Old-fashioned, Canadian-style Johnny Cake is the perfect companion for fresh Spring maple syrup. This vintage cornmeal cake a nostalgic favourite.

johnny cake with maple syrup and butter on plate

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 not intended to be eaten plain, in fact, when plain, it’s a bit dry-ish. Think of Johnny cake as a sponge, perfect for topping with maple syrup and butter and letting it soak in to the cake. The sturdy and somewhat drier texture of the Johnny cake means it won’t disintegrate in the process.

The cornmeal flavour of Johnny Cake 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.

Ingredients and Substitutions

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.

Step-by-Step Photos

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.

photo collage of steps to make Johnny Cake

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.

Recipe Tips

  • 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 its own as a “cake”. It’s not intended to be eaten plain. As noted above, think of it as a sponge to soak up butter and toppings, such as maple syrup.
  • 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.
 johnny cake with maple syrup and butter on plate

Making Ahead, Storing and Freezing

Johnny Cake is best enjoyed on the day it is baked. If you have left-overs, it will freeze well up to 2 months.

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johnny cake with maple syrup and butter on plate

Get the Recipe: Old-Fashioned Johnny Cake

Canadian style Johnny Cake is a cornmeal cake, typically served hot topped with maple syrup and butter. As this is a very lightly sweet cake, it is suitable plain as a side for chili, too!
5 stars from 7 ratings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour, sifted first, then measured *see Note 1 for using all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon 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 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons shortening, melted and slightly cooled or same amount of vegetable/canola oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400F (not convection bake). Grease an 8×8-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.

Notes

1. Pastry flour is also sometimes labelled as “Cake and Pastry Flour”. It is a soft protein flour. If you don’t have pastry flour on hand, here is a substitute …
Homemade Pastry Flour: add 2 tsp cornstarch to a 1 cup dry measuring cup, then spoon fill and level with stirred all purpose flour.
Nutritional information provided does not include topping with maple syrup and butter.
Cuisine: Canadian
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 114kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 86mg, Potassium: 190mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 43IU, Calcium: 68mg, Iron: 1mg
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