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6th February 2018

History of Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and has been referred to in historical documents as long ago as 1000AD. The name Shrove Tuesday itself is thought to come from the word ‘shrive’, which means to absolve. Since Lent is traditionally about making sacrifices and repentance for 40 days until Easter, Shrove Tuesday is seen as the last day to indulge before this period of restraint begins.

The relationship between pancakes and Shrove Tuesday is believed to come from the need to use up ingredients discouraged during Lent, such as eggs, butter and other fats. Since many households have typically kept a stock of pancake-making ingredients for centuries, Shrove Tuesday became Pancake Day. Prior to the 16th century, Shrove Tuesday was Shrovetide, which involved such indulgence for a whole week leading up until Lent. A week of pancakes… now that sounds good to us!

Pancake or crêpe

Many people use the words ‘pancake’ and ‘crêpe’ interchangeably, but they do have some important differences. Crêpe is the French version of a pancake, which originated in the north of France around the Brittany region. The very first versions of crêpes are thought to date back to the 12th century, when buckwheat became more abundant.

One of the main differences between pancakes and crêpes is the level of ‘fluffiness’. Pancake batter traditionally has a raising agent in it, such as baking powder, making it thick and fluffy. Crêpes don’t have any such raising agent, so their appearance and texture is thin and flat. In the UK, we tend to call fluffy pancakes ‘American pancakes’, while we tend to call flat crêpes ‘pancakes’. Confusions in language aside, both are equally delicious, but offer distinctly different culinary experiences.

Another key difference is that pancakes are on the whole associated with sweet toppings, such as jam, sugar and syrups. On the other hand, sweet or savoury fillings for crêpes are equally popular.

Recipe

If you ask us, it’s equally acceptable to eat pancakes or crêpes on Pancake Day.

Here’s our recipe for the perfect pancake, with options for making it fluffy or flat, and unusual twists you could add to make your creation unique.

Ingredients

3 large free-range eggs

125g plain flour

250ml whole milk

1tbsp unsalted melted butter, plus extra for frying

Pinch of sea salt

Optional

Replace plain flour with self-raising flour for fluffy pancakes

Serves 4 to 6

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Pour in a splash of milk and the melted butter. Start whisking the mixture from the centre, gradually adding in all the milk and drawing all the flour into the mixture.
  3. Heat a frying pan over a moderate to high heat and add in some butter. When the pan and butter are very hot, add in a ladle of the pancake batter. If you’re making flat pancakes (crêpes), move the pan so the batter forms an even, thin layer. If you’re making fluffy pancakes, the batter will be thicker and does not need spreading. Turn the pancake over when it has started to set, cook the other side briefly, and then remove from the pan.
  4. Repeat until all the batter is used up, adding a little more butter to the pan in between pancakes if necessary.
  5. Serve with your choice of topping, which could be the traditional lemon and sugar, or unusual toppings such as seasonal herbs and honey, grilled pumpkin and cream, or add some of the green tea powder Matcha to the batter for an antioxidant kick.
  6. Tuck in and enjoy!

At The Athenaeum, we love our pancakes to be served with luxurious ingredients to sate our sweet tooth. This Pancake Day at Galvin at The Athenaeum, we’ll be serving a Tahitian ‘vanilla bomb’ pancake, served with warm Valrhona chocolate sauce. Happy Pancake Day!

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