I can distinctly remember the first time I had a Johnny Cake. I was in first grade and we were doing a lesson on the American colonies which included making the food of early New Englanders. We made a couple of dishes but I can only remember the Johnny Cakes. Looking just like a pancake but made with cornmeal, I was blown away by how different they were and I instantly fell in love with the snappy texture and alluring sweetness they naturally had. To me, they tasted so sophisticated and had much more personality than an average pancake. I was hooked. I brought the recipe home to my Mom and they soon made regular appearances on our breakfast table, especially for a special occasion breakfast.
It had been a little while since I've had or made a Johnny Cake. I think they somehow got phased out but for whatever reason, I got the urge to make them this weekend, only I dressed them up a bit and gave them a little makeover. They are so simple to make and only consist of a couple of ingredients, but instead of using milk, I used buttermilk to compliment the cornmeal and give them a nice tangy note. I also added millet to the batter, which further added to the texture of the cake and enhanced its flavor.
Making these made me question why I ever stopped having them but they remind me of my childhood and eating them makes me feel like a kid again, sitting in the kitchen of my parent's old house, the house that I grew up in, while my Mom stood at the stove making Johnny Cakes. She had a special pancake griddle that she'd use for the task and these cakes, while not exactly the same recipe that she used, brought me right back to that moment. I love how like nothing else, food can do that.
Buttermilk-Millet Johnny Cakes
Makes about 6-10 medium sized Cakes
- 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
- 3/4 cup Cornmeal
- 1/2 cup Millet
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 TBS sugar
- 2 eggs
- Enough Buttermilk to make a thick batter (about a cup)
- Butter for the skillet
- Maple Syrup (for serving!)
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, millet, baking powder, salt and sugar. Combine with a whisk. In a separate small bowl, combine the 2 eggs and pour over dry ingredients and combine just until it starts to come together. Add just enough buttermilk to make a thick batter.
Heat a large skillet (or griddle) and add just enough butter to lightly coat the bottom. Once the butter starts to foam up, add a ladle full of batter to the skillet and add just enough ladles of batter so that you still have room to flip the cakes. Once the batter starts to dry out around the corners and turn golden on the bottom, gently flip the cakes over and heat until cooked through and golden. Repeat process for the rest of the batter and serve the Johnny Cakes warm with maple syrup.