The tradition of Joe Frogger’s cookies lives on at The Muffin Shop in Marblehead

Swampscott's Julianna Rhoads shows off the Muffin Shop's famous Joe Frogger molasses cookies. (Spenser R. Hasak)

MARBLEHEAD — There aren’t many places left for locals to munch on Marblehead’s iconic Joe Frogger Cookies but The Muffin Shop on Washington Street is still keeping the tradition going.

“They’re the best thing since rice krispies,” Ira Rosenberg said while grabbing breakfast at the shop.

The shop will often make between 50 to 100 of the molasses cookies, mostly only around holidays or special occasions, owner Louise Capasso said.

“We go through tons of them when we make them,” she said. “They go fast.”

The cookies were invented in Marblehead by a woman known as Aunt Crese in the 18th century. Her husband, a sailor known as Old Black Joe Brown, would often take the cookies, which last very long before going bad, on his voyages.

The name Joe Frogger comes partly from Joe Brown’s name and the fact that around the time of year when he would leave for his voyages, frogs filled the swampy area they lived in, Capasso said.

“A lot of people, especially older people, expect them,” she said. “The taste brings back memories for them.”

When putting together a batch of the cookies, Capasso says that one of the most important parts is to make sure baking soda is put over the molasses so the ingredients bubble over.

After each cookie is finished, it is stamped with The Muffin Shop’s signature logo.

“The customers appreciate it,” she said. “People still love the tradition.”


— 3½ cups flour

— 1½ teaspoons salt

— 1½ teaspoons ground ginger

— 1 teaspoon baking soda

— ½ teaspoon ground cloves

— ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

— ¼ teaspoon allspice

— 1 cup molasses

— ½ cup vegetable shortening

— 1 cup light brown sugar

— 2 tablespoons dark rum

— 1/3 cup hot water

Mix flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the molasses, shortening and brown sugar. Combine the hot water and rum.

Add the dry ingredients and the water/rum mixture alternately to the sugar/molasses mixture. (If the dough is dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.)

Roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper until ¼ inch thick. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets.

Cut the dough into 3-inch cookies with a cookie cutter. (The original Joe Froggers were much larger. For the traditional size, use a coffee can.) Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. (Longer for the traditional size.) The cookies are baked when they are dark around the edges and firm in the centers. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool for five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

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