities that risked tempting eaters to violate the rules of engagement (see above). I downsized to a #40 (1.5 tablespoon) scoop which was considerably more reasonable.
The result was exactly as a remembered: a delicious chocolate cake base with just the right amount of frosting. They are not too sweet, with a texture that’s somewhere between a cake and a cookie. Here’s the recipe I finally settled on (updated on May 24, 2020).
Half Moon Cookies
A soft chocolate cookie, half with vanilla frosting, half with chocolate froisting
260 g all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
112 g butter
225 g sugar
30 g cocoa powder, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
2.5 g (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
180 g (3/4 cup) milk
84 g (6 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
300 g powdered sugar, sifted
50 g milk
5 g vanilla extract
Half of the vanilla frosting
20 g cocoa powder
9 g (1 tablespoon) milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until smooth.
- Add in sugar and cocoa powder. Mix at low speed until combined, then increase to medium-high until light and fluffy (3 minutes).
- Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add in egg and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined (30 seconds).
- Scrape down the bowl.
- While mixing at low speed, add in 1/4 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/3 of the milk, and continue alternating until all the flour and milk is added. Do not overmix.
- Scrape down bowl and fold a few times with a rubber spatula to ensure mixture is homogenous.
- Use a #40 (1.5 tablespoon) scoop to portion the dough in mounds on the baking sheet, no more than 8 cookies per sheet.
- Optional: chill the pan and cookies for about 15 minutes prior to baking. I find this helps the cookies from spreading too much during baking.
- Bake for about 12 minutes until edges are set and the center has a slight resistance. Your finger should leave an impression.
- Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.
- While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting: you can use a stand mixer, but I find it easier with a hand mixer.
- Combine the milk and vanilla for the vanilla frosting in a small bowl.
- Beat the butter until smooth, then add the powdered sugar.
- Start mixing at slow speed, and slowly add the milk and vanilla mixture until the a thick, but spreadable frosting is achieved.
- Portion out half the frosting into a separate bowl, add the additional milk and cocoa powder, and beat until well combined.
- Flip the cookies over so that the flat side is facing up, and frost half the circle with vanilla frosting. Once all the cookies are frosted, frost the remaining half with chocolate frosting.