Jump to RecipeJump to VideoLeave a ReviewPin Recipe

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

Fry a quick batch of Hoe Cakes in a cast iron skillet for an easy side dish recipe that pairs beautifully with all of your favorite Southern meals. Also called Johnny Cakes, these corn cakes are crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and perfect with a pat of butter or a drizzle of honey!

Pouring honey over a stack of Hoe Cakes

Hoe Cakes are old-fashioned cornmeal griddle cakes, and they’re the most basic of Southern breads. Also called “Johnny Cakes,” they are traditionally served as a quick bread on the side of a lunch or dinner entrée. Hoe Cakes are great for soaking up pan juices and gravy, but they’re also tasty with a pat of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, or a smear of apple butter.

Origin of Hoecakes:

Hoecakes originated with the Native Americans, who had been using ground corn (maize) for thousands of years. As a result, the dish is sometimes called “Indian Hoecakes.” European settlers in the Southern colonies learned the original recipes and processes for corn dishes from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek, and soon created their own recipes for using cornmeal in breads similar to those that were familiar in Europe (source). 

Why do they call it a Hoe Cake?

There are many different names for this classic dish, including: hoecakes, hoe cakes, Johnny Cakes, Johnnycake and journey cake. The term “hoe cake” comes from the original method of preparation: the corn cakes were cooked on a type of iron pan called a hoe. Hoe was a colloquial term for griddle dating back to at least the 1600s in parts of England, where baking cakes on boards or griddles was commonplace.

What is the difference between Hoe Cakes and Pancakes?

While hoe cakes look a lot like the modern day breakfast pancakes that we all know and love, they are not the same thing. Pancakes are made fluffy and pliable with ingredients like eggs, flour, milk and leavening. By contrast, a hoe cake (or Johnny Cake) is essentially the most basic form of cornbread — a pan-fried, (sometimes unleavened) round made from a simple cornmeal batter. Hoe cakes are crisp and golden on the edges, dense and creamy on the inside, and sturdy enough to scrape up the rest of the meal that’s served on a plate.

Close side shot of a plate of Johnny Cakes with honey in the background

How to make Hoe Cakes from Scratch:

This easy side dish comes together in just a few simple steps: mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients, combine and fry! If you can make pancakes on a griddle, then you can easily whip up a batch of classic Southern Hoe Cakes!

Ingredients:

  • Cornmeal
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk
  • Water
  • Oil for frying

Step 1: Stir Together Dry Ingredients

To prepare the batter, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Dry ingredients for Johnny Cakes in a glass mixing bowl

Step 2: Whisk Together Wet Ingredients

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and water.

Wet ingredients for Johnny Cakes in a glass measuring cup

Step 3: Combine Batter

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Hoe Cake batter in a glass mixing bowl

Step 4: Fry the Corn Cakes

Fry the Johnny cakes in oil in a cast iron skillet, working in batches. Make sure that you cook the corn cakes until the edges are a deep golden brown.

Horizontal shot of cornmeal griddle cakes in a cast iron skillet

What to serve with Hoe Cakes:

Corn cakes are best when served warm with a pat of butter, honey, maple syrup or apple butter. Pair the classic Southern side dish with any of these entrées:

Stack of hoe cakes on a blue and white plate with honey drizzled on top

Preparation and Storage Tips:

  • Hoe cakes are best when freshly fried and warm from the skillet. To keep them warm while you finish subsequent batches, place the cooked hoe cakes on a rimmed baking sheet in a 250 degree F oven.
  • How to store Hoe Cakes: Wrap leftover hoe cakes tightly and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • Wrapped tightly, you can freeze hoe cakes for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat leftover hoe cakes, place on a baking sheet and warm in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes. You can also microwave individual Johnny Cakes just until warmed through — about 20-30 seconds.

