Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Fine Art of Hoecake Making


[hoh-keyk] Show IPA
noun South Midland and Southern U.S.
an unleavened cake  made with flour or corn meal: originally baked on a hoe  but now usually cooked on a griddle. - Dictionary.com

Originally, Native Americans cooked these on hot rocks in an open fire. They were commonly referred to as Ash Cakes. Later on, settlers from Europe adopted the recipe, cooking the cakes on the blades of their hoes in the fireplace. This is where they get the name, “Hoe Cakes”. Of all the recipes in my collection, this one is the oldest, the cheapest, and just about the tastiest of all. Serve Hoe Cakes with as a bread, or by themselves for breakfast with maple syrup or molasses. They also make a nice accompaniment to main meals, especially when fried in margarine. In the summertime, when you want a hot bread, but don’t want to heat up the oven, this is the best choice. They cook right on top of the stove, without heating up the entire house. Good for camping and back packing too. - The Hillbilly Housewife
Of course, Paula Dean has a hoecake recipe.  Her's is different from my Grandma's.  But Hoecakes seem to be a very popular southern delicacy.  Hoecakes are something I grew up with because my Grandpa had to have "bread" at every meal and since my Grandma didn't make yeast breads we had hoecakes at almost every meal she made.  There were hoecakes which she made with corn meal mix and then there was plain bread which she made with self rising flour.  She made hoecakes the most though.  And my whole family loved them (still does).  They are best served with butter slathered all over them, but we also eat them the next day, crumbled up in our milk.  We call it "milk and bread".

Last night I was missing my Grandma and her cooking so I decided to make one of her meals - pork chops, brown beans, fried potatoes and hoecakes.  With hoecakes, they are always best cooked in a cast iron skillet with lots of oil.  Actually, my Grandma always used lard.

In some ways hoecakes are easy to make and in some ways they are not.  There is no measuring involved.  None, that is why I call it an art.  Want to try it for yourself?

Here is how to be successful:
The ingredients:
Self Rising Cornmeal
Milk (buttermilk is best but I don't always have it on hand)
Oil or lard

The directions:

Take a medium cast iron skillet and melt your lard or heat your oil.  You want to have about 1/4 of an inch of oil.  Yes, you do if you do not want the hoecakes to stick.  This is the biggest problem with cooking hoecakes.  I used olive oil which doesn't tolerate being heated up very well but it worked fine for me.  It did not smoke.  You will know your oil is ready when you take just a dot or two of your batter and drop it in the oil and it starts cooking right away.

In a bowl, pour in your self rising cornmeal (about a cup or a cup and a half).  Pour in some milk slowly and stir with a fork.  You want to the batter to be like a thick pancake batter.  If it is too thick (not stirable add more milk).  If it is too thin, add more self rising cornmeal.

 You will know when to turn the hoecake when you see the edges bubbling as in the picture above.  You need a very good, sturdy spatula to do this.  Hoecakes like to stick!  Carefully, turn the hoecake and place it face down away from you so the grease does not splash on you.  Seriously, it will.

Cook the hoecake until both sides are nicely browned.  When you take it off the stove, put it on a paper towel lined plate.  I immediately put butter on it and then stack them until dinner is ready.

I think hoecake making is an art.  I have tried to make them lots of times.  My husband said that the ones I made last night were the best hoecakes he had ever had.  I thought they were good, but they still weren't Grandma's.  My Grandma always made it look so easy.  She grew up in Tennessee and I think they teach you to make theses things when you are 5.  Now, make sure you make enough to have leftovers so that before bed you pour yourself a big glass of milk and crumble up a hoecake into your milk for "milk and bread".  Let me know how it goes!

Raising Homemakerstammy's recipes


  1. We love hoecakes, and I never knew the origin of the word! Thanks for the enlightenment. :)

  2. @brite
    You are welcome. I had heard something about them being cooked on a hoe but wasn't completely sure.


I love comments!