When you think of pancakes, you may imagine either childhood weekends or lazy adult brunches. (Or both.) Whether you are a purest who prefers simply butter and syrup, or an intrepid sort who seeks to push boundaries with a wide variety of fruit and confectionary with which to adorn your pancakes, let’s be real—no matter your age, pancakes are really an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. It’s right there in the name: cake. Nobody is fooled.
But did you know that pancakes are one of the oldest cooked foodstuffs on earth? Nearly every continent, among a vast number of cultures, claims a version of a griddled, starch-based batter cake, whether leavened or unleavened, sweetened or unsweetened, from Slovakia’s palatschinke, to Ethiopia’s injera, to Malaysia’s lempeng, to Brazil’s beiju.
Even in the United States, our beloved pancakes have a number of nicknames: hotcakes, flapjacks, griddle cakes…but wait? Johnnycakes? Sounds kind of familiar. Is that just another flapjack variation or something different?
Having likely grown up with johnnycakes, New Englanders may be losing their minds at this point over the obvious nature of the question. Of course johnnycakes are different! They’re made of corn! (I thought Jimmy cracked corn, though, not Johnny. Whatever. I don’t care.) The rest of us may have casually spotted a recipe on the back of a bag of cornmeal or a box of cornbread mix; if we were paying attention.
Common in all of North America along the Atlantic coast, cornmeal-based johnnycakes are actually America’s first pancake. The flour version we crave at brunch time is actually more of a Scottish variation. Like any other pancake, they can be served sweetened or unsweetened, as a vehicle for sweet or savory components.
As the weekend is upon us, why not check out any of the following recipes for either pancakes or johnnycakes? With cake in the name, you cannot go wrong.
Header images courtesy of Chowhound and A Family Feast.