Todd Richards’ Hoecakes

published Feb 1, 2022
Todd Richards' Hoecake Recipe

While cornbread is soft and velvety, hoecakes are a crunchier cousin with all the tender goodness on the inside.

Serves8

Prep5 minutes

Cook30 minutes to 35 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Hoecakes
Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

In chef Todd Richards’ gorgeous cookbook, Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes, entire chapters are organized around specific ingredients, over half of which are plants. Among Collards, Roots, Tomatoes, and Stone Fruits, Richards also dedicates a chapter to Corn, contextualizing this important crop in terms of its American origins, widespread cultivation throughout the African continent as far back as the 1500s, and its central role in the cuisine of the southern United States.

In the Corn chapter, cornbreads are key to the ensemble. Popped corn plays a recurring role, too, adding its uniquely light, chewy crunch as it deepens the flavor of multiple dishes — including these delicious hoecakes. Described by Richards as the “crunchier cousin” to cornbread, this recipe offers toothsome texture and pure comfort — even more so when the tender cakes are generously buttered and drizzled with maple syrup. The touch of cayenne plays beautifully off the sweetness of corn and syrup, but also hints at savory preparations. Fry them up coin size as a crouton for soup or salad, or go a bit larger to create a vibrant golden base for canapés.

Hoecakes derive their name from a history of resiliency. Enslaved Africans and African Americans deprived of proper cooking utensils repurposed the agricultural tools used to weed and till fields by spreading batter onto the thin metal blade of the hoe to cook the cakes over smoldering embers. 

Then as now, there’s also a communal element to hoecakes: it’s food we prepare in batches. You’re unlikely to make just one, or even two or three. This is food made for gathering and sharing. The way the oily sweetness of these lightly fried treats perfumes your home as one batch turns into the next — with the first few having not quite settled into themselves and later ones disappearing off the stack as the impatient eaters get hungrier and hungrier — lets you know its time to slow down, linger, and savor the moment.

Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

In our family, pancakes aren’t quite right without perfectly crispy edges, like Nana’s, and though they are made with cornmeal, these hoecakes still leave ample room to achieve those delicious edges. You just tilt the pan, cresting the oil over the cake’s edge for that sizzle that signifies maximum crunch. Whether you’re the one at the stove or waiting table-side until the meal is served, these hoecakes are at home amidst laughter and conversation with those who bring you the most joy. 

As a note, this recipe contains buttermilk and is therefore plant-based but not vegan. That being said, souring your preferred plant-based milk with lemon or apple cider vinegar is an excellent option to keep these hoecakes fit for all. Vegetables and grains shine brilliantly throughout Soul — including in many recipes with meat and dairy elements. This is a cookbook perfect for omnivores who celebrate their veggies, or vegetarians who take a flexible approach to modification. Wherever you fall along the spectrum, grab your favorite cast iron pan, gather some loved ones, and enjoy!

Tester’s Notes

I was so excited when I saw that these hoecakes included popped popcorn! What a fun addition to a classic dish, and they added such a wonderful textural component. There are so many layers in these hoecakes from a flavor perspective. You get a hint of heat from the cayenne pepper and then there’s a sweet nuttiness from the nutmeg. My favorite part, however, is the crispy, crunchy exterior. Drizzled with a bit (or a lot) of syrup, these hoecakes are pretty perfect.

—Nicole, January 2022

Todd Richards' Hoecake Recipe

While cornbread is soft and velvety, hoecakes are a crunchier cousin with all the tender goodness on the inside.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes to 35 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cups

    (about 8 1/2 ounces) plain yellow cornmeal

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper

  • 1 1/2 cups

    (12 ounces) whole buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup

    (4 ounces) water

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 tablespoon

    popcorn kernels, popped

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 1 ounce

    (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

  • Maple syrup (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine the cornmeal, baking soda, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, 1/2 cup water, and salt, and stir until combined. Let stand 5 minutes.

  2. Fold the popped corn kernels into the cornmeal mixture, and let stand 5 minutes.

  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium. Spoon the batter by 2 tablespoonfuls into the hot oil, and fry, in batches, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

  4. Top the hoecakes with butter, and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Soul: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards