01 January 2008

McDougalls Pancake Day

The Pancake Day tradition could soon belong to yesterday according to a poll conducted by McDougalls Flour.

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday but the Pancake Day tradition could soon belong to yesterday according to a poll conducted by McDougalls Flour.

Only one in five people questioned by McDougalls in late January knew that Pancake Day was imminent and more than two in three said they would either ignore the tradition altogether or make no more than a half-hearted effort to mark it.  

Only 27 per cent of households will definitely make pancakes tomorrow according to the poll.

"Up until the 90s most households would flip a few pancakes on Shrove Tuesday," said Mark Wilkinson, who runs the McDougalls flour mill in Andover. "But it seems that fewer and fewer people can be bothered these days."  

One of the problems may be a lack of basic pancake making skills. Only one in three people say they are 'very confident' about what goes into pancake batter and only 20 per cent say they are confident pancake flippers.

One glimmer of hope is young people. According to the McDougalls poll the age group which is most likely to mark Pancake Day enthusiastically is 18-24 year olds while the group most likely to ignore the tradition altogether is the over 55s.

McDougalls is sending out teams of flipping experts on to the streets to show how it's done. The teams started their demonstrations yesterday (Sunday) and will continue today.

The brand has labelled today McDougalls Monday in an effort to encourage people to stock up on the ingredients they need to enjoy Pancake Day to the full.

Shrove Tuesday is the feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  Traditionally it is the last opportunity to use eggs and fats before embarking on the 40 day Lenten fast leading to Easter.

"I admit it's a bit ironic that we're encouraging people to buy the very ingredients that Shrove Tuesday is designed to use up," said Mark Wilkinson, "but Pancake Day is one of the ultimate family meal occasions so we need to take action to keep the tradition alive."

Pancake Day is a moveable feast which falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, the date of which is set according to a complex astronomical formula**. This is the earliest Pancake Day for many years and it's likely to catch quite a few people by surprise.

The pancake is featured in cookbooks as far back as 1439 and the tradition of tossing or flipping them dates back at least as far as the 17th Century*.

Pancake tossing is a serious pastime for some people. Ralf Laue from Leipzig broke the world record by tossing a pancake 416 times in two minutes and Mike Cuzzacrea ran a marathon while continually tossing a pancake for three hours, two minutes and 27 seconds.

The world's biggest pancake was cooked in Rochdale in 1994. It was 15 metres in diameter, weighed three tonnes and had an estimated two million calories.

In 2003 students at Leeds University published a formula for the perfect pancake flip but most cooks will tell you that there's nothing more to it than a quick flick of the wrist and dash of confidence.

"In fact you don't need to flip pancakes at all," says Mark Wilkinson. "If you prefer you can just loosen the pancake with a spatula, turn it on to a plate and then turn the plate over to put the pancake back in the pan."

Lemon and sugar remains the most popular pancake topping with more than two in three people saying it's their favourite. Golden syrup comes second with 25 per cent of the vote and fruit jam third.


1. Research conducted on behalf of McDougalls by YouGov among 1,966 adults 21st - 23rd January

2. Pancakes appear to be inspiring a new generation of artists. Photo-sharing website Flickr includes a range of sensational creations made entirely from pancakes.[email protected]/pool/

3. Batter recipe; makes eight pancakes


125g McDougalls Plain flour, sifted

1 medium size egg, beaten

300ml milk

1 tablespoon of oil for frying


1. Sift the McDougalls flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the egg, then gradually add half the milk, stirring constantly. Add the remaining milk and beat thoroughly, until smooth

2. Heat a small omelette or frying pan and add a few drops of oil. Pour a little batter into the pan and tilt so that the batter coats the bottom of the pan

3. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until bubbles appear and the underside is golden. Loosen the edges of the pancake, then flip it over and cook the other side for a further 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown

4. Pile the pancakes on a warm plate, separating them with sheets of greaseproof paper. Keep warm and continue to make 8 pancakes in total

5. Serve with lemon wedges and caster sugar

Preparation time five minutes

Cooking time 20 minutes

* "And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for eare they burne." (Pasquil's Palin, 1619).

** Easter Day is the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon (which is the 14th day of an astronomical new moon) that occurs on or after the day of the Vernal Equinox (March 21st).


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