Thick or thin, they'll make you grin!

Johnny cakes from Station House Restaurant, West Kingston.

A Jonnycake (or Johnnycake) is a fried pancake-like flat bread made from ground corn. Although variants are found all along the east coast of North America, "from Newfoundland to Jamaica," Rhode Island considers Johnnycake its own.

The recipes offered below come from a variety of sources—some reputable, some unknown. They are offered for the purposes of information and experimentation only. We have not tested them and can vouch for neither their palatability nor survivability. No guarantee is expressed or implied. Prepare at your own risk.

It has been said that there are as many recipes for jonny-cakes as there are cooks in Rhode Island. There are two distinct types, South County and Newport County jonny-cakes. W.L. Watson, a member of the Jamestown Historical Society, wrote, in 1932, " was not many years ago that the best part of a day was given up in the General Assembly to a debate between a miller from South County and one from Newport County as to the relative merits of their meal and method for making jonny-cakes. After some discussion of the technicalities of grinding corn, South County burst out with, 'We not only grind the best meal, but we bake the best jonny-cakes. We scald the meal with boiling water and fry the cakes thick so all the sweetness of the corn is left in the meal.' The Newport with, 'Yes, you scald the meal, thereby destroying all the flavor. Now we mix our jonny-cakes with milk, fry them thin, we always save the pig's tail to grease the griddle with, and WE NEVER WASH THE GRIDDLE.'"

Mr. Watson provided the following [two] recipes.

Milk Jonny-Cakes (Newport County)

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup Rhode Island corn meal
  • 1¾ cups milk

Put salt, sugar, and corn meal in bowl, add milk and mix thoroughly, bake on hot griddle greased with bacon fat, as you would griddle cakes.

Scalded Meal Jonny-Cakes (South County)

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dessert spoon molasses
  • 1½ cups Rhode Island corn meal
  • Piece of butter size of a walnut

Place ingredients in bowl in order given, pour over these enough boiling water to make a stiff dough, beat thoroughly, let stand a few minutes as mixture will thicken. Thin down with milk to a consistency that will readily drop off the end of a spoon. Drop on well-greased hot griddle from tablespoon. Cook slowly, ten to fifteen minutes on both sides.

The Kenyon Corn Meal Company of Usquepaugh, RI, has a never-fail recipe which the Jamestown Historical Society cooks use with great success for the Society's annual Jonny-Cake Luncheon.

Mix one cup corn meal, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon sugar, add one-and-one-half cups boiling water. Mix well. Batter will be thick. Drop by tablespoon on any type well-greased fry pan or griddle., medium hot—380° for electric fry pans.

Do not touch or turn over for six minutes. At six minutes, turn over and cook for about five minutes.

This will yield golden brown jonny-cakes every time. For thin, crisp jonny-cakes, thin the batter with milk or water—about one-half cup. Cook as above.

Greasing the griddle with salad oil eliminates any chance of the jonny-cakes' sticking.

—from The Old Jamestown Windmill by Henry N. Armbrust, Mary R. Miner, and M.W. Potter (1964).

Boyd's Famous Thick Jonnycakes

  • 1½ cups of cornmeal
  • Egg, optional
  • 1½ teaspoons salt

Scald cornmeal with either hot milk or water. Mix smooth. Thin slightly with milk. Drop by spoonfuls on hot, lightly greased griddle. Fry slowly until nicely browned on both sides. Serve at once. Serves three.

Brown and Hopkins Thick Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup Rhode Island cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • Cream or rich milk

Put dry ingredients and butter in a heavy saucepan; add boiling water gradually, mixing thoroughly. Thin with cream or milk. Continue stirring while cooking over low heat for ten to fifteen minutes, until mixture looks like mashed potato. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto hot greased griddle. Cook until brown, turn and finish browning. Serve piping hot with butter. Serves four.

Carpenter's Mill South County Thin Jonnycake

  • 2 cups Carpenter's meal
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Add sweet milk a little at a time, smoothing lumps; add more milk or cold water to make it thinner. Fry on hot greased griddle like any batter cakes, two or three cakes on the griddle at once. Cook quite fast. Griddle must be smoking hot. Serve with meat or fish courses.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Carpenter's Mill South County Thick or Scalded Jonnycakes

  • 2 or 3 cups Carpenter's meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons flour

Pour boiling water over a little at a time until thoroughly moistened, but not too soft. Add a little sweet milk. Drop dough on hot greased griddle to make cakes (little). Pat out ½ or ¾ inch thick. Put a dab of bacon, ham fat, or butter on each cake. Brown and turn. Do not cook too fast. Serve with meat or fish courses.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Gray's Grist Mill Thick Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup Gray's Grist Mill Corn Meal
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Milk
  • Corn oil and butter

Combine corn meal, salt, and sugar. Stir in one cup boiling water and add enough milk to make a batter than drops off the spoon. Place one tablespoon corn oil and two to three tablespoons butter on a hot iron griddle. When the oil and butter are hot, drop tablespoon amounts of batter onto griddle and cook six minutes per side.

Gray's Grist Mill Thin Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup Gray's Grist Mill Corn Meal
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Butter or Margarine

Combine corn meal, salt and sugar. Add milk (you can add more than two cups if needed). Melt butter or Margarine on a hot iron griddle and drop tablespoon amounts of batter onto griddle. Cook until edges are crispy and lacy.

Jonnycakes Newport County Style

  • 1 cup jonnycake meal, or other corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the milk and water and mix thoroughly. Grease a large skillet with butter, Margarine, or bacon fat, and place over moderate heat. Pour a few tablespoons of batter onto the skillet to form a cake two to three inches wide. Fry until the edges of the jonnycakes are brown, then flip. Keep the batter thin, adding more milk as necessary.

