Samp Cakes

Jonathan Townsend

Posted on October 27 2016

Samp Cakes

Samp cakes have been a staple for Natives and Settlers for as long as corn has been around. This recipe has been found all over the Americas in different forms but it is foundationally the same recipe.

  • Cornmeal
  • Water
  • Dried Raspberries (optional)


Mix your cornmeal with just enough water to make a thick paste. Add in dried raspberries or other dried fruit to taste.

You can cook these in two ways. The first is to wrap it securely in green leaves and place on the hot ashes of your fire for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. When your cake is firm it is done. The second is to bring a pot of water to a heavy rolling boil.


Roll your cakes into a ball about the size of a golf ball and drop them into the pot. When your cake first goes in it will drop to the bottom, when it is ready to eat, it will float to the top.

These cakes taste nice dipped in maple syrup or as a side dish to any meal.

Transcript of Video:

Today, again I’m here at Connor Prairie, a premier living history site here in Fishers Indiana and we’ve got another great recipe for you. Thanks for joining us today on 18th Century Cooking.

[Jon] I’m here today at Connor Prairie. It’s a little rainy. Hopefully you can hear me well. I’m with Duncan McKinnon and he’s going to show us about samp cakes. So, tell me a little bit about exactly what these samp cakes are.

[Duncan] Well, it’s pretty simple, it’s nothing more than just cornmeal and water, but you mix it very heavy. It has to hold together because your going to do it in boiling water and the water has to be to a real boil.

[Jon] So how long has this kind of food, these cakes, how long have they been made?

[Duncan] Probably as long as the Native People have had corn.

[Jon] Okay.

[Duncan] It’s prevalent amongst all the tribes, East coast, here in the middle grounds, I’ve seen it in all my travels. I learned to do it from the Delaware. And the Delaware have their way of doing it and the other tribes have their way, but they’re all basically the same. It’s hard to say.

[Jon] So people have been doing it for a long time.

[Duncan] A long time.

[Jon] Well, let’s get started. What exactly do we need?

[Duncan] Alright, well we need cornmeal and we need the water, and I think what we might do first is do an ash cake while we’re waiting on our water to get a good rolling boil.

[Jon] Right.

[Duncan] So we’ll start with that.

[Jon] We’re adding dried red raspberries to this mixture to give these some flavor.

[Duncan] Alright, now what I’m going to do is I do them like this. It’s just the way that I do them, I roll them up. Some people would just take them and roll it up and roll the leaf around it, but I like to do mine like this. I mean, whatever you want to do is perfectly fine. Take and just strip me off

[Jon] Wait, that’s too thin.

[Duncan] Yeah, well, there you go.

[Jon] There we go.

[Duncan] Now, we can take that.

[Jon] Do you want another one?

[Duncan] This will be fine.

[Jon] Okay.

[Duncan] I think this will hold it. And we’ll do it like that and then we’ll just tie it in there and then I’m just going to set it on the ash.

[Jon] So, we’ve got the one already going in the ashes here, but there’s another way to cook this, right?

[Duncan] It is, and what you do is just like you would a dumpling and just do it up in a ball similar to a dumpling, make sure that your water has got a really rolling boil.

[Jon] Okay, so it’s got to be boiling water?

[Duncan] It has to be boiling water and when I say boiling I mean rolling boil.

[Jon] and we want something a little bit bigger than a golf ball?

[Duncan] yeah right about like that.

[Jon] Right

[Duncan] And drop that in that water, it’ll go to the bottom and the way to tell when it’s done is that it will float to the top.

[Jon] It’ll rise to the top when it’s done.

[Duncan] Rise to the top when it’s done.

[Jon] Okay so, you’ve got the one on the ashes, but we do want to flip this over right?

[Duncan] Right, you flip it over and give both sides, total time, about 5 minutes. When it’s firm, it’s done, just take it right off and then unwrap it and it’s ready to eat.

[Duncan] You’ll find it to be a little bit dry, but with the berries in there, it gives it more flavor and if you wanted to try a little bit of that maple syrup on it.

[Jon] Yeah. Ah, that makes all the difference. If you didn’t have anything else

[Duncan] You’d be glad you had it.

[Jon] Right. Very similar to ash cakes, you would do with other kinds of flour like wheat flour, but soldiers, I mean this would be all through this time period.

[Duncan] Oh certainly, I mean that was just a staple. I mean, they lived on corn and cornbread.

[Jon] Right, so we’ve got the boiled kind, let’s try this out. Alright

[Duncan] now, like I said, it’s boiled, very much like a dumpling.

[Jon] Okay

[Duncan] You’re going to find it has the consistency of a dumpling.

[Jon] Okay.

[Duncan] It’s not going to be as dry.

[Jon] Okay.

[Duncan] And it has a little sweeter taste.

[Jon] It certainly does. It brings out a whole different set of flavors because it was boiled.

[Duncan] Yup. I think it brings out more of the flavor of the berry into it.

[Jon] Yeah I get some saltiness that I didn’t get out of the dry cooked one and the texture is nice and soft. Would you eat these with other things?

[Duncan] Oh yeah certainly. That would just be a complement to whatever you had

[Jon] Right

[Duncan] A sauce so to speak.

[Jon] A sauce but maybe it’s a meat or other things

[Duncan] that you might have had

[Jon] Right, it’s a side dish maybe.

[Duncan] Oh yeah, It would go good with squirrel.

[Jon] Squirrel, oh I’ll bet. I want to thank Duncan McKinnon so much for showing us exactly how to make these samp cakes and letting me sample them. They’re so unique and interesting. I hope you get a chance to try them out and I hope you get a chance to come to Connor Prairie so you can see this for yourselves. An amazing site. You can check out their website. I’ll put a link down in the description section. It’s make sure to check that out. Thank you so much for coming along with us as we experiment, as we try these flavors and the aromas of the 18th and early 19th century.

I want to give a special thanks to all the folks as Conner Prairie and make sure to check out their website. If you’re new to our channel, I want to welcome you. You can subscribe by clicking the button right up here. Also, check out our related videos. Thanks so much for watching.

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