Appalachian Food

Johnny Cakes

Johnny cakes

Ever had a Johnny Cake? Something about this time of the year makes me want one, but I don’t think I’d turn one down anytime of the year, especially if I had a glass of sweet tea to wash it down.

Johnny cake recipe

To make Johnny Cakes you only need cornmeal and hot water. Just mix the 2 into a batter and fry in oil. But most of the time I use the fancier recipe below, the egg and flour give the cakes more substance.


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup hot water or milk (I use hot water)
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Are johnny cakes pancakes

Mix all the dry ingredients; stir in the egg, water (or water), and oil; fry like a pancake.

If you didn’t already know, I guess you’ve figured it out by now: A Johnny Cake is really just a pancake made with cornmeal.

In the cookbook More Than Moonshine, Sidney Saylor Farr shares a story about asking her Grandmother how Johnny Cakes got their name. The gist of her Grandmother’s explanation was: a pioneer lady made her hungry boy, named Johnny, a cake and told him it was Johnny’s cake. I’ve also heard the cakes were originally called Journey Cakes because of the ease with which they could be made as one traveled on their journey.

Johnny Cakes are good with syrup and especially good with a smear of pepper jelly. But my favorite way to eat them is plain. There’s something about the texture and the nuttiness of the cornmeal that make them quite tasty straight out of the pan.



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  • Reply
    Magdalene Mwangi
    June 29, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Nice one, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Uncle Wes
    November 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Call them what you want, but when I hear that batter pop and sizzle in the hot bacon grease, just don’t call me late for supper.
    One of my uncles used to call them “Dunmores.” Said they done more for poor folks more than about anything else, except maybe pan gravy.
    I will eat them with about anything, but my favorite way is to mix butter and sorghum molasses and lay it on heavy. Next best thing is with a bait of fresh greens and fatback.
    No matter how you eat them, or what you call them, they beat Burger King all hollow.

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    November 14, 2012 at 10:15 am

    My folks always called them corn fritters. My grandmother and my uncle cooked cornbread on top of the stove. My uncle called it salt and water bread, They used only plain cornmeal, water, and a little salt. A pan would be heated on the stove, then the bater poured in, The pan would be covered and cooked for an hour on low heat. Then it would be turned and cooked another hour on the other low temperature. I’ve often wondered why it didn’t crumble until a friend told me that the slow cooking made the gluten in the corn stick togetherl I’ve tried, but I can’t make it as good as my grandma and uncle.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    November 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Oh my yes Tipper! Years ago I boarded with a wonderful retired school teacher while working summers at a historic site. Miss Jeffie Russell was salt of the earth and a delight to be with. I never tired of listening to her stories and she really enriched my life. She would cook supper and I would wash the dishes. She made “fried meal hoe cakes” every night along with fresh vegetables. She was a wonderful cook but surely could create a mess while cooking! By the time she finished every pot, pan and utensil in the kitchen was dirty. I would wash dishes forever. When I would near the end she would always say “Maa-ree if it’s not all it’s enough”! I would say “Miss Jeffie, those hoe cakes were worth the work”!

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    November 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    My Granny made johnny cakes, but she called them corncakes. She would make them rather than cornbread or cornsticks when she didn’t want to turn on the oven. She would usually serve them with ham and beans, fried potatoes and always some onion. I make them now, but I add very thinly sliced fresh okra. I try to make them thin when I add the okra. Always fry in bacon grease. I’m thinking the mexican cornbread might be good made into johnny cakes. hmmm, just might try that.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    November 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    We love these but we call them Corn Fritters and we make them out of flour and call them fritters.. They are so good with syrup or jelly..

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    my mama used to say her father, john leslie, loved johnny cakes. he was born in alabama around 1870.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    That should be one pint of sour milk in the fritter recipe…
    Thanks, Tipper

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Here is the White House cookbook..
    1867 Corn Meal Fritters reciept…
    One of sour milk, one teaspoon of salt, three eggs, one tablespoonful of molasses or sugar, one handful of flour, and corn meal enough to make a stiff batter; lastly, stir in a small teaspoonful of soda, disolved in a little warm water.
    This recipe if very nice made of Rye flour.
    That’s it, I guess it is a “given” that you fry these ? Doesn’t say whether you fry or bake?
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    This is how they spell Johnny cake in The White House cookbook.
    How they made them at the White House in 1867..
    Johnnie Cake
    Sift one quart of Indian meal into a pan;
    make a hole in the middle and pour in a pint
    of warm water, adding one teaspoonful of
    salt; with a spoon mix the meal and water gradually into a soft dough; stir it very briskly
    for a quarter of an hour or more, till it becomes light and spongy;
    then spread the dough smoothly
    and evenly on a straight, flat board (a piece of the head of a flour-barrel will serve for this purpose); place the board
    nearly upright before an open fire and put and iron against
    the back to support it;
    bake it well; when done; cut in squares; send it hot to table,
    split and buttered.
    A lot of work for a Johnnie cake for the White house guests..
    Thanks Tipper,
    I am sending you the White house recipe for Corn meal fritters, too.

