History of Pancake Day

Pancake Day, known as Shrove Tuesday, is the day before the start of Lent – the 40 day fast before Easter. Pancake Day occurs either in February or March, depending on when Ash Wednesday is.

‘Shrove’ is derived from the Old English word ‘Shrive’, which means to confess our sins; Anglo Saxon Christians used to go to confession upon the ringing of the ‘Pancake Bell’, where they were “shriven”.

Why were pancakes given up?

The pancake’s history spans as far back as 1439, where it was displayed in cook books. Pancake Day’s purpose is to indulge in glutenous foods before the Lent fasting, as it was often the last chance for people to use up things like eggs and fats before Lent started.

Pancake ingredients are significant as they are symbolic of events throughout the year:

eggs symbolise creation, flour represents the ingredients of life, salt embodies wholesomeness, and milk signifies purity.

Pancake races

Pancake races are a big part of English culture when it comes to Pancake Day, where runners have to toss their pancakes and get to the finish line first. One of the most important locations for a pancake race is Olney, Buckinghamshire.

As the old legend goes, an Olney woman heard the shriving bell ring whilst she was making pancakes, and raced to the church – still with her frying pan in hand. From then on, having a pancake tossing race through the streets has become an iconic part of Pancake Day.

Traditional types of pancakes


The quintessentially English pancake is a flat cake made from batter (plain flour, eggs, milk and salt) and is fried in a frying pan. Popular toppings include sprinkles of sugar, golden syrup, or lemon juice.

Historically, Gloucestershire pancakes were made with suet to achieve a more coarse and rich texture in comparison to the traditional English pancake. Harvest pancakes were made from ginger, apple slices and ale before being cooked in lard, and were served to people living in poverty.


In Wales, Welsh cakes are eaten. These pancakes are rolled up, and are made from butter and sour cream. Welsh cakes are served with sweet additions such as jam or sugar, or savoury things such as cheese or fish.

Pancakes around the world

Some other worldly pancake traditions include:

  • Kaiserschmarrn, Austria – these pancakes are divided into bitesize pieces, and are topped with dried nuts and fruits.
  • Malapau, India – a traditional Bengali snack, Malapau is a pancake with a myriad of different recipes, which uses different garnishes, such as cardamom and mashed banana.
  • Aebleskiver, Denmark – Danish pancakes are round, and are the light pancake equivalent of a muffin.
  • Naleśniki, Poland – Naleśniki are dainty fried crepes that are stuffed with jam and fruit, and can also be eaten with fried chicken.

If you’re going to be giving up any goodies for Lent, be sure to have one last indulgence with one of our luxury hampers!

Image by Vladislav NoseekShutterstock.com


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