Scotch pancakes (also known as drop scones) are fluffy, light and gently sweet pancakes that are perfect for breakfast or a teatime snack any day of the week. With just a handful of everyday ingredients and a quick cook, they're sure to be a firm favorite.
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Growing up in Scotland, these are what I knew as pancakes. Or I should say, these were our everyday pancakes that my mum would make fairly often, and the thinner British pancakes were strictly reserved for Shrove Tuesday (aka pancake day in the UK - Mardi Gras/Carnevale etc elsewhere).
Somehow, I have rarely made them over the years, but that's starting to change since we are definitely a household with pancake fans it it. So having some variations in there is always good. Plus, these are so quick and easy.
What are Scotch pancakes?
These traditional Scottish pancakes (hence often called Scotch pancakes) also go by the name drop scones. That name is because you drop the mixture onto the cooking vessel and they are considered a type of scone. They just have slightly different proportions from the more classic baked scones.
They are relatively similar to American pancakes but smaller. These are generally about a heaped dessert spoonful of batter each (around two tablespoons), so you cook around four at a time, rather than one large pancake at once. They are also typically a little less sweet, as I find is often the case between US and UK tastes.
Also unlike American pancakes, these are less often considered something for breakfast but instead more of a teatime snack - think after school pick-me-up! Though they work perfectly for breakfast, too, of course.
What you need to make Scotch pancakes/drop scones
As with most traditional recipes, you'll finds a few slight variations in what goes in them and how to make them. But broadly speaking you just need flour, a little sugar, egg, milk and a little butter. Some use oil, but personally I prefer the flavor from butter. - melt it first so that it combines more easily
In Scotland, you would typically use self raising flour, so there would be no need to add additional raising agent. However, that can be harder to find elsewhere, and the mix can be different as well, so instead I have used all purpose flour (plain flour) along with baking powder and salt.
Making Scotch pancakes
To make these, you gently mix the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients to form a smooth, gently flowing batter. The pancake batter should slowly flow off your spoon but also not be too runny.
Some prefer to mix the wet ingredients first, then add the milk and egg mixture to the dry ingredients. However I find mixing as you combine dry and wet works just fine, and saves messing up an additional bowl. Also this way, you can gradually add the last of the milk in case you don't need all of it without any waste.
You traditionally cook these on a flat "girdle" (the Scots name for a griddle), but a medium-large skillet/frying pan will also work. I tend to use my crepe pan since it makes it easy to get under the pancakes at flipping time. Get the pan hot before you start, then add spoonfuls of the batter. Wait until the top forms bubbles before flipping them to cook on the second side.
The bottom should be a lovely golden brown when you flip them over, though that can depend on the fat used on the pan. Sometimes, the oil or butter means you get more of a golden ring on the outside and it's more patchy in the middle. But they should still be good as long as they are not too pale overall.
Tips for perfect pancakes
These are relatively quick and easy but a few tips to help them turn out well:
- Get your pan hot before you start cooking or they won't cook properly - medium-high heat is good for these.
- Lightly oil or butter the skillet/frying pan (unless you have a non-stick pan in which case you might not need to).
- Wait for bubbles to show on the top before flipping - you may not get lots, but you should get at least a few bubbles form and the odd ones pop which is the sign to flip them over.
- Don't press the top after flipping - these should be fluffy pancakes so pressing can reduce how much they rise.
- Remember the second side cooks quickly - it will likely only take around 30 seconds, or just a little longer, for the second side to cook.
- Keep pancakes warm covered with a clean kitchen/ tea towel. This is how muy mum always did it, but you can also place them in a dish in a low oven. If you have them in the oven, only do this for around 10 minutes at the most or else they will dry out.
Remember, as with most pancakes the first batch you cook may not be quite as good, so consider them a bit of a test. And if the batter feels too thick or thin, adjust as you go with a little more milk, if too thick, or flour, if too thin. Just be sure to mix in but gently so you don't beat out the air bubbles.
What to serve with Scotch pancakes
Traditionally, you keep the toppings for these pancakes pretty simple - sometimes just a little pat of butter is all you add. But if you have a slightly sweeter tooth, some honey, jam, or maple syrup will all work well, too.
Some berries on the side, or a fruit compote, are also be great. Berries like raspberries and strawberries are popular crops in Scotland, and blueberries grow wild in many areas, so all would make a great choice. That said, other fruits like stone fruit would be yummy, too.
You could also drop a few pieces of fruit into the pancakes as you cook them, though this would be less traditional.
How to store leftovers
If by some chance you make too many, any leftovers will keep pretty well. Simple let them cool on a wire rack then transfer to an airtight container. You may want to place them in a single layer or separated with kitchen paper or parchment to avoid them sticking.
They will keep in the fridge for two or three days or you can freeze for longer storage. If you freeze them, I recommend freezing as a single layer first, then transferring to a container to make them easier to separate.
You can re-heat them in a toaster, in a low oven or in a skillet/frying pan on the stovetop until gently warmed through. They also work cold, making them great to pack as a lunch box snack. Though personally, I do definitely prefer them warm.
Scotch pancakes are so easy to make and have a lovely light, fluffy texture and gently sweet flavor. They're perfect to whip up for an easy, tasty breakfast, or enjoy as a snack (my kids definitely don't say no to them after school!). Be sure to enjoy them soon.
Try these other favorite pancake recipes:
- Chocolate Dutch baby pancake with cherry compote (such a delicious combination, and easy, too)
- Baghrir, Moroccan pancakes (lovely light semolina pancakes studded with holes on top)
- Chinese scallion pancakes, cong you bing (OK these are savory, but they are so crisp and delicious)
- Plus get more breakfast recipes and British recipes in the archives.
Scotch pancakes (drop scones)
- 1 cup all purpose flour plain flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup milk
- Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to mix well. Make a slight well in the middle then add the melted butter, egg and around three quarters of the milk.
- Whisk the mixture to form a smooth batter. Gradually add more of the milk until you get a thick but flowing consistency - it will be thicker than a crepe batter but still flowing. You might need all the milk or just a little less.
- Warm a griddle, crepe pan or medium-large skillet/frying pan over a medium heat. Lightly brush the top with melted butter or oil, unless it is a non-stick surface that doesn't need fat added.
- Add heaped spoonfuls of the mixture, around four at a time, and gently shape a little to be roughly circular. They should be a little heaped so don't spread much. Leave the batter to cook for a couple minutes until bubbles form and start to pop on the top.
- Turn the pancakes over - the cooked side should be gently golden - and cook for around 30 seconds to a minute on the second side, until the underside is gently brown as well. Remove the pancakes from the pan and keep warm under a clean kitchen towel/tea towel. Repeat cooking the rest of the batter in batches.
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