How to Make Johnny Cakes, Fried Heaven on a Plate

Back, by popular demand – here is my world famous (OK, only in my house famous) Johnny Cake recipe! Johnny Cakes are fried heaven on a plate, or a napkin, or just balanced hot on your fingertips, because you couldn’t wait to find either a plate or a napkin before you tore into it. It is one of our MOST traditional island favorites.

There are some foods that are strictly breakfast, lunch, or dinner foods. Johnny Cakes are that rare breed of food that defies those rigid boxes. You can enjoy them any time of day! Quick and easy, they fry up fast and are gone just as quickly! Tooooooo good!

This recipe requires you to bring something a little extra to the kitchen in addition to the ingredients. You will have to walk with an extra little bit of patience and intuition. You’re going to have to let the dough tell you what it needs. Sounds weird but that is what the kitchen does…it gives you opportunities to test your skills through the best teacher of all–trial and error. It took me some time to perfect my Johnny Cake skills, and I only got better with each new try. That’s my wish for us all in the kitchen and in life–TRY!! As they say, you never fail from trying, either you win or you learn!


2 Cups of Unbleached Flour

4 Teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 Tablespoon Cold Butter

1/2 Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt

2 Tablespoons Sugar (or more if you like a sweeter Johnny Cake this makes for a more savory version)

1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1/4 Cup Water


Sift together all the dry ingredients: Flour, Baking Powder, Butter, Salt, Sugar.

Cut in butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it is finely distributed throughout the dry ingredients.

Pour in the milk and water.

Using your hands begin kneading the dough. The dough will be tacky and extremely sticky. This is not a bad thing. The soft texture of the dough will help to ensure a light and fluffy outcome. However, you will need to sprinkle in some extra flour to be able to handle the dough.

Go easy…a little at a time. Flour can toughen the Johnny Cake. Your goal is to get the dough to completely come together without adding too much flour to make the Johnny Cakes tough. You want a light and fluffy outcome. This is what I meant above when I said you have to bring your kitchen intuition into play.

Be gentle with the dough and yourself. It will come together.

Johnny Cake Kneading
These hands belong to my Mom. She makes THE best Johnny Cakes on the island. This recipe is NOT hers. Her Johnny Cake recipe is better guarded than the gold at Ft. Knox!
Continue kneading for about five minutes, and add a sprinkle of flour as necessary.

Let the dough rest for one hour in a bowl with plastic wrap to prevent an outside skin from forming over the dough. If it does form a skin, don’t worry. This dough is very forgiving.

After it has rested, lightly dust a sheet pan with flour.

Pinch off a piece of the dough– enough to make about a two to three inch ball.

Roll the dough in your palms and place on the floured surface.

Johnny Cake Rolls
In a frying pan, bring about 1 to 2 inches of canola or vegetable oil up to frying temperature.

Flatten the dough pieces one at a time by gently stretching them in a circular motion.

Do not just palm flatten the dough. The gentle stretching helps to create the much needed gluten that makes the Johnny Cake light and fluffy.

It should be about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness.

Fry the Johnny Cakes until golden brown on one side, then flip over gently to fry until the other side is golden brown and cooked through.

You may need to modify your heat so that it doesn’t cook too slowly or too quickly.

If you fry them at too low a temperature, they will soak up the oil and be very greasy. If you fry them too quickly they will burn on the outside and not cook through properly. Again, this is “pay attention” cooking or rather “pay intuition” cooking.

You CAN do it!!

Use one as a test, then after you’ve successfully mastered it, fry the rest the same way. If it isn’t working out the way you want modify it. Maybe you can increase or decrease the frying time and/or temperature or even the size of the Johnny Cake itself.

Play with it and see what outcome works best for you and your Johnny Cakes!

Once they have finished frying, place them on a paper towel to absorb the extra grease. If you’ve fried them properly, it shouldn’t have much oil.

These are the perfect crunchy on the outside texture and a nice open and airy inside that still has some substance.

They are great with a cup of cocoa tea or even for breakfast with eggs and bacon, or as we love to eat them on the Rock with a well fried Chicken Leg!

Anyway you choose to enjoy these treats is the RIGHT way!!


4 thoughts on “How to Make Johnny Cakes, Fried Heaven on a Plate

  1. Add a bit more salt, maybe some pickle relish, and fry them as balls–and you have what is known in the Southern United States as a “hush puppy” — which we Southerners mainly eat with seafood. 🤓 Hush puppies tend to be a bit denser, though (which is key to how the bread got it’s name).

  2. Happy New Year!!! Thanks for the new years recipe. I enjoy your recipes very much, it’s as close to home as I can get. THANK YOU!!!!

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