Jamaican Johnny Cakes

Johnny Cake

Vacation Qualms and Jamaican Johnny Cakes.

Before we moved to the mountains, we used to vacation in the mountains. Now that we live in the lush rolling slopes of North Carolina, we travel elsewhere to vacate.

Like the beach.

Did I ever tell you I have certain irrational fears?

One, being bears. Darn that Grizzly Man on Animal Planet! Two is Sharks. …Again, Animal Planet’s fault.

Hey, at least I KNOW they are irrational. Although, if you watch this video clip about flying sharks you might be afraid too.

Back to the beach, I love the warm velvety sand between my toes, the sun kissing my forehead, watching the waves gently roll in, the constant roar of the sea. I love watching my husband chase the little ones down the beach, laughing and kicking through the sea foam. Yet the moment I step foot in the water, I am on guard. Watchful of sharks.

Do I let my babies go in the water? Only because I know my fear is irrational. (And because my husband would give me a lecture on parenting.) But I am poised, ready to snatch them from the waves and high-tail it out of the water, at the first glimpse of danger.

Go ahead and laugh. Sometimes I’m a head-case.

Well, these two are afraid of nothing. You can learn a lot from children.

Actually, you can learn a lot from just about anyone. You never know when you are going to gain new knowledge and experience new things.

Take this unassuming little restaurant in Sunset Beach, for instance. I’ve eaten Jamaican food plenty of times. What could possibly surprise me?

Sugar Shack

The bread, that’s what.

The most nontraditional and luxurious Johnny Cake I’ve ever experienced. Tender, moist, airy with a fine crumb–almost a CAKE, but served as an appetizer. The Sugar Shack’s Johnny Cake is a delicate corny pillow with a good dose of clove. This is MY kind of bread–sweet and SPICY.

Don’t let the Johnny Cake’s humble appearance fool you. This “bread” is not to be missed. Unlike the classic heavy fry bread normally  considered “Johnny Cake” in the isles, this is special. An ultra silky cornbread/buttermilk cake hybrid that is utterly addictive. Two loaves will not be enough. Consider yourself warned!

Jamacian Johnny Cake

I didn’t ask for the recipe, like I do here in Asheville. Instead I came home and experimented until I replicated the Sugar Shack’s famous Jamaican Johnny Cakes.

I’m awfully proud of myself over this one. Somehow, it makes me feel better about the shark issue.


Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Jamaican Johnny Cakes


2 cups cake flour
¾ cup finely ground cornmeal, plus extra for the pans
½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground clove
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1 cup full fat buttermilk


Lower the oven rack to the bottom half of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and dust two to 9X5 loaf pans with cornmeal.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and clove. Mix well.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes, until VERY light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla and buttermilk.

Slowly add the dry mix to the wet mixture. Scrape the bowl and beat again until JUST smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans.

Bake, undisturbed for 40-50 minutes. Insert a toothpick to ensure the cakes are cooked through—if the toothpick comes out clean, remove them from the oven.

Cool for 10 minutes, before carefully flipping out of the pans.

Serve warm. The cake should be light and slightly crumbly. Makes 2 loaves.

How to make Johnny CakesLovely poppy plates from Villeroy & Boch.

Other ASP breads you’ll love:

Maple Bacon Corn Muffins

Fresh Focaccia Loaves

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

Favorite breads on the web:

Cinnamon Swirl Bread ~ Recipe Girl

Homemade English Muffins ~ Bell’ Alimento

Brazilian Cheese Bread ~ Simple Recipes

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63 Responses to “Jamaican Johnny Cakes”

  1. #
    Kristi Rimkus — July 17, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    It looks like you had a terrific time! I’ve never made Johnny Cakes before, but these look wonderful. I’ll have to give them a try.


  2. #
    Monet — July 17, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

    Smile. I love the beach too. We are soaking up the sun in Maine right now. Thank you for sharing another beautiful recipe. I hope you had a lovely weekend, and I hope you have an even lovelier week. Many blessings and much love…


  3. #
    wizzythestick — July 18, 2011 @ 7:01 am

    You are right this is not a traditional Johnny cake but it looks amazing. Bookmarked to try:-)


  4. #
    Jennifer Eloff — July 18, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    That vacation looks wonderful and I enjoyed the pictures and reading the recipe. Have a nice day.


  5. #
    Joy — July 23, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    That looks great.


  6. #
    Stevie — July 28, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    That BBC shark video really freaked me out! Sadly, I’ve totally lost my appetite. Your Johnny cake does look good, though.


  7. #
    Kathryn — July 31, 2011 @ 12:22 am

    Interesting story and the Johnny Cakes sound delicious and are going on my project list for Fall or Winter as I don’t like to bake during the Summer.


  8. #
    Jenny — November 15, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

    Just made a couple of loaves and they turned out FANTASTIC! My husband and I have nearly polished of one loaf already and they’ve only been out of the oven for half an hour, ha ha! They taste just like the johnny cakes from my favourite Jamaican restaurant.


  9. #
    Nancy Long — January 16, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    Can’t wait to make this, but cannot get full-fat buttermilk around here. Wonder how much the low-fat would affect it.


    • Sommer — January 19th, 2012 @ 7:34 am

      It should still be ok, but you cam MAKE buttermilk with full-fat milk and a little vinegar. :)


  10. #
    Cat — September 16, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

    Thanks so much for the recipe! We have been going to OIB since I was a little girl. We were just there last week and went to the Sugar Shack. I LOVE the Johnny Cake and was hoping that someone would have a recipe on the internet for me to try. I think I will make a few loaves and freeze them for gifts for the holidays! Why not have a little sunshine when it’s cold and windy outside! Thanks again for the recipe!


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