This classic half moon cookie recipe is comprised of a thick, cake-like vanilla cookie topped with chocolate and vanilla icing split right down the middle. Also known as black and white cookies, these classic New York City treats will delight any dessert lover.
What is the History Half Moon Cookies?
These striking bi-color confections are frequently traced back to New York City's Glaser's Bake Shop, founded in 1902 in Manhattan by Bavarian immigrants. As with the evolution of most things, the absolute true origin of the half moon cookie recipe varies from story to story, but there's a widely held belief that bakers were trying to capitalize on the late 19th century trend of mixing dark and light colors in baked goods, such as putting chocolate frosting on a white or vanilla cake. It didn't take long for this trend to skip from cake to cookies, and thus, the half moon cookie (also commonly known as black and white) was born.
What Do They Taste Like?
Technically, a half moon cookie recipe produces a confection closer to a small cake than a cookie. The batter looks more like cupcake batter than a cookie dough with just enough structure to keep it from falling apart when its scooped onto the baking sheet. The puffy, cake-like vanilla cookie - often flavored with a bit of lemon - is topped with half vanilla and half chocolate frosting split right down the middle.
If you went to New York right now and started sampling black and white cookies, you'd find that each bakery makes their cookies just a lil' bit different than the next. Leske's Bakery serves a black and white cookie topped with a fluffy frosting that looks like it'd be right at home on top of a cake. Russ & Daughters takes a more classic approach with a thinner, pourable fondant and a hint of lemon in the cookie. William Greenberg Desserts is known for their massive black and whites, also with a thick and cake-y base and thin fondant frosting.
One constant that I noted across the many bakeries and recipes that I researched while creating this post: the icing is spread onto the bottom - the flat side - of the cookie. This technique seems to have originated with the half moon cookie recipe, as you typically see cookies frosted right side up.
The soft cake-y cookie settled a bit when I set up the photo above, but I promise the frosting was placed on the bottom, flat side of the cookie.
What Do I Need To Make Them?
The ingredients for the cookie base is pretty standard (scroll to recipe card for the full list) and includes basic items that you likely already have knocking around in your kitchen right now. I chose to use a buttermilk-based batter and took the lead from many of the New York bakeries with the addition of lemon zest. A bit of citrus just adds a bit of something special to what is otherwise a simple vanilla cookie.
For the icing, I chose to use the thinner version - a pourable fondant made with:
- Powdered sugar
- Light corn syrup
- Hot water
- Vanilla Extract
- Lemon juice (for the white side)
- Melted bittersweet or very dark chocolate (for the black side)
The icing will set up firm at room temperature, but it won't be hard or crunchy. It'll be just dry enough to be able to hold the cookie without being too mess, but will still be soft to bite into.
What If The Chocolate Isn't Dark Enough?
As you can see from my photos, the chocolate side of my cookies is pretty dark, but not 100% black. If you want to have stark, black frosting, go ahead and add a few drops of an oil-based (not water-based) black food coloring to the chocolate frosting. Just be aware that black food coloring can taste quite bitter and may alter the flavor of your chocolate frosting.
Are They Freezer Friendly?
You can freeze this half moon cookie recipe easily. First, let the icing on the frosting fully set up and harden. Place the cookies side-by-side on a baking sheet and place them into the freezer for an hour. Finally, transfer the cookies to a freezer-safe Ziploc-style bag and place back into the freezer.
To thaw, take the cookies out of the freezer and allow them to come to room temperature on the counter - this will not take very long. For best flavor and texture, I recommend consuming the cookies within 2 months, though they will remain safe to eat after being frozen much longer than that if constantly kept at 0 degrees F.Print
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