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What Are Johnnycakes?

Posted by Colby Jackson on 3/13/2014
Johnny Cakes

Depending on where you are on the East coast this early American staple is called by many different names. Jonnycake, ashcake, battercake, corn cake, cornpone, hoecake, and journey cake are all regional names for this cornmeal flatbread. Best bet is that it has nothing to do with anybody named John and most believe that it comes from the term “journey cake”. Simple to make with only a few ingredients, they “traveled” well in saddlebags and could be made on the road. Other historians think that “janiken,” an American Indian word meaning “corn cake,” could possibly be the origin.

As with many recipes, this one is attributed to our native Americans in the North East. Once the batter was made it was laid on a board in front of the open fire to bake. Interesting note, in the South the batter was placed on the head of a hoe, suspended by it’s handle over the fire, thus the Southern name “hoecake” joined the list of names.


  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Bacon drippings
  • In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt.
  • In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand.
  • Stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick,  not runny).
  • Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the bacon drippings and heat.
  • When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch.
  • Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed).
  • Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce.

Enjoy the season!

Chef Phil

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