Old Fashioned Molasses Cookies are darkly sweet and spicy with a soft and chewy texture. They're easy to make and freeze well, both baked and unbaked. You need to put these cookies into your regular baking rotation!
[November, 2020: I've reworked the recipe and updated this post with all new pictures. Enjoy!]
Why this recipe works
- Molasses cookies are darkly sweet and spicy with a soft and chewy texture
- The dough is quick and easy to make
- The dough balls can be frozen for baking in the future
Molasses and rum.
They go together like peanut butter & jelly. No, more like peanuts and peanut oil. Actually, they’re like cows and methane (I’m going to stop now…you get the idea).
One produces the other. And both are made from sugarcane juice, which is itself a byproduct from refining sugar.
Molasses comes from repeated boiling of the juice until it’s a dark, viscous liquid (“You’re slower than molasses in January!” is an epithet I’ve heard uttered).
Rum can be made from either distilling molasses or the sugarcane juice directly.
And molasses is the key ingredient to one of my favorite treats, soft and chewy Molasses Cookies!
Sugar to molasses to rum
Rum and molasses play an important role in American history. Did you know that there was a disaster called the Great Molasses Flood in 1919? I didn’t until I moved to Boston.
I’m not making this up…you can google it for the details.
Molasses (aka Black Treacle in the UK) was a very important commodity for quite a while in the US, made as a byproduct of crushed sugar cane or sugar beets. Rum is the result of fermenting then distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice. So sugar begets molasses which begets rum.
Sugar, molasses and rum were also part of the Triangle Trade between New England, Africa, and the Caribbean in the 18th Century (a shameful part of history, to be sure).
So enough about history, let’s talk about the Molasses Cookie recipe.
What you need
These old fashioned molasses cookies are quite distinctive, with that craggy look highlighted by powdered sugar. The standard cookie ingredients are present: flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, an egg, baking soda, and salt.
It's the cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and cloves that provide a counterpoint to the deeply sweet molasses and give them their spicy kick.
As for the molasses itself, go for a dark molasses for the deepest flavor, but don't use blackstrap molasses by mistake. That will make your cookies bitter.
How to make molasses cookies
This molasses cookie recipe produces cookies that are soft and chewy, and practically melt on your tongue. They’re also super easy to make!
Step 1: Mix the dry ingredients
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cardamom, and cloves until well combined (photo 1).
Step 2: Combine the wet ingredients
Beat together the melted butter, molasses, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and egg until smooth (photo 2).
Step 3: Finish the dough and chill
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic and refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes to firm up the melted butter.
Step 4: Portion the dough and bake
Portion out balls of dough and roll in the powdered sugar. Knock off the excess sugar and arrange on the baking pans, flattening each ball slightly with your fingertips (photo 3).
I use a small cookie scoop to shape the dough into one-tablespoon-sized balls, then roll them in the powdered sugar.
Bake the cookies at 375°F until the cookies are puffed and cracked, 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will be soft. Allow to cool a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
Like its cousins, honey, golden syrup, and maple syrup, molasses is an invert sugar (meaning a liquid sugar). Molasses helps to keep the cookies soft.
In the US, there are 3 main types of molasses: light, dark, and blackstrap, and they differ by their colors and sweetness level. Generally speaking, dark molasses is what's used for baked goods like bread, gingerbread, and Molasses Pie (aka Shoofly Pie). It has a rich flavor and lends its color to the finished products. Blackstrap is less sweet as it is bitter, not something you want in your baking!
That's a yes! You can freeze the uncoated dough balls to bake for later for up to 3 months. Just allow the frozen dough ball to defrost on the counter for about 15 minutes, then roll in powdered sugar and bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Old fashioned flavor for modern tastes
Molasses cookies make me think of the 18th century, when molasses was readily available in the Colonies and frequently used to sweeten baked goods.
However this recipe is thoroughly modern, producing a soft Molasses Cookie with a chewy texture and redolent with the flavor of baking spices. Traditionally served as Christmas cookies, they really are wonderful any time of year.
And I wish you could smell how good these finished Molasses Cookies are!
Soft and spicy, one bite and you'll see that this old fashioned molasses cookie needs to be in your regular baking rotation!
Even if you haven't any rum.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
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Old Fashioned Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, see Recipe Notes
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ cup molasses, not blackstrap
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, unpacked
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
- Move the racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line 2 half sheet baking pans with Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cardamom, and cloves until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the melted butter, molasses, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and egg until smooth.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic and refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
- Using a small cookie scoop, portion out balls of dough and roll in the powdered sugar. Knock off the excess sugar and arrange on the baking pans, flattening each ball slightly with your fingertips.
- Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracked, 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will be soft.
- Let cool on pan 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- These cookies keep well stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.
- You can freeze the uncoated dough balls to bake for later for up to 3 months. Allow the frozen dough ball to defrost on the counter for about 15 minutes, then roll in powdered sugar and bake at 350 °F for 10 to 12 minutes.