Traditional English Pancakes with lemon and sugar are a British food classic! Perfect for brunch, dessert and, of course, Shrove Tuesday (AKA Pancake Day!) My version are super simple to make and practically foolproof.
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Traditional English Pancakes
As a kid, I used to start getting very excited in late January / early February… Why? Because I knew that it would soon be Pancake Day (AKA Shrove Tuesday).
Pancake Day was pretty much the only day of the year when my Mum made pancakes (always traditional British pancakes with sugar and lemon). And I loved pancakes. (I still do!)
After school on Pancake Day, Mum would stand at the stove making pancake after pancake until the batter ran out, while my brother and I would eat as many as were allowed, covered in liberal amounts of sugar and lemon.
But no matter how many Mum made, there were never ever enough!
Fast forward 35+ years and I now do the same for my kids (except I have a simple trick to ensure we can all eat them together – see below), who have the same giddy excitement about Pancake Day that starts somewhere near the end of January… and who have the same insatiable appetite for pancakes!
Except, of course, now I am the grown up I can make pancakes as often as I like (though never often enough according to my kids!) and while I make all sorts of different pancakes, the traditional English version, with lemon and sugar is still my favourite.
Are English pancakes the same as French crepes?
Traditional English pancakes and French crepes look very similar and are made in the same way with virtually the same ingredients, but English pancakes tend to be a little smaller and slightly thicker.
4 simple ingredients
Some pancake recipes have lots of ingredients. Not so with my easy peasy pancake recipe, which has just 4 main ingredients:
You will also need some oil for frying, as well as lemons and sugar (or whatever toppings you prefer!)
A super easy pancake recipe
As you’d expect from me, my recipe for Traditional English Pancakes is super easy and practically foolproof (even if you’ve had pancake related disasters in the past!)
All you need to do is make the simple 4 ingredient batter. Then, heat a little oil in a regular frying pan (no need for a fancy pancake pan!) Next, pour 1 ladleful of pancake batter into the frying pan and swirl. Then, place the frying pan back over the heat and allow the pancake to cook for roughly 10 seconds. When the pancake is cooked nicely on the bottom, either toss the pancake or use a fish slice (or spatula) to turn the pancake over. Cook the pancake for about 10 seconds on the second side, then slide out onto a plate. Repeat until you have turned all the batter into pancakes!
How to keep pancakes warm while you cook them?
If you want everyone to be able to eat the pancakes at the same time, you’ll need to keep the cooked pancakes warm while you cook the rest. Fortunately this is very easy.
All you need to do is turn your oven on to 120C (100C fan / gas mark ½ / 250F) and put an ovenproof plate* in the oven. Every time you finish cooking a pancake, simply grab the plate out of the oven (with oven gloves, obviously!) and slide the cooked pancake onto the plate. Eventually you’ll have a nice big stack of warm pancakes ready to eat, all together.
(So much nicer than being stuck in the kitchen on your own while your family are tucking into pancakes without you!)
Tips for getting perfect pancakes every time
Pancakes have a reputation of being tricky to make, but anyone can turn out perfect pancakes with a few simple tricks…
- Make sure you use a good foolproof batter recipe (like the one below). Pancake batter recipes vary enormously and some batter recipes are trickier to cook than others.
- Use a good non-stick frying pan*.
- Always heat your frying pan up over a high heat for at least a minute before you start making your first pancake.
- Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan before cooking each pancake and swirl it around to coat the base.
- Use an exact measure of batter (see recipe below), so every pancake is the perfect size.
- Swirl your pancake batter round the base of your pan, but don’t swirl it up the sides. (Batter up the sides can stick and it also makes it trickier to toss / turn over.)
- Wait until each pancake is fully cooked on the first side before attempting to flip the pancake over. (Many problems come from trying to flip the pancake too soon.)
- Use a fish slice! I find a fish slice* to be the perfect tool to use to lift up the corner of each pancake to check if it’s done, loosen the pancake ready for flipping and also to flip the pancake if (like me!) your pancake tossing skills are not too good.
- Cook your pancakes for a very short time over a very high heat. Pancake-related problems often happen when people try to cook their pancakes over a lower heat. Your pan should be screaming hot at all times!
- Don’t wander off or get distracted. Pancakes cook very fast, so need your full attention!
What to serve with Traditional English Pancakes?
The traditional topping for English pancakes is, of course, fresh lemon juice and caster sugar. I recommend allowing half a lemon per person and 1-2 teaspoons of caster sugar per pancake.
