About two hours ago my Dad called me. He was upset because he had gone to our favorite bakery to get a half moon cookie, only to find they are closed on Sundays, causing him to settle for Dairy Queen instead. Funny enough, as he called to tell me this, I was in the middle of frosting half moon cookies of my own.
You see, tomorrow I’m in charge of bringing sweets to my discussion group at church. And when I was trying to decide what to make, I realized that one of the things that really bothers me about New Jersey/New York is that they don’t seem to know how to make a half moon cookie. Now, I understand New York is famous for its black and white cookies. But these are a farce. They’re made with royal icing, which gives them a bit of crunch on top. Not what they should be. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but up in Massachusetts we know that half moon cookies are supposed to be made with buttercream. And the cookie should be more of a cakey consistency. And they’re called half moon cookies.
I decided to educate my fellow church goers on these important lessons, making my mom’s recipe for the cookie combined with the Wilton buttercream recipe I fell in love with during my cake decorating class a couple summers ago. I used this icing before on Mimi’s birthday cake, but I’ll reprint it at the bottom with the adjustments I made for this particular recipe.
First, the cookies. Cream together the shortening and sugar using a hand mixer in a large bowl.
Then, add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth. Side note: I love recipes that turn yellow inside of my yellow bowls. They make me disproportionately happy.
Next, beat in the flour and baking powder. I’m pretty certain 3 teaspoons is 1 tablespoon, but I trust my mom’s recipe and used teaspoons anyways.
Add the milk and beat until well combined.
Now, drop by the spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Try to keep the drops as round as possible – otherwise you’ll get amoeba moon cookies. Also, I couldn’t initially remember if they spread a lot, but they don’t. They kind of just puff up tall.
Bake at 400°F for 6-7 minutes, until edges are just golden brown, like you see below.
These cookies are kind of tricky because the bottoms brown, but the tops don’t. So you may not realize they’re burning until they are black. I kind of treat them like pancakes, waiting until I see that the top has bubbles that popped. Here’s a close-up of what I mean:
See how they kind of have mini-craters? I consider that done. Next, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) before frosting. You don’t want melted buttercream mess cookies.
Now, to make the buttercream icing, you basically follow the same recipe as before. However, because they are half moons, you need half of the frosting to be chocolate. The way I did this was first making a batch of regular buttercream. I initially intended to use half vanilla and half butter flavors, but when I opened the vanilla, it appeared someone had poured regular vanilla extract into my special clear vanilla extract I use for white frosting (I’m looking at you, Mom). So I went with all butter flavor.
First, beat the crisco, butter flavor, and water using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
Then, add the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder. I got to use my cool plastic shield thing to avoid spray of the sugar, but a simple towel over the top works, too.
Now is where I got creative. I didn’t want to make an entire second batch of chocolate frosting, because really, what would I do with all of that extra frosting? So I transferred half of the white frosting into a separate bowl.
To my stand mixer bowl, I added 3/8 cup of cocoa powder (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and 1 tablespoon of water. Beat until desired consistency, adding more water if necessary.
Using a straight spatula, frost half of each cookie with one of your frostings. I did chocolate first, but in hindsight you should probably start with vanilla so you don’t end up with chocolate-streaked vanilla. Also important: you are frosting the FLAT side of the cookies, not the round. And feel free to mound on the frosting.
Then, clean your spatula and frost the other half of the cookie with the other frosting.
Half Moon Cookies
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2/3 cup milk
- Cream together shortening and sugar using a hand mixer in a large bowl.
- Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined.
- Add flour and baking powder; beat well.
- Add milk, beating until smooth.
- Drop by rounded spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400°F for 6-7 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
- 1 cup crisco
- 1 teaspoon butter flavor
- 8 teaspoons water
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tablespoon meringue powder
- 3/8 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon water
Buttercream Frosting Directions:
- Beat crisco, butter flavor, and water in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.
- Add confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder, beating until desired consistency.
- Remove half of frosting to separate bowl; add cocoa powder and remaining water to stand mixer. Beat until smooth.
- Frost flat side of cookies with half chocolate and half vanilla frosting.