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Johnny Cakes

These are basically cornmeal pancakes . . . about the same size and thickness of regular flapjacks. The batter is thicker, though, as there is no raising agent like in modern pancakes, and they are a bit more dense . . . but they make an interesting change from bread or biscuits and are an easy recipe to make with your kids!

Somewhere in my online travels, I came across an interesting summary on these from a blog (Pilgrims and Pioneers):

'The origin of the name johnnycakes (jonnycakes) is something of a mystery and probably has nothing to do with the name John. They were also called journey cakes because they could be carried on long trips in saddlebags and baked along the way.

(My interjection: Ma sure didn't think they were good for a long journey!! Unless the blogger means the BATTER or basic ingredients could be taken along easily? Hmmm!).

Some historians think that they were originally called Shawnee cakes and that the colonists slurred the words, pronouncing it as johnnycakes. Historians also think that "janiken," an American Indian word, meant "corn cake," could possibly be the origin.

The settlers of New England learned how to make johnnycakes from the local Pawtuxet Indians, who showed the starving Pilgrims how to grind and use corn for eating.


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup milk (you can use all water, but adding milk or buttermilk sure tastes better!)
  • Bacon drippings (In my opinion, oil, lard, or shortening doesn't work here. Butter has been used, and adds flavor, but I think the bacon drippings, complete with all the rich tasting brown bits, is crucial for adding flavor.)


In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat.

With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand.

Stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).

Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (a cast iron skillet works well) with the bacon drippings and heat.

When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately ¼ inch.

Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed).

Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce. Makes 4 servings.