Attucks Cake with Revolutionary Roots

crispus-attucks-cornbreadWhen British troops opened fire into a crowd of patriotic protesters at the Customs House in Boston on March 5, 1770, five men were killed. The so-called Boston Massacre became part of the lead-up to the colonies in America declaring independence from Britain in 1776. Crispus Attucks, one of the men killed in the Massacre, has a recipe named after him in The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro by the National Council of Negro Women (1958; reprinted by Beacon Press, 2000). The book celebrates African-American history with a year’s worth of recipes.


Five men were killed at the 1770 Boston Massacre.

Attucks, believed to be the son of an African man and a Native
American woman from the Natick tribe near Boston, was likely born into slavery in Massachusetts and freed himself by running away. He became a seaman on ships sailing in and out of Boston, and happened to be in town on the day of the Boston Massacre. To honor his martyrdom, March 5 was named Crispus Attucks Day in 1858 and an Attucks monument stands on the Boston Common. The Johnny Cake recipe in the book comes from the Indianapolis Council of the National Council of Negro Women; a high school in Indianapolis is named after Attucks. The corn meal in the recipe links to his Native American and New England heritage. The baking soda / vinegar combination assures a light texture.


Crispus Attucks

To Crispus Attucks Johnny Cake (1958)
Makes 16 squares

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups corn meal
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar [I used mostly lemon juice and little rice vinegar]
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted shortening [I used butter]

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the corn meal and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, vinegar, milk and shortening.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir just until dampened.
  5. Turn the batter into the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden and the batter springs back lightly when pressed. Cut into squares when cool.

About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers. Somehow I ended up with a cooking gene that I brought with me from Richmond, Virginia to my current home in Boston, Massachusetts. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir and a novel. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and other American recipes with a past.
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