Traditional Spice Cookies

Tailgating. . . fall campfires on chilly evenings . .  . kids’ (and adults’) Halloween parties. .  . They all call for hearty cookies.  And (of course), I found a hundred-year-old recipe that fits the bill.  Spice Cookies are a molasses cookie spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1917)

This recipe was on  a page in the old cookbook that was covered with (nearly 100-year-old?) food stains. Was this recipe a particular favorite of the original owner of the cookbook?

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Spice Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 50 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening or lard

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups flour

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put molasses in a dutch oven or a large saucepan; bring to a boil using medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, butter, and shortening or lard. Add ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda, stir to combine. Then add flour and eggs, and stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled. On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch circles. (I used an upside-down water glass as the cookie cutter.) Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Do not over cook if a moist cookie is desired.

30 thoughts on “Traditional Spice Cookies

    1. mmm. . . this sounds wonderful, and would look so pretty. I’m going to have try partially dripping these cookies in white chocolate the next time I make this recipe.

    1. I would love to know the history of the cookbook that contains this recipe. I bought the cookbook from Ebay. It’s a very worn book with a missing back spine and tape holding it together.

    1. Until I read your comment, I had never heard of black treacle. Based on what I found when doing a google search, it sounds very similar to molasses. It’s fascinating how ingredients and cooking terminology differ across countries.

  1. My mother-in-law used to make crispy molasses spice cookies for Christmas. She gave me her recipe, but I was never able to make them – no matter how much I chilled the dough and floured the board and rolling pin, he dough was so sticky that it clung to the pin and the board and it was impossible to form into a cookie in any way. What an unholy mess! I’d like to know if this recipe gave you a more workable dough, or if you have a secret trick.

    1. I didn’t have any difficulty with the dough. It was very stiff, but definitely rollable. I intended to chill it for 1/2 hour and then roll it out, but I got distracted by another project and may have actually chilled it for a little longer.

  2. I like this kind of recipe. I posted years ago my family’s heirloom recipe for molasses cookies. They last several weeks before going stale. Thanks for your recipe. I book marked it.

    1. I think that these cookies also probably last for quite awhile before going stale – though they weren’t around long enough for me to be sure.

    1. This recipe is tasty – though it won’t surprise if the spices called for in your recipe differ somewhat from the spices in this one. There are so many variations of popular old recipes like this one.

  3. This sounds wonderful. I need to compare it to my go-to spice cookies recipe, which doesn’t require rolling and cutting. Of course, these may be a little crisper because of the method used — more like a gingersnap, perhaps.

    1. When I decided to make this recipe, at first I thought that the dough was rolled into balls (similarly to how peanut butter cookies are made) -which I think would have resulted in a moister cookie; but then I read the old recipe more carefully and saw that it said “roll out,” so that is what I did.

  4. These are like the company cookies my great-grandmother always had ready. This was my mother’s father’s mother and she lived with one of her children. We always had this cookie when visiting…I was pretty young then and we dunked them in milk. She put a powdered sugar glaze on hers, kind of a thick circle on top and the glaze would crack and crunch as you bit into it. Every once in awhile some one in the family will make these and they show up at get togethers. I have made occasionally, for nostalgia. But we like the chewy gingersnap recipe that came in a gas company pamphlet that was my maternal grandmother’s. We do like molasses, so we always have molasses on hand.

    1. It’s fun to read your comparison of different family recipes. This reminds me of how I have several old family recipes for macaroni and cheese. I seldom make the version that my mother used to make – but rather make the recipe that is attributed to an aunt of my husband.

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