If you grew up in certain areas you may already know how good johnny cakes are. That is, if you know what johnny cakes are. This is what I grew up calling them and we always looked forward to them! Johnny cakes are pancakes that are made with cornmeal and so you get that wonderful corn flavor in each bite.
The way I grew up eating them and the way this recipe is written includes both wheat and corn flour for the best of both flavor and texture. But, settlers and cowboys often didn’t have access to wheat flour and would have made these pancakes with only cornmeal. And, that’s where the buttermilk came in handy.
Cornmeal in baked goods doesn’t tend to rise all that much, but add some leavening like baking powder and buttermilk and you get a much more airy pancake. Buttermilk would have also been in short supply anywhere that didn’t have established dairy production, such as new settlements and where people were on the trail- and that included homesteaders and cowboys.
Native Americans used corn for a variety of dishes and it was only after settlers came to the Americas that corn became a staple food for them, too.
Imagine smelling some fresh johnny cakes in the morning or in the evening! It’s the kind of scent that draws people into the kitchen following their noses.
A note on frying these corn cakes: it was traditional to fry them in pork fat or lard back in the day and I’ve had them that way. They are good. But, most of the time I use coconut oil to fry them. It gives that same type of fry without the meaty flavor and is vegetarian-friendly.
I like to have mine with some butter and maple syrup but they’re also really good with some jam on top. And, because they aren’t too sweet you can also have these buttermilk johnny cakes with savory foods like cheese or chili. There are so many ways to enjoy these tender, delicate corn cakes.
For pancake fans everywhere, these buttermilk johnny cakes are a deliciously rustic take on breakfast fare.
Buttermilk Johnny Cakes
Makes about 24 small pancakes
10m prep time
36m cook time
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 7 tablespoons butter, melted
- oil for frying
- Combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda, sea salt, and sugar in large mixing bowl.
- In small bowl combine egg, buttermilk, and butter. Stir wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix.
- Heat large skillet to medium-low. Add oil for frying and drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on first side or until bubbles form in the center, pop, and then don’t fill in. Flip and cook a other 2-3 minutes. Keep cooked johnny cakes in oven on warm until finished making all the batter.
- Best served with some butter and jam or maple syrup.
Recipe adapted from The Creative Bite.