Cherry Orange Molasses Cookies are chewy and flavored with dried tart cherries, orange zest, candied orange and pecans! Every bite is full of flavor.
Day 12 of the annual 12 Days of Christmas Cookies 2022!
These Chewy Cherry Orange Molasses Cookies are soft molasses cookies spiced with ginger and cinnamon. The spiced dough is flavored with orange zest for an orange spiced aroma and flavor. I’ve added chopped pecans for a little crunch, dried tart cherries for a balancing tart note and candied orange zest for more orange flavor! These cookies make excellent holiday cookies and are a fun way to mix up the usual chewy Molasses Cookies!
I candied my own orange zest for these delicious cookies but you could also use store-bought. Serve or send them alongside My Grandmother’s Sugar Cookies, Browned Butter Cardamom Snickerdoodles, and traditional Raspberry Linzer Cookies for a well-balanced cookie tin!
Table of Contents
What type of molasses should you use for cherry orange molasses cookies?
I generally use unsulphered molasses. It has a lighter, milder flavor. This adds all the warm, winter notes without the bite of blackstrap molasses.
Cherry Orange Molasses Cookies Ingredients
- Shortening: I use shortening in cookies for an extra chewy texture.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. Every brand is different and it makes adjusting the recipe a challenge.
- Granulated Sugar: Granulated sugar is obviously here for sweetness, but if you add too much in proportion to the butter and flour, the cherry orange molasses sugar cookies will spread rather than stay tall and chewy.
- Molasses: I generally use unsulphered molasses. It has a lighter, milder flavor. This adds all the warm, winter notes without the bite of blackstrap molasses.
- Whole Egg: The eggs are here to add fat, moisture and leavening. The fat from the yolk adds richness and helps keep the cookies chewy. Beating in the eggs just enough will add a little or a lot of leavening depending on the desired texture. Eggs also emulsify the batter and keep everything texturally perfect.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda reacts with an acid to leaven the cookies. It reacts more powerfully than baking powder and will create a more dramatic rise, but will not continue to react in the heat of the oven or without the presence of an acid.
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour has just the right amount of gluten to make soft chewy molasses sugar cookies.
- Ground Ginger: Ground Ginger has a subtler flavor than freshly grated ginger root. It has less bite and is more warming.
- Cinnamon: I use Saigon cinnamon but any cinnamon will do.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is lass salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor here and will keep your molasses sugar cookies from tasting dull or flat.
- Orange Zest: Be sure to zest only the dark orange parts of the orange peel for the most concentrated flavor.
- Dried Tart Cherries: I prefer dried tart cherries for baking because it adds a bit of welcome tartness to the cherry orange molasses cookies. It balances some of the sweetness and adds texture! Use any brand but be sure to check the ingredients for additional, unnecessary, added sugar.
- Pecans: I love to use Southern pecans in baking. Nothing beats fresh, plump pecans. But any pecan halves will do. If you keep them for longer than a month or your kitchen is consistently warm, store them in the freezer to preserve freshness.
- Candied Orange Zest: I used homemade candied orange peel for this recipe but you could also finely chop store bought. Store bought candied orange peel tends to be a little less flavorful because they typically candy the whole rind rather than just the bright orange parts!
- Nuts: I use chopped pecans but you could use any nut that you like. Walnuts would also be delightful.
- Lemon: Flavor the cookie with lemon instead! Use fresh lemon zest to flavor the cookie dough and then mix in candied lemon zest instead. You could also use orange and lemon zest together.
- Dress them Up: Instead of rolling the cookies in plain granulated sugar use green or red sanding sugar, or a mixture of both. You could also roll them in festive sprinkles or sparking sugar for extra holiday flair!
Frequently Asked Questions
I store them in an airtight container at room temperature or frozen. When they are stored in an airtight container, they will lose a bit of the crispness around the edge. You could leave a corner cracked but they will dry out faster.
These cherry orange molasses sugar cookies will keep up to 10 days at room temperature or several months frozen.
You can freeze the baked cookies for up to 2 months, or freeze the cookie dough balls. Then you can bake them fresh at any time.
Roll the frozen cookie dough balls in granulated sugar right before baking. Bake at 350°F for 10-14 minutes straight from frozen! Bake until the edges have begun to brown, the centers are puffed, and the outside has begun to crack. The center should look matte rather than shiny.
These cookies ship wonderfully. Package in a decorative tin or just place in a zip-top bag in a mailer box. They keep for 10 days and they stay chewy for almost as long. The larger the cookie, the longer they stay chewy!
You can make as large a batch of these chewy cherry orange molasses sugar cookies as you would like. A version of these were in the first Christmas Cookie Tin that my online pastry shop sold back in 2019, so I have made batches of thousands of these cookies. You are only limited by the size of your mixer.
Since the butter and shortening were melted, these cookies do need to chill at least 2 hours before baking. Otherwise they will spread too much and they will not be chewy. Chilling the dough before baking will create thicker, chewier cookies. You can also freeze the dough.
Chef Lindsey's Recipe Tips
For an extra boost of orange flavor, combine the orange zest with the granulated sugar for at least an hour before mixing the batter. The sugar pulls out the moisture and oils from the zest and flavors the sugar itself. I zest directly into the sugar and the massage the zest into the sugar to distribute it and get the process started.
Cherry Orange Molasses Cookies
- ¾ cup shortening
- ¾ cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 orange (zested)
- ½ cup molasses
- 2 eggs
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger (slightly rounded)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup dried tart cherries
- ½ cup pecans (chopped)
- ½ cup candied orange zest
- Additional sugar for rolling
- Combine orange zest with sugar and allow to infuse while you measure and start the dough.
- Melt shortening and butter together in a pan on low heat.
- While the butter and shortening melt, sift together flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt; whisk to evenly distribute spices and soda. Set aside.
- In another large bowl add sugar, molasses and butter/shorting mixture; beat well with a hand mixer. Add eggs and beat well.
- In two additions, add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir on low speed. Add cherries, pecans and candied orange zest.
- Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
- Roll into balls approximately 1 ½ inches across, roll in sugar and place 2 inches apart on your prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven 8-10 minutes. For mostly soft, chewy cookies, bake until the edges are brown and cracked but the centers are not. For crispy outsides and soft centers bake at least 10 minutes until the centers have started to crack.
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