Johnny Cakes

In my quest to find old recipes and cook old fashioned foods I decided that I wanted to make Johnny Cakes. But I wasn’t sure what they were. A pancake? Cornbread? So I did a little research and found:

  • Johnny Cakes, also known as jonnycakes, journeycakes, or hoecakes, were a staple food of the early Americans on the east coast.
  • It is thought that the Native Americans first made these little unleavened cakes with cornmeal, salt and water, and then taught the early pilgrims how to make them.
  • The term hoecake came about from early farmers who did not have adequate cooking utensils and cooked their johnnycakes on their garden hoe.
  • Today, johnnycakes are cooked either in a skillet or griddle, or baked in the oven.

I ended up going with a recipe that uses milk instead of water, and has an egg too. These are incredibly easy and quick to make, and oh so yummy. Here’s the recipe:

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INGREDIENTS (Yield: 8 cakes)

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • butter for frying

Start by beating the egg a little bit with a fork in a medium mixing bowl.

Then add the cornmeal

and salt

and mix well. It will be crumbly. Then add the milk and mix well until there aren’t any lumps.

Heat some butter over medium heat in a skillet or griddle, and then drop batter by spoonfuls(about 3 tablespoons per cake) into hot butter.

Fry over medium/low heat to a golden brown on each side.

Stir batter occasionally to keep well mixed. Add more butter to skillet/griddle with each new batch.  Drain on paper towels and serve hot with butter.

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13 comments to Johnny Cakes

  • My mom used to make these – we just called it “fried cornbread”. I’ve also heard it referred to as “lacy cornbread” – sometimes you can get the edges really thin and they look like lace. YUM!

  • Evelyn

    I think that IHOP makes something like this with sugar added. Soooo good, with or without syrup!

  • Pam

    I make these with my students after reading George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz

  • Doe of Mi.

    I’m floored, don’t think I’ve ever seen these. 65 years ago my Mom made what she called Johnny cake every Sunday supper.
    It was made in an 8″ square cake pan, cut into squares, chunked up in a bowl and served with milk and brown sugar. I’ve never forgotten it, so very yummy. Your version looks mighty yummy too. I will have to try it.

  • I have always been curious about Johnny Cakes too. I’m going to get my supplies together and read the book that Pam suggests before making the cakes with the grandkids. Thanks for sharing your research, and recipe.

  • I had no idea that’s what they were. They look like a delicious alternative to pancakes.

  • I have heard of johnny cakes…(by the way my parents almost named me Johnny) but I didn’t know exactly what they were. Thanks for posting this, now I know they are made of cornmeal. I have to try these!

  • You need real maple syrup from our farm on those Johnnycakes. We’ll have to get you some.

  • LeDena

    I had a gastric bypass years ago and pancakes haven’t been easy to eat. I love these. No flour so they don’t swell in my stomach. I love how crisp they are. My mother made something similar when we were kids, she called it fried mush. My friend called it hot water cornbread. It was thicker and took forever to cook. These cakes taste just like them and I love the crispness I got frying mine in bacon drippings.

  • Cruz

    Johnny Cakes were cooked along the Atlantic Seaboard.
    An original Native American staple.

    It’s believed early African Americans named them ‘Johnny Cakes’. They were also known by other names such as journey cakes & hoe cakes.

    ‘Hoe’ cakes were never cooked on garden hoes, but on a cooking utensil called a ‘hoe’…hence ‘hoe’ cakes, but no matter what you call them… They’re DELICIOUS.

  • Julia

    I live outside of Chicago where a well-known southern restaurant serves Johnny cakes before the meal instead of bread or rolls. They are delicious. I’m going to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

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