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Stage Plank Cookies

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Stage Plank Cookies are a snack and a Southern story with flavor and a back history. As an adolescent, as was common in my small Southern town, I worked summer jobs. Like many others, I was cheap labor, employed to pick up and move things, dig holes, and pretty much anything in the summer heat or requiring young muscles. (Supposedly, the bonus of the job was to remind me to study hard when school started in the fall.) Such work required breaks and an energy boost. My favorite treat was packages of stage plank cookies with pink icing. With simple packaging, and no advertising or promotion, I thought of them as the low-brow but very tasty pick-me-up I needed. I never thought there was a significant history attached.

Plates Stage Plank Cookies
A Cookie with a Back Story

Stage Plank Cookies in New Orleans History


As early as 1901 Stage Plank Cookies are mentioned in New Orleans cookbooks, referring to their being a street food going back to the 18th century. But there is no reference to the significance of those street foods: the cookies were sold with now famous pralines and lesser-known calas (a rice cake). These street foods were part of efforts to earn money towards manumission of the enslaved to buy their freedom.

A Natural Fit

Stage Plank Cookies were a natural fit for a New Orleans street food. New Orleans, of course, was the port city for the Louisiana sugar plantations. There was plenty of sugar and molasses (from the sugar), and a ready supply of sailers, dock workers, and other buyers for the sweets. I guess they were an easy pick-me-up for the hard-working then, as they were for me those summers many years later.

Today you can find them at roadside gas stations and convenience stores across the South. Today they are coated with pink icing. They are still sold with simple packaging and no advertising or promotion, and invariably they are found on the bottom shelf of the sweet snacks.

Notes on Ingredients

In my recipe below I have updated from The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (first published in 1901) by The Times-Picayune Publishing Company, publishers of in their words the “South’s Greatest Newspaper”. I have chosen to modify this simple recipe focusing on molasses and ginger. I do make the small modification of adding ground cloves. Other spices could be added, but like many older recipes, the sentiment is often simple is best.

Buttermilk and Shortening

The historical recipes call for sour milk. I use buttermilk. I find this easy because I like to keep a container of buttermilk solids in my refrigerator. This way, I always have the exact amount I need available. Today there are several types of sour milk products available such as Kefir. Anything can work and of course, you can always use the original — sour milk that might have sat in the refrigerator too long.

I have also replaced lard with vegetable shortening — a bit healthier.


I have used both ginger (the original spice) and ground clove. The combination gives a bit more flavor. The taste is stronger right out of the oven but quickly mellows.


Traditionally these cookies did not have icing. The addition of the pink icing in the stores perhaps gains attention. I enjoy these with and without the icing — it is your choice. The recipe includes a simple icing without the food coloring. This icing will not harden like a royal icing, but that is OK, these cookies will not last long.

Notes on Technique

Heating and Stirring

The original recipe called for beating the molasses, lard (shortening), and spice mixture. I have learned that stirring with a wooden or silicone spoon slowly over low heat releases the flavors.


Frankly, the final cookie mixture is sticky and messy. It is a bit difficult to create a nicely formed cookie. You want elongated ovals as the resulting cookie. I have found using a large spoon and a small spatula to be the best option to work with this sticky dough.

messy stage plank cookie dough
Sticky and Messy

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plated stage plank cookies

Stage Plank Cookies

Yield: 12 good sized Cookies
Prep Time: 14 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 14 minutes

A cookie with a back story



  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup Molasses
  • 4 Tablespoons shortening
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or other form of sour milk)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Icing (optional)

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • less than 1 tablespoon milk
  • a few drops vanilla


For the Cookies

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Prepare a buttered cookie sheet pan.
  2. Melt the molasses, shortening, and powdered ginger and clove together over low heat. When thoroughly melted, beat with a wooden or silicon spoon for about 10 minutes over low heat.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in a tablespoon of hot water and add to the molasses mix. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Working over very low heat, work in alternating batches and mixing well after each addition, mix in buttermilk and flour; the batter should be quite stiff. Use judgment to determine if all the flour is needed, or a few tablespoons more.
  5. Using a large tablespoon, spread the batter in oblong shapes (planks) by holding the spoon sideways to drop on the pan.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until firm.
  7. While baking, if you want to add icing, start with the instructions below. Since it will harden over time, a head start helps.
  8. When the cookies are slightly cool, remove them to a cooling rack and allow cool before icing, (optional)
  9. If you have added icing, allow to sit at least 30 minutes to harden.

For the Icing (optional)

  1. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla to a bowl.
  2. Start adding the milk a very little at a while whisking. Continue until a thick glaze forms.

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Saturday 24th of February 2024

I love the history! It's fun to share with my kids when we bake together. And a 10/10 on the cookies -- absolutely delicious!


Saturday 24th of February 2024

Tried this and they turned out great!


Saturday 24th of February 2024

These cookies were so tasty, and I can’t wait to make them again! The icing was the perfect touch.

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