Cakes for breakfast

One of my favourite breakfast foods is pancakes, especially when I’m camping. There is something especially rustic about flipping those golden beauties on a cast-iron pan as the smell of the great outdoors mingles with the cooked batter.

I got to thinking here at our campsite as I was munching this morning, enjoying the sound of the trees shifting in the breeze… what about those other cousins to pancakes? How do flapjacks, hot cakes, griddle cakes, and Johnny cakes fit into the picture?

Pour yourself another cup of coffee, and come along with me and find out.

PANCAKES are what I always had as a kid. They were made either from scratch with flour, baking powder, and salt, mixed with milk, an egg and a splash of vegetable oil. We fried them in the electric frying pan – you could make five at a time. Later I remember my parents finding a pancake mix they liked that had multigrain flour. That was an amazing variation at the time.

According to National Geographic, pancakes (or at least something akin to them) were consumed as far back as the Stone Age. These, and other versions into the Middle Ages, would have been more like a crêpe; however, leaveners weren’t invented until the 1800s. Something more puffy was generally known as a hot cake or griddle cake.

There is a Pancake Day, known formally as Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts. Pancakes are a representation of the richer foods that one is meant to eschew for Lent, and so making a batch used up those sinful ingredients.

FLAPJACKS mean different things on each side of the Atlantic. Here in North America, they are seen as another name for pancakes, most often in the American South and Southwest.

In the UK, flapjacks are tray-baked oat bars made with golden syrup brown sugar and, if you splurge, dried fruit. On this side of the pond, we call them granola bars. I think these ones deserve a cup of tea to accompany them.

JOHNNY CAKES are another largely regional specialty, but they are featured in a few

far-flung regions. They are still round and fried in a pan like pancakes, but the recipe varies a bit. Most importantly, Johnny cakes are a savoury item.

In the American South, it is said that the original term for Johnny cakes was “journey cakes.” One can understand why they were a good travelling food when one sees the recipe was just cornmeal made into a paste with water and a bit of salt and fried into a cake form.

Here’s an added bit of trivia for you: another term used for these was a “hoe cake,” from the shape of the metal instrument they used for frying the cakes. Even the Oxford Dictionary claims it was a garden hoe, but some historians say there was a type of griddle called a hoe. This form of cake is generally larger and would have been cut into pieces for serving.

Johnny cakes are also popular in parts of the Caribbean, and just like in the American South some recipes are made with cornmeal and some are with flour. It seems what was at hand was what was used.

In the Caribbean, the frying is more of a deep fry; the cakes are patted into shape and dropped into oil. If you’d like to try them, here’s a recipe. You might want some jerk chicken or curried goat on hand to complete your meal.

I find it interesting that the other place for Johnny cakes is New England; Rhode Island claims to be the birthplace of them, and this recipe definitely works with cornmeal – white cornmeal, even.

Apparently that history dates back to the pilgrims, whose grain had spoiled on the transatlantic voyage. The Pawtuxet Indians took pity on the starving pilgrims and shared their knowledge of how to grind corn and cook with the meal.

I couldn’t confirm if they had eaten the cakes with syrup and butter the way New Englanders do now, but their recipe was certainly a hit. The traditional recipe I found (link: https://leitesculinaria.com/11906/recipes-johnnycakes.html ) did mention they would be good for dinner or breakfast, but there seemed a definite preference for adding that maple syrup.

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on any or all of these, if you want to share it by email or on my Facebook page. Even if you’re not a breakfast person, I do hope you have a great start to your day with something fun.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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