Another traditional bread made here in the Bay Islands are Johnny Cakes. Unlike Coconut Bread that can take an entire afternoon to make, Johnny Cakes are quick and easy. It’s because they use baking powder instead of yeast, so there is no time waiting for them to rise! You can find them throughout the Caribbean, and although the recipes do vary from place to place or even from house to house, the general idea is the same — A quick and tasty little bread to serve with a meal or as a meal in itself!
Johnny cakes originated in North America, with Native Americans making them with ground corn instead of flour. Some people called them “Journey Cakes” instead of Johnny Cakes. Probably because they are the perfect little bread for taking on a trip! And I believe I like the name Journey Cakes better because of all the things that I’ve made lately, this recipe has certainly been a journey for me!
I had made Johnny Cakes many times before, but for this post, I decided to scale down my recipe. The recipe I had called for five pounds of flour! If you’re familiar with old island recipes, the ingredient list goes like this: five-pounds-of-this, two-pounds-of-that, and 20-cups-of-the-next-thing. The recipes make enough to feed a small army or at least the entire neighborhood. And I just didn’t want to make that many! I wanted to make a dozen Johnny Cakes max because everyone in my house is on some diet (or should be) and if I don’t give them away, then they just go to waste.
Well, scaling down the recipe didn’t work. The ratios were off, and I couldn’t figure it out! I set out on a “journey” to figure it out. After much trial and error, it occurred to me that I should try equal ratios that I know work, as a starting point, and make adjustments from there. And guess what? It worked like a charm. I made one small batch and handed them out for testing. The verdict came back with a consensus that they needed a bit more sugar. And so that’s what I did: adjust the sugar and the salt and voila, Johnny Cakes!
Steps in Making Johnny Cakes
Begin by mixing flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. A good rule of thumb: Use one teaspoon of baking powder to one cup of flour.
Then add shorting to the dry ingredients and incorporate with a fork or with your hands until shortening is distributed evenly throughout the flour mixture.
Then add coconut milk that has been warmed a bit in the microwave or on the stove.
Mix well and then turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead and divide into twelve equal pieces.
Shape the pieces of dough into balls and then place in a pan, sprayed lightly with cooking spray.
You can choose to flatten the cakes down a bit or leave them round on top. Then poke holes over the top with a fork or leave the surface smooth. It’s your preference.
And there you have them — “Joni Cakes!”
In the end, I made more Johnny Cakes than I wanted to and probably used way more than five pounds of flour. But it was a good learning process and now I have a recipe that’s perfect for sharing and making small batches of Johnny Cakes!
See the recipe Video for Johnny Cakes
- 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 6 Tbs. Sugar
- 4 Tsp. Baking Powder
- 2 Tsp. Salt
- 4 Tbs. Shortening
- 12 oz Coconut Milk 1 Can less 1/4 cup
- Preheat oven to 400˚ Fahrenheit.
- Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Then add shortening and combine using a fork or your hands.
- Warm coconut milk in the microwave or on the stove and then add to the flour mixture.
- Mix until the dough is formed then turn out onto a floured surface.
- Knead until the surface is smooth.
- Divide into 12 equal pieces and form into a ball.
- Place into a prepared pan.
- Flatten slightly and poke holes into the surface with a fork if you wish.
Bake at 400˚ for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top.