Sweet Cornbread

A slice of cornbread on a bowl of white beans.

Cornbread is any quick bread containing cornmeal, and a Native American cuisine. They are usually leavened by baking powder.


Welcome to the most divisive dish in Appalachian cooking. Probably all of Southern cooking. Yeah, barbecue is hotly contested, but it tends to more of a regional contention than a neighbor to neighbor argument. Now I’m not from the South, so maybe I’m reading more into this than there really is, but when you start reading cornbread recipes from southern cooking blogs it sure sounds like there’s a whole lot of “my momma’s is the best and everyone else does it wrong” going on with cornbread.

So cornbread seems like cornbread, right? What’s the big deal? Mostly it boils down to sugar. We can generalize and say that “Southern” cornbread doesn’t contain sugar, and usually has little to no wheat flour, while “Northern” cornbread is sweet and cake like, with sugar added and generally equal parts cornmeal and flour. But, as I said, my research seems to show that even in the South there’s a good deal of disagreement about this. It certainly makes sense that in Appalachia, which largely serves as the border between North and South there would be followers of both camps.

Although I’m definitely not “southern” (one grandfather grew up in Mississippi, but little if any influence from that made it into my childhood) I did grow up with cornbread that probably is more in line with classic southern cornbread, with freshly ground cornmeal from corn we grew, and generally only lightly sweetened with honey, if at all. Most of my adult life I’ve usually just eyeballed my cornbread batter without following a set recipe and usually gone with only lightly sweetened. However to create the recipes I share on this blog I try to take a bunch of other peoples recipes and tease out the “average”, so in this case I wound up with a sweet cornbread. I’m not picky, and it’s pretty delicious.

That said, as part of my white beans/ soup beans supper I think I’d go with the unsweetened version next time, as the sweetness masks the corn flavor enough that you loose it when combined with the beans. On the other hand, the vinegar in the potlikker from the turnip greens was balanced nicely by the sweetness of the cornbread, so it justified itself.

I used the same white cornmeal I bought for the lace hoecakes, so it didn’t turn out as bright yellow as cornbread often is.

Sweet cornbread

Yield: one 9″ skillet
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

5 Tablespoons butter 
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for the pan 
1 ¼ cup stoneground white cornmeal
1 ¼ cup stoneground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 ⅓ cups buttermilk
1 ⅓ cup whole milk


2 ½ Tablespoons bacon fat in place of half of butter. 
¾ cup sweet corn, fresh or thawed from frozen

Preheat oven to 400F. Place butter in cast iron skillet and place in oven while it heats. (If using oil use just enough oil to coat pan and add measured ammount directly to batter). 

Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and (butter)milk. Whisk together until just combined (it will still be slightly lumpy). When the oven is hot and butter is melted, pull the pan out of the oven, pour the butter into your batter, leaving enough to coat the pan. Quickly stir in the butter and pour the batter into the hot pan. Spread it evenly and pop it back into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before slicing. 

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