Jonnycakes, Hoecakes, Corncakes: Preferred Victuals of America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln

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“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

~Abraham Lincoln

In honor of President’s Day ( February 12, 1809–Honest Abe’s actual birthday) and one of America’s Favorite Presidents, today’s offering on this twenty-third day of February are a couple of victuals desired by our 16th President Abraham Lincoln.

According to the sixteenth President’s last bodyguard, Colonel William H. Crook, “Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln breakfasted precisely at nine AM. Mr. Lincoln was a hearty eater.” He never lost his taste for the things a growing farmer’s boy would like and was particularly fond of bacon.

However, as much as he liked nutritious snacks, Lincoln wasn’t above the occasional cheat day. Abe often bragged that he could devour tasty corn cakes “as quickly as two women could make them.”

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Johnnycakes, jonnycake, ashcake, battercake, corn cake, cornpone, hoecake, hoe cake, journey cake, mush bread, pone, Shawnee cake, jonakin, and jonikin. These are all regional names for this cornmeal flatbread.

The origin of the name johnnycakes (jonnycakes) is something of a mystery and probably has nothing to do with the name John. They were also called journey cakes because they could be carried on long trips in saddlebags and baked along the way. Some historians think that they were originally called Shawnee cakes and that the colonists slurred the words, pronouncing it as johnnycakes. Historians also think that “janiken,” an American Indian word meant “corn cake,” could possibly be the origin.

JohnnyCakesIngredients:

1 cup white cornmeal

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1/2 cup milk

Bacon drippings

Johnny_Cakes08-560x373Preparation:

In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble into the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand. Then stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).

Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the bacon drippings and heat. When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed).

Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce. Makes 4 servings.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. cynthiamvoss says:

    These sound great! I think I’ve had something like this before. I should try making these.

    1. They’re wonderful, Cynthia! I like the finer ground of meal too BTW Thanks!!

  2. Bill says:

    Chef Lana, I have three coincidences regarding the cakes, which probably dont amount to much, but I’ll explain anyway.
    Shawney sounds very much like Sionny, (shunny) the Welsh word for Johnny, which could be nothing but a coincidence, though a huge influx of Welsh emigrated to Kentucky. Then we have the cakes themselves which really look like, and are created just like, Pikelets, a Welsh dish. Again not much and possibly a coincidence. Which brings us to the great man himself, Abraham Lincoln, who had Welsh ancestors who emigrated to America.

    1. Thanks so much, Bill! Always a Welsh of information…I mean Wealth 😉 Fascinating!

  3. Love cornmeal everything, and these looks so good! Thanks for the background info. Always interesting. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Ronit! Oh me too!

  4. Wow ! so interesting, 🙂 These sound really good Lana 🙂

    1. They’re so very good in their simplicity…yellow corn meal tastes just as good too 🙂 Thanks a bunch, hon!

  5. Love the fun facts about these johnnycakes. They sure look good too!

    1. Thanks, Kathryn! I can fully understand why Honest Abe loved them so much…he’d be the first to admit to it right? Wait, that may have been George Washington & the cherry tree 😉

  6. Osyth says:

    Fascinating and what a little piglet Mr Lincoln was with his bottomless JohnnyCake tummy! I have to try them …. I’ll keep to myself how many in the interests of NOT being viewed as a piglet myself 😀

    1. Isn’t that something, Osyth?? He was so tall & thin…of course he was thin because he was tall, right?? 🙂 And fried in bacon drippings no less! Envision flattened sugary polenta…kinda sorta lol! Thanks, my dear friend ♥

  7. spearfruit says:

    I enjoyed reading about the background of these – very interesting. 🙂

    1. Thank you, spearfruit! Somehow a little history makes food taste better 😉

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