These British pancakes are easy to make with only a few ingredients. While they’re traditional for Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras), they make a delicious snack or dessert any time.
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It’s almost that time when Lent is about to begin. Here in the US, most people call it Mardi Gras, in Germany it’s called Karneval, and there are many more names elsewhere.
In many places that celebrate the period, it’s a time of festivities like parades and often rich foods alongside (I talk more about some of the traditions in my Mardi Gras food post).
In the UK, though, it means one thing: pancakes.
Pancakes are so key to this time that Shrove Tuesday, the British name for Fat Tuesday, is often called “pancake day”. The reason pancakes are such a traditional food isn’t completely random. Since Lent is about to start, it’s a final excuse to use up eggs and butter which would traditionally be given up.
While these days restaurants are more likely to serve you American-style pancakes, Shrove Tuesday is an excuse to have traditional British ones.
To be honest, as I was growing up, I think this was the only time of year we had these, but they were so good, I’d eat lots of them. I have distinct memories sitting in the kitchen and eating them almost as fast as my mum could cook them. I suspect I just ate these for dinner more than once, or I could be overly hopeful in that memory.
How do American and British pancakes differ?
The main difference is that American-style pancakes generally have a raising agent in them while British do not. As a result, American pancakes fluff up as they cook, making them thicker and lighter.
British pancakes are closer to French crepes, but they tend to be a bit smaller and slightly thicker. With crepes, you usually have a very thin dough and swirl it around the pan (or use a special tool, if you are like the street vendors, to make it really big and thin). With these, you tip the pan slightly to spread the batter but not too much.
How do you serve these?
Some people might add jam, or Nutella and fruit as you might’ve with crepes, but the traditional way is much simpler.
You just sprinkle over some sugar and drizzle with lemon juice. In the UK, I would use caster sugar, but in the US, the regular granulated sugar is fine enough. We would always roll them up, but you can also fold them in quarters. Either way, you want to make sure the filling doesn’t escape as you eat.
It’s a very simple filling, and may seem unusual if you haven’t tried it, but believe me it’s so good.
These British pancakes are such a fixture of pancake day/Shrove Tuesday, but to be honest you should really make any excuse you like to make these. Easy to make, simple ingredients and so delicious. Give them a try soon!
Try these other pancakes from around the world:
- Dutch baby pancake with roasted berries
- Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian torn pancakes)
- Hotteok (Korean sweet stuffed pancakes)
- German pancake soup (flädelsuppe)
- Plus get more British recipes in the archives.
- ¾ cup all purpose flour 105g plain flour
- 1 pinch salt
- ¾ cup whole milk 180ml
- ¼ cup water 60ml
- 2 eggs (large)
- ½ tbsp butter for cooking (approx)
- Sift together the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the milk, water and eggs and whisk well. The batter should flow but not be overly thin. Set aside for a minute.
- Warm a wide skillet/frying pan or crepe pan over a medium-high heat. Melt a little butter and spread around the pan – I usually just use the end of the stick on the pan and melt and spread it at the same time.
- Reduce the heat slightly and add around ¼ cup (60ml) of the pancake batter to the pan. Tilt the pan slightly as you add the batter and swirl a little so the batter spreads out a bit, but it doesn't need to be as thin as a crepe typically is.
- Let the pancake cook until the edges start to curl up and the top is dry – a couple minutes. If you lift up the edge, you should see a slight browning on the bottom. Flip the pancake over and cook a minute more on the other side. You may need to press the top down slightly with a spatula if it puffs up.
- Remove the pancake from the pan once the other side gets a few brown spots and keep warm while you cook the rest. Sprinkle each pancake with sugar, squeeze over some lemon juice, then either fold in half and again (ie so in quarters), or roll up. Best served warm.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline’s Cooking Amazon store.