Sweet Cornbread

Incredibly moist, tender Sweet Cornbread with just the right amount of sweetness makes the perfect easy side or warm breakfast.  You will fall in love at first slice and won’t be able to stop!

drizzling Sweet Cornbread with honey on a white plate

Sweet Cornbread recipe

Or at least I couldn’t. I think I devoured at least 3, maybe 5 slices of warm, sweet cornbread before I plated them for pictures.  So, if you have been on the hunt for the perfect homemade cornbread that’s 1000X better than jiffy infused with butter, buttermilk, sugar and a hint of vanilla, this is it.

This Sweet Cornbread recipe comes from a family cookbook that is the “best of the best,” specifically from the exquisite Wendy Bagley and it is the best cornbread recipe I have ever tried.   My mother-in-law gushed about this recipe a couple times and told me I needed to make it and said it tasted like “cake.”  I’m just sorry I didn’t make it sooner!

And so is everyone else.  After I gave some Sweet Cornbread to a friend, she texted me that it was the “best cornbread…and [she] needed the recipe!”  In fact, I make this cornbread recipe more than ANY other recipe to take to potlucks because I always have the ingredients on hand and because EVERYONE loves it!

WHERE DOES CORNBREAD COME FROM?

While Sweet Cornbread is a staple in our home, it is easy to assume it has always been around.  But who do we have to thank for this tender, nutty invention?

The Southern version of cornbread originated with the Native Americans. Native Americans had been using ground corn (maize) for food thousands of years in corn tortillas and tamales, well before European explorers even knew about the New World.

European settlers, especially those who resided in the English Southern Colonies, learned the original recipes and processes for corn dishes from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek Indians.

Today, there are thousands of variations of cornbread – but my favorite is still this Sweet Cornbread recipe!

SWEET CORNBREAD INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS 

This Sweet Cornbread uses pantry friendly ingredients so you can make it any time – all the time!  You will  need:

  • Butter: Butter is one of the main flavors in this cornbread recipe – please do NOT substitute it with oil or you will be missing out on some serious flavor. Use unsalted butter so we can control the salt in the recipe.
  • Cornmeal: Cornmeal is the star of this Sweet Cornbread recipe.  Any cornmeal you pick up at your grocery store is fine -just take care it says cornmeal and not corn flour (more info on cornmeal below).  I use equal parts cornmeal and flour to make the BEST cornbread.  With 2 whole cups of cornmeal, you get lots of corn flavor and wonderfully crunchy edges.
  • Sugar: I prefer granulated sugar as it enhances the pure flavor of the cornmeal.  You may substitute a little brown sugar for the granulated sugar for a touch of molasses flavor but it will dilute the corn flavor.
  • Flour: Flour is necessary to use in combination with cornmeal because the gluten in the flour holds it together.   I use all purpose flour, but I’m sure gluten free 1 to 1 baking flour would also work.  I do not recommend cake flour or self-rising flour or you will need to change the baking powder/baking soda, etc.
  • Eggs: Eggs are the glue that binds cornbread ingredients together and provide the structure.
  • Buttermilk: Buttermilk makes cornbread, cakes, muffins, and breads extra moist as the lactic acid reacts with the baking soda to leaven the cake and yield a tender crumb.  If you do not have any on hand – don’t worry, I rarely do!  You can make DIY buttermilk or sour milk for this recipe by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring glass. Add enough milk (not nonfat) to equal 2 cups.  Give it a stir and let sit 5-10 minutes in order to activate and slightly curdle.
  • Vanilla:  Use pure vanilla extract for best results.  Like salt, vanilla enhances the flavor and is a beautiful compliment to the nutty cornmeal.
  • Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Are an acidic leavening agent and a base leavening agent.  They work together to create wonderfully thick, soft cornbread.  Take care both your baking powder and baking soda are fresh, (throw out after 6-12 months) so they work!
  • Salt: Salt adds flavors and cuts threw the sweetness.  You want to use good old table salt.

slices of sweet cornbread stacked on top of each other on a teal plate

WHAT IS CORNMEAL?

