Soft-Baked Molasses Cookies

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These festive molasses cookies deliver lightly crisp edges and soft chewy centers. Using a combination of three types of sugars give the characteristic hazel hue and beautiful cracks on the surface. Each bite is bursting with caramel notes and bold winter spices.

Soft-Baked Molasses Cookies

This molasses cookie recipe has a combination of deep caramel flavors with warm holiday spices. They are the delicate counterparts to the crunchy gingersnap cookies because I use high moisture sweeteners to ensure the texture is soft and chewy. The perfect holiday treats for a cookie exchange.

To balance the candied base, I use warm and pungent spices like cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and black pepper. The combination instantly adds tingling notes. What I love about this recipe is that you can make it ahead. The dough can be rolled and coated in advance then chilled or frozen for use later. Bake fresh when the craving hits.

Molasses mixed with cookie dough in a stand mixer bowl

What is molasses?

Molasses is the thick, dark brown liquid by-product of cane sugar refining. Sulfured-molasses is the only true type which forms from that refinement process. It’s darker in color and has a strong bitter flavor.

Most often unsulfured-molasses is used in recipes, which is intentionally produced from pure cane syrup and has a lighter, more mild flavor. Blackstrap molasses is very dark and thick in consistency, with a very strong and distinct flavor, not recommended to use for most baking.

molasses cookie dough batter

Molasses selection

For this recipe, I use Grandma’s Molasses. It’s unsulfured and comes in original light molasses or a robust dark molasses version. I use the light type so the concentrated caramel and slightly smoky flavor doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. The only difference in varieties is the length of the boiling process to yield either a more mild or strong taste.

Use a combination of sugars

Three types of sugars are used in this recipe. Molasses, brown sugar provide the chestnut hue and cooked caramel flavors. They’re both humectants, which means they like to attract and hold onto moisture which helps to keep the cookies soft overtime. Granulated sugar provides the slightly crisp edges and clean sweetness.

Working with a sticky batter

The batter is stickier and less dense compared to other drop cookies like chocolate chip. That’s because of the high moisture content coming from the addition of the pourable molasses. When rolling the dough, I find it helpful to lightly dampen your hands to make it easier to shape. It also helps to coat them with the granulated sugar when forming them into spheres.

sugar coated cookie dough balls

Underbaking the cookies

One trick to help yield softer cookies is to slightly underbake them. Make sure to keep a close eye on how the appearance changes. The edges should be set, but the centers will puff up, fracture, and look undone. That’s when they’re ready to remove from the oven.

This recipe has a short bake time, but the cookies are cooled on the warm sheet pan for an additional 10 minutes. This period allows for carryover cooking, gently heating the cookies to the core without losing its pliability and getting too dried out.

Storing and freezing the dough

The cookie dough can be made in advance after being shaped and rolled in sugar. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 2 months. I recommend freezing them in a single layer on parchment paper then consolidating them into a bag.

Before baking, the cookie dough should come to around 65ºF (18ºF), just below room temperature on the sheet pan before placing it in the oven. This may take 10 to 30 minutes.

Molasses cookies with cracked surfaces

More holiday cookies

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Soften the butter before using

It’s important to soften butter to between 60 to 65ºF (15 to 18ºF) for these cookies. When you poke the surface with your finger it should yield to slight pressure. This temperature range allows the fat crystals in the butter to hold its shape when creamed with the sugars which will with the cookie structure. The goal is to create little air pockets so that the cookie bakes up light and forms a slight dome shape.

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Soft-Baked Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies with lightly crisp edges and soft chewy centers. A combination of three sugars gives the beautiful hazel hue and surface cracks.
Pin Print Review
4.6 from 5 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Servings 24 cookies
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to 60 to 65ºF (15 to 18ºF)
  • cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • cup granulated sugar, plus ½ cup (100g) for rolling
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsulphured molasses, light or dark

Instructions 

  • Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 375ºF (191ºF).
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, black pepper, and salt.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or hand mixer) beat the softened butter, brown sugar, and ⅓ cup sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg yolk and vanilla, mix on medium-low speed until combined, 30 seconds.
  • Add in the molasses to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated, 30 seconds, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour until combined, about 30 seconds. The dough will be very soft and slightly sticky.
  • Stir the dough a few times with a spatula to get any pockets of flour.
  • Add a ½ cup of granulated sugar to a shallow bowl.
  • Roll the cookie dough into 2 tablespoon-sized balls using slightly dampened hands. Roll in the sugar, making sure it adheres to the surface. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Evenly space 12 cookies per tray, giving at least 2-inches of space in between.
  • Bake one tray at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. The cookies should be cracked on the surface, puffy, soft, appear underbaked, and just set on the edges.
  • Cool on the tray for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • Store molasses cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Freeze for up to one month, then defrost before eating.
  • Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, The Perfect Cookie

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Nutrition Facts
Soft-Baked Molasses Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 139 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 23mg8%
Sodium 99mg4%
Potassium 123mg4%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 11g12%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 185IU4%
Calcium 23mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cynthia says

    These are my favorite cookie of all time. This recipe is a little different than mine so I am going to give it a try.

  2. Edie says

    After 20 minutes at 375 degrees F the cookies were burnt black on the bottom and very very hard. They would only be good for dunkers which that they were – very good but I thought the title was soft baked and that wasn’t the case. I cooked them for 9 minutes and they were a bit softer but hardened up again as they cooled. What would be the cause of these cookies being so hard after the required 20 minutes in the oven. I used all purpose Robin Hood flour in Canada – would the same amount of flour apply due to the different types of flours? I also noted that the batter was not sticky as all as you suggest it should be. I weighed the flour rather than use a measure cup. I can only think there might have been too much flour. Would that have yielded a harder cookie?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Edie- I deeply apologize, the bake time should be 10 to 12 minutes and not 20. I accidentally took the approximate total time for two trays. Thank you so much for your kind feedback, and for experimenting with a shorter time. As for the texture of the dough, if you weighed everything than perhaps there might be more gluten in the type of dough you are using to make it feel less sticky. You are a rockstar, thank you!

      • Edie says

        Thanks for your reply, Jessica. Still wondering if the difference in gluten in US flours and flours in Canada would account for a harder cookie than “soft-baked” as your cookies were meant to be. Even at 9 minutes, when they cooled they were hard. I use an oven thermometer to ensure correct oven temp. Thanks again.

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