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • Don’t have buttermilk? Make your own by stirring 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then use in the recipe as instructed.
  • If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use any other heavy skillet or griddle.
  • I use either vegetable oil, canola oil or peanut oil for this recipe. You want a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point for greasing the skillet.
  • Instead of using oil in this recipe, try substituting with bacon grease! It’s a great way to add flavor to the hoe cakes.
  • Optional add-ins: chopped jalapeno peppers, grated cheese, chopped bacon
Three corn cakes on a blue and white plate

More classic Southern sides that you might enjoy:

Pouring honey over a stack of Hoe Cakes

Hoe Cakes

4.60 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings 15 cakes
Calories 91 kcal
Fry a quick batch of Hoe Cakes in a cast iron skillet for an easy side dish recipe that pairs beautifully with all of your favorite Southern meals!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable, canola or peanut oil for frying

Instructions

  • To prepare the batter, in a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  • In a large liquid measuring cup, combine eggs, buttermilk and water. Whisk until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using as few strokes as possible.
  • To fry the griddle cakes, heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Ladle ¼ cup of batter onto the hot skillet. Repeat with additional batter, working in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan.

Notes

  • Don’t have buttermilk? Make your own by stirring 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then use in the recipe as instructed.
  • If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use any other heavy skillet or griddle.
  • I use either vegetable oil, canola oil or peanut oil for this recipe. You want a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point for greasing the skillet.
  • Instead of using oil in this recipe, try substituting with bacon grease! It’s a great way to add flavor to the hoe cakes.
  • Optional add-ins: chopped jalapeno peppers, grated cheese, chopped bacon

Nutrition

Serving: 1hoe cakeCalories: 91kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 3gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 139mgPotassium: 175mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 51IUCalcium: 65mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: hoe cakes, johnny cakes
Course: Breakfast, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

Square overhead shot of hands serving a chicken pot pie recipe with biscuits
Overhead image of a bowl of chili mac on a dinner table with cornbread
Hands serving a platter of sheet pan sausage and potatoes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

    1. Hi, Susan! Yes — I’ve actually got some in my freezer right now. Just freeze them like you would any other pancakes. Wrap individually and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the toaster oven, regular oven or microwave. Enjoy!

  1. Is it Possible to substitute the flour with oat flour? Would the amount of oat flour change I have to have a gluten-free flour. I cannot use gluten-free flour with rice in it because I cannot have rice.

    1. Hi, Kim! I honestly don’t know — I’ve never worked with oat flour or other gluten-free flours. The texture will definitely be different (since there’s no gluten in the oat flour), and most suggestions I’ve read recommend substituting a little bit of oat flour for the all-purpose flour, but not all. Oat flour supposedly yields dense, gummy products if used as a 1:1 substitute for the regular flour. I would just experiment and see how it works. Since you don’t need the hoe cakes to rise and be fluffy in the same way that you might for something like a cake or muffin, the oat flour might be an acceptable substitute.

    1. Hi, Janet! I don’t think so. I haven’t actually tried it, but I would be concerned that the leavening agent (the baking powder) will not be as effective if it sits for that long.

  2. What!! No Hoppin’ John on the list of foods to eat this with? Seriously, though, thanks for the recipe. I left out the sugar, since I was raised to never ever think about putting sugar in cornbread.

    1. How could I forget, Kate! Hoppin’ John and cornbread are a match made in heaven. 🙂 I know — so many classic cornbread recipes don’t call for any sugar at all. My sweet tooth loves a sweeter cornbread, though. Can’t help it!

  3. 3 stars
    The recipe seems good, but the history is off. Europeans weren’t making how cakes and grits. Stolen Africans we’re.

  4. 5 stars
    Thank you for the recipe! They were great!
    I only had 1/2 C of cornmeal so I just cut all ingredients in 1/2. I subbed the buttermilk for oat milk and I used organic cane sugar. They came out perfect! I’ve used a different recipe several times before and they all turned out good! I ate the Hoe Cake with greens and pinto beans… yum! Oh I put a little syrup on my Hoe Cake…

  5. 5 stars
    The hoe cakes came out light and so delicious! Best pancakes I’ve ever made and eaten. Did I say how feather light they were? Awesome!!!!!