Johnny cakes. Johnnycakes. Hoecakes. Johnny bread. There are as many names as there are actual real life variations. Johnnycakes are one of those regional specialties which while based on a similar starting point, become wildly divergent over time as ingredients change, and habits and then traditions emerge.
Over the past year, I’ve encountered two such variations of the Johnny cake. The St. Lucian Johnny cake, and the Jamaican Johnny cake. Let’s break it down, compare the differences, and see which variety comes out ahead.
Disclaimer: Of course, it must be said that Johnny cakes are one of those dishes that won’t just vary from region to region, or island to island, but actually from neighborhood to neighborhood, and even home to home. Therefore, this showdown pits the particular variety of St. Lucian Johnny cakes and Jamaican Johnny cakes that I came across.
St. Lucia Johnnycakes
A Johnnycake in St. Lucia is a flattened piece of bread, fried to a golden-brown. When made to perfection, you’ll get a crisp, crunchy exterior, with a soft, chewy interior, and a touch of sweetness.
(I’ve also made these at home, using this great recipe which actually tabs their Johnnycakes as hailing from St. Croix, about 350 miles northwest of St. Lucia. Nevertheless, they appear to be largely an exact match. The trick here is both in the kneading, as well as the crafting the perfect thickness of the johnnycake you mold before frying.)
They seem more lightly fried, and could also be baked. Softer on the outside, they’re also chewier on the inside. Flavor-wise, they’re sweeter, and don’t let the small size fool you, these bad boys are quite dense.
(Try serving your Jamaica Johnnycakes with Jamaica’s National Dish: Ackee & Saltfish.)
St. Lucia vs. Jamaica
So which version takes the cake? (Sorry, I guess had to do that). Drumroll please…
My vote goes to the St. Lucian Johnnycake.
It’s more versatile — slice it in half and use it as a sandwich roll, top it with savory accompaniments or sweet spreads, or bite right into it and eat it up on its own. Fantastic combination of crunch with a soft interior. Filling, but won’t weigh you down.
Feel free to form your own opinions, or chime in with the favorite Johnny cake you’ve ever had and where it originated.