Johnny cakes with crab and caviar

A beautiful little canapé that combines chef Kerth Gumbs' classical training with something he loved eating whilst growing up in the Caribbean. Johnny cakes (also known as Jonny cakes and Johnnycakes) are like a denser, less sweet doughnut, and here they're topped with a luxurious combination of mayonnaise, crab meat and caviar. Perfect for parties where you want to impress, or you could make the jonny cakes larger and serve them as a starter.

Cooking the crab and extracting the meat yourself will result in the best flavour, but to save time you could use ready-picked white crab meat instead.

Watch Kerth and our other chefs teach you how to cook their favourite dishes as part of our Signature Series video masterclasses here.

First published in 2020




Jonny cakes

  • 250g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g of cornmeal
  • 200ml of water
  • 90g of caster sugar
  • 3.5g of fast-action dried yeast
  • 25g of unsalted butter, softened
  • 10g of Maldon salt
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying



To serve


To make the jonny cakes, pour most of the water in a saucepan and stir the salt into the remaining water to dissolve. Add the yeast and butter to the pan of water and heat gently to warm slightly and activate the yeast
In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cornmeal together. Mix in the sugar and salted water, then use your hands to bring the mixture together in a dough, adding the warm yeasted water to the dough bit by bit. If you have a stand mixer at home, then you can use this too with a dough hook attached
  • 250g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g of cornmeal
  • 90g of caster sugar
Continue mixing the dough until it goes from a wet sticky dough to something elastic and smooth (but still quite slack). You will probably need to add a little more flour as you work
Turn the dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and begin kneading the dough, adding more flour if needed. Once the dough has formed a smooth ball, place it in a floured bowl and leave to rest for 1 hour
After 1 hour, divide the dough into small balls weighing 40g each. Lightly knead the balls once again until they are nice and smooth, then set aside to prove again
Meanwhile, cook the crab. Place the white wine, onion, carrot, thyme, garlic and bay leaf in a large saucepan with a few litres of water and bring to a simmer. Kill the crab if required (ensuring it has been in the freezer for a few hours beforehand to render it insensate), then cook it in the water for 12-15 minutes. Once cooked, drain and transfer to a bowl of iced water to chill
Bring a deep-fat fryer or deep pan of oil to 170°C. Gently lower the jonny cakes into the oil and cook for around 2 minutes, until golden and crisp, then drain on kitchen towel. Repeat with the rest of the cakes until they’re all cooked
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Remove the legs and claws from the crab and set aside. Crack open the carapace, discard the dead man’s fingers and drain and reserve any juices. Pick out the brown crab meat to use for another dish. Save the shell and some legs for presenting the dish (if desired), or reserve to make a stock for another dish. Crack open the claws and extract the white meat, ensuring there is no shell
To make the mayonnaise, blitz the egg yolk, mustard and vinegar together, then slowly drizzle in the oil with the motor running to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice, then transfer to a piping bag
To serve, slice the bottom off each jonny cake and turn it over so the cut side is facing up. Mix the crab meat with the finely chopped chillies and herbs, along with a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Taste for seasoning
Pipe mayonnaise all over the cut side of the jonny cake, then top with a spoonful of the crab meat. Garnish with the fennel blossom, dill, caviar and roe, then serve (on top of the crab shell, if you like!)
First published in 2020

Kerth Gumbs' years of experience in top kitchens and playful, creative approach to fine dining make him one of the capital's most exciting chefs.

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