We love Caribbean food very much, and these little fried dough gems take us back to those gorgeous islands every single time we make them.
Similar to New Orleans Beignets, but not near as sweet, these are the perfect accompaniment to almost any type of dish, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We love serving them with our Curry Shrimp (recipe to come). And they come together in less than an hour!
How To Make Johnny Cakes
You may be asking, “What is a Johnny Cake?” Well, it’s most commonly known in the United States as a flapjack made with cornmeal. Learn more about the history of the North American variety here.
The Caribbean version, however, does not include cornmeal, and is lighter, and more like a slightly sweet roll or biscuit.
And you can’t believe how easy they are to prepare!
The Ingredients You Will Need
The ingredients that make this delicious bread are simple and humble.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Unsalted butter
- Vegetable oil – for frying
EXPERT TIP: Sifting is not 100% necessary, but we find that the process yields a fluffier, lighter bread. It ensures there are no lumps and creates a finer flour that makes the liquid more easily incorporated. But again, if you don’t have a sifter, don’t worry, you’ll still get wonderful Johnny Cakes.
Next, it’s time to incorporate the butter into the sifted flour.
This is similar to making pie dough. Use your fingers to gently work the butter into the flour.
EXPERT TIP: The butter should be at room temperature, but should also be cubed. To do this, simply cube the 1 tbsp of the butter with a sharp knife while it is still chilled. Transfer to a small bowl and leave it on the counter. It will perfect to use in about 15 minutes.
How To Form the Dough
Now, it’s time to incorporate the water into the dry ingredients.
Start off with 1 cup and gently mix it into the flour mixture until well incorporated. We find an everyday fork helps this process. And then your fingers.
EXPERT TIP: You don’t want to add too much water, otherwise, the end result will be rubbery bread. Continue to add more water in smaller quantities. Typically, all you’ll need to add is a total of 1½ cups of water. The dough will be very ‘shaggy’ at this point. Use your hands to help start forming the dough in the bowl.
Sprinkle your work surface liberally with flour.
Transfer the dough from the bowl and use the heel of your palm to start kneading the dough. Fold the dough over on itself from time to time.
EXPERT TIP: The dough will be ready to rest once it has become somewhat elastic and not too sticky. If it’s a little wet, that’s okay, if it feels too wet (or sticky), sprinkle more flour on the dough as you are kneading it. Total kneading time should be about 4 to 5 minutes.
Tips for Johnny Cakes
Kneading the Dough – Don’t under-, or, over-knead the dough. Use the heel of your hand to gently break down the gluten. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
Resting the Dough – It’s important to allow the dough to rest after you have kneaded it. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you don’t do this, the cake could end up tough.
Forming the Cakes – Pull enough dough to form a ball slightly larger than a golf ball. Use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough. Press your fingers into the dough, in a circular fashion, to further flatten the dough. Use a fork to poke holes all over the dough.
Frying the Cakes – If using a deep-fryer, then heat the oil to 350°F. If using a large sturdy skillet (i.e., cast-iron), fill it with vegetable oil to about 1 to 1½ inches deep. Use a candy thermometer to heat the oil to 350°F. Working in batches, add the cakes and cook until golden brown all over, about 8 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Storing the Johnny Cakes – The cakes are delicious served warm, but they’re also wonderful at room temperature. Store in an air-tight container on the counter (or in the fridge) for up to 1 week.
When To Serve and How To Store
As mentioned, these are wonderful served at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
We love to serve them piping hot, but, as you will find, they are still amazingly delicious once they cool off.
EXPERT TIP: We find that reheating the cakes works best in a toaster oven set at 350°F. This helps to bring back the crispiness of the exterior of the cake. The microwave works just fine, but you won’t get them nice and crispy.
When you pull apart that first piping hot cake, you’ll see a fluffy interior with beautiful little pockets of air that create the perfect classic texture. And then the taste!
These cakes are amazing by themselves.
But they are really begging to be plunged into a fabulous sauce, such as from Curry Shrimp (recipe to come).
And, of course, a drizzle of honey is divine.
Ready to make the best bread accompaniment this side of the Caribbean? Go for it!
And when you do, be sure to take a photo of it, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!
Caribbean Johnny Cakes
- Deep fryer or skillet filled with about 1-inch of vegetable oil (with candy thermometer
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter chilled, cubed, then brought to room temp
- 1½ cups water divided
- vegetable oil for frying
- Sift the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour.
- Pour 1 cup of the water over the flour mixture. Use a fork or wooden spoon to work the water into the flour. Add another ¼ cup of water and use your hands to start forming a dough. Sprinkle a little more water and keep gently working the dough. The dough will have a shaggy texture to it.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and use the palms of your hands to knead the dough until smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour, or more water, as you knead. It's okay if the dough is slightly tacky.
- Form the dough into a ball and cover it with a kitchen towel. Let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil to 350°F.
- On a floured surface, divide the dough into 13 to 15 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, about ¾-inch in diameter. Use the palm of your hand to press down on each ball of dough, flattening into a disc. Use your fingers, moving in a circular motion, to press the edges out and flattening the disc to about ¼-inch in thickness.
- Working in batches, add the cakes to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping occasionally. About 8 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm.