Cast Iron

My Johnny Cakes

April  8, 2012
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 15 silver dollar sized cakes
Author Notes

Well you just can't very well grow up in Rhode Island and not learn to make Johnny Cakes if you live anywhere near the Kenyon Grist Mill or the DavisFarm. This is the recipe that I have modified from a very traditional one. You need to have your oil sizzling hot for these to work. If you can make latkes, then you can get the hang of making these Johnny Cakes no matter what state you I hope you will give them a try. They can be a bit tricky to get just right, but worth the effort. Native Americans made these originally with just plain water and ground flint corn. There is a delicate balance to how much liquid you want to add. A 1:1 ratio of cornmeal to water will yield an easier to cook cake, but not as delicate as you really want. The more experience you get making these, the more liquid you can add in, I have found. —Sagegreen

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup white corn meal, artisan flint quality if at all possible
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half that amount if your corn meal has high sodium
  • 1/2 teaspoon muscovado or brown sugar, optional
  • 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 cups of boiling water
  • buttermilk, 1 tbl. at a time, up to 1/4 cup
  • 1 beaten egg, optional
  • grapeseed or canola oil (or of course bacon drippings or duck fat for a non-vegetarian alternative)
  • your favorite toppings-rote grutze, fresh ricotta, marscapone, sour cream, or a drizzle of warm chestnut honey or maple syrup
  1. Mix the corn meal, salt, optional sugar and zest in a bowl. Pour in the boiling water to make a thick gruel (but not cookie dough thick). Let sit a few minutes to thicken a bit more. Then stir in 1 tbl. buttermilk to start. Leave the consistency as thick as oatmeal; if you need to thin the batter further, add more buttermilk 1 tbl. at a time, but you shouldn't need more than 1/4 cup total. You can add 1 beaten egg, if you like, at this point for a more cake-like texture , but traditionally this is not done.
  2. Heat a heavy allclad or cast iron-type pan, or griddle, with a generous amount of oil until you have a good sizzle.Then over medium high heat drop the batter by about a tablespoonful for each Johnny Cake. Don't crowd them. The oil should be deep enough to equal the height of the sides of the cakes. Cook about 4-5 minutes or so just until the edges turn golden brown and middle is almost cooked through. Carefully turn over and cook another few minutes or so. Make sure these really have cooked through before removing to drain on paper towels. Replenish the hot oil for additional batches. Serve with your favorite toppings. I suggest serving these with something sweet and something sour. For a savory version, a chiffonade of basil and fresh ricotta are great.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • susan g
    susan g
  • Kukla
  • Midge
  • Sagegreen

8 Reviews

susan G. April 8, 2012
I finally have some white corn meal from Kenyon's, so these Jonny Cakes will be its opening act. I like the buttermilk in there.
Sagegreen April 9, 2012
Thanks, susan g. Kenyon's and Davis are great R.I. sources! Hope these work out well for you. It is just a balance of getting the batter salted to your liking and getting the oil plenty. You need a high smoke point oil.
susan G. April 10, 2012
Delicious breakfast, thank you very much! I topped it with some Greek yogurt mixed with mashed blackberries from the freezer. It came out perfectly.
Sagegreen April 10, 2012
Yeah! I am so glad to hear! They can be a bit tricky. Thanks for letting me know.
Kukla April 8, 2012
You are a Maestro of all kind of latkes and pancakes Sagegreen and these sounds very tasty.
Sagegreen April 9, 2012
Thanks very kindly, Kukla!
Midge April 8, 2012
These look so pretty and sound delicious!
Sagegreen April 8, 2012
Thanks so much, Midge!