It’s Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day! An absolutely brilliant British institution- why don’t all nations have a dedicated day for eating pancakes? We generally go to town and have some savoury (generally stuffed and baked) followed by a few (or perhaps more than a few) with sugar, lemon, melted chocolate, ice cream… It is only once year, after all.
In Sweden, pancake day isn’t nearly as big as it is in the UK. Instead, they have semlor- wonderful cardamom-scented buns, filled with marzipan and whipped cream especially for Shrove Tuesday. So fair play, really. However, when it comes to pancakes, the Swedes have got something right. It’s called a pancake cake. And it is exactly what it says on the tin- a stack of pancakes layered with fillings, most often cream and berries, and served as a cake with messy slices cut out of it.
One of my favourite books as a child was a beautifully illustrated story book called the Pancake Cake about Mr Pettson and his cat, Findus. For the cat’s birthday, Pettson sets out to make a pancake cake. For this he needs flour, which involves going to the shop. But his bicycle has a flat tyre and the pump is locked in a shed. And the key for the shed is at the bottom of a well, so they need a ladder. But the ladder is in a field with an angry bull in it. So they have to distract the bull, to get the ladder to get the key to get into the shed to get the pump to… you get the picture. Hilarity ensues.
This is my hat tip to Pettson and Findus. A very simple blueberry and lemon flavoured pancake cake that can be made as outrageously tall as you like. For a smaller cake, simply halve the recipe.
Blueberry and Lemon Pancake Cake
You will need:
400g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp melted butter plus more for frying
2 lemons, zested and juiced
290ml double cream
blueberry jam- or your favourite jam, raspberry and strawberry also work very well
blueberries, to serve
1. To make the pancake batter, sift the flour into a large bowl along with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add the eggs, milk, butter and 100ml of water. Whisk together until you have a thick batter. Add most of the zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Set to one side for about 20 minutes to let any bubbles or lumps of flour settle.
2. Fry your pancakes. For this cake I used a small frying pan, but you could just as well use a large one. Melt a little butter in a hot pan and add half a ladle full of the batter. Immediately swirl the pan around to evenly disperse the mixture. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface and the bottom seems dry, flip the pancake over using a spatula. Fry for another minute or so. This first pancake is likely to be a disaster- this is the universal pancake rule. Eat it immediately sprinkled with sugar and then carry on making more pancakes. As you can gain confidence, you can try having two pans on the go at the same time and perhaps doing some pancake flips?
3. Allow your pancakes to cool completely on a wire rack. Whip your cream quite stiffly, adding a little squeeze of lemon juice and any remaining zest. Sweeten if you like. Layer the pancakes on a serving plate, alternating with the jam, cream and berries. Finish by spreading the top layer with cream and decorating with more blueberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.
|Healthy pancakes with blueberries, banana and honey. Black tea.|
For one of our first dates, which coincided with Shrove Tuesday, Toby invited me round to his London Fields flat for pancakes. I’m not convinced that he had ever made them before, particularly as he tried to make savoury ones with tinned spinach. Luckily he had a French flatmate at the time, who swooped in and saved the day with her crêpe-making prowess (air-flipping and all). In the end, they turned out pretty well, nobody went hungry and we’ve continued the tradition every pancake day since.
1. Separate the egg whites and yokes. Put the yokes to one side (perhaps turn them into mayonnaise later?). Whisk the whites until stiff and peaky, either with an electric whisk or a hand-held one (if you prefer to give your arms a bit of a workout).
2. Add the oats and cottage cheese, whisking between each addition to make sure there’s plenty of air in the batter. This will make the pancakes light and fluffy.
3. Use a nonstick frying pan, lightly greased with vegetable oil. You want to make sure the pan is really hot for the first batch. Dollop a couple of tablespoon-fulls of batter into the pan. I made the thicker, American style versions, but you could make thinner crêpe-like ones with this batter too. The trick to knowing when to flip your pancakes over is to wait until little bubbles form on the top (i.e. on the uncooked side). After flipping they should only take another minute or so tops.
4. Serve with your favourite pancake toppings- fruit, syrup, lemon juice, or honey. Or sugar, chocolate sauce, ice cream, marshmallows, bacon…..
Peaches, blueberries and cream… in a cake.