Johnny Cakes (Hoecakes)

March 9, 2022

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Easy to make Johnny Cakes (AKA Hoecakes)! They are a classic breakfast entree or dinner side that can be served savory with butter alone or sweet topped with honey, jam or maple syrup.

Three johnny cakes covered with dabs of butter and honey. They are a blue plate set over a blue cloth with silverware to the side.

What are Johnny Cakes?

Johnny cakes (hoecakes) are soft and tender cornmeal flatbread or hot cake made from a quick batter that’s cooked in a skillet on the stovetop.

They are made with finely ground cornmeal and often flour, then mixed with a liquid such as buttermilk, milk or water. A fat such as oil, bacon drippings, lard or butter are also included to keep them rich and moist. And eggs are included to bind ingredients.

They were an early American, inexpensive staple food and they are popular in regions from Canada, the Unites States and down to Jamaica and other islands coming in many different variations.

To give you comparisons to foods you may likely be familiar with, they are like a cross between pancakes and cornbread. In other words they are the perfect homestyle comfort food and are absolutely delicious!

Is there a difference between Johnny Cakes and Hoecakes?

Hoecake is a term used for these in the Southern United States while Johnny Cake is usually what they are called in other places.

Ingredients needed for johnny cakes.

Johnny Cakes Recipe Ingredients Needed

  • 1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 1 cup (5.6 oz) fine cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup rendered bacon drippings or butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil for skillet, divided

What type of cornmeal to use?

  • Yellow or white cornmeal can be used in this recipe.
  • Just be sure to use finely ground cornmeal here, not medium or coarse ground.

Group of images showing all the steps of making johnny cakes batter and cooking in cast iron pan.

How to Make Johnny Cakes AKA Hoecakes

  1. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients: In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center.
  3. Mix wet ingredients: In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, eggs and bacon drippings until well blended.
  4. Combine mixtures: Pour buttermilk mixture into dry mixture, then whisk just until combined. Let batter rest 1 minute.
  5. Pour portions of batter into skillet: Add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil to skillet. Pour a 1/4 cup slightly heaping batter into skillet at a time to create about 3 1/2-inch rounds, fitting 3 or 4 at a time.
  6. Let cook until golden brown on bottom on each side and cooked through in center. If they are browning too quickly before inside is done turn burner temp down slightly.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining batter and oil (last batch should only have 2 hoecakes so you’ll only need 1/2 Tbsp oil for those).

Helpful Tips for the Best Johnny Cakes

  • Pan to use: A cast iron pan works best but if you don’t have one, another heavy skillet will do (something that is non-stick).
  • Begin with hot skillet: Preheat the skillet so they cook up nice and fluffy.
  • Sugar?: Some may say sugar is not traditional at all and maybe so but I think it builds flavor and also balances the salty flavor. Don’t worry, it’s not enough to make them sweet though.
  • Type of baking powder: Preferably use aluminum free baking powder so they don’t have a light metallic taste since a larger quantity is used.
  • Mixing batter: Be careful not to over-mix the batter, another key to tall and fluffy hoecakes.
  • Use a fair amount of liquid: When I first tried johnny cakes/hoecakes following a popular traditional recipe for them they ended up dry. Cornmeal does absorb quit a bit of moisture so be sure to use the amounts of liquid called for here.
  • Re-oil pan: Add oil to pan between batches so exterior doesn’t dry out and to reduce risk of sticking.
  • Best fat to use: Rendered bacon fat is so delicious in these but it’s not something we always have on hand so butter will work will too.

Overhead photo of blue platter full of stacked Southern hoecakes.

More Delicious Recipes to Try

Three johnny cakes covered with dabs of butter and honey. They are a blue plate set over a blue cloth with silverware to the side.
5 from 1 vote

Johnny Cakes - Hoecakes

These are a delicious, classic breakfast entree or dinner side that can be served savory with butter alone or sweet topped with honey, jam or maple syrup.
Servings: 7 (2 per serving)
Prep15 minutes
Cook10 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 1 cup (5.6 oz) fine cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder (preferably aluminum free)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup rendered bacon drippings or butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil for skillet, divided

Instructions

  • Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a cast iron griddle over medium-low heat.
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt until well blended. Make a well in center of mixture.
  • In a separate medium mixing bowl whisk together buttermilk, milk, eggs and bacon drippings until well blended (drippings will clump and that's ok).
  • Pour buttermilk mixture into dry mixture then whisk just until combined (it should be lightly lumpy). Let batter rest 1 minute.
  • Add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil to skillet. Pour a 1/4 cup slightly heaping batter into skillet at a time to create about three to four (3 1/2-inch) rounds (if it's thick you can spread it out slightly to that dimension).
  • Let cook until golden brown on bottom then carefully turn to opposite side, and cook until opposite side is golden brown and they are cooked through. (If they are browning too quickly before inside is done turn burner temp down slightly if they aren't cooking fast enough increase slightly.)
  • Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining batter and oil (last batch should only have 2 so you'll only need 1/2 Tbsp oil for those).
  • Serve warm with butter, honey, jam or maple syrup if desired.
Nutrition Facts
Johnny Cakes - Hoecakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 331 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 65mg22%
Sodium 239mg10%
Potassium 357mg10%
Carbohydrates 37g12%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 127IU3%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 143mg14%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.