If you are not familiar with homemade cornbread, you might be confused at the store when confronted with corn flour, grits, corn starch, cornmeal and other seemingly similar varieties.  Well let me spell it out for you below because they are not interchangeable.  You need CORNMEAL for this Sweet Cornbread Recipe:

  • Cornmeal:  is dried corn that is ground to a coarse texture. It has a strong, nutty corn flavor and can be white or yellow.  It can be made into a mush like grits or used in baking like this Sweet Cornbread recipe!  It is also the secret ingredient in my homemade pizza dough recipe and prevents the crust from sticking to the pan.
  • Corn flour: is also dried ground corn meal with a nutty, corn flour but it is finely ground instead of coarsely ground.  You should not use cornflour and cornmeal interchangeably because part of the characteristic charm of cornbread is the texture which will be lost if you use corn flour.
  • Cornstarch: is made from the endosperm and not corn, has very little flavor, is usually very white and finely ground into a powder.  It is 2-3  times better at thickening than flour is.
  • Grits: are southern dish using ground hominy (or corn).  Grits are usually a bigger grind than cornmeal. You can use grits for cornmeal in some applications, just know grits with be coarser, or you can run grits through a food processor.
  • Polenta: is was the Italians came up with instead of grits.  Polenta is a food dish made from yellow corn, whereas cornmeal is an ingredient.  Polenta is ground more coarsely than grits.

How Sweet is Sweet Cornbread?

The original buttermilk Sweet Cornbread recipe is just as sweet as cake and positively delish but I prefer my cornbread to remind me of cake instead of taste like cake, so I usually cut the sugar by ¼ cup and use 1 ¼ cups sugar.  That being said, this is YOUR Sweet Cornbread recipe, so use as little or as much sugar as you would like.

Here is the breakdown:

  • 1 cup sugar = sweet
  • 1 ¼ cups = definitely sweet
  • 1 ½ cups = cake-like sweet

No matter how much sugar you add, this sweet, moist, tender, springy Sweet Cornbread belongs on your table, in your mouth and will earn a place in your heart.  We all thank you Wendy!

a hand picking up a slice of Sweet Cornbread stacked on a plate

ADDITIONAL ADD-INS AND VARIATIONS FOR CORNBREAD

This Sweet Cornbread recipe is a great template for any type of cornbread recipe you would like to make.  Simply reduce the sugar then choose your add-ins:

  • 1 cup shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Gruyere)
  • 1-2 finely chopped jalapenos for heat, or green chilies.
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries and/or walnuts
  • 1 cup blueberries for a savory & sweet treat (like in my cornbread muffins – AMAZING!)
  • 4 strips of crumbled bacon or about ½ cup
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary + sprinkle of crushed red pepper
  • the number one add in is corn!  You can add fresh, frozen or canned corn.  You can roast it with some peppers and onions as well for a smoky version.  I recommend 2/3 cup corn.  Or just one can if that is what you are using.

Fun alternatives for topping your cornbread, try a unique honey flavor.  I love to add lemon or orange peel to honey and spread on top my cornbread.  You can add lavender or clover as well!

How to make Sweet Cornbread

You are going to LOVE how easy this sweet cornbread recipe is! All you need are two bowls and a whisk.  Here’s how:

  • Whisk wet ingredients together:  whisk together melted butter and sugar in a large bowl until combined. Add eggs and mix just until combined. Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir until combined.
  • Whisk dry ingredients together:  in a separate medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Combine:  pour dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture and fold together then stir just until flour is all moistened (the batter will still be lumpy).
  • Bake:  pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
  • Store: store in an airtight container and reheat individual servings for 15 seconds or so (with or without a slab of butter!) Super good drizzled with honey!

HOW TO MAKE SKILLET Sweet CORNBREAD

If you crave a crunchy crust then skillet Sweet Cornbread might be your solution!  Pouring the cornbread batter into a hot skillet helps develop the cornbread’s crust. It sears the edges, sweetening the delicious crust and sealing in the center’s softness.

To make skillet cornbread, use a 12 inch skillet for this recipe.  Warm up the skillet and a add butter to melt.  Once butter has melted, swirl it around and grease the sides of the skillet.  Add batter and cook for the same amount of time.  Keep an eye on it as cooking times vary!

Why Is My Cornbread Crumbly?

Cornbread is supposed to be a little crumbly due to the cornmeal but it should not be falling-apart crumbly, just – edges crumbly.  I have never had a problem with crumbly cornbread with this Sweet Cornbread recipe – only uber most, soft cornbread.

The correct ratio of flour, cornmeal, eggs and fat yield the perfect cornbread.  If you find your cornbread is still crumbly, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Don’t overmix:  Overmixing develops the gluten and can cause dry, tough, brittle cornbread.
  • Don’t overcook the bread. Check cornbread for doneness at the lower end of the cook time.  Over-baked cornbread will also be dry and crumbly.

Sweet Cornbread recipe stacked on a plate

What does Cornbread Go With?

