Hoecakes

Hoecakes on a plate with kilt greens and fried potatoes

The term hoecake is first attested in 1745, and the term is used by American writers such as Joel Barlow and Washington Irving. The origin of the name is the method of preparation: they were cooked on a type of iron pan called a hoe. There is conflicting evidence regarding the common belief that they were cooked on the blades of gardening hoes.

A hoecake can be made either out of cornbread batter or leftover biscuit dough. A cornbread hoecake is thicker than a cornbread pancake.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnnycake

A few weeks ago I shared a recipe for lace hoecakes, which are crispy, delicious, lacy webs of fried corn gruel. Here’s a recipe for a more substantial hoecake, good for sopping up the pot likker from a bowl of soup beans at dinner, or spreadingwith butter and syrup for breakfast.

As the Wikipedia quote above indicates, the story that hoecakes were invented by slaves who cooked them over a fire on the blade of their gardening hoe is likely apocryphal. I don’t doubt that there were people desperate enough to try to use their field tools as cooking implements, but given that hoe is documented to have been a term for a griddle at least as far back as the 1600s it seems unlikely that something invented using gardening tools became a staple of southern cuisine. I have my own theory about how that story came about, but since I don’t actually have any proof I’ll keep my mouth shut to avoid starting a rumor about a rumor.

Much like any other cornbread recipe every southern cook has their own theory about what is or isn’t a hoe cake. Based on the the recipes I looked at, my recipe is more or less a wheat flour containing cornbread batter fried like pancakes. It only has a touch of sugar so it paired with my butter beans much better than the sweet cornbread did in my last post.


Hoecakes

Yield: about 20 2″ cakes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes

1 cup cornmeal
OR
1 cup self rising cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
OR
1 cup self rising flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (omit if using self rising flours)

¾ cup buttermilk
OR
¾ cup milk
2 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil, melted butter, or bacon fat

~⅝ cup water

1 Tablespoon oil, butter or bacon grease for frying (plus more as needed)

Optional:
Butter, to serve
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup cheddar cheese

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together, (butter)milk, eggs, and ¼ cup oil or fat. Pour wet into dry and mix until just combined. Add enough water to reach pancake batter consistency. Don’t over-mix- a few lumps are ok, they will cook out.

Heat a griddle, cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of grease of choice. Scoop cakes of about 2 Tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle and cook until the bottom is nicely browned and the top starts to dry and bubbles leave holes when they pop, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook until bottom is browned, 1-2 minutes. Adjust heat as needed so the hoecakes don’t burn or cook too slow. Add aditional oil between batches if necessary. Serve immediately. 

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