hoe cakes recipe


Hoe cakes, also known as Johnny cakes or cornmeal pancakes, are a delightful Southern staple that dates back to Native American cuisine. These simple yet versatile cornmeal-based cakes can be served sweet with syrup or honey, or savory alongside greens, chili, or barbecued meats. While the exact origins of the name “hoe cake” are debated, it’s widely accepted that they were originally cooked on the flat of a garden hoe over an open flame. Today, they are more commonly prepared in skillets but retain their rustic charm and delicious taste. This article will guide you through the history, variations, and a recipe for making your own hoe cakes at home, ensuring you can enjoy this Southern classic regardless of where you live.

Table of Contents

The History of Hoe Cakes

The hoe cake holds a special place in the culinary history of the Southern United States, with its roots stretching back to the indigenous tribes of North America. It is believed that Native Americans were the first to prepare these cornmeal cakes, which were then adopted and adapted by European settlers. The original hoe cakes were likely simpler, made from a mixture of ground corn, water, and salt, and cooked on a stone or piece of metal over a fire. As the dish evolved, it became a prevalent food among slaves and lower-income families in the South due to the inexpensive and readily available ingredients.

Variations Across Cultures

Over the years, hoe cakes have seen numerous variations, reflecting the diverse cultures and regional tastes across the Americas. In some Caribbean nations, similar corn cakes are fried and filled with local ingredients like cheese or seafood. In the Appalachian region, hoe cakes have been sweetened and served as a breakfast dish or dessert. Each variation of the hoe cake tells a story of cultural exchange and adaptation, making it a fascinating dish from both a culinary and historical perspective.

Making Your Own Hoe Cakes

To experience the comforting taste of hoe cakes, you don’t need a garden hoe or an open flame. These cakes can be easily prepared in a modern kitchen with just a few ingredients. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1 cup cornmeal

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (for a gluten-free version, substitute with a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend)

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup buttermilk (or a mix of milk and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice as a substitute)

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying

  • Optional: Sugar to taste for sweet hoe cakes, or add-ins like chopped jalapeños or cheese for a savory version


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.

  2. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and vegetable oil.

  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined. If desired, stir in sugar, cheese, or other add-ins at this point.

  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat lightly with oil.

  5. Pour 1/4 cup of batter for each cake onto the skillet. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip and cook until golden brown on the other side.

  6. Serve your hoe cakes warm, with your choice of sweet or savory toppings.

In Conclusion

Hoe cakes are more than just a delicious dish; they are a testament to the resilience and creativity of Southern cooking. From their humble beginnings to the many variations enjoyed today, hoe cakes offer a taste of history and culture with every bite. Whether you prefer them sweet or savory, making hoe cakes at home is a simple way to bring the flavors of the South into your kitchen.

hoe cakes recipe