My personal preference is to sprinkle over the sugar first and then squeeze the lemon juice over the top of the sugar – I find this way makes it easier to see where I’ve already squeezed the lemon juice and which bits I’ve missed. But there are others who prefer to do it the other way round!
However, there are many other options for toppings if you want to branch out from the traditional version. Some other good pancake topping options include:
- Nutella / chocolate spread
- Maple syrup
- Fresh berries
- Sliced banana
- Stewed apples / apple sauce
- Ice cream
- Chopped nuts
- Hundreds and thousands
- Fruit compote
- Whipped cream
- Chocolate sauce
- Nut butters
And, of course, you can mix and match many combinations of these toppings!
What to drink with Traditional English Pancakes?
Surely the most ‘English’ thing to drink with pancakes is a cup of tea? Especially something like Earl Grey, which goes so well with lemon.
However, as one of the few English people who doesn’t really like tea, I would much prefer a cup of coffee with these pancakes!
When it comes to a wine recommendation for pancakes, it really does depend on your toppings. But with lemon and sugar pancakes, I would suggest something like a sweet southern French Muscat or, even better, a sweet sparkling Mostcato d’Asti from Italy. If you can’t get hold of either of those, then you might just about be able to get away with a sweeter style of prosecco. A sweet German Riesling would also be a good bet here.
Whatever you do, it definitely needs to be white and sweet (or at least off-dry). The combination of lemon and sugar would kill most dry white and red wines.
Can you reheat cold pancakes?
Absolutely! Simply place the cold pancakes in a stack on an ovenproof plate or baking sheet and cover with foil. Place in a pre-heated oven, set to 180C (160C fan / gas mark 4 / 350F), and heat for 5-10 minutes until all the pancakes are piping hot. (Exact timings will depend on the number of pancakes in your stack.)
Can you freeze pancakes?
Yes you can! Pancakes freeze very well. Simply layer cooked and cooked pancakes with baking paper (to stop them sticking together). Then, place the pancakes in a freezer bag (or suitable sized freezer-proof container) and put in the freezer, where they will keep for up to 3 months.
Defrost for a few hours at room temperature. Reheat as above.
If you like this recipe…
…you might also like:
Traditional English Pancakes
- 300 g plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 425 ml milk
- Oil for frying
- Lemons and caster sugar (or other toppings of your choice)
- Place the plain flour and salt in a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly (to ensure the salt is evenly distributed).
- Measure out the milk in a measuring jug and add the eggs. Use a balloon whisk to mix the milk and eggs together thoroughly.
- Pour the liquid into the flour slowly, whisking constantly to ensure the flour and liquid are well combined. You should end up with a smooth pancake batter that is roughly the consistency of double cream.
- Put 1 teaspoon of oil in a large frying pan and place on a high heat for 1 minute. Swirl the oil so it evenly coats the base of the frying pan and put the frying pan back on the heat.
- Pour 1 ladleful (See Note 1) of pancake batter into the frying pan and swirl so the batter coats the base of the pan, but doesn’t go up the sides.
- Place the frying pan back over the heat and allow the pancake to cook for roughly 10 seconds.
- Using a fish slice or a spatula (See Note 2) lift up one edge of the pancake to see if it is looking nicely cooked / a light golden brown.
- When the pancake is cooked nicely on the bottom, either toss the pancake or use the fish slice / spatula to turn the pancake over. (The pancake should come away easily from the pan when cooked, but if it doesn’t, simply use your fish slice / spatula to loosen it.)
- Cook the pancake for about 10 seconds on the second side.
- Again, you can use a fish slice or spatula to lift up a corner and check it is nicely browned.
- When the pancake is cooked tip it out onto a plate and place the frying pan back over the heat.
- Pour in about ½ a teaspoon of oil and swirl. Put the pan back on the heat and immediately pour in 1 ladleful of pancake batter into the frying pan and swirl.
- Repeat the above process to make the second pancake.
- Continue until you have used up all the pancake batter.
- Serve with lemon and sugar… or any other toppings of your choice. (See Note 3.)
- I find a soup ladle* is the best way to get just the right amount of batter into the frying pan each time. My soup ladle holds exactly 50ml (1¾ floz / ¼ cup) of batter, which is the perfect amount for 1 pancake. If you don’t have a soup ladle, you will need to find something else in your kitchen that will enable you to measure out 50ml each time, or judge it by eye.
- I find a fish slice* to be the perfect tool to use to lift up the corner of each pancake to check if it’s done and also to flip the pancake if (like me!) your pancake tossing skills are not too good.
- Personally I prefer to serve these pancakes the traditional English way, with lemon and sugar… but Nutella, maple syrup and fresh fruit also work well!
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!