Here is an easy summer recipe when you’ve had your fill of corn on the cob simply flavored with butter, salt, and maybe some pepper. You may also have an abundance of other summer veggies: zucchini, red bell peppers, or green beans. Corn cakes lend themselves to all sorts of additions. If I am out of fresh herbs, the green tops of scallions are the perfect stand-in, though basil, cilantro, parsley, or dill are a vibrant herbal boost. I like to fold in mozzarella cheese for some added richness, but that is certainly optional. Once these treats were out of the frying pan, it was hard to wait for dinner. However, these sweet corn cakes would make a satisfying breakfast as well.
I was inspired by the great David Lebovitz's fresh corn cake post and he uses corn flour for his binder. This is not cornstarch, nor it is cornmeal, and certainly something to try if you have this flour on hand. I played around until I found my favorite binder for these corn cakes. While you can certainly use regular all-purpose flour, chickpea (besan) flour works well because it has good binding properties given its high protein content. Besides, it is gluten-free, which is always a plus in my book. An optional step is to toast the chickpea flour in a dry skillet until it turns a couple of shades darker, which adds an additional depth of flavor.
Cheesy ideas & size matters
Cheese also helps bind the cakes, so if you avoid eggs, increase the chickpea flour 3 to 4 tablespoons, the liquid by the same amount, and make sure to add cheese to help hold everything together. I typically use shredded mozzarella, but parmesan is a great way to add crispness to your corn cakes. And the choices are many so certainly use your favorite cheese.
Another tip is to divide the batter into six or more corn cakes so that they aren’t too large and unwieldy when it comes time to flip them. A solid two tablespoons of batter that spreads about 3-inches is a perfect size. Please note that you do not want a stodgy, doughy batter so less is more when it comes to the binder you choose.
Not just for summer, corn cakes work well with frozen corn, though they won’t be quite as crispy because of the additional moisture. However, if using frozen corn, defrost it before using in this recipe. And you may not need quite as much binder because of the changes in cell structure due to the freezing process. In the Notes section, I give you ideas for various binders, spices, herbs, liquids to use, and other vegetables to add. I hope you have fun playing with your food!
See the Notes below before you cook.
Sweet Corn Cakes
- 3 tablespoons chickpea flour ~ Also called besan
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or substitutions
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika ~ Optional
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne ~ Optional, see ideas in the Notes below
- 1 egg ~ Lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon garlic ~ Grated, puréed, or finely minced
- 3 to 5 tablespoons milk ~ See alternatives in the Notes below
- 1 cup corn ~ Fresh or frozen
- zest of 1 lime ~ Optional
- 1/2 cup cheese ~ Optional, shredded, see Notes below
- 2 tablespoons scallion greens ~ Minced, and/or fresh herbs, see Notes
- 3 tablespoons ghee ~ Or oil of your choice
Make the Batter
- Gather your ingredients. If you want to keep the corn cakes warm until serving, turn your oven on to 300°F (150°C) and place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
- In a medium bowl, mix together all the batter ingredients EXCEPT the egg, garlic, and milk. Add the egg, if using (see Notes below if not using an egg), the garlic, and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix thoroughly and add more milk in one tablespoon increments until you have a thin, smooth pancake-like batter. Be careful not to overmix if using wheat flour. Heat oil in a large skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the rest of your ingredients and mix together. Test a bit of corn and when it sizzles nicely, turn the heat down to medium and add about 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet for each corn cake. Shoot for 3-inches or less or they become difficult to turn over. If you care how round they are, using a spatula, nudge the edges of the cake into a rounder shape. Cook until they are golden brown on the first side; about 3 minutes.
- Turn over and cook another 2 minutes, or until beautifully crisp and golden. If you are keeping them warm, place on the wire rack, and tuck into the oven. Cook the rest of the corn cakes, adding a little more oil if needed.
- SERVING NOTES: Serve with raita, sour cream, or your favorite chutney and a summer salad like my cucumber salad or a coconut cabbage salad. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or wrapped tightly in the freezer for 2 months. When you have perfected your favorite corn cakes, make a big batch and freeze some for another meal or snacks.
- No eggs: If you don’t want to use eggs, substitute 2 to 4 tablespoons additional chickpea flour and more water to get a thin batter consistency.
- Keep warm: Corn cakes are tasty at room temperature, but if you are wanting to keep them hot until serving time, turn your oven to 300°F (150°C), set up a wire rack on a baking sheet, and pop your corn cakes into the oven as they are made.
- Optional step: If using chickpea flour, add a nutty aroma by toasting it in a dry skillet over low heat. Stir the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it turns a couple of shades darker and it smells toasty.
- No garlic: If you don’t use garlic, simply leave it out.
- Binder: all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, gluten-free flour, corn flour (not cornmeal but cornstarch may work). NOTE: If you are using cornstarch, don’t use all cornstarch or your corn cakes will be doughy. Half flour and half cornstarch would be the best move here. Or, take cornmeal and give it a good whiz in the blender to make a finer powder.
- Cheese: cheddar, Colby, feta, Monterey Jack, and paneer
- Chili ideas: use 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili, finely chopped green chilies, use your favorite hot sauce, or chili flakes.
- Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley
- Liquid: cream, coconut milk, half and half, or water
- Spices: 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- bell pepper: red and green and roasted or raw
- cabbage: finely chopped
- carrots: finely grated
- green beans: finely chopped
- mushrooms: chop and cook until the moisture is released before adding
- zucchini: grate and salt with a big pinch of salt for 10 minutes to remove extra moisture