Copycat Molasses Bread

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Marvelous Molasses Bread

There is a backstory to this recipe, which is that for YEARS and YEARS and YEARS, if anyone we knew traveled to the Oregon Coast, we begged them to bring back ten loaves of Molasses Bread from the Otis Cafe.   Even with phone calls and questions, the bakery would have no part in releasing the recipe to me or anyone else for that matter.  

Rachel’s friend Hayley, in particular, was the currier of this bread, and several years ago I started a massive Google search to find a recipe that would approximate this bread.  Most had whole wheat flour, sourdough starter, yeast, wheat flour….it was a process, and not knowing a thing about what was really in there or how much I needed to have a sourdough starter, I wasn’t that motivated to start from scratch to create this brown bread.

I would freeze the purchased loaves and guard them with my life, removing them from the freezer one by one for very special occasions.  I hoarded this bread because it was perfect in my eyes…molassey, not too sweet, just wonderful and very, very different.

It’s Just That Good

AND THEN, Rachel’s husband brought home a Sunset Magazine.  There it was, a recipe in “The West’s Best Food Trips.”  And it looked “right” to me. (Of course, I made a few tweaks.)  And easy.  And I had every single ingredient here already, so it was meant to be.

Simple Ingredients

Now I won’t have to reserve half my freezer for the ten loaves! I can’t urge you strongly enough to try this. You’re welcome.

Otis Molasses Bread

Makes one 2-pound loaf



  • Oil or butter for the bread pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ⅔ cups buttermilk or kefir
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup blackstrap molasses
  • About ½ tsp soft butter to brush on the top after it comes out of the oven

Preheat oven to 325 F, and grease a 4 x 8 or 5 x 9 inch bread pan

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

In a glass bowl or large four cup pyrex measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk or kefir, egg and molasses.  I did some research, and kefir is a perfect substitute for buttermilk.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir together with a spatula just until combined.  It’s very thick, sticky and a bit difficult to stir.  Do not overbeat.  The batter is really really thick and hard to mix…Scoop into the prepared bread pan, even out the top with an oiled knife.

Bake about 55-60 min (mine just took 55 minutes) until the center tests done with a toothpick.  Cool on a rack five minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.  Excellent warm, room temperature or toasted.  With butter, of course.

Cooks Notes:

I used kefir since this was spontaneous decision to bake – Rachel found the recipe and texted it to me and the loaf was in the oven less than an hour later.  Fortunately, I had all the ingredients on hand.

I did brush the top of the loaf after it cooled for 15 minutes with about a half a teaspoon of soft butter so it would be shinier.  The original recipe said to run an offset spatula around the perimeter of the loaf before removing it from the pan, but my newish bread pan released the loaf no problem. (Use a pan for a one pound loaf.  It is anodized steel and I bought two after making Babka with Kal)

My verdict: excellent recipe, very close to the original, just not as dark in color.  Maybe they use more molasses?  Burned sugar?  The truth is that this tasted so great I hate to mess around with the recipe, so I’ll leave it as is.  It might not be an exact replica, but it’s close enough for me.  

WOWZA this tasted great.  We cut into it after cooling for just 20 minutes   Five slices later… well, you get the picture.

AND finally, I can just hear some of you saying “I am not a baker.”  OK, but this is a seven-ingredient, quick bread that you stir together by hand  You can do this!


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17 Responses to Copycat Molasses Bread

  1. Anita says:

    You may have created a faster, just as tasty, version of the Otis Molasses Bread! It was strange to read the Sunset book recipe. The author wrote, re: the Otis sourdough starter … “alive and kicking for more than 20 years – but that’s a little bit difficult to reproduce in a home kitchen.” I felt is was unclear if she meant the age of the sourdough starter makes it difficult to reproduce, a common culinary misnomer, or if she thought working with sourdough would be too difficult for the readers.
    The sourdough starter does make a difference in the crumb and flavour. Still, a great idea to use the Keffir to achieve the sour, and a nice finish brushing the loaf with butter ! The colour difference you mentioned might be due to the fact you used white whole wheat, while both the Sunset and Otis recipes call for unbleached whole wheat flour. Here is the original Otis recipe I really appreciate you sharing your version!

    • Marilyn says:

      Duly noted. I think most readers don’t have or want to start or procure sourdough starter, although that version would obviousoly be much closer to your actual bread. Funny you wrote because I just made a loaf early today!!

