The Classic Sugar Cookie, New & Improved

July  9, 2015

You know you love your great aunt's banana bread, but you probably don't know why you do. In Modern ComfortAshley Rodriguez from Not Without Salt figures out what makes our favorite classics work, and then makes them even better. 

Today: Improve on the classic sugar cookie by swapping out regular old sugar for molasses-y muscovado. 

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We all have our go-to recipe for what we have deemed “the perfect” sugar cookie. It’s soft, sweet, rolls out like Egyptian cotton, keeps it shape when cut from a intricate cookie cutter, and looks lovely under a swath of fluffy pink icing. 

The classics always have their place, but what happens if we take what we love about our classic and give it a little update? 

Classic sugar cookies are little more than sugar, butter, flour, egg, salt, and baking powder. Some use baking soda, or a little milk and some use shortening in lieu of butter, as it helps the cookie to keep the shape. In my updated version, the main modification I’ve made is to swap the traditional white sugar for muscovado sugar.

Muscovado is an unrefined (or partially refined) brown sugar. It has the color of deep mahogany and smells like the sugar top of crème brûlée. The flavor is of deep molasses—far more interesting than white sugar. Muscovado is a rather wet (or moist) sugar that clumps easily, and this is because much of the molasses remains rather than being filtered out as it is with white sugar. The muscovado clumps often end up in whatever it is you are making. I love this quality of muscovado—it means I find little caramelized sugar pockets (those dark flecks you see in the photos) as I nibble on these cookies. But if uniformity is more your style, simply sift the clumps before creaming the sugar with the butter. 

The only other change I made was eliminating the egg. I like my sugar cookies less like cake and more like shortbread. The texture of these cookies are still light due to the moisture in the sugar and the little lift from baking powder, but they have a pleasant crackle and crumble when you bite. 

They also do beautifully sandwiched around a layer of ice cream if you’re into that sort of thing. 


Muscovado Sugar Cookies

Makes 22 to 24 cookies

1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup (80 grams) muscovado sugar (sifted if you don’t want little sugar clumps)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Ashley Rodriguez

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Audrey Lakin
    Audrey Lakin
  • Rachelwrites
Author of Date Night In (2015) and creator of the blog, Not Without Salt.


Audrey L. July 10, 2015
Where can you find this sugar? Not in my grocery store
Rachelwrites July 10, 2015
I don't like sugar cookies because they typically taste overwhelmingly sweet without much flavor. I think these cookies might win me over. Although, I have to admit I was rooting for the flecks to be chocolate! :)