Serve with lots of butter and maple syrup. Rhode Islanders also serve jonnycakes with stews, instead of dumplings.

—from "The Great New England Food Guide," by Kathy Gunst and John Rudolph, as reprinted in the San Diego Union, November 1988.

Kenyon's Grist Mill Cornmeal Griddle Cakes

  • ½ cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ cups Kenyon's cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, optional
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons melted fat

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar together. Add cornmeal and mix well. Combine beaten eggs, milk, and fat. Add to dry ingredients. Pour batter on hot griddle, making cakes about three inches across. (It is hot enough when drops of water dance about). Turn griddle cakes when they are puffed and full of little bubbles. Turn only once.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Kenyon's Grist Mill Rhode Island Johnny Cakes

  • 1 cup of Kenyon's Johnny Cake Corn Meal
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1½ cups of boiling water

For South County style Johnny cakes, which are thick, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture gradually to make a "ploppy" batter, adding milk if desired to thin to a consistency that will drop off the end of a spoon. Drop onto a well greased griddle or fry pan and cook six minutes before turning, lightly drizzle uncooked side with oil, then flip and cook for an additional five to six minutes.

For Newport Style Johnny cakes, which are thin and crisp, substitute cold milk for the boiling water and mix all the ingredients together at once. (Some prefer to omit the sugar.) Add extra milk if necessary to keep the mixture thin. Cook on a well greased, hot griddle, as above.

Recipe suggestions:

  • Serve Johnny cakes in place of potatoes for a delightful change.
  • Serve creamed chipped beef or chicken a la king over Johnny cakes instead of toast for a tasty lunch or supper.

Mildred Kenyon's Apple Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup sour milk
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 cup jonnycake meal
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 apples

Mix all ingredients, having sifted jonnycake meal, flour, and salt together. Cut apples into small pieces and stir into the batter. Pour into a pan and bake at 400°.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Newport Style Thin Jonnycake

  • 1 cup white corn meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1¾ cup milk

Put ingredients in bowl, mix thoroughly, and cook on a well-greased, hot griddle, as you would griddle cakes. Add extra milk if necessary to keep mixture thin. Some prefer to omit the sugar.

Palmer's Mill Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • boiling water
  • sweet milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

For a family of four take about one cup Palmer's meal, one teaspoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt; mix with boiling water, not too thin, add a little sweet milk, a tablespoon melted butter, then fry on well-greased griddle until well browned.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Rhode Island Jonnycakes
Old recipe

  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¼ to ½ cup milk
  • maple syrup

Combine cornmeal, salt, and softened butter in a deep bowl. Stirring constantly, pour in the water in a thin stream. When the butter melts and the liquid is absorbed, add milk. Beat until the batter holds its shape lightly in the spoon.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over moderate heat until a drop of water flicked onto it sputters instantly. Brush the griddle lightly with melted butter. To form each cake, ladle ¼ cup of the batter into the pan. Cook one or two cakes at a time, leaving enough space so that they can spread into five-inch rounds. Fry them for three minutes on each side, or until they are golden and crisp around the edges. As they brown, transfer the cakes to a heated plate and drape with foil to keep them warm until you cook the rest, brushing the pan with melted butter as necessary. If the batter thickens, thin with another tablespoon of milk. Top each cake with half a butter pat and some syrup and serve.

—from The Griddle: A Bicentennial Cook Book of Washington County Receipts, compiled by the volunteers of the Jonnycake Center, Inc., (1976).

Rumford Corn Meal Griddle Cakes

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • boiling water
  • 4 level tablespoons flour
  • 2 level teaspoons Rumford Baking Powder
  • 2/3 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (if liked)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Scald the corn meal with just enough boiling water to cover it. Let it stand five minutes, then add flour, salt, and molasses. Thin to a batter with the beaten egg and milk, and add the baking powder last, beating it in well. Cook at once on a hot, well-greased griddle.

—from The Revised Rumford Complete Cookbook by Lily Haxworth Wallace (1939).

Thin Jonnycakes

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1¼ cups cold milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix to a smooth batter. Drop slowly by spoonfuls, onto lightly greased iron griddle. Let brown; turn and brown the other side. Serve at once.

Thin Johnnycakes from Newport County

  • 2 cups Rhode Island stone-ground whitecap cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1½ cups milk

Combine cornmeal, salt, and water. Add milk, stirring to remove lumps. Batter will be on the thin side. Into a well-oiled frying pan over medium heat, pour enough batter to make a three-inch johnnycake. Fry for two minutes, or until the edges of the johnnycake turn brown. Flip each johnnycake over to cook for one more minute on the other side. Makes six to eight servings.

—from The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook, by Linda Beaulieu, (2006).

Thick Johnnycakes from South County

  • 2 cups Rhode Island stone-ground whitecap cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ¼ to ½ cup milk or cream

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Slowly add the boiling water, stirring thoroughly to completely moisten. Allow to stand a few minutes, as mixture will thicken. Add just enough milk or cream to turn the mixture into the consistency of soft mashed potatoes.

Into a hot, greased frying pan or griddle, drop enough batter by the spoonful to make a johnnycake two to three inches across and one-half inch thick. Fry for six minutes on each side, or until the inside is cooked and a golden crunchy crust is formed. Turn over each johnnycake only once for perfect results. Makes four to six servings.

—from The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook, by Linda Beaulieu, (2006).

This article last edited July 16, 2015

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