There are many versions of Hoe Cakes, also known as Johnny Cakes, and mine are fluffy cornmeal pancakes with a slightly sweet taste and a small silver dollar size. They’re slightly crispy on the outside and soft inside. Serve them as a delicious breakfast option or dinner side.
Why This Recipe Works
Traditionally served as a southern side for lunch or dinner these mini cakes are similar to Yorkshire pudding. They’re great for soaking up gravy and sauce and are extremely easy to make. They’re the quickest quick bread around.
You can also serve them as breakfast just like you would pancakes. Slather them in butter and drizzle them with maple syrup for one delicious treat.
With many names such as cornmeal pancakes, fried cornbread, or even hoe cake bread, and northern names such as Johnny cakes or journey cake they’re a favorite from all over. This version is a made from scratch recipe, which there are many versions, but I like to keep mine simple.
- Flour: I prefer to use all-purpose flour, however, you can also use cake flour or even gluten-free measure-for-measure flour.
- Cornmeal: You will need yellow cornmeal for this recipe, but can also use white cornmeal.
- Buttermilk: Using buttermilk results in a dense cake that’s rich in flavor. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand you can whisk 3/4 cup of milk and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice together and use that instead.
- Oil: For this recipe, you can use oil or melted butter. The butter will bring a creamier richer flavor than the oil, but either is great.
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt together until combined.
- Combine the wet ingredients. In a separate medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk, water, and melted butter (or oil) together until smooth.
- Combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together using a wooden spoon.
- Cook. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and scoop 1/8 cup or about 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet. Cook. on each side for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown edges form.
There are many ways to serve this simple quick bread, but spreading some Apple Butter on top is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. You can also toss in some additional ingredients to the cornmeal batter such as onions, shredded cheese, or even spice it up with diced jalapenos. Johnny cakes go well with some of my favorite recipes I’ve listed below.
- Freezing Intructions: Allow the cakes to cool completely before wrapping them individually in plastic wrap and then placing them in a freezer-safe bag or container. They will last for up to 3 months.
- Leftover Instructions: Wrap each individual cake tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. To reheat the cakes place them on a baking sheet and warm them in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 350º F.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- These are best made in an iron skillet, which gives the outside a slightly crispy layer and a soft inside. You’ll also want to use plenty of oil so they get a crispy pan-fried layer on the outside of each cake. If you don’t have one then a griddle or heavy-bottomed skillet will also work.
- For a truly southern flavor swap the oil for bacon grease. Many southerners will have this on hand in the fridge at any give time and you can get it by saving the grease after cooking bacon.
- You’ll want to serve these cakes warm, and preferably with some butter and honey. To keep them warm place the cakes on a rimmed baking sheet and keep them in the oven heated to 225º F until ready to serve.
- Hoe cakes are best served fresh, but can be stored in the fridge or frozen for later use.
Pancakes are traditionally a light and fluffy cake most often served for breakfast, whereas, hoe cakes or Johnny cakes are more versatile. They have a denser texture and are more savory than sweet and are similar to cornbread.
It’s been said they’re called this because they were originally baked on the flat portion of a hoe over a wood fire.
Unless I’m serving mine for breakfast I like them simple with butter and sometimes, especially if it’s fall, slathered in Apple Butter. You can also drizzle them in honey or maple syrup.
- Iron Skillet
- 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 1½ teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 2 large Eggs
- 3/4 cup Buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1/3 cup Butter melted, or oil
- 1½ tablespoons Oil
- In a large bowl whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt together until combined.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk, water, and melted butter (or oil) together until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together using a wooden spoon.
- Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and scoop 1/8 cup or about 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet. Cook. on each side for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown edges form.