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What is a Corn Cake?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “corn cake” can refer to a number of different things, including a fluffy pancake sweetened and flavored with corn, a flat pan fried corn dish known as johnnycake, and dish baked in the oven which more closely resembles a cake. All of these foods are made in different regions of the United States, and they are popular in American cuisine along with many other corn-based dishes. It is also easy to make corn cakes at home, and they can make a fun variation on traditional pancakes or cornbread. Typically, corn cakes are served with maple syrup or molasses as a sweetener.

The first type of corn cake is like a corn pancake. It can be made by mixing one cup corn meal, one cup unbleached white flour, one quarter cup sugar, five teaspoons of baking powder, and three quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Wheat flour can be used for a more nutty, rich corn cake, if preferred. In a separate bowl, mix one cup of milk with one egg and two tablespoons of melted butter. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix, and fry on a griddle or pour into rounds on a baking sheet and bake. These corn cakes can be made more texturally interesting with the addition of fresh or frozen corn kernels.

Another type of corn cake, the johnnycake, is thin and unleavened. It is also known as ashcake or corn pone in some regions. Johnnycake is popular on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. To make johnnycake, mix one cup of corn meal with one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon sugar, one and one quarter cups boiling water, and one half cup milk. The milk can be left out for a thicker johnnycake. Once the batter is done, it should be dropped by spoonfuls onto a hot griddle, flipped when golden, and served with butter and syrup when cooked through.

The final version of a corn cake is more like a true cake, although it can be served like cornbread as well. Start by creaming two thirds of a cup of butter, and slowly adding one half cup corn flour or masa. When the flour is fully integrated, add four tablespoons of cold water and 10 ounces (283 grams) of fresh, canned, or frozen corn. Set this mixture aside and blend one third cup sugar, three tablespoons of cornmeal, two tablespoons of heavy cream, and one quarter teaspoon each salt and baking powder. Pour the corn and butter mixture in and fold together until just combined before baking for approximately 40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius), in a warm water bath to prevent cracking. Serve warm, topped with butter and syrup if desired.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By galen84basc — On Oct 20, 2010

I have to say that I've never been much of a fan of sweet corn cake.

Where I grew up, corn bread was always salty, not sweet, so whenever I think of how cornbread should taste, I can never quite get over the salty/sweet hurdle.

Although it smells fantastic, whenever it actually comes down to eating sweet corn cake, I pass -- I'll take southern-style corn bread over cake any day.

By yournamehere — On Oct 20, 2010

I've always been more of a fan of Mexican corn cake. It's really easy; you just make it like regular corn cake, but add in some pepper and a little bit of chili before you bake it.

I actually got my recipe from somebody who made a copy of the El Torito corn cake recipe, and then added her own twist to it when she felt it was too sweet.

Though the corn cake/pepper taste can sound a little strange, believe me, it works like a charm.

Now that I know how to make it, I rarely make Mexican food without making a corn bread cake along with it.

By rallenwriter — On Oct 20, 2010

We used to make johnnybread corn cake all the time when I was growing up. Now I still make sweet corn cake, but I (shamefully) use a corn cake mix.

My grandmother would turn in her grave if she knew that I didn't make my johnnycakes from scratch!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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