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