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. #
    Nelly Rodriguez — July 14, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    Yum! Love this and yes, I understand your fear…but your kids do look fearless! :)


  2. #
    Barefeet In The Kitchen — July 14, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    Wow, this looks awesome. I’ve never tried Johnny cake before, but this is tempting me.


  3. #
    NISRINE — July 14, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    I love any cake with cornmeal in it. A Jamaican one is even better. Lovely pics as well!


  4. #
    Kathleen — July 14, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    You are so cute. Honestly, I have suffered from many of the same irrational fears. I live at the beach and if I put one toe into the ocean I am SURE jaws is swimming circles 3 feet away ready to devour me. Yikes. How irrational can a grown woman be! I love your description of this johnny cake and love even more that it’s not fried. Can’t wait to try it! Thanks :)


  5. #
    Parsley Sage — July 14, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    What the!? We don’t have any Jamaican johnnycakes that look that THAT here! Scandal. Yours looks fabulous. Well done.

    And sharks are totally scary.


    • Sommer — July 14th, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

      I KNEW this would be troubling to you! :) :) :)


  6. #
    Denise @ Creative Kitchen — July 14, 2011 @ 11:58 am

    Glad to know I’m not the only one with irrational fears. :) Although most of them happened once I became a mama!! Which beach did you go to? We’re up visiting the NC coast from South Florida…staying with friends in their beach house. We’re staying about 20 minutes north of Jacksonville, NC.


    • Sommer — July 14th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

      Sunset beach is the last beach on the NC coastline. Pretty quiet–loved it!


  7. #
    Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts — July 14, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

    We all have our own irrational qualms about us – not just you! Bread sounds delicious!


  8. #
    Adora's Box — July 14, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

    What beautiful photos! Beautiful sunshine. We don’t have that here in the UK. The Jonny Cake sounds so good. I love corn bread and cakes.


  9. #
    Susie — July 14, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    The bread looks amazing. What a fun vacation.


  10. #
    kankana — July 14, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

    I love love beaches .. can spend hours there and then later stare in the mirror wondering why the SPF 55 doesn’t work on my weird skin !!!
    I love such kind of bread light and fluffy .. thanks for the recipe .. and gorgeous pics like always :)


  11. #
    Erin — July 14, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    That is beautiful! Yes, two of my kids are also fearless…and then I have the middle child that seems to be afraid of everything! I’ve never tried Jonny Cakes, but I’m thinkin’ I should…


  12. #
    Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family — July 14, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    Summer I have wondered what a johnny cake was…and now I know.

    Sunset Beach is beautiful and so are your children.


  13. #
    oh amanda — July 14, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    YUM. I like that you called it “bread”. Mhmmmm. :)


  14. #
    Kristen — July 14, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    Loving your beach pics! Have you ever been to the JAWS ride at Universal Studios? I am now terrified to enter any kind of water!


  15. #
    Kelly — July 14, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    GORGEOUS pictures and this cake looks soooo delicious! Saving this recipe into my favorites! :)


  16. #
    Linda — July 14, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    I had to bite my tongue and hold back my fears many times while raising my kids too!! You may have irrational fears, but you also have amazing talent! To experiment and come up with this gorgeous bread, I am very grateful! It sounds like a perfect afternoon treat


  17. #
    Tina@flourtrader — July 14, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Us adults try to make every day last, while kids think they will live forever! Kudos to your effort in the kitchen to replicate what you had at a restaurant. It looks like a real winner.


  18. #
    Sharon — July 14, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    Saw this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, and popped over and discovered your blog. So glad I did!


  19. #
    Maris (In Good Taste) — July 14, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    Proud you should be. This looks delicious. Gorgeous photos!


  20. #
    Carolyn — July 14, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    You might be my twin, girl. I also have an irrational fear of sharks, based on reading the book Jaws (can’t bear to watch the movie!).
    I’ve never seen these Johnny Cakes, but they look delish!


  21. #
    Georgia Pellegrini — July 14, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

    This looks really tasty… I wonder if it’s like a sweet bread… like banana bread texture? And I have a fear of the ocean in general so… I like to see *in* in the water before I step in it : )


  22. #
    Chef Dennis — July 14, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    Sommer, that Johnny Cake looks better than any I have ever had, the crumb looks so very very good, and I’m sure those flavors were just heavenly! Now as for sharks I’m with you on that one, I had a friend who was missing a hunk of his leg from a shark attack! As for bears, well I think that’s a good fear too!!


  23. #
    A Little Yumminess — July 14, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    Never had johnny cakes and I am now intrigued. Love the Carolina Coast!


  24. #
    kita — July 14, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

    forget the sharks, it’s the jellyfish that keep me at bay! Crazy I know, but I hate those suckers!

    Great job on replicated this cake! It looks beautiful. :D


  25. #
    Kate @ Kate from Scratch — July 14, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

    Looks amazing. Experimenting is always the tastiest way to come about things. The added bonus of devouring the “failures” is always fun.


  26. #
    Raquel @ Erecipe — July 14, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

    love your photos, and Johnny cakes looks awesome it is so moist.


