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Johnny Cakes or Hoe Cakes

An old recipe on faded newsprint.

From A Facsimile of “American Cookery,” 1796 by Amelia Simmons

Whether you know them as Johnny Cakes or Hoe Cakes, it seems as if everyone had a favorite recipe for these pan-fried corn cakes – General Washington even served them at Mount Vernon. Where do the curious names come from? Johnny Cake has as many origins as spellings, it seems. From the slurred, accented adaptation of “journey cakes” to the same of the phrase “Shawnee cakes” to the potential meaning of the American Indian word “janiken” as corn cake, each could have an equal spot at the head of the table for the naming of this tasty 18th century breakfast staple. The name hoe cakes seems to be more straightforward. The term hoe is an old term for a griddle, so substituting one word for another, you get griddle cakes, and a perfect description for just what they are.
Round, stiff, pancake-looking patties with irregular edges. 
RECIPE:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups cornmeal
  • ½ cup flour
  • Salt (if desired)
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl; mixture should resemble pancake consistency. Fry in well-oiled frying pan or on hot, greased griddle until firm in the center. Enjoy them plain or with butter, honey, or syrup.

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Duration:
1 minute, 9 seconds

Whether you know them as Johnny Cakes or Hoe Cakes, it seems as if everyone had a favorite recipe for these pan-fried corn cakes – General Washington even served them at Mount Vernon. Where do the curious names come from?

Part of a series of articles titled Festive Foods of the Fort.

Fort Stanwix National Monument, George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Last updated: December 15, 2020