April 8, 2021

Joe Froggers

Learn how to make Joe Froggers, a classic New England cookie.

Written by Kirk Cusic, Education Director

For today's At Home Activity we are going to make a classic New England cookie: the Joe Frogger! These cookies date back to the colonial era and the recipe is credited to Lucretia Brown (1772-1857). They were partly named for her husband, Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Brown (1750-1834) of Marblehead, Massachusetts. These cookies were reportedly popular with fishermen and sailors on sea voyages because they didn't spoil easily.

Brown was a formerly enslaved man of mixed African and Wampanoag ancestry who - along with Lucretia - operated a tavern in Marblehead after the war. These cookies were made in an iron skillet and were said to be Lucretia's specialty. The second part of their unique name has several possible sources: local Marblehead legend states that they tended to create free-form shapes reminiscent of frogs because they were cooked in a skillet. An alternative theory cites the fact that the tavern was located next to a mill pond filled with frogs. Wherever the name comes from, make up a batch today and enjoy a piece of New England history!

The original recipe calls for rum, but you can substitute vanilla or rum extract if you prefer.

If you don't own a 2 oz ice cream scoop and you regularly make cookies from scratch, I highly recommend picking one up! Your cookies will be a uniform shape and size and your hands will be much cleaner.


  • - ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
  • - 1 cup unsulphured dark molasses
  • - 2½ tablespoons dark rum
  • - 3-3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • - 1½ teaspoons table salt
  • - 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • - 1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
  • - ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • - ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • - ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • - ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • - 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling


click each image to view larger

Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk together hot water, molasses and rum.

Step 2: In a large second bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour with the baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

Step 3: Cream together butter and sugar.

Step 4: Slowly add equal parts of the flour and molasses to the butter and sugar. Mix until smooth and all ingredients are combined. If dough seems too soft add up to an additional ½ cup of flour.

Step 5: Cover over with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 6: Preheat oven to 375° and grease two baking sheets or line with parchment.

Step 7: You have options for shaping the cookies. Whichever method you choose, the dough is quite sticky so you will need to work fast to shape the cookies before the dough warms up!

Method A) Use a 2 oz. ice cream scoop to shape the dough into a ball. If you don't have an ice cream scoop, scoop out pieces of dough with a spoon and roll them into balls between your palms.

Method B) On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a ½ inch thickness and use a floured 2-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds.

Step 8: Roll the balls in granulated sugar, then arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you chose to roll and cut with a cookie cutter or glass, arrange on the baking sheet and sprinkle granulated sugar on top.

Step 10: Press the back of a soup spoon onto each ball of dough, gently flattening it before baking. Leave about 2 inches between cookies

Step 11: Bake the cookies until they have set but are still soft in the middle, about 10 minutes.

Step 12: Cool on wire racks.

Step 13: Enjoy!

As with all our At Home Activities we would love to hear what you thought of this project! Share your photos with us by emailing us at [email protected], posting on our Facebook page or tagging us on Instagram @herreshoff #HerreshoffFromHome.

4 replies added

  1. Fred Wise April 16, 2021 Reply

    I must say from my southern perspective …I hope they taste better than they look… haha..they should be good and with all good ingredients. It must take a New Englander to appreciate an austere Cookie….

    • Nancy O February 8, 2023 Reply

      Actually the taste of these molasses cookies is what makes them unique. And the nutrient content when made on a cast iron skillet. But the real lesson is in the history of this cookie. Perhaps for today’s America we need to resurrect the story…

  2. Fred Wise April 16, 2021 Reply

    That said…I will be making these tomorrw !

  3. Rhonda Oliver April 19, 2024 Reply

    I have been looking for this recipe for a while. My grandmother made these all the time and they were my favorite cookie. I have tried a couple different recipes. The first one was great but the second one tasted good but was so hard you couldn’t chew them. I wish I had kept the first one. What makes them turn so hard?

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