This Sweet Cornbread goes with everything!  I serve it alongside: Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs, and/or Nashville Hot ChickenBarbecue Pulled Pork, Barbecue Chicken Kebabs, Oven Fried Chicken, Brown Sugar Glazed Ham.with some Baked Beans with Brown Sugar and Bacon, Kicked Up Potato Salad and Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese on the side. Drooling.

Can I Make Cornbread into Muffins?

Absolutely!  This Sweet Cornbread recipe will make approximately 2 dozen cornbread muffins.  To make, follow instructions for the cornbread recipe then pour batter into two 12-count greased muffin tins.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

How do I store Leftover Sweet Cornbread?

This Sweet Cornbread is so moist, the leftovers stay perfectly moist for breakfast, just waiting to be topped with a slab of butter and drizzled with honey. Seriously, amazing.

For best results, wrap your cooled 9×13 a couple times in plastic wrap or transfer cornbread to an airtight container.  Store at room temperature for up to three days or refrigerate for up to one week.

Can You freeze Cornbread?

Definitely!  Frozen Sweet Cornbread keeps very well and makes a wonderful thaw and eat side or snack!

To freeze whole:  Cool cornbread completely.  Wrap freezer safe pan tightly in plastic wrap two times followed by foil.

To freeze pieces:  Cool cornbread completely.  Cut into squares or pie wedges and place pieces in a freezer size bag with parchment paper in between each slice.

Cornbread can be frozen for 3 to 4 months.  Defrost cornbread by letting it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so.  There is no need to thaw it in the refrigerator.

To warm up Sweet Cornbread, wrap it in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.  Alternately, you can warm individual pieces in the microwave by wrapping in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 to 60 seconds.

a fork slicing into Sweet Cornbread recipe smothered in honey

IS CORNBREAD HEALTHY?

Cornmeal, the basic ingredient of cornbread, is a whole grain. Whole-grain foods contain the bran as well as the germ and endosperm of the fruited grain — and all of the nutrients they contain.  A 1-oz. serving of cornbread contains 1.8 g of fiber as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, folates and vitamins A, B-6 and B-12.

Cornbread also contains all 10 of the essential amino acids, building blocks for proteins that control growth, cellular processes and organ function.  I could go on, but you can see already the benefits of cornbread!

Prepared cornbread mixes may also contain extra sodium, sugars and animal fats so making cornbread from scratch is a healthier option than most packaged options in the store.

You can make cornbread healthier by reducing the amount of sugar and not slathering it in copious amounts of honey and butter.  You can also  use organic cornmeal and swap some of the butter for yogurt, avocado, applesauce, etc, (you will need to research – the substitutions area not 1 to 1).  You will lose a lot of buttery flavor, however, with any of these substitutions, so my vote is to make the recipe as Wendy intended.   And love every second of it.

up close of a slice of Sweet Cornbread with a bite out of it on a white plate

Want to try this Sweet Cornbread?

Pin it to your SIDE, BREAD, or POTLUCK Board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

This Sweet Cornbread is AMAZING! Super moist and tender with just the right amount of sweetness. Everyone always asks me for this recipe because its the best out there!

Sweet Cornbread

Incredibly moist, tender Sweet Cornbread with just the right amount of sweetness makes the perfect easy side or warm breakfast.  You will fall in love at first slice and won't be able to stop!
Servings: 15
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs and mix just until combined. Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir until combined.
  • In a separate medium bowl, whisk together all of the Dry Ingredients. Pour dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture and fold together then stir just until flour is all moistened (the batter will still be lumpy).
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
  • Store in an airtight container and reheat individual servings for 15 seconds or so (with or without a slab of butter!) Super good drizzled with honey!

Notes

1 cup sugar for "sweet," 1 ¼ cups for "definitely sweet" and 1 ½ cups for "cake-like sweet."

VARIATIONS FOR CORNBREAD

This Sweet Cornbread recipe is a great template for any type of cornbread recipe you would like to make.  Simply reduce the sugar then choose your add-ins:
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Gruyere)
  • 1-2 finely chopped jalapenos for heat, or green chilies.
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries and/or walnuts
  • 1 cup blueberries for a savory & sweet treat (like in my cornbread muffins - AMAZING!)
  • 4 strips of crumbled bacon or about ½ cup
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary + sprinkle of crushed red pepper
  • the number one add in is corn!  You can add fresh, frozen or canned corn.  You can roast it with some peppers and onions as well for a smoky version.  I recommend 2/3 cup corn.  Or just one can if that is what you are using.
Fun alternatives for topping your cornbread, try a unique honey flavor.  I love to add lemon or orange peel to honey and spread on top my cornbread.  You can add lavender or clover as well!

