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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.

Jamaican Johnny Cakes

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes


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.

Making this recipe? Why not take a quick shot and share it on Instagram! Make sure to tag it #ASpicyPerspective so we can see what you're cooking!

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 Rodriguezposted July 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

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


  2. Barefeet In The Kitchenposted July 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

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


  3. NISRINEposted July 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

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


  4. Kathleenposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Sageposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Kitchenposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Dessertsposted July 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

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


  8. Adora's Boxposted July 14, 2011 at 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. Susieposted July 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    The bread looks amazing. What a fun vacation.


  10. kankanaposted July 14, 2011 at 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. Erinposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Familyposted July 14, 2011 at 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 amandaposted July 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

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


  14. Kristenposted July 14, 2011 at 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. Kellyposted July 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

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


  16. Lindaposted July 14, 2011 at 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@flourtraderposted July 14, 2011 at 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. Sharonposted July 14, 2011 at 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)posted July 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

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


  20. Carolynposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Pellegriniposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Dennisposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Yumminessposted July 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm

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


  24. kitaposted July 14, 2011 at 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 Scratchposted July 14, 2011 at 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 @ Erecipeposted July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm

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


  27. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchenposted July 14, 2011 at 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.


  28. Nanaposted July 14, 2011 at 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


  29. Apron Appealposted July 15, 2011 at 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.


  30. Hester Casey - Alchemy in the Kitchenposted July 15, 2011 at 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.


  31. Medejaposted July 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

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


  32. marlaposted July 15, 2011 at 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!


  33. Pierreposted July 15, 2011 at 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 ;)


  34. Sasha @ The Procrastobakerposted July 15, 2011 at 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!


  35. Dmarieposted July 15, 2011 at 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!)


  36. sweetlifeposted July 15, 2011 at 9:33 am

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


  37. sweetlifeposted July 15, 2011 at 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


  38. carolinaheartstringsposted July 15, 2011 at 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.


  39. pachecopattyposted July 15, 2011 at 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;-)


  40. katie@cozydeliciousposted July 15, 2011 at 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!


  41. Angie's Recipesposted July 16, 2011 at 2:08 am

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


  42. Amy @ Gastronome Tartposted July 16, 2011 at 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!


  43. Skylarposted July 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I love Johnny cakes! These look delicious


  44. Lisa | Life in Greenposted July 16, 2011 at 10:47 am

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


  45. Meagan @ Scarletta Bakesposted July 16, 2011 at 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!


  46. torviewtorontoposted July 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

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


  47. Ilkeposted July 16, 2011 at 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!


  48. Tiffanyposted July 16, 2011 at 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!


  49. Barbara @ Barbara Bakesposted July 17, 2011 at 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!


  50. Kristi Rimkusposted July 17, 2011 at 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.


  51. Monetposted July 17, 2011 at 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…


  52. wizzythestickposted July 18, 2011 at 7:01 am

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


  53. Jennifer Eloffposted July 18, 2011 at 7:55 am

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


  54. Joyposted July 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    That looks great.


  55. Stevieposted July 28, 2011 at 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.


  56. Kathrynposted July 31, 2011 at 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.


  57. Jennyposted November 15, 2011 at 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.


  58. Nancy Longposted January 16, 2012 at 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. :)


  59. Catposted September 16, 2013 at 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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