Make Ahead

Clam Cakes, my Rhode Island style

August 10, 2011
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Makes 30-36
Author Notes

I grew up on the coast of Rhode Island where our fairs always featured clam cakes. When I was in fifth grade I made my first batch of corn fritters while I was home alone, both shocking and delighting my family. Later I got the idea of combining the corn with clams to make these hybrid cakes. If you are making clam chowder, then this is a great recipe to make along side of that. For a vegetarian version simply use 3/4 cup each of buttemilk and beer with just 1 cup of corn. —Sagegreen

Test Kitchen Notes

Sagegreen's Rhode Island style clam cakes certainly bring you back to a day at the fair. Crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy inside -- speckled with fresh corn and clams. Serve with recommended bread and butter pickles, tartar or hot sauce, these little cakes will bring a bit of yummy fun to your next gathering. - jvcooks —jvcooks

What You'll Need
  • 1-1 1/4 cups minced clams, Quahogs preferred, or other hard shell clams
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2-3/4 cups corn cut off the cob, raw or cooked, silver queen or shoepeg preferred
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk otherwise)
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 1/2 cup beer, Narragansett suggested, or more clam broth
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or maple syrup
  • canola oil for deep frying
  1. If you are only making this recipe, then you will want around 4 quarts of unshucked clams. The easy direction is to scrub the shells well and steam just until they open. If you are not familiar with clams, and you want more help, then you may want to soak them in a gallon of cool water with about 1/3 cup of kosher salt dissolved (do not use iodized salt!) and 1 cup of cornmeal for 2-3 hours to tease out any sand. Then scrub the shells and rinse clean under cold running water. Discard any that aren’t tightly closed. I usually just scrub and steam. Put the clams in a stockpot and cover with cool water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the pot and cook just until the quahogs open, about 5 minutes. Don’t overcook. Immediately remove the quahogs from the pot. Save the broth to use in a chowder base. When clams are cool, mince into 1/8 to 1/4 inch chunks. Make sure there is no sand in the bellies. Clean and rinse if needed. Sometimes I use more clams and less corn in this recipe. The total combined amount should not exceed 2 cups, but be at least 1 cup.
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, broth, and beer together. Stir in the minced clams and corn. If I have leftover corn on the cob, then I use cooked. If I have fresh corn, then I use it raw off the cob, as long as it is a tender kind of corn.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. When your oil is sizzling (@ 350), drop a tablespoon at a time of the batter into the fat. I just cooked three batches, 10-12 as a batch, in a small Dutch oven in oil about 3 inches deep . These puff up quickly, within 5 minutes. When each has turned golden brown and floats to the top, drain on paper towels. Serve in parchment cones while hot, about 6 per person. I do not like to keep these warm and serve later. So be ready to gobble them right after you cook them. Serve these up plain or with some bread and butter pickles for our odd New England tradition.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • nancy essig
    nancy essig
  • Jan M Barger
    Jan M Barger
  • Ms. T
    Ms. T
  • boulangere
  • TheWimpyVegetarian

48 Reviews

nancy E. May 12, 2019
Where is the maple syrup? Does it goin the batter or drizzled over? Why mention it and not include it?
Sagegreen May 12, 2019
Maple syrup is one of the wet ingredients, if you are using that....or if using brown sugar then that is one of the dry ingredients.
nancy E. May 12, 2019
Jan November 28, 2017
I have made these so many times, they are puffs of deliciousness ! They my grocery store in Virginian stopped selling the clams !! It's been 2 years and I founds some at WholeFoods !!! Yeah it is going to be a HAPPY DAY !!! Best clam cake recipe hands down from this former Rhode Islander !!!
Sagegreen November 28, 2017
Thanks for your kind comments, Jan. I now prefer these without corn and I do miss RI!
angela B. July 31, 2014
am born and raised in rhode island, never had a clam cake with corn in it, and absolutely not with maple syrup,
Atlanticgull December 30, 2013
I can not WAIT to try this!!! I grew up in Portsmouth and Newport and can bring back the taste (and smell) just by looking at your picture. My dad would take us to Mac's Clam Shack in Newport (back in the day). My sister and I called them clam balls. Although I'm not in RI any more, the ocean is still at the end of my street and access to fresh hard shells is easy. I'm a lucky girl.
aargersi July 31, 2014
I just saw this - we used to go to Mac's too! We probably sat next to each other and didn't know it! :-)
Atlanticgull November 29, 2017
A recent comment brought this thread back on my radar. Had to share a recent RI visit with you. My husband and I drove thru Newport on the way back from the Cape this summer deliberately to stop at Flo’s. It’s no Mac’s but it was soooo good. We sat on the 2nd floor porch over looking the beach. So much has changed there (as things do) but absolutely nothing had changed in that mix of salty, chewy, crispy clam

Sometimes you can go home again.

