Return to Content

Joe Froggers

Joe Froggers
26 votes, 4.12 avg. rating (82% score)

Total Time: 40

Yield: 4 dozen

Molasses-spice cookies date back to the Colonial era, but this variation with rum in the batter comes from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Locals say the cookies are named after Joseph Brown, a free African American man who served in the Revolutionary War and opened a tavern in town. Brown's wife, Lucretia Brown, did the cooking, and these cookies, made in an iron skillet, were her specialty. According to Marblehead Myths, Legends, and Lore by Pam Matthias Peterson, "when the batter hit the pan, it ran in all directions and formed shapes that looked like a frog's body and legs." Given their shape and the fact that the tavern was next to a frog pond, the name stuck.

Want more? Check out the blog that goes along with this recipe.

Joe Froggers
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey


  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons dark rum, such as Gosling's
  • 3-3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsulphured dark molasses


In a small bowl, combine hot water and rum. In a large second bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour with the baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add water and rum to creamed mixture and beat well. Add one-third of the flour mixture and stir, then stir in half the molasses, scraping down the sides as you go. Repeat with an additional third of the flour mixture and the remaining molasses. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture. If dough seems too loose, add the extra 1/2 cup flour.

Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 45 minutes and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375° and grease two baking sheets or line with parchment.

You have two options for shaping the cookies: On a floured surface, you can roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness and use a floured 2-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Alternately, you can skip the rolling and instead break walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls between your palms. Arrange the balls on the baking sheet and put some granulated sugar into a bowl. Press the bottom of a drinking glass into the sugar, then press it onto each ball of dough, flattening it before baking.

Bake the cookies until they have set but still seem soft in the middle, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Updated Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Yankee Magazine Advertising

$10 Introductory Offer
plus, get the Tablet Edition FREE!

In this issue: Thoreau's Maine

  • Best Chowder: We Found It!
  • 5 Best Historic Home Tours
  • Spring Comes to Narragansett Bay
Subscribe Today and Save 72%

Browse Similar Recipes

13 Responses to Joe Froggers

  1. Dr.Margaret Bigler-Simmons July 25, 2002 at 1:16 pm #

    My husband and I raised our sons in Bloomfield, Ct. They found this recipe in the Hartford Courant newspaper and begged me to bake it for them. Joe Froggers turned out to be a real favorite of the boys during their childhood. Over the years I had lost the recipes. These two boys, both now in their late forties, were transported back in time and reduced to their pre-teen years this last week–fighting over the “last Joe Frogger.” Thank you so much for allowing me, and them, to journey back to their childhood.

  2. Frances Davidson December 21, 2003 at 3:17 pm #

    How great is Google?!…This was a recipe from our 92 year old grandmother who recopied it with 3 cups of water instead of 3/4 cup… our first batch failed miserably but thanks to YANKEE we happily made her the cookies we loved to make with her when we were children. They were wonderful!

  3. monica buck June 27, 2005 at 11:06 am #

    I was raised in Lynn, MA, and these were a favorite summer fare. I have made them twice and my family loves them. Now I can share some New England memories with my kids (who are Virginians)

  4. Kathleen Heil December 28, 2005 at 2:22 pm #

    My college kids “new favorite” recipe! I get requests to send these specific cookies to their schools and all the kids just love them! I buy rum just to make this recipe! You have to give it a try! They will be your “new favorite” as well.

  5. Deb Johnson February 18, 2006 at 4:57 pm #

    My mother used this recipe when I was a child in the ’50s. I was so glad to find it again now. It had been lost from her recipies. This is a great recipe! They keep well and they send through the mail well, too! I love it! Thank you, Yankee .

  6. Mona Clark November 12, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    Here in Maine, we love cold milk and warm cookies and a good story … so it’s no wonder we love “Joe Froggers”. But in our house they’re called “Joel Frogger” … since our son’s name is Joel. Growing up, he and his friends would hop to the table to eat them up while I was still making them. At Christmas … we used a ‘tree’ cookie cutter and the boys dip the cookies in warm white frosting to give the look of snow on the tree. This past week I found a mitten cookie cutter and plan to do the same thing … even though Joel is 26 now and doesn’t live home to help … I will be saving some for him.

  7. joy bucco November 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    My family visited Sturbridge Village over 25 years ago and fell in love with these cookies. They gave us a copy of the recipe and I had it for about 15 years then lost it. It took me another 15 years to discover how great is the WEB!! Lots of Froggers in our home this year!! Have tried other molasses cookies … none compare!

  8. Nicka Hathaway February 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    My friend wants me to search her favorite cooking site (which she concluded to be the best), on the web when I suddenly came across this page. It seems that the recipe is good to try so I made it and it turned out very very nice. The taste is great!

  9. Anonymous December 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    This Joe Frogger recipe is the one I always made for my kids and their friends. I often made up plenty of extras because no one has ever been able to eat just one and say no to “seconds” again and again. It’s the absolute BEST molasses cookie recipe ever created. I’ve always loved the Joe Frogger Legend. An extension of the version of the legend that I heard is that Joe, the creator of this recipe, often baked up barrels of these cookies for sailors to take to sea with them because they keep very well for a very long period of time w/o using preservatives and additives. I can’t validate that part of the legend because no matter how many dozens I’d bake up I NEVER had any last longer than a week or two (everyone would be asking me to make up more), but the last cookie was always just as moist and chewy as the first.

  10. Nicole January 14, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I grew up with grandparents that brought these to me each time they visited, i believe they picked them up somewhere in Sturbridge while en route from Cape Cod. I’m so excited to make them! Although the ones I ate as a child had an iced smiley face with yellow or blue background, so I plan to ice them as well- but I’m cutting them out in large labrador retriever shapes ;). Question: Will it matter if I use Capt Morgan’s Spiced Rum instead of Goslings?

    • Aimee Seavey January 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Nicole! What great memories! It won’t matter what kind of rum you use, but if you’re going for a shape other than a circle, they might not have quite the same texture. I’d try to still “stamp” it down with the bottom of a drinking glass before baking, but gently! Good luck!

  11. Mary February 22, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    These marvelous Joe Froggers were made in the ships long ago by sailors They would last for a long time while out to sea.

  12. roberta December 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    I made these cookies years ago, when we lived in California. Everybody loved them. We now live in Santa Fe nm. My daughter asked me to make them again(yrs later). I have been trying, but they turn out horribly wrong. They taste bitter, leaving a bad taste that lingers. I have tried to adjust the recipe for high altitude(7000 ft)-but nothing works. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. The strong taste could be the Rum-the molasses-or baking soda-or cloves. I am using the same original recipe from yrs ago. Does anyone have any ideas why the same recipe doesn’t work now? Does anyone out there live at high altitude, and successfully make them? I would appreciate any input. Thanks, Roberta

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

Register Sign In

©2013, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111