Baking Molasses Matchup

The Pennsylvania Dutch sure do love their molasses, and I’m no exception! Golden Barrel, a Pennsylvania-based company, mailed me a free jar of their Supreme Baking Molasses. I decided to test it head-to-head with Grandma’s Robust molasses. Grandma’s Robust is the easiest baking molasses to find in grocery stores, at least here in Chicago.

What is Baking Molasses?

Molasses is typically made from sugar cane juice. The grades of molasses differ by the amount of sugar, if any, that has been removed from this juice. The sugar is removed by boiling sugar cane juice three times.

  • Fancy molasses is the sweetest type, made from sugar cane juice that has had no sugar removed.
  • Table molasses (also called “light” or “Barbados” molasses) has had some sugar removed by the first boiling, but it’s still sweet enough to use on top of pancakes and toast.
  • Baking molasses has had more sugar removed, typically from the first and second boiling of the cane juice syrup.
  • Blackstrap molasses is the darkest and least sweet of all. It’s produced from the third boiling, and it’s somewhat bitter.

So you can remember baking molasses as the middle child, somewhere between table molasses and blackstrap molasses in sweetness. Grandma’s Robust is a blend of molasses from the first boiling. So you might expect it to be a table molasses, but its taste and color seem much more like baking molasses.

The Test

I made wet bottom shoofly cake twice during recipe development, once with Grandma’s and once with Golden Barrel. After the recipe was finalized I repeated the test, again with two shoofly cakes. A friend tasted them all with me and gave his opinion as well. It was a big sacrifice for us to eat four cakes, but we persevered for the sake of the blog. 😉

Results: Texture

The cake with Grandma’s Robust was more dense and moist, and my friend preferred it that way. The cake with Golden Barrel’s baking molasses was a bit fluffier. I liked the fluffy version better, because I was making wet bottom shoofly cake. This meant that there was a molten layer of table molasses below the cake layer, and I liked having more contrast in texture between the gooey bottom layer and the fluffier cake layer. I might have preferred Grandma’s Robust if I was making a wet bottom shoofly pie, where I want a fudge-like, wet texture throughout the molasses layer.

Results: Taste

I noticed a difference in taste, but my friend did not. Although he loves shoofly cake and pie, he’s not Pennsylvania Dutch. Perhaps I’m genetically predisposed to detect nuances in molasses! I don’t know how noticeable the difference in taste will be to other people, but here’s what I thought. The cake with Grandma’s Robust was slightly bitter, while the Golden Barrel molasses cake was sweeter and smoother. I didn’t expect that, because Grandma’s Robust is made from the first boiling, and should be sweeter than Golden Barrel! They were both great cakes, but I preferred the flavor with Golden Barrel Supreme Baking Molasses.

Recommendations

  • For fluffier baked goods, use Golden Barrel baking molasses.
  • For more dense, moist baked goods, use Grandma’s Robust.
  • If a slightly sweeter, smoother flavor is most important to you, use Golden Barrel.
    • If you’re baking for someone who has never eaten molasses-heavy desserts, I think the less bitter taste of Golden Barrel will help them ease into it.

Fun Fact: Molasses is acidic, so it can activate the rising action of baking soda just like vinegar or lemon juice.

Happy baking!