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka grandma Sal
    November 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I Never had one but I will now…Looks yummy..

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Here in LA its almost supper time, and I guarantee that we will be having some of those Johnny cakes or hoe cakes or fried cornbread with our supper.
    Wasn’t planning on it, but now, got to have some with our snap beans and new potatoes…We’re from MS, and they were called fried corn pone in our parts. If you are generous with the oil or the bacon grease to fry them in, and get that cast iron skillet piping hot, they will be extra crispy..
    Down here, we love any bread made with corn..Speaking of Hot Water Bread, do you make Hot water Cornbread, with just cornmeal, flour, a bit of baking powder, oil, and made into a pan of cornbread? I don’t measure, so can’t give the amounts, but that mix makes the most “corney” tasting bread…
    Way back, probably 40+ years ago, a neighbor introduced us to Hot Water Cornbread..
    Every pan of it she made was light as a feather with a crust that was the best we ever, ever ate…She always had a jar of their own honey on the table, and that was dessert most nights!
    Gracious sakes, aren’t the simplest foods the most delicious and memorable..Thanks, once again, Tipper, for making all of us out here break out in a great big ole smile when reading your daily musings.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    What I looked up…I have a Dictionary earlier than
    the 1860 one somewhere in the covered wagon, but thought
    these would do…..
    No wonder I and others are confused thru the years about
    Johnny-cakes and Hoe-cakes…Corn Meal fritters and Fried cornbread..Let’s not find hush-puppies yet, cause my Mom called these flat cakes hush-puppies or fried cornbread…Dad always argued with her that hush-puppies were round and dropped in deep grease…? I think he was righ!
    1860 Worcester’s Dictionary..
    Johnny-Cake–A cake made of Indian meal, baked before a fire.
    1913 Webster’s Colligate Dictionary
    A kind of bread made of the meal of maize, (Indian Corn)
    (A newer reference also called the Johnnie-cakes or Journey-cakes because of ease of
    preparation on an outdoor journey)
    1860 Worcester’s Dictionary
    Hoe-Cake…A cake baked before the fire.
    1913 Webster’s Dictionary
    Hoe-Cake…A cake of Indian meal, water and salt, baked before
    the fire or in the ashes; so called because often
    cooked on a hoe.
    Thanks Tipper, I am sending my 1887 White House recipe cookbook
    recipe for Johnnie-Cakes the chefs of the White House of the era…very interesting I think!

  • Reply
    B F
    November 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    still make them , they go good with almost anything , just make them thin and have the oil(i like bacon grease)real hot and get the edges real crisp , now thats down home eating , never seen anything with cornmeal that i didnt like
    we just called it ho-cakes or fried bread , did you ever put the mixture in the pan and let it begin to fry , then stir it all up and have scrambled corn bread ? now that and buttermilk is hard to beat

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    John-Thanks for the comment! You can go here to see how Papaw makes his hush puppies:
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Shirla-It might be just an Ed thing. Cornbread and mustard. Cornbread and catsup. Cornbread and chili. Cornbread and salsa. Cornbread and milk with onion cut up in it. And the bottom crust is the the best part of a cake of cornbread. The best part of Johnny cakes or fried cornbread is that they have two bottom crusts. Fried in bacon grease and maybe throw a little crumbled bacon in the batter. Or how about a sandwich with two Johnny cakes with some refried beans and hot sauce or chopped onion in between.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

    This sounds delicious! Isn’t it funny how we crave all sorts of delicious food as soon as the weather turns cold?

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    November 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

    This makes me want one. We called them Hoe Cakes!! Thanks for making me think of my Mother. She made them every morning.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Grew up on them and my favorite is to have a good mess of greens and pink-eyed purple hull peas to go with them and some black strap to dip the left-overs in for desert! Yum!!!
    I don’t think we ever had a dinner (lunch to some people) without them. That was our bread because my grandfather said that store bought white bread was only good for one thing – to wipe your mouth with :D.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    November 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Nope, never have had a Johnny Cake, but as my husband loves anything with cornmeal, I’ll be trying these!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

    We love Johnny Cakes and had them yesterday for breakfast. Like them plain, with pepper jelly and homemade strawberry preserves!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Sometimes I fix those cornbread
    fritters on top of the stove and
    open a can of pork n beans…yummy! Hits the spot like
    fried eggs when you don’t know what to fix, or tater soup…Ken

  • Reply
    Marylou Sweat
    November 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I’ve heard of them as johnny and journey cakes but we have always called them hoe cakes. My husband says that’s because field hands could carry the fixings with them to the field and cook them on their hoes over an open fire for a quick meal. My husband always makes them as they are his favorite to go along with any meal.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

    J.T.A. IN ARK,

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I just call it fried cornbread and eat it with the same foods that I would eat with oven bread. Pintos, fried taters and greens go good with Johnny cakes. But, Ed…I have never seen anyone steal a crust and slather on mustard! Mustard and cornbread? That must be a NC thing.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 13, 2012 at 9:25 am

    I love them! A local BBQ place not far from our house serves it as a side item. I get it with a bowl of pinto beans and chow chow with a slice of Vidalia onion. If you ever travel south on Hwy 515 in Georgia look for the signs for Davis BBQ south of the town of Jasper. Nice folks and good food.

