This recipe is based on one given to us by Helen Nixon, an Arkansas native and the owner of Helen's Restaurant, on Chicago's South Side. Nixon learned how to cook these cakes from her mother, who, when it was too hot to turn on the oven, would make her corn bread batter as she did flapjacks, using a cast-iron skillet. Slather the cakes generously with butter while they're still warm.
- 1 1⁄2 cups flour
- 1 1⁄2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
- 3 Tbsp. baking powder
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1⁄2 cup canola oil
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 8 Tbsp. butter, plus more for spreading
Put the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set the flour mixture aside. Put the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and 1⁄2 cup warm water into a second large bowl and whisk together. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. (Overmixing can produce tough corn cakes.)
Working in small batches, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a large seasoned cast-iron skillet or on a large griddle over medium-high heat. Pour about 1⁄4 cup batter onto the griddle to form two or three 3"-wide circles, keeping them spaced about 2" apart. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the finished cakes to a plate and cover them with a kitchen towel to keep them warm. Serve warm, with plenty of butter.