Jessica B. Harris

Culinary Historian

Albert G. Lukas

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking

“There are many kinds of johnnycakes, sometimes called journey cakes or hoecakes. In the South and up and down the Atlantic Seaboard, they are often a cornmeal flatbread. Native Americans originated these hearty cakes, and some food historians believe the word johnnycake comes from the colonial pronunciation of Shawnee cake.”—JBF Award nominee Albert G. Lukas and JBF Award winner Jessica B. Harris


  • 2 cups stone-ground white cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Unsalted butter for serving
  • Syrup for serving


Sift the cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder together into a mixing bowl.

Combine the milk and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once heated, immediately remove from the heat and whisk into the cornmeal mixture, stirring until the batter is smooth.

Grease a large cast iron skillet or hoecake pan with butter or bacon drippings and preheat over medium heat. Spoon the batter onto a hot skillet, forming 3-inch cakes and being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown. Transfer to a platter and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed. Serve hot with butter and syrup.


Johnnycakes is excerpted from Sweet Home Café Cookbook © 2018 by NMAAHC, Albert Lukas, and Jessica B. Harris. Photography © 2018 by Scott Suchman. Reproduced by permission of Smithsonian Books. All rights reserved


4 to 6 servings