Old-fashioned, Canadian-style Johnny Cake is the perfect companion for fresh Spring maple syrup. This vintage cornmeal cake a nostalgic favourite.
In my part of the world, Spring maple syrup production has just ended, so many of us have a freshly made supply of maple syrup on hand. And while I’m often tempted to just drink it from a glass, I usually resort to baking up an old-fashioned Johnny Cake instead. This vintage Johnny Cake recipe hails from Monarch Flour’s “Cooking Made Easy”.
Johnny Cake is perfect for topping with maple syrup and butter, as it soaks it up like a sponge, but doesn’t disintegrate in the process. The cornmeal flavour also wonderfully complements the maple. This vintage Johnny Cake leans more salty than most cakes, so it lets the maple syrup bring the sweetness. The light sweetness of this one also makes it a great accompaniment on its own to a savoury meal, as well.
Pastry Flour – Pastry flour is sometimes labelled “Cake and Pastry Flour”, as well. If you don’t have pastry flour, I have included a quick substitute in the Recipe Card Notes below, using all purpose flour and a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch.
Cornmeal – any yellow cornmeal is fine here.
Shortening – This would be the solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco™ You will need to melt it and let it cool slightly before using. If you don’t have shortening, replace with an equal amount of a neutral cooking oil, such as vegetable or canola oil.
Brown Sugar – you can use either light or dark brown sugar. I used dark here, as I like the little bit of extra molasses flavour it brings. Either works fine.
You will also need – Milk, egg (1), baking powder, salt and vanilla.
This is just a simple visual walk-through of the process to make this recipe. Always refer to the complete and detailed instructions in the Recipe Card below when making the recipe.
You don’t need an old-fashioned sifter to make this old-fashioned Johnny Cake. Simply use a fine mesh strainer to do the sifting job. Do note that the flour should be measured after it is sifted, by spooning it into a dry measuring cup, over-filling it, then levelling it off with the side of a knife.
You don’t need an old-fashioned flour sifter to make this recipe. Simply run the flour through a fine-mesh strainer instead. Note that the flour is measure after it is is sifted.
I think most people wouldn’t find Johnny Cake all that exciting on it’s own as a “cake”, though as a basic cornbread-like cake, it works nicely as a side for chili or soup.
Don’t limit yourself to just maple syrup and butter. Johnny Cake works beautifully with any topping. Try warm blueberry sauce!
Johnny Cake will keep well in an air-tight container for several days. It will also freeze well.
Get the Recipe: Old-Fashioned Johnny Cake
- 1 cup pastry flour, sifted first, then measured *see Note 1
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark, lightly packed
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 7/8 cup milk, 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3 Tbsp shortening, melted and slightly cooled or same amount of vegetable/canola oil
- Preheat oven to 400F (not convection bake). Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan and set aside.
- Sift the flour and then measure. Sift together with the baking powder and salt into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix in the brown sugar and cornmeal.
- In a small bowl, beat together the milk, egg, vanilla and melted shortening. (Shortening may solidify a bit, but that's ok). Add this mixture all at once to the flour mixture and mix just until well combined.
- Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan.
- Cut into squares and serve hot with maple syrup and butter.