  27. #
    Kate@Diethood.com — July 14, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

    I also love the beach, and I fear stupid stupid things! :)
    So this is what you come up with when experimenting… WOW! The loaf looks amazing!


  28. #
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — July 14, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

    I’ve seen that crazy footage of the air attacks by the sharks and while I wouldn’t want to encounter one in real life, I am strangely fascinated by them.


  29. #
    Nana — July 14, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

    Hey, I see your Johnny Cake on Pioneer Woman. And I wish the Sugar Shack would let us know how close you are to their recipe. The Sugar Shack was wonderful — waited more than an hour to get in but it was worth the wait. Sugar Shack 1690 Hale Beach Road Southwest, Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina 28469-4750


  30. #
    Apron Appeal — July 15, 2011 @ 3:19 am

    we have friends that vacation at sunset beach often…but what I really wanted to say is, this post is going to keep me thinking for a while about how gathering knowledge can often lead to trepidation.


  31. #
    Hester Casey - Alchemy in the Kitchen — July 15, 2011 @ 4:08 am

    Sommer, what beautiful photos of a family day out! Your kids certainly do look fearless! Your Johnny Cake looks delicious. I like the sound of sweet and spicy.


  32. #
    Medeja — July 15, 2011 @ 4:25 am

    Looks very soft and nice. I like such cakes with tea..


  33. #
    marla — July 15, 2011 @ 5:46 am

    Such a sweet post….love seeing your vacation photos. I encourage my kids to take risks and then when they do i *gasp*
    This non-traditional Johnny cake recipe look amazing!


  34. #
    Pierre — July 15, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    Clove is definitely one of my favourite aromatic. I hope it brought you all the recent great memories from your break. The cake looks comfortingly memorable ;)


  35. #
    Sasha @ The Procrastobaker — July 15, 2011 @ 7:48 am

    Ive never had a johnny cake but yours sure looks delicious! You convinced me 100% by the end of your lovely post that this should go straight on the old to-make list, it has been saved and will hopefully be made sooner rather than later :) looks lovely and well done on creating such a wonderful recipe!


  36. #
    Dmarie — July 15, 2011 @ 8:48 am

    first time I’ve ever reacted with sheer terror to one of your posts, Spicy! ;)
    (can’t wait to try this bread…thanks!)


  37. #
    sweetlife — July 15, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    love the pic of the kiddos, tried to vote..but the facebook stated the rules had changed???? good luck!
    yummy cakes


  38. #
    sweetlife — July 15, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    great pic of the kiddos, I tried to vote, but facebook stated the rules had changed???

    yummy cakes, have a great weekend


  39. #
    carolinaheartstrings — July 15, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    Oh we know the Sugar Shack well. My son’s in laws know the owners well and they have wonderful wonderful food. That’s a must eat at place.


  40. #
    pachecopatty — July 15, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    Hey Sommer, sharks- I think of land shark from saturday night live and bears definitely grizzley adams!
    This johnny cake sounds heavenly- and not scary one bit;-)


  41. #
    katie@cozydelicious — July 15, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

    How did I miss this amazing bread when I was in Jamaica? Here in New England, Johnny Cakes are like pancakes, but sweet and crumbly, like this rich bread. Yum!


  42. #
    Angie's Recipes — July 16, 2011 @ 2:08 am

    I love love love the clicks of two children!! The Johnny cake…that’s a really interesting name.


  43. #
    Amy @ Gastronome Tart — July 16, 2011 @ 6:05 am

    I have never had Johnny Cake before nor have I heard of it! Thanks for the recipe! I will give this a try!


  44. #
    Skylar — July 16, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    I love Johnny cakes! These look delicious


  45. #
    Lisa | Life in Green — July 16, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    Looks great! Going back to Jamaica this coming April…can’t wait!


  46. #
    Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes — July 16, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    I’m totally there with you: I’m always on the lookout for sharks at the beach. And the pool. Very irrational.

    I love these Johnny Cakes – they look so moist and delicious!

    Thanks so much for this lovely post and recipe!


  47. #
    torviewtoronto — July 16, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    congrats on the lovely post Sommer
    cute little ones
    the cake looks fabulous


  48. #
    Ilke — July 16, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    Sweet and spicy bread!! Good job with recreating the flavor!
    And sharks are NOT irrational. Those things can be in very shallow water and blame Jaws, I have never set foot in the Ocean since I came to the US. When you know they are “out there”, it is hard to have a peaceful swim!


  49. #
    Tiffany — July 16, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    I agree! You can learn a lot from kids! And I learned a lot from you! I’ve never had a Jamaican Johnny cake, but that vanilla-clove combo sounds like a match made in heaven!


  50. #
    Barbara @ Barbara Bakes — July 17, 2011 @ 8:23 am

    It looks like so much fun! I’m a beach lover too. I’ve never eaten Johnny cake. I’ve been missing out!


  51. #
    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.


  52. #
    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…


  53. #
    wizzythestick — July 18, 2011 @ 7:01 am

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


  54. #
    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.


  55. #
    Joy — July 23, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    That looks great.


  56. #
    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.


  57. #
    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.


  58. #
    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.


  59. #
    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. :)


  60. #
    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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