The staple crop on most 19th Century farms was corn which was taken to the
local grist mill and ground into corn meal. It was then cooked and
baked into a variety of daily foods including Johnny cake - sometimes called
Journey Cake as it was taken along when traveling. Recipes or
"receipts" as they were called, varied according to available ingredients
with the simplest ones consisting of little more than cornmeal and water.
Wheat flour was often a luxury as many farmers who grew it used it for a
cash crop. Molasses and sugar is added to this receipt, but were not always
available. The following receipt is a popular one with school children
visiting the Five Mile House and Lincoln Log Cabin.
cups of corn meal
2 cups of flour
6 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of shortening
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of molasses
2 cups of milk
Combine corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a
separate bowl, cream together the shortening and brown sugar. Beat eggs
enough to mix yokes and whites, add to shortening-brown sugar, and mix well.
Add molasses and milk and mix until blended well. Pour mixed dry
ingredients into moist ingredients and mix well.
Pour batter into a greased 12-inch Dutch oven. Cover and set on a
medium bed of hot coals. Put a generous amount of hot coals on the
lid. Depending on the quality of the coals, bake for 30-40 minutes.
Check about every 10 minutes for doneness by inserting a piece of broom corn
into the center. Another rule of thumb is when you can smell it, it is
At home, pour batter into a greased 9x12 baking pan. Bake in a
moderate oven at about 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Test for doneness
with a toothpick inserted into the center.
Historic Johnny Cake Receipt
From the Kentucky Housewife, published in 1839
Make a thin dough of sifted Indian (corn) meal and lukewarm water or sweet
milk, adding a tea-spoonful of salt, and a large spoonful of butter to each
quart of meal. Work it well, as Indian meal, in whatever way it is prepar3d,
should be worked thoroughly. Having ready a piece of board planed smooth,
wet it with water, and put on a cake of the dough about three quarters of an
inch thick, make it smooth and even, round the edges, brush it over with
sweet cream, and brown it lightly before a clear fire, propping it on one
edge by setting something behind it, to support it. Then run the blade of a
knife or a sewing thread between the bread and board, to loose it, turn it
over, brown the other side in the same manner, first moistening it with
sweet cream, and then cut it across in small cakes, split them, lay a slice
of firm butter on one half of each piece, put them together again, and send
them immediately to the table.