Johnnycake (also jonnycake, johnny cake, journey cake, shawnee cake and johnny bread) is a cornmeal flatbread that was an early American staple food and is prepared on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to Jamaica. The food probably originates from the native inhabitants of North America. It is still eaten in the West Indies, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Colombia, and Bermuda as well as in the United States.
The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, and often claimed as originating in Rhode Island. A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt
and hot water
, and sometimes sweetened. In the Southern United States, the word used is hoecake.
Johnnycakes are a type of unleavened cornbread made of cornmeal , salt, and water. The dough was set on a wooden board or barrel stave and placed at an angle in front of an open fire to bake. Hoecake was traditionally cooked on a hoe: "Hoe-Cake: A cake of Indian meal, baked before the fire. In the interior parts of the country, where kitchen utensils do not abound, they are baked on a hoe; hence the name."
In the American south during the 18th century versions were made with rice or hominy flour and perhaps cassava. A 1905 cookbook includes a recipe for "Alabama Johnny Cake" made with rice and 'meal'.
The difference between johnnycake and hoecake originally lay in the method of preparation, though today both are often cooked on a griddle or in a skillet. Some recipes call for baking johnnycakes in an oven, similar to corn pones which are still baked in the oven like they were traditionally.
Johnnycakes may also be made using leavening, with or without other ingredients more commonly associated with American pancakes, such as eggs or solid fats like butter. Like pancakes, they are often served with maple syrup
, or other sweet toppings.
According to the manuscript of America Eats, a WPA guide to American food culture in the beginning decades of the twentieth century, Rhode Island "jonny cakes" were made in the 1930s as follows:
In preparation, [white corn] meal may or may not be scalded with hot water or hot milk in accordance to preference. After mixing meal with water or milk it is dropped on a smoking hot spider [pan] set atop a stove into cakes about 3"x3"x1/2" in size. The secret of cooking jonny cakes is to watch them closely and keep them supplied with enough sausage or bacon fat so they will become crisp, and not burn. Cook slowly for half an hour, turn occasionally, and when done serve with plenty of butter