Northern Johnny Cake – American Woman’s Cookbook

Northern Johnny cake

As promised, here is the delectable side dish served with yesterday’s Barbecue Chicken! My fiancé and I are quite attached to our Sweet Southern Cornbread, but I thought it was time to give a Northern recipe a chance. Some version of the Northern Johnny Cake appears in almost all of my heritage cookbooks. It is a dense, substantial side dish and would pair perfectly with chili or any hearty winter soup or stew.

The method of cooking the Northern Johnny Cake in the American Woman’s Cookbook is definitely more involved than any of the other recipe suggests. But, they all say to scald the milk and cornmeal before adding any other ingredients. I am not convinced that this involved method is necessary, but I will keep you posted as I try others!

Johnny Cake
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johnny cake

Northern Johnny Cake

  • Author: The American Woman’s Cookbook
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x


This historical, American Heritage Johnny Cake recipe is a dense, savory cornbread. A hearty side for any warm winter meal!


  • 2 cups corn-meal
  • 2 cups sour milk (buttermilk)
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, white or brown (I used white, but I think brown would be better)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt (I only used ½ teaspoon)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 tablespoon cold water


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Cook together the cornmeal, milk, shortening, sugar and salt in a double boiler for about twenty minutes. Keep the water to a simmer if possible. You don’t want to scorch the cornmeal mixture (oops). Allow the mixture to cool then add the well-beaten eggs and the soda dissolved in the water. Bake in a shallow cast iron pan for about thirty minutes. You could also use a well-greased baking dish.
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 60

The author Ruth also provides a quicker cooking method, “ In case there is not time to cook and cool the meal, the following method of mixing may be used. Mix and sift together the meal, sugar, salt and soda, add the sour milk gradually, then the well-beaten eggs and the melted fat. Bread made by this method does not have as good texture as that made by the first method.”

Northern Johnny Cake in skillet
I love my cast iron skillet. Love.

It was dense, yet still moist, and is certainly a healthier side than its buttery Southern cousin! I even drizzled it with maple syrup and ate it for breakfast. Not my finest moment but it was so worth it!

Maybe not super nutritious, but very good.
Maybe not super nutritious, but very good.

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