Sift magazine’s holiday issue is full of festive recipes for this season’s baking.

Sift magazine often includes a feature called "ingredient spotlight." That's where we take one of our favorite baking ingredients and use it in a collection of recipes that really shows what it can do. This time, we're exploring the rich, robust flavor of molasses. Come with us as we taste some of the ways it can really amp up your baking.

Molasses runs through our history and the evolution of our baked goods. In colonial times, it was commonly used in tandem with honey as a principle sweetener. Refined sugars were too expensive for most households, so baking with molasses became the norm, appearing in staples like anadama and brown breads, baked beans, and gingerbread. As a result, we're left with a national memory of its flavor.

baking with molasses spoon via@kingarthurflour

Traditions have changed quite a bit since then, but molasses, with its caramel notes and slightly bitter undertone, still claims a place in our cooking. It anchors the spices in barbecue sauces, brings its complexity to frostings and cakes, and is also delicious drizzled over cornbread. Despite the rise of other sweeteners, when we encounter a molasses cookie, it's like meeting an old friend.

How it's made: Cane syrup, light molasses

Cane syrup is the boiled syrup of crushed sugar cane. Light molasses is the liquid that remains after the first white sugar is extracted from cane juice. The flavor is lighter and has more fruity notes to it, in the same way the first pressing of olives makes a lighter, fruitier olive oil. Light (sometimes called "fancy") molasses is ideal for baked goods and candies. And in...

baking with molasses hermits via@kingarthurflour


This frosted, spicy, fruit-studded cookie from childhood — substantial in size and deeply comforting — is worthy of a place in your lunch box and your baking routine.

baking with molasses soft cookie via@kingarthurflour

Soft Molasses-Raisin Cookies

These moist, "bendy" molasses cookies are studded with chopped golden raisins. A crunchy coating of coarse sugar is a nice complement to their soft interior. While we usually think of molasses cookies as winter/holiday fare, these are delicious with a glass of cold lemonade — perfect for summer.

How it's made: Dark and blackstrap molasses

Dark molasses is made from the second boiling of cane syrup, after the white sugar is removed. This thicker, darker version is often referred to as "full" or "robust" molasses. It gives gingerbread its distinctive flavor and can be used interchangeably with light molasses in baking, for those who prefer a stronger flavor.

Blackstrap molasses is the result of a third boil. It's darker, more viscous, stronger-tasting, and less sweet than dark molasses. Because of this, its bitter flavor is best suited for savory preparations, such as baked beans or barbecue sauce, rather than for sweets. It tastes great in...

baking with molasses-1


Another unexpected use of molasses is in this quick bread. This moist, tweedy loaf is descended from traditional Scottish oatmeal gingerbread. It's equally delicious with a scoop of ice cream or simply paired with jam and some yogurt for breakfast.

baking with molasses seafoam via@kingarthurflour

Molasses Seafoam Candy

Crisp and light, this candy is also known by other names, including honeycomb, angel candy, sponge toffee, and cinder toffee. Seafoam is best made on a dry day. It can be broken into pieces once set, and dipped in chocolate for even more fun.

How it's made: Cooking molasses

This is a blend of light and blackstrap molasses. It imparts a stronger molasses flavor without the harsh edge of straight blackstrap. Because of this balance, it's a good middle-ground choice for any recipe, savory or sweet, such as in...

baking with molasses pound cake via@kingarthurflour

Molasses Pound Cake

Finally, we capture molasses' magic for dessert. Top this moist cake with a dollop of good peach preserves and some whipped cream, or spread it with cream cheese for a quick breakfast.

Molasses is a compelling flavor that really stands out in baking. It's particularly suited to cold weather treats. Bring the richness of molasses into your kitchen, and rediscover the darker side of sweet.

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Molasses Pound Cake
Molasses Pound Cake
4.3 out of 5 stars 6 Reviews
1 hr 25 mins
1 loaf, 16 slices
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The Author

About Susan Reid

Susan Reid is a chef, baker, teacher, writer, and swimmer. She’s been cooking since her mother drafted her to make appetizers for family dinner parties at the age of 12. Like most liberal arts majors (Bates College), she ran away from home after graduating. After landing in Chicago, she backed into ...
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