Big, chewy molasses cookies are homey and satisfying. This particular egg-free version was first served in a Marblehead, Mass., tavern run by freeman Joe Brown, says Albert Lukas, supervising chef at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Sweet Home Cafe, where visitors can buy them today. As to the name? The story goes that Brown’s wife made the cookies as big as the lily pads that frogs sat on in a pond outside the restaurant.

Recipe notes: You’ll need a 3-inch round cookie cutter.

The dough is quite soft and needs to be refrigerated at least overnight and up to 1 day. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


  • 1 cup (340 grams) unsulfured molasses
  • 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 3 1/2 cups (438 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Generous 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

Step 1

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the molasses, water and rum and bring to a lively simmer. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Step 2

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until aerated and combined.

Step 3

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer and a large bowl, combine the butter and cup of sugar, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Step 4

Add the cooled molasses mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Step 5

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just long enough to form a homogeneous dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours) and up to 1 day.

Step 6

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the middle. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, and line your work surface with more paper. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over it.

Step 7

Working with half the dough at a time (leaving the rest in the refrigerator), roll it out on the sugared surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut out about 12 cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. Using a wide, thin spatula, transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops with more sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Step 8

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, or just until the cookies are set yet still seem soft in the center, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Adapted from a recipe developed by Albert Lukas, supervising chef at the Sweet Home Cafe in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Tested by Vanessa Williams and Kara Elder; email questions to

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here. The nutritional analysis is based on 30 cookies.

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Calories: 140; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 10 mg; Sodium: 380 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 15 g; Protein: 2 g.