Tender Corn Cakes, Creamy, Savory and Sharp

August  2, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes 11 or 12 medium (4-inch) pancakes
Author Notes

I got to thinking about the deliciously spicy jalapeno-charged hush-puppies we enjoyed in South Carolina and the sweet-corn-kernel fritters my mother used to make. But where to take these: sweet or savory? Spicy or cheesy? Rustic or refined? I wanted tenderness with crunch, heat and a hint of sharp cheese. I based these corn cakes on on John Thorne's recipe for Texas Sweet-Corn Flapjacks in his book, "Simple Cooking", Mrs. Taft Walker's Hush Puppies in the book, "Charleston Receipts" by the Junior League of Charleston, and the Hush Puppies in the "Joy of Cooking" (1981 printing). Inspiration for the addition of sharp cheese came from the Fried Masa Cakes with Cheese from Anya van Bremzen's "Fiesta". With the addition of beaten egg whites, I arrived at this full-flavored yet tender conclusion, suitable for a savory Sunday breakfast or a summer dinner main or side. —creamtea

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups corn kernels from about 2 ears of fresh, uncooked corn
  • 2 tablespoons mild, sweet onion such as Vidalia, minced fine
  • 1 small sweet long red pepper or bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine (about 1/4 heaping cup)
  • 1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine (about 1 teaspoon, lightly packed)
  • 1 scallion, minced fine, including some green (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sharp, coarsely grated cheese such as Pecorino, lightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons yellow stone-ground corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose white flour (or more, depending on moisture in corn kernels)
  • 1 egg, separated plus one additional egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • a drizzle each of olive and safflower, sunflower or other neutral oil
  • Yogurt, stirred until smooth, as an accompaniment if desired.
  1. Place corn kernels in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not mushy. (For texture, you may opt to leave a portion of the kernels whole--about 1/4-1/2 cup--to be added later.).
  2. Remove corn from processor into a large bowl, and combine with onions, pepper, scallion if using, and cheese. If you kept some of the kernels whole, stir them in now. Stir in the cornmeal and flour and mix well. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk lightly, add the cream and combine with the corn and peppers. Stir in the ground pepper. Batter should be moist yet firm, with barely any pooling of liquid at the bottom, and should hold a rounded shape. If it is too liquid, add more flour until it just binds.
  4. Combine the egg whites in a medium-size bowl and set aside (see step 6).
  5. Over medium-high heat, begin to warm a 12-inch skillet.
  6. While skillet is heating, in a medium bowl beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but moist peaks form. Scrape the beaters and turn about 1/4 of the whites into the corn mixture. Mix to lighten the batter. Fold in the rest of the whites until combined. Batter should be soft, moist and fluffy.
  7. Test the skillet with a sprinkle of cold water. When it sizzles, add a good drizzle of the oils and allow to heat for a few more seconds.
  8. Using the tip of an oval cooking spoon, scoop out batter for each cake, and drop into hot oil: about 1/4 c batter for 4" ovals. For smaller cakes, scoop out about a tablespoon of batter. Fry cakes in batches (do not crowd pan as they are delicate and flipping them will be difficult if you do). Cook until brown and crispy on underside and just barely dry on top, about 4-6 minutes for the larger cakes. (Watch the pan and adjust heat as necessary to avoid burning). They will release fairly easily when the underside is done. Flip and fry second side--it will cook more quickly than the first side. Drain on layers of paper toweling. Add fresh oil as needed for each batch or two.
  9. Serve piping hot with goat's milk or other yogurt and a crisp side salad as an accompaniment if desired. Leftovers are re-heatable.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • luvcookbooks
  • fiveandspice
  • nogaga
  • creamtea

10 Reviews

Greg F. May 31, 2020
I liked these very much. I’ll play with them a little as they are a bit wet on the griddle but a nice addition to my growing savory cake recipe file.
creamtea May 31, 2020
Dear Greg: thank you very much for the feedback, and thanks for trying my recipe! I agree each batch may be a little different; the flour amount may have to be adjusted to create a thick enough batter.
luvcookbooks August 8, 2019
jmcvmcv June 17, 2013
I bet this would make a great casserole; just sprinkle the cheese on top and bake.
creamtea June 19, 2013
What a good idea!
fiveandspice December 6, 2011
Yum! I suppose these are more summery than wintery, though frozen corn would make them totally doable for a winter party, and ooooh! I do have a bag of corn kernels I froze back in August. I think I know what they will be used for...
creamtea December 7, 2011
true, true, but I couldn't help myself, I was so fond of these little guys last summer...
nogaga September 15, 2011
I finally made these, a delicious mid-afternoon snack. This is a fabulous recipe, staightforward, clear and leading to excellent results. I did not need make a single modification. Instead of adding the goat yogurt, I made up the batter with a goat-mik heavy cream. The fritters are almost irresistible. I loved the addition of corn meal, for a small rough-edged touch.
creamtea September 21, 2011
Nogaga, I'm so glad you got a chance to make it and liked it. I want to make them again, though corn is fast disappearing.
creamtea August 4, 2011
Thank you, sdebrango. I didn't think of eggs--that'd be perfect--the fresher the better.