Atlanticgull November 29, 2017
*(got cut off) absolutely nothing had changed in that mix of salty, chewy, crispy clam ballishness.
Joanne R. August 22, 2013
Put them in a paper bag with some sea salt on them, and give them a good shake, just like they do in Rhode Island, soooo good!
Sagegreen August 27, 2013
Great suggestion! Thanks.
Joanne R. August 22, 2013
just made these last night, longing for a taste of home, lived in Westport Mass. We could clam right at the beach, ten minutes from home, fresh clams. Now I had to move to the middle of the country, and we have no beaches , no fresh clams, so this has to due , with canned clams. They are a little taste of home, 1200 miles away. I use all the juice and the secret is to let the batter rise for a few minutes, they come out better and fluffier. You will just love them. Just like Lincoln Park in Darthmouth Ma, and Rocky Point, and Iggy's in Rhode Island.. miss those places, but plan on going to Iggy's when I return for a visit.. seafood here I come!!!
Michelle B. May 27, 2014
i have been wanting lincoln park clam cakes so much for so long all the clam cakes made today i find are thick and some taste like they were cooked in pancake batter so i am going to try this and hope i can get that lincoln park clam cake taste once again !!!! so miss those days
Jan M. July 5, 2013
I made these minus the corn. Growing up in RI I never had corn in them. They were fantastic, light and fluffy and full of clam. This one is a keeper. I felt like I was back in RI at beach enjoy some good old Clam Cakes !!
Sagegreen July 5, 2013
Thanks so much, Jan. I'm glad you enjoyed them!
kristy49 January 29, 2013
Clam cakes and chowda! So tasty, so New England, so good.
I found that I love RI style chowda made with...wait for it...chicken broth with the clam broth! Had it at Misquamicut beach at the Andrea Hotel. Dam good.
aargersi January 29, 2013
Sagegreen January 29, 2013
Thanks. Yeah, there is something special about RI, isn't there?
RI N. March 21, 2024
This recipe is in No way the traditional recipe for clam cakes.
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Yay for Quahog cakes! This is making me homesick--good thing I'll be back in RI in a few weeks to get my New England fix. Congrats on the EP :)
Sagegreen August 22, 2011
Thanks, Ms.T. Lucky you to have a RI visit coming up!
boulangere August 18, 2011
Oh, I just knew it! Congratulations.
Sagegreen August 22, 2011
Thanks, b!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 18, 2011
This is Week 1 (Day 4) of my new(est) diet. I'm trying these the minute I'm off, though. They look delicious!!! Congrats on the EP!
Sagegreen August 22, 2011
Thanks, ChezSuzanne. We will be trading places soon!
maryderby August 14, 2011
Its a rainy day on the RI coast and tomorrow will be also! Perfect day for chowder and fritters! I'm going to make these tomorrow! I had never thought of cooking fritters at home! Thanks!
Sagegreen August 14, 2011
That's great, maryderby! I am so excited you are making this in RI! You have to let me know what you think. Keep your fan on and windows open. Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start. They cook up quickly. I rarely do any deep frying, but this is my exception!
Lizthechef August 14, 2011
No way I can find these guys in San Diego. Homesick for New England and what a recipe - "quahogs", my husband had never heard of them - sigh... Thumbs up.
Sagegreen August 14, 2011
Thanks so much, Liz. Quahogs are the best, but other hard shelled clams can work. This recipe is also great with just 1 cup of all fresh corn and 1.5 cups of plain milk, but you would then want to use 4 tsp. of baking powder with the decreased acidity. You and your husband should travel to Newport or Narragansett RI some summer!!!
lorigoldsby August 11, 2011
I will add these to my end of summer clambake! But tell me why when soaking clams not to use iodized salt? I always use kosher or sea salts when baking because I'm very sensitive to iodine, but I'm curious...
Sagegreen August 11, 2011
Thanks, lori. You want to use kosher or sea salt so you won't kill the clams.
mrslarkin August 10, 2011
Sagegreen August 11, 2011
Thanks, mrsl!
fiveandspice August 10, 2011
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
Thanks, 5&s! Your bacon corn pie looks amazing!
sexyLAMBCHOPx August 10, 2011
very nice!
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
Thanks, sLx!
boulangere August 10, 2011
Oh, wow, do these look good! How sacreligious would it be to serve them with a tartar or cocktail sauce?
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
Thanks, boulangere. You know these are so rich, you may not want any sauce...but you should enjoy them however you like! Let me know if you make them, what you decide! These are very rich with clams...I have never thought to use cocktail sauce.
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
It is that little hint of sweetness, almost like a plain doughnut that makes these so good on their own with the generous clam bits, but oddly paired well with would have to try them plain first!
boulangere August 10, 2011
SKK August 10, 2011
When I was diving for the University of Connecticut Marine Lab in Noank many years ago clam cakes were my favorite! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
Thanks, SKK. Clam cakes are best when you have that sea breeze, or at least the memory!
inpatskitchen August 10, 2011
Love clams...Love clam cakes!!
Sagegreen August 10, 2011
Thanks, ipk. They smack of summer!