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Caribbean Johnny Cakes (Authentic Crucian Recipe)

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Learn how to make delicious Caribbean Johnny Cakes with this easy recipe. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these golden fried breads are perfect for a Caribbean breakfast, savory dinner, or enjoyed on their own as a snack.

My first time trying Caribbean johnny cakes was years ago in St Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I went for the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience (add it to your bucket list now!). I visited a few local Crucian restaurants while I was there and they were pretty much on every menu. Here are some pictures from my trip:

One of my favorites was La Reine Chicken Shack in Christiansted. I started my day every morning at The Buccaneer with a traditional Crucian breakfast, salt fish and Crucian bread. I can’t wait to go back and bring my family next time!

Until then, I’ll settle for this homemade version. They are crispy, golden-brown on the outside and and soft, fluffy on the inside. I simplified the recipe as much as possible, so it’s straightforward and easy to follow. All you need are basic pantry ingredients and a skillet for frying. They’re a must-try for anyone seeking a taste of authentic Crucian food at home!

What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • CRISPY CRUST – When properly fried, Johnny Cakes develop a crispy, golden exterior and a soft, airy interior. 
  • AUTHENTIC – This recipe stays true to authentic Caribbean johnny cakes by using basic ingredients like flour, baking powder, and milk.

What is a Johnny Cake?

Johnny Cakes, sometimes known as a “journey cake” or “festival cake,” are a type of unleavened fried bread that is popular throughout parts of the Caribbean. They are similar to biscuits or fried dumplings. Some have even made the comparison to hush puppies.

The basic ingredients for the Virgin Islands Johnny Cake, which is this version of johnny cake, typically include flour, baking powder, salt, sugar (optional), butter or shortening, and water or milk. These ingredients are mixed together to form a dough, which is then shaped into small patties or balls before being fried until golden brown.

The texture of Johnny Cakes can vary depending on the recipe and the region. They can be soft and fluffy inside with a crispy crust, or denser and more bread-like. 

Different Caribbean islands may have their own variations of Johnny Cakes, with some adding additional ingredients like coconut milk or spices to enhance flavor and texture. 

What about Southern johnny cakes (hoecakes)?

Marrekus also calls hoecakes by the name johnny cakes. A Southern hoecake is basically a flatbread made with cornmeal, water (or buttermilk), salt, and often a bit of fat like bacon grease or butter.

The batter is cooked on a griddle or skillet until golden brown and crispy, resulting in a pancake-like bread with a slightly sweet flavor. They taste amazing with melted butter.

In comparison, Caribbean Johnny Cakes are made with wheat flour and can vary in texture from dense and bread-like to soft and fluffy, depending on regional variations.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Recipe Substitutions

  • Wheat flour: You can substitute wheat flour for part or all of the all-purpose flour for a heartier texture. 
  • Sugar: Some people like to add sugar to enhance the flavor slightly without making the cakes overly sweet. It’s totally optional.
  • Coconut milk: Substitute coconut milk for the water or part of the milk in the recipe.

Tools

  • Large Skillet or Frying Pan: Ideally, use a large cast iron skillet or frying pan for frying the Johnny Cakes. 
  • Stand Mixer with Dough Hook (Optional): While not required, a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment can make it easier to mix and knead the dough.
  • Thermometer: A kitchen thermometer is useful for monitoring the temperature of the frying oil. This ensures the Johnny Cakes fry at the optimal temperature (around 350°F to 375°F or 175°C to 190°C) for crispiness and even cooking.
  • Slotted Spoon or Spatula: Use a slotted spoon or spatula to safely flip and remove the Johnny Cakes from the hot oil without splashing or burning yourself.
  • Paper Towels or Wire Rack: Prepare a plate lined with paper towels or a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain excess oil from the fried Johnny Cakes after cooking.

Caribbean Johnny Cake Recipe

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, butter, sugar (if using), and salt. I like to use my fingers to incorporate the butter until well blended.
  2. Pour the milk and water into the dry ingredients, then use your hands to gently knead the dough. The dough will be sticky; you can add a little extra flour gradually until it just comes together (I did not need to do this). Be sure to avoid overworking the dough to keep the texture light and fluffy.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour. This step allows the dough to relax and develop.
  4. Pinch off pieces of dough to form 3-inch balls (50 g). Roll small balls of dough, then flatten each dough ball in the palm of your hand until it’s about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  5. In a large skillet or frying pan (preferably a cast iron skillet), heat 1 to 2 inches of canola or vegetable oil over medium-high heat, until it reaches 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C).
  6. Fry Johnny Cakes in hot oil until golden brown on each side, adjusting heat as needed to maintain a steady frying temperature. This ensures they cook through without becoming greasy or burning.
  7. Once fried, transfer the Johnny Cakes to a paper towel lined plate in order to absorb excess oil.
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Mixing in Butter: When combining the flour, baking powder, butter, and salt, ensure the butter is nice and cold and diced into small pieces (like you’re making biscuits). I like to put mine in the freezer for about 10 minutes before dicing.
  • Shaping: When shaping the dough into balls, aim for them to be around 3 inches in diameter. I weighed mine out to 50 g.
  • Frying Technique: Use a large skillet or frying pan with enough canola or vegetable oil to cover the Johnny Cakes about halfway up their sides. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it’s hot but not smoking (around 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C).

What to Serve 

Caribbean johnny cakes are often served for breakfast with salt fish, or as a side dish with savory meals such as stews or meats. They can also be enjoyed on their own as a snack.

Leftovers

To store leftover Caribbean Johnny Cakes, allow them to cool completely at room temperature first. Transfer them into an air-tight container or resealable plastic bag, ensuring they are stored in a single layer or with parchment paper between layers to prevent sticking.

Refrigerate the Johnny Cakes, where they can be kept fresh for up to 3-4 days. When ready to eat again, reheat them in a toaster oven, conventional oven, or skillet over medium heat to restore their crispiness. Avoid microwaving, as it can make them soggy.

Summary

Give these Caribbean Johnny Cakes a try and let us know how much you love it! Don’t forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts and share this recipe with friends.

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Caribbean Johnny Cakes (Authentic Crucian Recipe)

  • Author: Krysten and Marrekus Wilkes

Description

Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these Caribbean Johnny Cakes are perfect for breakfast, dinner, or enjoyed as a snack. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled (240 g)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (4 oz)
  • 1/4 cup of water (2 oz)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. Add flour, baking powder, butter, and salt together in a large mixing bowl and use your fingers to work butter into flour until mixture.
  2. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the milk and water. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir everything together until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  3. Knead the dough until it comes together; add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour. 
  5. Pinch off pieces of dough to form 3-inch balls (50 g), then roll dough balls.
  6. Flatten each dough ball gently in the palm of your hand, stretching it into a circular shape about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  7. In a large skillet or frying pan, preferably cast iron, heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F to 375°F (175°C to 190°C). 
  8. Fry Johnny Cakes in hot oil until golden brown on each side, about 1 to 2 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a steady frying temperature.
  9. Transfer Caribbean Johnny Cakes to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

One Comment

  1. I had my first Johnny cakes in Belize almost ten years ago and your recipe brought all that back for me. So good and simple to make. Thank you!

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