Slow Food – Rolled Molasses Cookies from Aunt Lillian

Molasses Cookie recipe page from Great Aunt Lillian's antique cook book (recipe on top)

Molasses Cookie recipe page from Great Aunt Lillian's antique cook book (recipe on top)

This week I thought I’d try something fairly easy so I found Lillian’s recipe for Molasses Cookies. They seemed fairly easy and I’ve certainly made molasses cookies before.

As with all her recipes though research was required as there was nothing more than the bare ingredients listed and one tantalizing hint on what to do.

Here’s the recipe as she wrote it out:

Molasses Cookies

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar & salt
  • flour to roll easily

Thanks Lillian! Flour to roll easily. Now there’s a mystery term which left me not knowing how much flour, or what “to roll easily” meant. Was I going to roll these cookies into balls? Tubes? Or what?

I'm trying to use all vintage tools when I cook these recipes

I'm trying to use all vintage tools when I cook these recipes

Off to the cookbooks and internet to research I went and here’s what I discovered about molasses cookies.

First off, like last week’s cole slaw, cookie is a Dutch term that came to us via the Dutch who settled in New York state! The Dutch called their little cakes, “kockje” and the term caught on in America. British settlers called them little cakes and biscuits which did not win out. One thing I’m learning here is the Dutch influenced our cooking more than I knew!

Molasses as a sweetener has been around forever and was very popular in America since the early Colonial times. My 1914 Fanny Farmer cookbook has three versions of Molasses cookies, as does the 1944 version. Lillian’s cookbook has several versions of Molasses Cookies that I look forward to trying.

As I read through the recipes, I realized that many were for what is referred to as a Rolled Molasses Cookie, as opposed to a Dropped Cookie. And so the mysterious “Flour to roll easily” became more obvious. I would need to add enough flour to make a dough that could be rolled out with a rolling pin.

Here's how thick the batter should look so it's "ready to roll

Here's how thick the batter should look so it's "ready to roll

The 1914 cookbook also omits the amount of flour, leaving it up to the cook to create a dough the right consistency for your cookie! This type of knowledge comes with lots of cooking experience. I finally found an early 1900s recipe on line which gave me enough knowledge to proceed.

Here’s my notes and additions to the recipe:

  • Take the butter out of the refrigerator an hour before baking to soften
  • Cream 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup butter using a pastry cutter (I don’t use modern tools – only vintage)
  • add 1/2 cup molasses to the sugar and butter
  • add 1 teas baking soda to 1/2 cup hot water and stir into the molasses mixture
  • add 1/2 teas. sugar and 1/2 teas. salt to 3 1/2 cups flour
  • add this dry mixture a little at a time to your wet mixture and stir to blend after each addition.
  • you should have a stiff dough
  • cover and refrigerate for 2 hours
  • preheat oven to 375 degrees before your ready to bake
  • take dough out of refrigerator and take half of the dough and place it on a floured surface
  • roll it out with a floured rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness
  • cut circular cookies and place on a buttered (no Pam!) cookie sheet
  • bake for 10 minutes
Me, taste testing the finished batch. Yummy!

Me, taste testing the finished batch. Yummy!

The result? Divine! They were not overwhelming in molasses taste. It was quite subtle. But the taste and texture was very nice. Like little cakes. Not too sweet, but very satisfying just like the cupcakes I had made earlier.

Question? Have our recipes become so sweet and fat laden that we are on overload even when we bake from scratch? Except for the date bars, two out of three of the desserts I’ve made have been only lightly sweetened and not very fatty.

Here’s a modern version for you to look at from

Printed from COOKS.COM


1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. shortening
1 egg
1/2 c. molasses
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 5 tbsp. boiling water
2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
3/4 c. raisins

Blend sugar and shortening. Add eggs and molasses and mix. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Mix. Add flour, cinnamon, cloves and raisins. Mix well.Bake at 350°F for approximately 7 minutes. Frost while warm.You can be the judge about which seems sweeter. The difference is that this modern recipe calls for an egg, raisins and frosting. I’m happy with Aunt Lillian’s Rolled Molasses Cookie! I hope you enjoy making them.

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