Hoe Cakes [cornmeal pancakes] are light, fluffy, and quick to griddle up for a tasty breakfast or dinner side! Also called johnnycakes, ashcakes, or a dozen other names, this unfussy recipe with wonderful texture and corn flavor is sure to please!
There is something magical about a steaming hot stack of golden hoe cakes with plenty of butter and maple syrup dripping down the sides. I know hoe cakes are enjoyed many other ways – used as a bread to sop up liquids from greens and beans, eaten along with stews or other dishes as an easy side, or slapped together with a fried egg and bacon in the middle for a tasty sandwich – but I just love them for breakfast or as a snack.
My version of hoe cakes is based off Paula Deen’s recipe, which is surely based off family recipes going back for generations since hoecakes have been around a long, LONG time.
I adapted just a smidge since I didn’t have any self-rising flour, and it was easy enough to make the hoecakes recipe just with ingredients I already had in my pantry. But if you have it, then go ahead and use it and just omit the baking powder in the recipe below.
I wanted to share these hoe cakes for two reasons. Well, three really. The first is that they are utterly delicious and I think you might want to make them.
Hoe cakes have long been popular throughout the South and even up and down the eastern seaboard. But since corn is one of the main ingredients in Southern cooking, showing up in everything from grits and hush puppies to cornbread and cornmeal-crusted catfish, it seemed especially appropriate to include a hoe cakes recipe to represent Georgia cooking.
The other reason I wanted to share a hoe cakes recipe is that it fits the theme or “pioneer era” foods for the Historically Hungry recipe series, which I do with my friend Jenni from The Gingered Whisk. We wanted to look at recipes that were made by pioneers and hoecakes were brought west across America by the pioneers since it was easy to make while traveling, was filling, and could be made from the staples packed into pioneer wagons.
Turn out both of us settled on similar ideas, without realizing it, since she made corn cakes with bacon. I just think that’s testament to the importance of this dish in our country’s history.
Why is it called a hoe cake?
According to lore, hoecakes were so-named because they could have been cooked on a gardening hoe over a fire. But really we think they got their name because the iron pan used to cook them way-back-when was actually called a hoe.
Depending on where you are from, hoe cakes are also called johnnycakes, hoecakes (I couldn’t find a consensus about whether it was one word or two), cornmeal pancakes, corn pones, ashcakes, corn cakes, fried cornbread, journey cakes, Shawnee cakes, or johnny bread.
How to Make Hoe Cakes
Whipping up a batch of hoe cakes takes hardly any time at all.
First, mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Then add the eggs, buttermilk, water, and oil or melted butter (either choice works well here) and stir just until combined.
The batter should be thick, but not too thick. Which isn’t the most helpful description, but I’m guessing my everyone reading this recipe has an idea of what I’m talking about anyway.
If it seems too thick, you can always add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to get the consistency you want.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. I have an electric skillet that I always use for cooking pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, and that sort of thing, which is what I used.
Now, here is where you need to make a choice. Traditionally, hoe cakes would most likely have been cooked in bacon grease or oil.
I personally like the flavor and light crispiness of the edges of my hoe cakes that you only really get with butter. Others prefer the smokiness and richness of bacon fat. And just using vegetable oil is probably the easiest way to go.
Whatever your preference, you need to heat up some fat (about 1/4 cup) in your skillet or on your griddle. Then scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter at a time to make hoe cakes that are each about 3 inches across.
Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until brown and crispy around the edges, then transfer to a paper-towel lined plate while repeating with the remaining batter since it’s unlikely you will be able to cook all of the batter at the same time.
I definitely think hoe cakes are best when served hot and fresh from the griddle. If you don’t want to use up all of your hoecake batter, it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
More Pancake Inspiration
We love eating pancakes around here and I like to switch them up. Here are some of our favorites:
Want to see the other states I’ve visited in my American Eats Series? Check them out below!
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