Sarah Kieffer’s Brown Sugar Cookies

updated Nov 26, 2022
Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown sugar and a touch of molasses lend richness and depth of flavor to these easy sugar cookies.


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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

This recipe is part of our Quarantine Cookies package, featuring 16 of our favorite bakers and their best cookie for 2020. Check out all the amazing cookies here, and sign up here to receive one cookie recipe per day, for 20 days, straight to your inbox.

Sugar cookies have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. They were always a favorite cookie of both my parents — my dad was only interested in the cookie dough, and spent quite a bit of time over the years trying to snatch it when my mom’s back was turned.

My mom enjoyed eating sugar cookies straight up (she thought cookie dough was gross, much to our dismay), and always made hers crispy. In fact, she made everything crispy: cookies, bacon (so, so crispy, with serious burnt edges), pizza, everything. She never wanted anything gooey or doughy, and wrinkled her nose if she was forced to eat a softer texture (obviously this excluded cinnamon rolls).

While I think that crisp was her natural taste preference, I do think our old electric oven gave her no choice but to go with whatever it served her. (Also, she had a colicky baby and a husband working nights and/or midnights. We learned not to complain about food, no matter how brittle or black the edges were.)

Over the years we made sugar cookies every holiday season, passing them out to the neighbors and carrying them on platters to our seasonal get-togethers. Sometimes we’d even make them for Valentine’s Day, coating them in store-bought cream cheese icing and way too many sprinkles. In the summer my mom would occasionally make a batch, a version called “Angel Kisses” found in the pages of our well-worn church cookbook. Sugar cookies were always around somewhere in the background of our lives; each celebration hosting a plate full.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

All of that brings me to here, 2020, and brown sugar cookies. After making sugar cookies for over three decades, I’ve come up with my own favorite recipe, and also other versions. These brown sugar ones are my favorite variation, packed with dark brown sugar and a touch of molasses. They are rich in flavor, with crisp edges, an almost fudgy center, and beautiful crackles running across the top.

A few tips for success: Don’t skip the egg yolk! It helps make the center fudgy and rich. The cookies will puff in the oven and then collapse as they cool, forming cracks across the top. Let the cookies cool on the pan for the time called for — this helps them set and will ensure the perfect texture upon first bite.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Tester’s Note

It seems fussy to rotate the baking sheets and to let them cool on the pan for a bit before moving them to a wire rack, but you should absolutely do it! These steps led to the most perfect cookie texture of all time — crisp edges and oh-so-chewy insides. Also, do not skip the step that calls for rolling the raw balls in sugar! — Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director

Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown sugar and a touch of molasses lend richness and depth of flavor to these easy sugar cookies.

Makes 20

Nutritional Info


  • 2 1/2 cups

    plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    fine salt

  • 1 cup

    (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 3/4 cups

    dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    molasses (not blackstrap)

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1

    large yolk

  • 2 teaspoons

    pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar, for rolling


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line three sheet pans with parchment paper. (If you don’t have 3 baking sheets, you can reuse the parchment and baking sheets, just let the sheets cool off between each round.)

  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and the molasses and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.

  4. Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl.

  5. Form the cookies into 1 1/2-ounce balls (2 tablespoons). Roll each ball in the sugar and place 8 cookies on each sheet pan.

  6. Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the bottoms are light golden brown, 10 to 11 minutes.

  7. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Reprinted from 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.