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Food & Recipes

Pancakes & Lent: Here’s How Fluffy Flapjacks Became a Staple Dish To Enjoy on Fat Tuesday

A flipping amazing food tradition.


Mardi Gras is in full swing, which means food and festivities are top priority. (When are they not?) The holiday’s translation — “Fat Tuesday” in French — cues indulgence; specifically, enjoying all of the food and drinks you’ll give up for the 40 days of Lent. Think sugar, meat, and alcohol. Ahead of this abstinence, tradition dictates eating high-fat, culturally significant fare like gumbo, beignets, donuts, and pancakes. The latter is easy to make and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It’s also the reason Fat Tuesday is often called “Pancake Day.” Here’s more on the origins of the pre-Lent pancake day practice.

The History Behind Pancake Day

Pancake Day occurs 47 days prior to Easter on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It began in Europe during the Middle Ages as a means of allowing Christians to use up pantry staples like eggs, milk, and flour in advance of Lent, all of which have religious significance

  • Eggs represent creation.
  • Salt symbolizes wholeness.
  • Milk embodies purity.
  • Flour signifies the staff of life.

While this tradition is known as “Pancake Day” in the US, it’s called “Shrove Tuesday” in the UK and other parts of the world. “The name ‘Shrove Tuesday’ derives from the practice of Anglo-Saxon Christians giving confession the day before Lent, and being ‘shriven’ (absolved of their sins),” Flora Hughes-Onslow writes in Britain Magazine. “A bell would be rung to call people to confession, which became known as the ‘Pancake Bell’ and is still rung today.” Over time, hearing the pancake bell ring at noon on Shrove Tuesday became a sign for households to start making their pancakes. Today, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated across the world simply by eating pancakes. However, it’s not the only way it’s commemorated.

A Flipping Amazing Pancake Race

Pancake races are an opportunity to celebrate this occasion with a twist. The goal of a pancake race is to cross the finish line carrying a frying pan with a cooked flapjack. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s a fun Shrove Tuesday activity that dates back centuries. England’s Olney Pancake Race, which originated in England in 1445, is the world’s oldest and most renowned competition.

Competing versions of the tradition’s origins abound. One involves an Olney woman running to her church with skillet in hand after hearing the pancake bell. Another claims that pancakes were given as a bribe to the person ringing the bell — encouraging them to ring it earlier.

Wherever it came from, the contest’s popularity caught the attention of residents in Liberal, KS. After seeing magazine photos of the Olney race, the US town adopted the tradition in 1950. Soon after, the two towns turned the race into a yearly international competition, wherein participants run 415 yards holding a pancake skillet. Afterwards, both towns compare their fastest race times to determine which community won. The historical results of this international race show Olney winning 31 times, Liberal securing 39 wins, and two races declared a draw. Watch the video below to see the 1951 Olney pancake race:

2 Flipping Amazing Pancake Recipes to Try

With plenty of pancake recipes online, we’ve selected the two we think you’re most likely to love. One is a thick pancake that’s well-suited to sopping up maple syrup. The other is a thin crêpe covered with salted caramel sauce and almonds. Choose the one that makes your mouth water, and have a wonderful pancake day!

Fluffy Pancakes by MasterClass


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 ½ cups milk 
  • 1 large egg 
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted 


  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins 
  • Total time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 12 medium-sized pancakes
  1. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. 
  2. In separate bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla extract, and egg. 
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Gently whisk to combine, until no floury bits remain. Add melted butter and stir well. 
  4. Heat drizzle of vegetable oil or clarified butter (like ghee – regular butter will burn) on a non-stick skillet over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to avoid scorching your first round. Using measuring cup, ladle pancake batter into medium-sized rounds; use back of measuring cup to spread them out evenly. Cook until pancakes firm up around edges, and little bubbles begin to appear on top side of batter. 
  5. Flip to second side, and cook until golden brown, adjusting heat as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan with more butter or oil if too dry. 
  6. Serve with drizzle of maple syrup or honey.

Salted Caramel Crêpes by de Buyer



  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ⅓  cup salted butter
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream (room temperature)


Servings: 8

  1. In mixing bowl, sift flour and add salt.
  2. Pour in eggs and vanilla extract then mix using whisk.
  3. Gradually add milk and continue to whisk until smooth paste forms. Finally, add melted butter.
  4. Leave mixture to stand one hour.
  5. Prepare caramel by melting sugar in pan over medium heat. When browned, turn off heat, and add butter (cut into pieces), and mix. Add cream, stirring constantly. Resume heat to thicken caramel, then allow to cool.
  6. Cook crêpes in lightly oiled non-stick round pan like Blue Carbon Steel Crepe & Tortilla Pan (Buy from, starting at $25).
  7. In another pan, toast flaked almonds 5 minutes, stirring periodically.
  8. Serve crêpes on plates. Cover with salted caramel sauce and crunchy almonds.
Salted Caramel Crêpes
Courtesy of de Buyer

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