Hi! My name is Caroline, and I am currently at Jellybean on work experience. I have really enjoyed working at an agency focused on food and beverage, as I am a huge foodie. I love cooking but my passion is hands down baking, that’s why I have decided to research the history of pancakes. Yes, pancakes… I absolutely love making them and trying out new recipes and toppings, the possibilities are endless! So, what is a pancake and where did it originate from?
A pancake is a flat cake that tends to be thin and round – depending on how good you are at making them! It’s made from a starch-based batter and it usually contains milk, egg and butter. Its cooked on a frying pan with oil or butter but they weren’t always made like this…
Evidence suggests that pancakes have been around for quite some time as they appeared in prints as early as 1430. They were one of the earliest and most widespread breakfast foods, and it seems that each culture has its own unique take on them. Cooks would make thin cakes using a spoonful of gruel on a hot rock (before frying pans or griddles existed). They might also have used birds’ eggs and goat milk for the batter. Perhaps something quite interesting is that bread and pancakes used to be the same thing. The ancient Greeks used griddles to bake a flat loaf and the Romans made comparable dishes to modern pancakes. Medieval pancakes were made from rye or barley but didn’t contain leavening, nowhere near as fluffy as the ones we make today! They would also often make them so that ingredients didn’t go to waste.
Pancakes are so popular that we have a national pancake day. Not many would know that it originated from the Roman Catholics who called it Shrive Tuesday (Now known as shrove). They would all meet up and celebrate the forgiveness of their sins and often feast on pancakes using up store cupboard ingredients before fasting for Lent.
Pancakes differ depending on where you are in the world. In the United States, they tend to have buttermilk pancakes made from eggs, buttermilk, flour and baking powder. These pancakes are usually thick and rather smaller. In most European countries they have crêpes that can be served sweet or savoury, they are made from milk, eggs and flour. There are also Chinese pancakes that are common with lots of meals in Taiwan and China. Interestingly, Chinese pancakes are made from dough rather than batter and can also be served sweet or savoury.
There is no doubt that pancakes have evolved to be a weekend or ‘extra special’ breakfast. They are easy to make and can be served with a variety of toppings such as maple syrup, fruit and chocolate spread to cater to everyone’s needs. There is just nothing like indulging into a warm, fluffy pancake with your favourite toppings on a Sunday morning!