Hoe Cakes & Honey

This recipe for hoecakes is adapted courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The first president was a fan of these cornmeal pancakes and often had them for breakfast generously drizzled with honey—of which he was particularly fond. Washington’s affinity for the stuff was so well known that during the time of the first presidency, so many well-wishers left local honey at Washington’s Philadelphia door, that there was always a surplus.  

We call for baking spray or safflower oil to fry the hoecakes. You may use any flavorless oil that you like as long as it has a high scorch point, including lard or shortening. 


  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast 
  • 2 1/2 cups white or yellow cornmeal, divided 
  • 3 to 4 cups lukewarm water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • Safflower oil or baking spray as needed 
  • Melted butter for drizzling  
  • Honey or maple syrup for serving 


Mix the yeast and 1 1/4 cups of the cornmeal in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the lukewarm water, stirring to combine thoroughly. Mix in 1/2 cup more of the water, if needed, to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
  1. Make the hoecakes: Stir 1/2 to 1 cup of the remaining water to the batter. Stir in the salt and the egg, blending thoroughly. Gradually add the remaining 1 1/4 cups of cornmeal, alternating with enough additional lukewarm water to make a mixture that is the consistency of waffle batter (similar to cake batter). Cover with a towel, and set aside at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. 
  1. Heat a griddle or large, wide skillet on medium-high heat, and brush 2 teaspoons of safflower oil. Alternatively, you may spray the griddle with baking spray. Drop a scant 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook on one side for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Repeat but do not crowd the griddle or pan. Make sure there is at least 2 inches between each hoecake.  
  1. With a spatula, turn the hoecakes over and continue cooking another 4 to 5 minutes, until browned.
  1. Place the hoecakes on an oven-proof platter, and set it in the preheated oven to keep warm while making the rest of the batch. Drizzle each batch with melted butter.
  1. Serve the hoecakes warm, drizzled with honey or maple syrup.