Strorage

This Sweet Cornbread is so moist, the leftovers stay perfectly moist for breakfast, just waiting to be topped with a slab of butter and drizzled with honey. Seriously, amazing.
For best results, wrap your cooled 9x13 a couple times in plastic wrap or transfer cornbread to an airtight container.  Store at room temperature for up to three days or refrigerate for up to one week.

How to freeze Cornbread

To freeze whole:  Cool cornbread completely.  Wrap freezer safe pan tightly in plastic wrap two times followed by foil.
To freeze pieces:  Cool cornbread completely.  Cut into squares or pie wedges and place pieces in a freezer size bag with parchment paper in between each slice.
Cornbread can be frozen for 3 to 4 months.  Defrost cornbread by letting it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes or so.  There is no need to thaw it in the refrigerator.
To warm up Sweet Cornbread, wrap it in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.  Alternately, you can warm individual pieces in the microwave by wrapping in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 to 60 seconds.
 

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54 Comments

  1. Deena Walters says

    Hi! So I had a quick question- I can only seem to find medium or coarse cornmeal, or cornmeal flour.. Any idea if there needs to be adjustments for the medium? Super excited to make this!

    • Jen says

      Hi Deena, medium should still work great! I hope you love it!

  2. Lynn Kelley says

    SUPER GOOD!!! Everybody loved it! Making it again for my family chili dinner night. Good thing it makes a big pan. So glad I found this recipe and gave it a try!

    • Jen says

      Awesome Lynn! I’m so happy you found it too and loved it! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. royal says

    I made this and it is a winner. I made the less sweet version and I think it is more than sweet enough.

    I didn’t have a big enough pan and overfilled the first one. The plus.. to avoid overbaking I pulled it out a little early and ended up with a slightly wet center pieces when it cut. People were looking for those super moist pieces. I find a lot of desserts should be underbaked just slightly. Let it finish the last few minutes out of the oven–much like when we cook meats. Cookies, bread, muffins and cakes are moist and they taste better.

    There is a theory that when you can smell it cooking, you should consider taking it out of the oven. So much of taste is smell and when the food is releasing smells, it is releasing flavors. Just think of baked garlic. That sharp garlic flavor fills the house when you bake garlic until it stops and then you are left with this very different, mild butty delicious spread. I’ve started paying attention to when I can smell a dessert in the oven to consider taking it out.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your comment Royal, I’m so pleased this cornbread is a winner! I looove the moist pieces as well, yum! Thank you especially for your tip on considering taking a dessert out when you can smell ilt – I’ll definitely start to check my desserts sooner and I’m sure they will be more moist!

  4. Lisa Smith says

    We went to my mom’s for chili tonight. I have had it with my old stand by for cornbread- Jiffy. i made your cornbread and it was SO GOOD!!!! I made it with the full 1 1/2 cups of sugar and we did not find it too sweet. It is so good, I’m sure it would be fine with less for those looking to cut out some sugar. Only thing I had to change was bake time…about 43 min. Must be my oven!

    Thank you so very much for your blog and for sharing your wonderful recipes! You make me feel like an excellent cook! I have made your sheet pan pesto chicken and potatoes, barbacoa beef, chicken for tacos….and now this delicious cornbread! I have so many of your recipes pinned and can’t wait to try more. I live and teach in a town next to yours and think it’s so neat that you’re local. I find your story so inspiring and wish you continued health and happiness. 🙂

    • Jen says

      Hi neighbor, what a small world! I LOVE hearing you are enjoying my recipes so much and that this cornbread was another winner, thank you! It is my “go to” whenever I’m bringing something because its so good and goes with everything! I’m glad you liked the full 1 1/2 cups sugar – that’s how I prefer it too because then you don’t even need to hassle with honey if you don’t want to. More importantly, thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and for the well wishes. May God bless ou and yours! xo

  5. Linda says

    My cornbread keeps caving in at the center and is less cooked there. What do you think the problem is? This time I used two 8×8 pans instead of the 9×13 thinking that might fix it, but they both caved in the middle too. However, the cornbread is delicious!

    • Jen says

      Hi Linda, sorry about that! Baked goods can cave in the middle if they’re under baked. Try baking until the center is fully cooked. Good luck!

  6. Angelique bea says

    Hi! My hubby volunteered to go to the store for me and instead of cornmeal he brought home self rising corn meal mix. Any suggestions on how I can use this?

    • Jen says

      Hi Angelique, it sounds like a self rising corn meal mix is a recipe in itself – not sure how to convert that to this recipe without experimenting, sorry!

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