Caribbean Johnny Cakes

These crispy, tender fried cakes are a delicious side from breakfast to dinner.

Carribean Johnny Cakes
Photo:

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Active Time:
50 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
Servings:
8 servings
Yield:
16 cakes

What is a Johnny Cake?

Johnny Cakes are fried dough snacks made from all-purpose flour and/or cornmeal that are a staple throughout the African diaspora. In South Africa, the dough is yeast-based and is called vetkoek or amagwinya. As the dish made its way through to the American South — where it is known as a hoecake or a journey cake — it adapted to use local ingredients like corn. American Indigenous people also have a version of Johnny Cakes called Shawnee cakes. In the Caribbean, where this recipe is based, Johnny Cakes are more like a small fried cornmeal doughnut – slightly sweet, light, and crisp on the outside with a tender and airy center. They are often served at breakfast dish with cheese, as a snack, or alongside saltfish or fish stews.

How to Make Johnny Cakes

Making Johnny Cakes is a simple process that requires a only handful of ingredients you may already have in your pantry. Whisk together the dry ingredients, then create a well in the center and add water, mixing until it forms a dough. Knead the dough until smooth, then let it rest. Cut the dough into pieces, and roll them into balls, and fry them in oil until golden brown. When you’re frying, be sure to keep your oil at 350°F and make sure the oil reaches halfway up the sides of the cakes in the skillet.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups (about 14 7/8 ounces) all purpose flour, plus additional flour as needed and for work surface

  • 3 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 1/4 cups water

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • Vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture, and add water and butter to well. Using a fork or your fingertips, gradually stir flour mixture into water mixture; stir until a dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until dough is soft, smooth, and does not stick to your hands, 4 to 6 minutes (dough will be slightly elastic). (If dough is too sticky, knead in 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, as needed, until dough reaches proper consistency.) Place in a clean bowl, and cover. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

  3. Transfer dough to a clean work surface. Cut dough into 16 equal pieces; roll each piece into a ball. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. (Dough is ready when it bounces back when gently pressed with a finger.)

  4. Pour oil into a large skillet to a depth of 3/4 inch; heat over medium until oil reaches 350℉. Line a large plate using paper towels. Using a rolling pin or palms of your hands, flatten each ball to a 1/4-inch-thick round (about 3 1/4 inches in diameter).

  5. Working in 3 to 4 batches, add dough rounds to hot oil. Cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes, reducing heat as needed if Johnny Cakes are browning too fast. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate, and let drain.

Related Articles