Spiced Molasses Brownies

February 15, 2012
1 Ratings
  • Makes one 8 x 8 pan or one 9" round pan
Author Notes

These are inspired by the fudge-y “Chocolate Molasses Brownie” recipe in the 1943 “The Joy of Cooking”. You can make these in an 8 x 8 pan or, for a prettier dessert, bake them in a 9” round pan. We like them topped them with vanilla-scented whipped cream, but vanilla ice cream would also work well. Either way, enjoy!! ;o)

Test Kitchen Notes

Go out and make these brownies RIGHT NOW! While the recipe says the white pepper is optional, I recommend it. There is so much going on in these brownies but it works, and each bite reveals another of the great flavors in this recipe. I couldn't help myself and added some chunks of dark chocolate to the batter before baking. Don't forget the vanilla whipped cream, it's the perfect topping for these delicious brownies. —cgilsbach

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries or chopped black mission figs
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 ml bourbon
  • ½ cup / 4 ounces / 113 grams butter + more for greasing the pan
  • 2 ½ ounces dark chocolate
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup / 92 grams all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (use more if not using a Vietnamese cinnamon)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger (or more or less, to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • Vanilla whipped cream or ice cream for topping (see note below)
  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8 x 8 square or 9” round pan. (When using a square pan, I line it with a sling of parchment pager for easier removal.)
  2. Soak the cherries or figs in the bourbon in a small bowl.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium, heavy saucepan. Add the sugar and molasses and stir well.
  4. While the chocolate and butter are cooling, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  5. Add the vanilla, the crystallized ginger and the cherries or figs with their soaking liquid to the chocolate and butter in the saucepan. Stir to thoroughly blend.
  6. Beat the eggs very lightly using a fork just until they are a uniform color. (I do this in the bowl I used to soak the cherries or figs.) Add the beaten eggs to the saucepan. Using a large spoon, stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Don’t beat too hard, unless you want a crackly top on your brownies (which I understand is actually a meringue, created by beating the batter very hard once you’ve added the eggs).
  7. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is well mixed. Do not overbeat.
  8. Put the batter into the greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. (The toothpick may be just a bit wet, but it should not have any batter on it.)
  9. Allow to cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan and slicing.
  10. Top with a generous dollop or two of vanilla whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  11. I hope you like these. Sincerely, AntoniaJames ;o)
  12. N.B. The JOC recipe calls for ½ cup each of white sugar and molasses, 2/3 cup sifted flour, and does not include the cherries, bourbon, ginger or any of the spices.
  13. To make vanilla whipped cream, rub the seeds from ½ a vanilla pod into 2 tablespoons of sugar before you begin making the brownies. If you think to do this the night before, all the better. I do it right in the bowl in which I’m going to whip the cream, and I use the back of a small spoon, to avoid getting too much of the vanilla flavor on my hands (as opposed to in the sugar itself). About an hour before serving, put the cream into the bowl with the scented sugar, and then put the bowl into your freezer with the beaters of your electric mixer. Shortly before serving, remove the bowl from the freezer and immediately whip the cream to the consistency you like. If you don't care to use vanilla seeds, add ¼ teaspoon best quality vanilla to the sugar and rub it in well with the back of a small spoon. ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • jane.pilcher1
  • duclosbe1
  • Sumayya Usmani
    Sumayya Usmani
  • aargersi
  • Midge

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

18 Reviews

Liz B. November 3, 2019
I made these yesterday and they were good but I personally found the molasses aroma/flavor way stronger than expected (maybe my molasses is old? I'm going to retry the recipe with a new bottle soon); they were otherwise a hit, with people going back for seconds. I left out the star anise referenced in the comments but not listed in the recipe (I didn't have a way to grind it), and sprinkled chopped bittersweet chocolate on the surface right before baking as I was worried it wouldn't be chocolately enough. I think the extra chocolate definitely helped make it fudgier but likely wasn't necessary. I really loved the dried cherries in the brownies while some found them a little strange; definitely a matter of personal preference. I added white pepper and I think all the spices are perfectly balanced.
jane.pilcher1 March 4, 2012
Oh wow! I have all ingredients but will get the star anise and give these a try. Hmmmmm, makes my mouth water just thinking of them.
duclosbe1 March 1, 2012
I just pulled my batch of these brownies out of the oven. Oh goodness, are they ever delicious! Their fragrance alone is mouthwatering. Thank you for such a creative recipe, AntoniaJames!
AntoniaJames March 1, 2012
Wow, I'm so glad you like them. Thanks for making them, and for letting me know! ;o)
Sumayya U. February 16, 2012
omg how yummy! im making this!
aargersi February 16, 2012
I LOVE BROWNIES! When you toast and grind the anise do you use the whole star or just the seeds?
AntoniaJames February 16, 2012
Thanks, aargersi. I always grind up the whole star, as the seeds are actually not where most of the flavor come from . . . . it's in the pods holding them. (I recently read that in a book on spices I borrowed from the library, but alas, I cannot remember which one.) I'm too lazy anyway to go so far as to pick the seeds out, which is the real reason that I throw the whole thing into the grinder! ;o)
Sumayya U. February 16, 2012
can i just say that when u do cook with star anise in pakistani/indian.thai curries u always use them whole they release the flavour and fragrance under a slow cook beautifully and just perfectly, thought i'd share :)
Midge February 15, 2012
Yum, I know I would love these!
AntoniaJames February 16, 2012
Thank you, Midge! ;o)
EmilyC February 15, 2012
Love the title and recipe!
AntoniaJames February 16, 2012
Thanks, EmilyC. I could have just listed the three spices, but I really did find inspiration in Winnie's pho . . . . which is, if you have not yet tried it, excellent. I made duck pho using that recipe, and the duck meat from the Genius cduck confit recipe last month. It was outstanding. ;o)
fiveandspice February 15, 2012
Amazing! Double wow!
AntoniaJames February 16, 2012
fiveandspice, you're too nice. ;o)
drbabs February 15, 2012
wow. yum.
AntoniaJames February 16, 2012
Thank you so much, drbabs!
AntoniaJames February 15, 2012
About half of the ingredients are missing, even after I went back to edit this to add them. They are:

1/3 cup molasses
½ cup dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons bourbon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground star anise (toast gently before grinding)
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (use more if not using a Vietnamese cinnamon)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (optional)

I'll try later. ;o)
AntoniaJames February 15, 2012
About half the ingredients are missing, even after editing. They are:
1/3 cup molasses
½ cup dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons bourbon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground star anise (toast gently before grinding)(see note below)
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (use more if not using a Vietnamese cinnamon)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (optional)

I'll try again later. ;o)