Session 3 – Shoofly Cupcakes

What is shoofly, you might ask?


The origin of the name has been debated for years and will probably never ultimately be solved.  The most logical explanation is related to the fact that during the early years of our country, all baking was done in big outdoor ovens.  The fact that pools of sweet, sticky molasses sometimes formed on the surface of the pie while it was cooling, invariably attracting flies, show how such a pie could come to be called Shoofly Pie.

It’s basically a half-baked pie made out of molasses and sugar with a crumb topping – a Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish classic that apparently hasn’t really made it out of central PA. (reppin’ 717!) My grandmother and grandfather Rubright grew up in coal country central PA so it’s not surprising that this recipe came from my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Joan.


I was curious to see if this recipe would end up being a half-baked cupcake like the pie or a more cakey result that highlighted the flavors of the pie. While prepping for this session, I had to laugh at the random short-hand of the ingredients: “1 tsp soda” I assumed meant baking soda (as opposed to cola), and “1 C butter” was later referred to as shortening in the directions – I assumed they were one in the same in this case. But, perhaps the most *important* ingredient is:


Grandma’s Original Molasses. You know it’s gotta be good if it’s got Grandma’s stamp on it. The process was fairly straight forward – First mix up the dry ingredients plus butter to create the crumb topping and batter base. I used a hand mixer on low setting to help everything disperse as evenly as I could. Then, you use boiling water to melt the molasses down and add that to the batter base, mixing until yielding a thin batter. I used the hand mixer again just to make sure all the clumps were dissolved from the bottom and sides of the bowl.

L to R, T to B

The recipe didn’t say how high to fill the cupcake wrappers, so I erred on the side of caution for my first batch and filled each tin about halfway with batter. This yielded a smaller cupcake, but stretched the batter into about 3 dozen cupcakes (which was a good use of the crumb topping) so I’d recommend the same. Sprinkle each cupcake with crumb topping and bake for 18 minutes – not bad!


The result was a DELICIOUS cupcake that tasted exactly like shoofly pie. It didn’t have the gooey consistency, but the rich molasses and brown sugar made it almost as good as the real thing. Paired with the crumb topping, the flavoring also made up for the lack of icing. A+, Aunt Joan! (If I remember correctly, I think I saw a recipe card for actual shoofly pie in the box as well. YES!) Warning, this is a bowl heavy recipe – you will use many bowls to combine and mix ingredients along the way.

If you like these cupcakes, be sure to go out and try authentic shoofly pie. You will NOT be disappointed!!


Shoofly Cupcakes

Ingredients – yields 2 to 3 dozen cupcakes

4 C white, all-purpose flour
(1) 1LB box dark brown sugar (16oz, 2 C)
1 C softened butter (2 sticks)
1 C molasses
2 tsp baking soda
2 C boiling water


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line cupcake tins with cupcake papers.

Cream the softened butter in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon or hand mixer. Combine flour and brown sugar and slowly add it to the butter mix while using a hand mixer on low speed; work into fine crumbs. Set aside 1 1/2 C of crumbs for topping in a medium size bowl. In another medium sized bowl, combine molasses and baking soda. Carefully pour in boiling water while mixing with a whisk or spatula; stir until molasses is completely dissolved. Pour wet batter into the batter crumbs, mixing until batter is very thin (can use your hand mixer if necessary). Fill each cupcake liner halfway with batter. Cover generously with crumb topping. Bake in oven for 18 minutes. Cool and serve.

ProTips: I would do a test round of just 6 cupcakes at first to make sure you have enough batter in the tins and the 18 minutes is not too long/short in your oven. FYI, “creaming” butter just means to work it out of the rectangle shape and make it pliable to easier mix into your additional ingredients 🙂 . If you want to get super fancy, you could introduce a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder into the crumb topping for another flavor dimension. I am a puritan when it comes to shoofly pie, but the Amish have branched out to appease the chocolate lovers of the world. And sell more pie.

Vegan ProTips: Just use vegan butter and you’re good to go!


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