Cooking Pancakes

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Although the word “pancake” is attested in English since the beginning of the fifteenth century, the exact characteristics covered by this name are far from certain. Recipes for simple, everyday dishes were not written down in times past, as they would have been part of every cook’s and housewife’s repertoire. Recipes that do appear in pre-nineteenth-century cookery texts are frequently unclear, and many dishes referred to as “pancakes” appear to more closely resemble what we would now define as fritters (fried in deep fat), waffles (cooked between two heated plates), or omelets (a predominantly egg mixture). See fritters. There is also recipe confusion and overlap with hoe-cakes, johnnycakes, griddle cakes, flapjacks, slapjacks, and other similar articles. In some instances even today, “pancakes” turn out to be flatbreads, made from stiff dough that has been kneaded and rolled or pressed out.