  • Reply
    Ron Perrry, Sr.
    November 13, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Tipper, back in the 40s and 50s we had Johnny Cakes, however we got them at the store. They were about the size of the one that you show there, however were more like oversized Vanilla Wafers and weren’t made with corn meal. They were soft and not hard like vanilla wafers but were probably made of the same or a similar mix.
    I used to put slices of banana or peanut butter between two of them and make a sandwich.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I love Johnny Cakes, corn fritters, fried cornbread….or anything else you might call them. You just can’t go wrong with any kind of bread made with corn meal! I use cornmeal mix with a little extra plain corn meal, buttermilk, melted butter and a little sugar. Very tasty.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    November 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

    My goodness! The story between my husband and his brother is that my husband liked something called corn oysters and his brother liked Johnny cakes. I have never cooked the Johnny cakes as corn oysters were what he likes. (They don’t contain oysters; don’t know where the name came from.) The two brothers were born and raised in Connecticut. Interesting how some yummy foods come from the mountains in the South. I plan to try this recipe; I really like this texture also.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Hush puppies are similar. Got any stories about them?

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    November 13, 2012 at 8:39 am

    We just called this fried corn bread I think, and love it.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

    i made johnny cake last week, i do that about once a month, i make them the way daddy did, he taught me, and it is your second recipe but without cornmeal. just flour, egg milk water stir and fry.. yum

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Fried cornbread is what I called it but I’ve heard it called Johnny cakes. It’s good with meals that usually have cornbread but you don’t have time to bake it.
    If you put enough oil in the pan they get crisp. That’s my favorite.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 13, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Tipper, Thanks for the tasty reminder of “Johnny Cakes.” When I was a child, we used to have Johnny Cakes and Dad’s famous sorghum syrup for supper. And I don’t exactly know why, but Mamma would go to the “can house” and get some kraut out of the churn, and heat it up in a little bacon drippings. We’d make our meal out of the kraut, Johnny Cakes, and sorghum, with plenty of fresh sweet milk to drink. I think I told you that Daddy was “the syrup maker” for a large area of North Georgia, with people from far around hauling their cane to his syrup mill where he made it for them “on the shares.” Sorghum syrup, from the cane patches we grew on our farm, plus the “shares” he received from making others’ syrup, was one of our major “money crops.” He depended on sale of sorghum to get the taxes for our property for the year, as well as our winter shoes and clothes. And of course, we had sorghum syrup–and sweetbread–and syrup for Johnny Cakes and hot biscuits–until the next fall’s sorghum-making time!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

    The ‘cornmeal and water’ recipe sounds like the makin’s for corn dodgers.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    November 13, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Tipper, here is a another recipe for Johnny Cakes, this is the one we like best, you would think that something was wrong because when you mix it up it is really thin but it cooks up really delicious.
    AD Breeze’s Richland High Energy Corn Bread
    1 cup cornmeal
    1 egg
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 teaspoon salt
    pinch of baking soda
    Mix all ingredients well. Drop a spoonful or two in hot skillet with enough lard to fry well.
    Mix will be rather thin but will cook well.
    Mr. Breeze gave me this recipe one day when he was grinding his own corn into meal, I tried to buy some of his meal but he would not sell any, but he said he would share his recipe with me, I am glad that he did because he passed away a few short years later.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 13, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Well, I make something like that. I just call it fried bread or fried corn fritters. Everyone here loves it. I make mine a little different though. Dad made it a lot when I was young. As he said, “mix twice again as much cornmeal as flour with the egg and milk.” Sometimes I just use flour and I use buttermilk if I have it. Buttermilk makes all bread better, I think. I used to fill the entire bottom of the skillet with the batter, but it doesn’t take long to find out, it’s best not to do that. Makes it awfully hard to turn without creating a mess.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 13, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I also love Johnny Cakes, as I love anything that has corn in it. I also like them plain. I usually use buttermilk. I don’t like to drink buttermilk, but as far as I’m concerned, buttermilk makes most baked things taste richer.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    November 13, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Never had a Johnny cake. We ate “fritters”, and sweet bread, and corn meal porridge, and sugar candy–just about anything cheap and easy, but never Johnny Cake.

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 13, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Never had Johnny cakes. Had fried cornbread and cornmeal pancakes. Pretty much the same you guess? Bet that would be good with an extra sprinkle of salt and a slather of mustard. Like what you do when you steal the bottom crust off a cake of cornbread!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    November 13, 2012 at 6:26 am

    I’ve never had a Johnny Cake, but am definitely going to give your recipe a try!

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