  2. Anita says:

    Mea culpa. The previous recipe was an adaptation by a baker who worked with Bon Appetit magazine.

    This morning I found the recipe below. It was shared by someone who at some point was affiliated with Otis Cafe. After which I learned that years ago the actual recipe was printed in the Oregonian. After I get this batch of bread in the oven I intend to write the Oregonian to see if someone will comb their archives for the original Otis Cafe recipe.

    I will have three recipes soon. I am purchasing small baking pans. I intend to send a few persons one of each recipe, along w/ a postcard for them to critique each loaf. Though I expect I will receive responses of … Yummy … Yummier … Yummiest … and … I need another three loaves to confirm my critique.

    2 c Buttermilk
    1 c Milk
    2 eggs
    1/2 c Light Molasses
    1/2 c Dark Molasses
    3/4 c Sourdough starter
    1 tsp. Kosher salt
    3 1/2 c All Purpose flour
    3 c Whole Wheat flour
    1 T. Baking soda

    350 degree oven. 2 – 9×5 lightly oiled loaf pans
    Mix wet.
    Sift dry.
    Mix wet with dry until just mixed.
    Distribute between loaf pans.
    Rest filled pans 20 mins.
    Bake 50-55 mins. until toothpick tests clean.

  3. Jan says:

    Oh my goodness. I followed your recipe exactly and used buttermilk. This is better than their bread. It is so wonderful toasted. I could eat the entire loaf! Do you have any recipes like this that don’t use yeast? I will probably make this once a week until my family gets tired of it, although I don’t know how that could happen. Thanks tons Marilyn for being persistent in getting the recipe! Mine took 50 minutes and I didn’t brush with butter. I could only wait five minutes to cut!!

    • Marilyn says:

      I think my easy version is..close enough. I may someday try the sourdough version, but I usually don’t plan ahead long enough to get the job done. So sorry about the fire!

  4. Jan says:

    By the way, the cafe recently had a fire and is closed. Word is they are going to reopen. In the meantime, follow Marilyn’s recipe and enjoy!! Don’t mess with the sourdough recipe. It won’t be the same.

  5. Michelle says:

    Do you have the recipe for the sourdough wheat bread they make. They gave me some starter but not the recipe

    • Marilyn says:

      I don’t have their recipe for sourdough wheat bread. Google Otis Sourdough Wheat Bread and you might get lucky. Or call and ask them again-sometimes restaurants will share their recipe. I plan to go there this fall.

  6. LYNNE M NEWTON says:

    They are reopened in south part of Lincoln City, on the left if coming from the north. More seats, same great German potatoes, and more important…best molasses brown bread! Enjoy it.

  7. Maurine G. says:

    I plan to try your recipe today, Marilyn! My 95-year-old mother loves the molasses bread from Otis cafe. We were at the beach for a few days and the 2 times we stopped by their new location in Lincoln City we couldn’t find any place to park!

    • Marilyn says:

      I think you will be happy with this riff on their molasses bread. We are headed down there in two weeks for a wedding and I’ll do quality control!

  8. Darla says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! Do you happen to know what year the date of the Sunset magazine was? I’d love to try to find a copy of the original recipe. Thanks!

    • Marilyn says:

      I don’t have the original magazine, but if you write to Sunset they will respond I’m pretty sure. They sent me a recipe I couldn’t find from probably 45 years ago when I inquired.

  9. Kim Taylor says:

    A huge THANK YOU for this amazing recipe. I made it with gluten free flour in the same amounts posted in the recipe, added a 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum and it turned out perfectly! My husband and I both grew up enjoying the molasses bread at the Otis Cafe, however he was diagnosed with Celiac as an adult and has since been strictly gluten free. It’s so special that we can once again enjoy this bread together and share it with our children (one of whom has also been diagnosed with Celiac)

  10. Jan says:

    Went to the beach this week and drove by the busy cafe, came home and made a loaf.

    This is the first time I’ve made the bread since my son died a year ago. This was one of his favorites so it’s another one of those trigger points that will always be there. It’s been a difficult year, but I welcome the little things that helps me see his smile. Cherish your memories. By the way, the bread is great.

    • Marilyn says:

      Wow, you made my day. Doing things to remind us of loved ones, food wise, is bittersweet but keeps a person’s spirit with us. So sorry your son passed away but you are doing things to keep his memory alive.

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