Everyday Johnnycakes

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johnny cakes

“A 2-qut. basin full of equal parts of sweet milk and buttermilk—3 tablespoonfuls of cream—2 teaspoonfuls of pearlash—meal so that it will pour—a little salt.”

—Robinson family recipe



  • 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder*
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk, or add 2 teaspoons vinegar to 1 cup milk and allow to sit for 2 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • butter


In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the milk, buttermilk, and heavy cream and stir thoroughly.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Butter the skillet liberally. When the butter just begins to brown, pour in small cakes of batter, 3–4 inches in diameter. Cook until browned, then flip the cakes and continue cooking until the other side is browned. Don’t hurry; these take considerably longer to cook than pancakes. Keep the cooked johnnycakes in a warm oven while you reheat the skillet and make more batches.
Makes 10–12 johnnycakes. (Quadruple the recipe to serve a farm full of apple pickers.) These are wonderful with bacon and maple syrup.

*Pearlash, also called refined potash or potassium carbonate, was a precursor to the modern baking powder we call for here.

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