Batter Bread – Historical Context

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Batter Bread, a chiefly southern staple, is known by many different aliases for many different reasons. One of its more popular names, johnnycake, is thought to have evolved from “journey cake” which the hearty bread was aptly named due to its durability and serviceability on long journeys.

Original batter bread recipe from The Virginia Housewife

Original batter bread recipe from The Virginia Housewife

No matter which name is used, they all describe the same basic staple of American food culture: corn-based bread. Corn-based breads evolved out of necessity rather than curiosity. In America, corn was more plentiful and easy to come by then the more European staple of flour made from wheat. Therefore, early American settlers consumed more variations on corn-based breads then they would have in Europe.

Each region of the country had their own variation of corn-based bread, which explains the wide variety of colloquial names for a largely similar food item. However, most recipes agree that corn-based breads are by definition composed of more corn or cornmeal than flour, and traditionally baked on stones on a hearth, sometimes in iron pans, as is the preferred cooking method is The Virginia Housewife.


  • American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

  • The Food Timeline. Ed. Lynne Oilver. N.p., 2000. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. <>.

View recipe
View Historical Context on The Virginia Housewife