Clam cakes hail from Rhode Island but have extended their reach to become a favorite across all of New England. Think briny fried clams plus beer batter, with just a touch of sweet hush puppy, and you’ve got a clam cake on your hands! Clam cake batter is most often made with milk, but we’ve opted for sparkling water in our version to add extra lift and body to the clam cakes. Any other carbonated beverage (hint hint: beer!) would work just as well too.
The Importance of Oil Temperature When Cooking Clam Cakes
Keeping the temperature of your frying oil consistent is vital to the success of your clam cakes! Therefore, we recommend that you use a candy thermometer (one that clips to the edge of your pot for continuous measure), or an instant read thermometer to keep tabs on your oil. The oil will quickly lose heat when you first drop your batter in, so it’s most important to keep an eye on the temperature at this point. Clam cakes that fry in oil that is too low in temperature will soak it up, resulting in extra greasy fritters, whereas too-hot oil will burn the outside of the clam cakes before the insides can cook. Just keep adjusting the temperature of the burner until you get a feel for the rhythm of the oil, and you’ll be a clam cake frying expert in no time!
For the Clam Cakes:
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup cooked chopped clams
- ½ cup sparkling water
- neutral oil, for frying (such as canola, vegetable, or peanut)
For Serving (optional):
- lemon wedges
- malt vinegar
- tartar sauce
- hot sauce
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk, and chopped clams. Add the clam mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Add the sparkling water and stir very gently until just mixed. Note: if the batter is too runny to hold its shape when scooped, stir in a sprinkle of flour until the right consistency is achieved.
- In a medium saucepan or small pot over medium-high heat, bring 1 ½ - 2 inches of neutral oil to 350℉. Use a tablespoon to scoop and drop the batter into the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry for 4-6 minutes, turning frequently with tongs or a spatula to ensure that the clam cakes are cooking evenly on all sides.
- Once the clam cakes are uniformly golden-brown, remove them from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges, malt vinegar, tartar sauce, and/or hot sauce!