Gertie’s Crab Cakes

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Gertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore’s Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann’s parish and northeast Baltimore. Her crab cakes are my absolute favorite. I must, however, admit my bias. Gertie was my grandmother, and I grew up on these wonderful spiced morsels of crab. This recipe is in the most traditional style of Bay crab cakes. It uses as lightly spiced mixture of mayonnaise and egg, and is lightly bound together with cracker crumbs.

NotesTo clarify butter, place solid unsalted butter into a heavy-bottomed pot and slowly melt over a low heat. When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat. There will be three distinct parts of the butter remaining: a foam on the top; a clear, golden-colored liquid in the center; and a milky liquid on the bottom. The trick is to separate the golden liquid from the foam and milky solids.

First, skim off the foamy topping and discard. Next, with a small ladle, carefully remove the golden liquid to a clean, dry container, being careful not to take up any of the milky solids from the bottom. The clear, golden butter is clarified butter and is excellent for most sautéing needs.


Cooking Methodbroiling, pan-frying, sauteeing



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealbrunch, dinner

Taste and Texturerich, savory, spiced


  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Chesapeake Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 pound backfin crabmeat, picked over
  • 1/3 cup saltine cracker crumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying (optional)
  • Clarified butter (see Note) and/or olive oil, for sautéing(optional)
  • Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges, for accompaniment


  1. Mix the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, Chesapeake seasoning, Worcestershire, and Tabasco together in a blender or mixing bowl until frothy. Place the crabmeat in a bowl and sprinkle on the cracker crumbs. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Gently toss or fold the ingredients together, taking care not to break up the lumps of crabmeat. Form the cakes by hand or with an ice cream scoop into 8 mounds about 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Do not pack the mixture too firmly. The cakes should be as loose as possible, yet still hold their shape. Place the cakes on a tray or platter lined with wax paper, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.

  2. Pour oil into large skillet to a depth of about 1½ inches. Heat the oil and fry the crab cakes, a few at a time, until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain. Or broil the cakes: Slip them under a preheated broiler until nicely browned, turning to cook evenly, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Or sauté the cakes: Heat a small amount of clarified butter or olive oil, or a combination, in a skillet and sauté the cakes, turning several times, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total cooking time.

  3. Serve at once, with Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges on the side.


Free recipes, giveaways, exclusive partner offers, and more straight to your inbox!


I have not made this yet so I cannot rate it.

Include a Photo Include a Photo

Click the button above or drag and drop images onto the button. You can upload two images.

Cancel Reply to Comment

Thanks for your comment. Don't forget to share!

McCormick has a spice usually sold in a rectangular can called Old Bay Seasoning for seafood. Everyone in Baltimore or Maryland uses this for our crab cakes. You can usually find it at the fresh seafood counter at your local super market. There is another simple crab cake recipe on the can.

Unfortunately the "links" didn't come up and I have no idea what "Chesapeake Seasoning" is. Can you add the recipe to this recipe?


Report Inappropriate Comment

Are you sure you would like to report this comment? It will be flagged for our moderators to take action.

Thank you for taking the time to improve the content on our site.

Sign In to Your Account

Close Window
Sign In with one of your Social Accounts
Facebook Twitter
Sign In using Email and Password