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November 6, 2010 by Flora Dawn

Being a West Coast girl, I was completely unfamiliar with the Johnnycake. Apparently this is a simple, cornmeal flapjack that goes by various names, depending on location. The Johnnycake is taken very seriously in Rhode Island where they appear on many restaurant menus.

It’s one of those fun, old recipes that has a long history in the Northeast. From my little research, the origin of the name Johnnycake is somewhat of a mystery and often disputed. However, most historians seem to agree that the European settlers learned how to grind the corn and make the simple corn flapjacks from the Native Americans. Maybe it’s the nerdy homeshcooling mom in me, but I think it’s fun to discover the historical roots of the foods we eat today.

In their simplest form, Johnnycakes consist of merely cornmeal and water. Of course over the years the recipe has evolved and can be found virtually everywhere, even Martha Stewart as a version on her website. I make the recipe from the cookbook United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State by Warren Brown; which by the way is a fun (but gluten-filled) cookbook if you enjoy a little history lesson with your recipes.

These are very reminiscent of cornbread, so only attempt these if you like that flavor and texture. We like to eat them with maple syrup and some bacon or sausage. However, I also think some blueberry sauce or syrup would also be great.

So, next time you want to give your family a little history lesson about what the Pilgrims really ate, make up some Jonnycakes. They make a simple and inexpensive gluten free breakfast or snack.

Hot Johnnycakes with warm maple syrup.


This recipe has an optional egg, which appears to be non-traditional. I make it with the egg.

  • 1 cup cornmeal, white or yellow
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water, boiling
  • 1 egg, optional
  • about 1/2 cup milk
  • butter, for skillet
  • maple syrup, for serving
  1. In a heat-proof bowl, combine cornmeal, salt and boiling water; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the egg, if using. Add enough milk to make a pourable batter (should look like a lumpy pancake batter).
  2. Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat, add butter if desired. When skillet is hot, pour about 1/4 cup batter to make 3-4 inch pancakes (makes 9-10 pancakes).
  3. Cook until bubbles appear on the top; this takes several minutes. Flip over and cook and additional minute or until browned.
  4. Serve warm with maple syrup.

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