Pancake Recipe for Pancake Day, England

(A repost of my post from 2002)

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day in England. Originally, this was a springtime feast where the remains of food stored for winter would be eaten up, and pancakes would be made to accompany what was usually a strange mix of left-overs.

This festival was later adpoted by a variety of religions including Christian "Shrove Tuesday" (however there is no mention of pancakes in the Bible or Pagan texts, this is an entirely secular historic festival).

English pancakes are thin, much thinner than American pancakes, and only slightly thicker than French crepes. In recent centuries, they have been traditionally eaten with sugar and lemon juice, although to really stick to the spirit the festival, you should eat them with whatever is left over in your fridge!

Most English infant schools organise competitions based around pancake tossing, albiet with a increasing number of safety measures.



(Minimum - Makes 6 or more pancakes)

0.5 litres cow's milk (more = thinner pancakes)
4 UK table spoons of plain flour (more = thicker pancakes)
2 chicken eggs (more = thicker tastier pancakes)
Cooking oil (or lard or butter or margarine)
Lemon juice and sugar to taste


Mixing bowl or large jug
Table spoon
Fork or whisk
Flat-bottomed circular frying pan
Flat metal/plastic fish slice or spatula
Serving plates, knives, forks etc.


  • Warm some plates. English pancakes are thin and loose their heat quickly, and they're not as nice cold.
  • Put the frying pan on maximum heat with a little oil and let it heat up whilst you prepare the pancake mix.
  • Put all the flour into the mixing bowl.
  • Slowly add a few drops of milk and stir with the fork.
  • Keep adding milk and stiring until all milk is used. You must keep stiring briskly to stop lumps developing.
  • Add both eggs (remove eggshells!) and stir in with the fork. Some people say that allowing the pancake mix to settle, for half an hour or even overnight, makes better pancakes. I say that's rubbish.
  • Make sure the frying pan is very hot, then pour on only just enough pancake mix to cover the bottom.
  • Lift the frying pan and tilt it so that the mixture forms a flat disc.
  • Allow 30 seconds - 2 minutes to cook on one side.
  • EITHER (coward's method): Use the fish slice to turn the pancake over.
  • OR (traditional method): Loosen the pancake with the fish slice. Making sure there is NO excess oil and NO light fittings in range, grab the frying pan handle with both hands, toss the pancake into the air, allow it to turn over in mid-air and catch it back in the frying pan!
  • As you make more pancakes, allow a different member of your household to participate in the pancake tossing.
  • Allow the other side to cook, then serve.
  • Continue frying pancakes until you run out of mix.
  • Most people put lemon juice and sugar on their pancakes. Honey, jam, golden syrup, lemon curd and cheese are also popular alternatives (but not all at the same time). Some people roll them up and eat them with their fingers, other people cut them up with a knife and fork.


    England uses the Metric system or the Imperial system. Imperial measurements have the same name as, but are DIFFERENT to, what the Americans confusingly call the "English" system (despite English people never having used that system).

    Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules for English pancakes. So long as you get a pancake that is much thinner than an American pancake but a little bit thicker than a French crepe, you're doing just fine. Pint of milk, half a cup of flour, a few eggs, you'll be fine.

    1 UK Table Spoon = 1.2 US Table Spoons
    1 UK Dessert Spoon = 2 UK Table Spoons = 2.4 US Table Spoons
    1 litre = 1.8 UK Pints = 2.1 US Pints


    England, like any country near the pole, has long dark winters and long cool summers. In the winter, all the crops stop growing from the cold and lack of sunlight, so for the generations before refrigeration and imports, the populace had to save up food for winter. Pancake Day takes place at the end of winter, by which time the people could see crops growing again, so they knew it was safe to eat up all the remaining stored food. Cows (for milk) and chickens (for eggs) would have survived the winter anyway, and flour is a dried food that lasts for years, so these were the ingredients that were guaranteed to be in plentiful supply. The idea was to make something nice to wrap up what was usually a quite disgusting mix of left-overs.

    During February, the BBC children's TV programme "Blue Peter" is an essential reference for all things pancake.

    British and European variations on the pancake have also entered into folk legends and fairy tales. "The Runaway Pancake" is often found in books together with "The Magic Porridge Pot".

    Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2008-02-03

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