Viola’s Christmas Ginger Molasses Cookies

Canadian actor Billy MacLellan is busy working in Toronto, but his heart is always in his home of Cape Breton. More specifically, in his grandmother's kitchen.

We're so very grateful that he's taken the time to share with us his loving memories of his Grandmother, Viola, and her cherished Christmas recipe for Ginger Molasses Cookies. Grab an apron & some kleenex.

one tea and a time

I left my hometown of East Bay, Cape Breton when I was eighteen years old and moved to Montreal to study acting. Occasionally someone would ask the age-old, “If you could fly anywhere in the world, where would you go?” My answer was always the same, “My grandmother’s kitchen table.”

Actor Billy MacLellanNow as lovely as that sounds, being a restless eighteen, I would come home for Christmas sit at my grandmothers table, be fine for 30 seconds and then wonder what my old friends in Cape Breton were up to. I’d ask to borrow my parents car and then be out-and-about for the majority of my visit.

For years that was my pattern.

Now I’ve been lucky in my travels that on two different occasions in my youth, life gave me a good hard shake and asked, “Is this the life that you want to be living?”

I went home for yet another Christmas and a good friend gave me this piece of advice, “Let your grandmother, be your grandmother.”

So this is what I did, I decided to take my visit “One Tea at a Time.” We would sit at the kitchen table & my grandmother would pour tea. I would get restless and I would tell myself, “Let’s just take this one tea at a time.”


Now this is what happened “O.T.A.A.T.”; an ordinary cup of  tea turned into an opportunity to sit in one single moment. The tea turned into enjoying my grandmothers baking. The care, the thought and the energy that it took. She asked me if I wanted to learn, and I did, one tea at a time. The tea turned into learning how to bake, with my grandmother as my teacher. The tea turned into magic.

Over years & recipes our relationship grew. We would exchange recipes over the phone after I went back to Toronto. I would come back to Cape Breton with an agenda, “Gram, do you think you could teach me to make those Cinnamon Rolls?”

I had the honor of re-typing, enlarging & printing out my grandmothers recipe book when her eyesight started to fail her. I had the privilege of flying home and being “the muscle” when she wanted to bake bread and didn’t have the strength to knead the dough herself.

rolling pinWhen she knew that she could no longer bake, having completely lost her sight, she offered her recipe book to me.

When she passed away last month my mother let me take her rolling pin back to Toronto. It is hand-carved and had been given to my grandmother by her mother.

So it is with great honor that I pass a recipe along to you.  Take a minute to put the kettle on and bake them for someone you care about. Or even better...ask someone over for tea, bake them together. Take the time, create the magic, one tea at a time.

With gratitude,

Billy MacLellan

catch-a-christmas-star-300x187Billy can be seen this holiday SEAson the Hallmark Christmas movie CATCH A CHRISTMAS STAR

While you're here check out our previous posts & video features on Billy MacLellan... SEA AND BE SCENE...And HEARD Podcast with Billy MacLellan, SABS7 Birthday Salute, On Duty in BELLEVUE, BILLY MacLELLAN The Expanse, Maudie & More, SABStv ONES TO WATCH 2015, and Billy's Cool People Profile by clicking here

Follow Billy on Twitter: @billymaclellan and on Instagram: @billy_maclellan

Viola's Christmas Ginger Molasses Cookies


3/4 cup margarine, melted

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup white sugar (for rolling)


Mix the melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, and egg until smooth.

Stir in the molasses.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger;

blend into the molasses mixture.

Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar.

Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked.

Cool on wire racks.

tree 2013


  1. What a wonderful, moving tribute to your GrAndmother, Billy! She would be proud of you & all your successes. Thanks for the recipe as well as the story.

    Comment by Lynda Lou MacIntyre — November 28, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

  2. Thank you Billy for sharing your very touching story and your Grandmother's recipe. Going to bake these cookies this weekend with my son!

    Comment by lisa herrera — November 29, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  3. Beautiful memories and she will live in your heart forever. Thanks for the recipe!

    Comment by Carole MacInnis — November 29, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  4. Enjoyed this so much, as a fairly new grandmother, I only hope that I can have just that kind of kinship with my grandsons, thanks for sharing

    Comment by Kim MacDonald — November 29, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

  5. Wow. I am moved to tears and agree wholeheartedly. Wonderfully shared.

    Comment by Amy Soloway — November 29, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

  6. So nice that you thought so highly of your grandmother.I am sure she loved sharing her recipes with you.I have been cooking and baking for a living 25 .My grandchildren(they are 5 yrs old) love to bake with me.Hope they will have as happy memories as you do.xxoo

    Comment by PatStapleton — November 29, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  7. Very nice story Billy,your grandmother would be so proud of you as I know your mother is. Merry Christmas

    Comment by Judy Marshall — December 4, 2017 @ 9:23 pm

  8. Thank you for sharing this story. Your grandmother was my Aunt Vi father's Aunt and John ( your grandfather) was my Uncle John. I had the honor of meeting up with your gram at the hospital. She remembered who I was and reminded me how I made a comment 40 years earlier saying " Uncle John ate all the cookies" ..a story from my childhood. Thank you ..and I guess this means we are cousins 🙂

    Comment by Denise Axworthy — December 5, 2017 @ 9:54 am

  9. What a nice tribute to your Grandmother Billy and to you also.I wish you lots of luck in your career.

    Comment by ANNE Marie Donovan — January 10, 2018 @ 4:15 pm

  10. Such a beautiful story. So lucky to have had that time with your grandmother. Such memories to cherish. Very sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Shauna Landry — January 11, 2018 @ 12:37 am

  11. Great story Billy. We are always excited and proud to follow you in your career. I grew up with many of your aunts and uncles. Wonderful having all these beautiful memories of your Grandmother

    Comment by Tish MacInnis/Big Pond — January 11, 2018 @ 11:10 pm

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