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Molasses Toffees for Christmas from The Fiery Cross

Molasses Toffees for Christmas from The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross

With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie and I had made up and enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot.  Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.  Even Germain had been reduced to a sort of tuneful gargle.

Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross, Chap 34

The OK house was on a molasses high last week!  Our mouths were glued shut by 4 different vintage recipes worth of toffee.  In the end, I settled on a recipe that I adapted from “Practical Housewifery” by Marion Harland (New York, 1874).  It makes rich, smooth toffee from a simple list of ingredients that many of us already have in our pantries.

The darker toffee is made exactly according to Mrs. Harland’s recipe, using 4 parts molasses to 1 part sugar.  Delicious from my adult perspective, but heavy on molasses — a strong, slightly-sulphourous taste that most kids today probably won’t love.  (My Englishman wasn’t particularly fond of it, either.)

To make the lighter pieces, I reversed the proportion of sugar and molasses in the original recipe.  The result is a golden, mild-tasting molasses toffee that will keep even the most modern, young mouths just as tuneful and gargling as Germaine’s.


(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Molasses Toffees

Yield: approx. 6 dozen 1” pieces of candy

Delicious buttery toffee that tastes better ’cause it’s homemade.  Use the best quality molasses you can buy and have a friend over to share the work (and the bounty)!  If you are working alone, work quickly when pulling the toffee — it cools faster than you think.

White Vinegar – ¼ Cup
Granulated Sugar – 1 cup
Molasses – ¼ Cup
Butter – 1 Tble
Baking Soda, dissolved in a little hot water – ½ tsp
Vanilla or Mint Extract – 1 tsp (optional)

Generously butter a baking pan/cookie sheet with sides.

Pour the vinegar into a small, deep saucepan.  Stir in the sugar, then the molasses.

Bring to a boil over med. high heat, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture boiling up and over the sides of the pan.  Boil until the mixture reaches 250° F on an instant-read or candy thermometer.  (Hard Ball stage — see tips below).

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and baking soda.  Add the vanilla or mint extract if using, give it one last hard stir, then pour it into the middle of the buttered baking sheet.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes.  Have a bowl of ice cubes and water nearby to cool your fingertips.  When the toffee is cool enough to handle like a hot potato, use a the edge of a fork to divide it in half.  Pull one of the halves between your hands, fold it back on itself and pull into a rope again.  Repeat over and over until the toffee turns a beautiful golden colour.  Cool your hands as necessary in the water, but don’t get the toffee overly wet.

Roll it between your hands into a rope, about ½” wide, and lay back on the buttered sheet. Repeat with the other half of the toffee.

When cool, use scissors to cut into 1” pieces and wrap in squares of wax paper.

Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)

New-School Tips:

  • Ensure the sides of your saucepan are at least 4” high to prevent the hot sugar syrup from boiling over.
  • If you have a silpat, use that to line your baking sheet instead of buttering it.

Old School Tips:

  • If you don’t have a thermometer, use this Candy Making Chart and a glass of cold water to determine when your toffee is to temperature.
  • For a stronger molasses flavour, use 1 cup molasses and 1/4 cup sugar — be aware that this is definitely an adult taste.
  • This recipe can easily be doubled or quadrupled.  Just make sure your pan is big enough to prevent spillovers and you have enough hands standing by to get the taffy pulled in time.




  1. Hazel
    December 12, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Sounds divine! Can’t wait to surprise my Dad, who is a molasses fiend, loves it!

    • Theresa
      December 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

      oooh, if he’s a real fiend, try the original recipe with 4 parts molasses to 1 part sugar — he’ll love it!

  2. Yea! Molasses toffee. I need to make this simply for the experience of making my own toffee. Do you figure this is a recipe from Scotland or something they picked up here in NC?

    • Theresa
      December 12, 2011 at 10:50 am

      Great question, Christiane — molasses (a by-product of the sugar making process) would have been very expensive in Europe during the 18th Century — no doubt they had toffee, but it was probably only for the rich. I’m thinking that because of its close proximity to the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean, sugar and molasses may have been more accessible in NC at that time. Just a guess though!

  3. ruaTimeTraveler2
    December 12, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I love love love Toffee!…This looks so yummy! as always Outlander Kitchen is bringin” the FUN!

    • Theresa
      December 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

      Thanks Vickie!

  4. Kiri W.
    December 12, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Ooooh, that sounds amazing! I;d love a few of these treats. Molasses is the perfect holiday base, too.

  5. Kea
    December 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    wow thats weird… just bought some molasses from the local co-op yesterday hoping that ABOSSA’s molasses cookies would show up in OK soon. forgot about the molasses toffee!

    • Theresa
      December 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Perfect timing!

  6. Carolyn
    December 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Love that old-fashioned toffee. I think I’d prefer the darker version!

    • Theresa
      December 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

      You have excellent taste Carolyn — it`s my favourite too…

  7. Barbara Medeiros
    December 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I’m not clear if it might be the same recipe, but a British friend makes a “Bonfire Toffee” to bring to the local celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. It does produce the same results!

    • Theresa
      December 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      Cool Barbara — I’m sure it’s a very similar recipe…and tasty too!

  8. Barbara Medeiros
    December 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I’m not clear if it’s the same recipe, but a British friend prepares “Bonfire Toffee” to bring to the local celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. It produces the same results!

  9. Hey Paw
    December 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    My friend came over and we were prepared to have a toffee pull. I did something wrong, maybe my pot was too big which caused the thermometer to read the heat higher than it was?, anyway, it was very gooey and hard to handle. The nice ropes of taffy you show, ours flattened out once rolled into ropes. Maybe I used too much water to dissolve the baking soda? I will try again. We had a blast, albeit a sticky mess. We only got about 2 dozen small toffees, they were very good though.

    • Theresa
      December 29, 2011 at 9:30 am

      It sounds like the syrup didn’t get hot enough. Your suspicion about too big a pot may be right — if the syrup is not deep enough, you may have been reading the temp from the bottom surface of the pot, which is directly on the element. Try a slightly smaller pot — the water dissolving the baking soda doesn’t matter, as it evaporates quickly as the syrup boils. I`m glad to hear you had fun — sugar making is a blast, even when the results aren’t quite perfect!

    • Heypaw
      December 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks for the tips! I really enjoy your blog (both of them wink wink, lol) Have a Happy New Year!

  10. Diana
    December 20, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Just curious– since you reversed the proportions on the molasses and sugar, and if you like the taste of molasses, could you meet in the middle and use perhaps 1/2 c of molasses and 3/4 cup of sugar? And could you perhaps substitute pure sorghum syrup? I have a gallon of that, which my family loves.
    Thank you and love your blog!

    • Theresa
      December 21, 2014 at 5:23 am

      It sounds like you have a potential kitchen experiment on your hands, Diana! I can’t answer your questions…but if I was here with you, I’d help you make the first batCh!

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