Cross Caribbean: Johnny Cakes

I’m back with my love for Jamaican food! I was lucky enough to visit a lot of Caribbean islands as a child growing up. One thing I’ve always particularly enjoyed about these islands, besides the hospitality and warmth, the beautiful beaches, the blazing sun and the state of pure relaxation, was the food.

Food defines who people are, the rich history behind the local dishes is fascinating. I am a total nerd because I am one of the few people who cares to know how things originated. Food is an identity, it speaks of where we came from, what we’ve been through. As such, I’ve decided to do a ‘Cross Caribbean’ section where I attempt to create some of the yummy dishes I’ve had and that are native to some islands. I’d also try to give a brief history on each dish.

Hope this is as entertaining for you as it is for me.

Johnny cakes, you’ve probably heard of. I’ve had it in many a breakfast buffet in various islands. Most recently, I’ve had it in Antigua and fell madly in love with it. It’s essentially a fried dumpling, but a little sweet. It’s similar to a Trinidad fried bake but smaller, denser, crunchier and the hint of sweet is life!

Johnny cakes or ‘journey’ cakes as it really is called was brought to the Caribbean by native Americans who used cornmeal instead of flour. It was called ‘journey’ cakes because it was packed for the plantation workers who were about to go on long journeys. It is traditionally paired with saltfish and tomatoes. The saltiness from the saltfish and the sweet crunchiness of the bake is blissful.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into these golden brown, balls of heaven.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 8 Tbsp sugar
  • 7 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • oil for frying

METHOD

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl


  2. Work butter in with hands until a grainy, cornmeal like texture is achieved (cold butter is good because it increases the flakiness and crunchiness)

  3. Gradually add water and knead until an elastic dough is formed. The dough will be a little sticky
  4. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 mins
  5. After the dough has rested, heat oil
  6. Roll dough into small 1 inch thick discs, I used my hand for this but you can use a rolling pin, however, ensure that it isn’t too thin. Use a fork or a knife and punch holes throughout the dough


  7. Fry until golden brown
    (I fried about 3-5 minutes on each side, flipping regularly, I loved how they just floated up, they fried nicely)




  8. Drain on paper towels
  9. Serve with saltfish and tomatoes (recipe in next post) or butter and cheese