Hoecakes (fried cornbread)

My grandmother used to make these little cornbread cakes for us, and I love to make them for my grandchildren too. People...
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Hoecakes (fried cornbread)

Robert S. Cooper

My grandmother used to make these little cornbread cakes for us, and I love to make them for my grandchildren too. People outside Savannah know them as hoecakes, but we just call them fried cornbread. Whatever name you use, you can’t go wrong with them—everyone loves them, and they’re so easy. They’re great as pancakes for breakfast with a little cane syrup drizzled over them, or alongside a mess of greens, or as an alternative to cornbread or biscuits with lunch or dinner. They have a nice crisp crust on the outside and a soft, sweet corn flavor inside.

I like white cornmeal better than yellow for grits or cornbread, and for just about anything. To me, yellow cornmeal and yellow grits have a texture that’s a little too grainy. The yellow also takes longer to cook—a lot of people don’t know that.

If you saved the flavorful frying grease from making fried chicken, you’ll be glad you did when you add a spoonful to this batter.

This recipe makes a small batch. Double or triple it if you need to feed a big family or a lot of friends. The batter will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. 

Excerpted from A Real Southern Cook in Her Savannah Kitchen, © 2015 by Dora Charles. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Notes

If you’re fresh out of self-rising cornmeal and/or flour, add 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt to each cup of cornmeal or flour.

Ingredients

  • 1/2  Cup  self-rising white cornmeal
  • 1/2  Cup  self-rising flour
  • 2  Teaspoons  sugar
  • 1/3  Cup  buttermilk
  • large egg
  • 1/3  Cup  water, or more as needed
  • 2  Tablespoons  melted fat or oil, such as bacon grease, fried-chicken grease, butter, or vegetable oil
  • Butter or mixed butter and vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Add the buttermilk slowly. Mix in the egg, cutting into the yolk with the spoon’s edge to help it mix in better. Add the water and fat or oil and stir well. The texture should be like thick soup, so you may need to add more water.

I like to fry the cornbread cakes in my grandmother’s castiron skillet or on a flat iron griddle, but any skillet or griddle will be fine. Heat the skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease it well with the fat of your choice (butter is delicious, but it tends to burn unless you mix it with a little oil). Once the skillet is hot and the fat is sizzling, drop the batter from a 1⁄8-cup (2-tablespoon) measure into the skillet, in batches if necessary.

Fry the cakes until the edges are bubbling and the centers are set, then flip with a spatula to fry them on the other side until they’re done. Like with pancakes, you can’t say how long it will take, but the second side always cooks faster than the first. If the cakes seem greasy, drain them on paper towels before serving hot.

Cake Shopping Tip

Be sure to purchase the correct flour a recipe calls for – flours differ in gluten or protein content, making each suited for specific tasks.

Cake Cooking Tip

Insert a toothpick into the center of cakes to test for doneness – it should come out clean or only have a few crumbs clinging to it.

Cake Wine Pairing

Sweet chenin blanc, muscat, or amontillado sherry with nut-based cakes; sauternes or sweet German wines with pound cake, cheesecake, and fruit tarts or pies; sweet chenin blanc or muscat, Alsatian vendange tardive (late harvest) wines, or sec or demi-sec vintage or non-vintage champagne or sparkling wine with frosted white or yellow cakes; sweet chenin blanc or muscat or Alsatian vendange tardive (late harvest) wines,