They've been called Johnny Cakes, Shawnee Cakes, Hoe Cakes and more. These little pancake-style cornmeal forward patties have been ever popular in the Northeastern part of the country since the early days of European settlement. Most famous in Rhode Island, there's so many different recipe interpretations with some being flatter, fluffier and closer to cornbread than an actual pancake.
It's said that a century ago, the Rhode Island Legislature attempted to settle the question once and for all. Stoves were hauled into the capitol's rotunda and several ''authentic'' johnnycake recipes were tested to determine which was best. A fistfight broke out; nothing was settled, according to The New York Times. They take their Johnny cakes very seriously in those parts!
Arguing aside, I'm going to argue that you take this recipe version and whip it up, adding it to your recipe arsenal. They are delicious at breakfast or dinner and everything in between! They are easily prepared in advance to rewarm, and they also freeze beautifully for when you need a quick side dish. Just be sure to wrap them airtight!
Now on to the cooking of these delicious cakes. I recommend you use lard combined with butter if you have both. If you don't, use a combination of vegetable oil and butter. The tricky part is it's important to make sure the butter doesn't burn and the best way to do that is to cut it with either the lard or vegetable oil which has a higher smoke point to give the butter a little more durability. Of course the butter is preferred as part of the cooking process because it imparts so much flavor!
The recipe calls for you to scoop the batter with a measuring cup. You could also use a ladle but I find the batter tends to stick slightly to the measuring vessel. If you have a large ice-cream scoop, it really make the job easy in portioning the batter, so take that into consideration when choosing the size to make your own johnny cakes! So onto the recipe! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. They're a great change to a typical ordinary pancake!
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. yellow cornmeal
- 2 ½ t. baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ¾ c. milk
- ¼ c. water
- ½ c. lard, bacon grease, or vegetable oil
- 2 T. unsalted butter
In a medium sized bowl, place flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, whisking to combine. Add the eggs, milk, and water to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Do not over mix. Mix just to combine. Heat the lard and butter in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat until melted and shimmering. Use a 1/4-cup measuring cup to drop two portions of the batter into the pan. Cook until crisp and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve warm. Johnny cakes can be served sweet with syrup or jam, savory as a side dish to a main course, or enjoy just on their own with softened butter!
Makes 8 cakes
Adapted from: The Kitchn