Today is Pancake Day, so Language Insight has decided to find out more about an occasion celebrated around the world. We’ve also shared one of our favourite pancake recipes with you, which should help you really get in the mood for spending this evening flipping your own.


Pancake Day is also known as Shrove Tuesday and is the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Shrove comes from the old English word shrive, which means to confess your sins to a priest and seek absolution.

The tradition of eating pancakes is a practice observed as far afield as Canada and Australia, but just why are they the dish of choice on this particular day? Basically, so as not to waste all the food they had to abstain from during Lent, people would use up the remainder of their rich ingredients like eggs, sugar and milk by making pancakes.

Outside the UK

While in the UK, Canada and Australia Shrove Tuesday is known as Pancake Day, among many Christian communities it is called Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. You may not have realised it but Mardi Gras is actually French for Fat Tuesday.

In these countries huge parades are put on, like the one that winds its way through Marseille in France. Perhaps the most famous Mardi Gras in Europe is the carnival in Venice where attendees wear distinctive masks, while the world’s most iconic Mardi Gras festival has to be the Rio Carnival, which ends today.

On your marks

In the UK, one of the most enjoyable traditions is to take to the streets and compete in a pancake flipping race. If you’re ever in London on Shrove Tuesday, make your way to Victoria Tower Gardens where you can stand and cheer on the sidelines of the Parliamentary Pancake Race. Here, MPs race while flipping a pancake – and if you know anything about British politics you’ll know it will be very competitive!

There are loads of other pancake flipping races across the UK, many of which help raise money for charities. However, if actually racing seems too much like hard work, you could just cheer from the sidelines as you tuck into a pancake. Speaking of which…

What’s your style?

Practically every country has its own type of pancake. If you tried to eat one national speciality every Shrove Tuesday, it would take you years and years to sample them all.

The base ingredients of traditional English pancakes are flour, eggs and milk combined to make a runny batter, which results in a thin but airy pancake. Baking this batter instead of frying it results in another British speciality: the Yorkshire pudding.

In Scotland, Scotch pancakes are the preferred option and because they are thicker they are also known as dropped scones. They are smaller than the English variety, but thicker as they contain a raising agent and buttermilk, just like American pancakes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the French crêpe, which is paper thin and has a lacy edging. These snacks are far healthier than many people assume, and are actually better for you than the equivalent amount of bread.

Favourite fillings

There are so many fillings you can have in your pancake the world is your oyster. If you choose a crêpe style you could literally try anything in it, although ham and cheese is a traditional savoury choice and strawberries and cream a popular sweet one.

If the Scotch or American-style pancake is more your style, try them with fruit like blueberries mixed into the batter, or top a stack of them with maple syrup or powdered sugar and serve with bacon.

A quick poll of the office has revealed Language Insight’s favourite toppings to be:

  1. Lemon juice and sugar
  2. Nutella
  3. Strawberries and cream

Make your own

It couldn’t be easier to make a stack of pancakes, but if you’re searching for a recipe, here’s a classic from Delia Smith that never fails.


  • 110/4oz sifted plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml/7fl oz milk
  • 75ml/3fl oz water
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Combine the milk and water in a jug
  2. Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and create a well in the middle without pressing on the flour
  3. Crack eggs into well and whisk. As you beat eggs, start to mix in flour around the outside. Don’t worry about lumps as they will eventually be whisked out once the remainder of the liquid is added
  4. Once the eggs are well beaten, begin to add the water and milk gradually while whisking. Use a spatula to scrape dry flour from the side of the bowl into the mix and keep whisking until the rest of the liquid is gone.
  5. Once the batter is smooth and runny, melt the butter in a pan. Add 2 tbsp to the batter and whisk. Use the rest for cooking
  6. Get the pan hot and then turn the heat down to medium before adding 2 tbsp of batter
  7. Gently tip the sides of the pan from side to side to spread the mix across the entire base
  8. Cooking only takes a couple of minutes on each side and once both sides look an inviting golden brown colour, your pancake is ready to eat. Just add your favourite topping!

BBC Food

We hope you have a great Pancake Day. Share your favourite toppings below and you may just inspire others to try something new.