Pancake Day

Pancake Day is on a different date every year and is a celebration unique to the UK. Read the text and find out why British people celebrate with pancakes.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

Americans are often surprised to hear that British people have a special day in celebration of pancakes. After all, American pancakes are a typical breakfast or brunch meal. However, pancakes in the UK are much thinner than American pancakes because they don't use baking powder, so they are not fat and fluffy and, instead, are more like French crepes. 

Why pancakes?

Pancake Day is actually another name for Shrove Tuesday, which takes place 40 days before Easter Sunday and marks the start of Lent. In some other countries this day is called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, because it's when people ate all the good things for the last time before starting 40 days of religious fasting for Lent. Milk, eggs and oil or butter might not seem special nowadays, but hundreds of years ago they were one of the few ways of turning a basic recipe of flour and water into something richer. 

The pancake bell

As well as using all their eggs and fats before Lent, people would also go to church to confess their sins to a priest. A bell used to ring at about 11 o'clock in the morning to remind people to cook their luxury ingredients and go to confession. This bell became known as the pancake bell. In Olney in Buckinghamshire, the town celebrates with a tradition that started in 1445 when a woman heard the bell while she was making pancakes. She ran out of the house to get to church in time for confession while she was still holding the hot pan with the pancake inside. As she ran, she tossed the pancake to flip it over and over again so that it wouldn't burn. Today, in Olney and some other towns across the UK, pancake races are held, where the racers all run and toss pancakes down the street.

Pancake Day in numbers

On average, British people eat two pancakes per person on Pancake Day (though plenty of people will have three or four at least) which means 117 million pancakes will be eaten in one day. On a normal day, Brits eat 30 million eggs per day, but on Pancake Day that goes up to 52 million eggs and enough milk to fill more than 93 Olympic swimming pools. While some people might put chocolate spread or syrup on their pancakes, the most popular topping, by far, is lemon juice and sugar. But instead of the fine white sugar you put on top of cakes, British people use the same kind of sugar they put in their tea. If you want to try making British-style pancakes today, here's a simple recipe:


To make about 12 pancakes you need:

100g plain flour
2 large eggs
300ml milk
15ml of oil, plus extra for frying
a pinch of salt

  1. Put the flour, milk, oil and pinch of salt into a bowl. Whisk them together, then add the eggs and whisk again until you have a smooth liquid called batter.
  2. Leave the batter to rest for 30 minutes if you have time.
  3. Put a medium-size frying pan over medium heat and put a little oil in the pan.
  4. When the oil is hot, pour a large spoonful of batter into the pan and move the pan so that the batter covers the bottom of the pan. 
  5. Cook the pancakes for one minute on each side until they are golden.
  6. Serve the pancakes warm with the topping you like best. 
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B1 English level (intermediate)

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 15:36


What is the best pancake topping?
I don't know about pancake topping. but it looks delicious. I will try to make it at home once a day.

Submitted by lanasmonkeys on Mon, 18/04/2022 - 18:30


I was curious to know that most popular British topping for pancakes is lemon with sugar. I personally dont really like lemon so it wouldnt be a great combination. And i also didnt know that there was a specific day only for pancakes. I also like mine with chocolate or maple syrup.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Sat, 26/06/2021 - 07:05

l have never heard about Pancake Day.It is very interesting.

Submitted by Barbara_Sz on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 07:56

In my home country, Hungary we often make pancakes. It is not a tradition. We just like it. We fill it with many different filling- as we eat it rollers up - such as apricot or strawberry jam, cottage cheese, cocoa, chocolate or vanilla puding, cinnamon and many many more other varieties. We even have pancake restaurants where you can choose from more than 50 varieties.

Submitted by Lucy Brkic on Thu, 18/02/2021 - 18:34

We have the same tradition in Russia, we call it Masleniza, and it comes from Maslo-butter. I take my pancakes with banana and Nutella topping if I want them sweet and with caviar if not.
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Submitted by danisep on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 15:35

I haven't try pancake with lemon juice and sugar next time gonna be with that topping. I put it syrup or honey.
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 21:37

The best pancake topping is lemon juice and sugar.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Fri, 27/03/2020 - 19:03

I will try to make pancakes, which seem very similar to French crepes. I think the best topping is lemon juice and brown sugar, or rather without sugar, because I don't like biscuit mixtures or doughs too sweet.
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Submitted by Oksi1001 on Fri, 13/12/2019 - 14:15

Hi there! I have't eaten pancakes with lemon and sugar, as many of people who wrote here. And now i will try this topping surely! I relized that i haven't eaten pancaces for a long time and i will change it soon. Usally i prefer pancakes with honеy, it's my favorite topping. Also i like it with jam, or just with butter. By the way we also like pancakes with filling. It can be cottage cheese, meet or chiken with muchrooms.

Submitted by Mukunda on Sun, 08/12/2019 - 11:04

Hi everyone , I have never heard about pancake day . But it seems interesting .I have also never tried a pancake but I think it may be delicious .By the way, we also have a similar festival in north India which is called makar Sankranti or magh Bihu(in Assam, a state of India ) . I am a Bengali so we celebrate the festival and eat pitha ( it is like a indian cake made without using egg) .

Submitted by parisaach on Sat, 07/09/2019 - 06:55

I like pancake , but I've never tried it in British way. By the way I think I like American pancakes more, cause it seems British pancakes are not fluffy. Maybe it seems too much for British people to eat two pancake in a day, but sometimes I eat five a day. It is one of my favorite breakfasts. I like cream as topping and some time I try some jams like strawberry jam, cherry jam. I usually eat pancake with tea as breakfast and I really enjoy it. It is strange to sever pancake with lemon and sugar as topping , I like lemon but I don't know is it good to use it as topping on pancake, maybe I should try it and I also should try pancake with British recipe .

Submitted by sam65 on Mon, 15/04/2019 - 08:54

I did not know that the British are celebrating a pancake day, it can be very funny to try different recipes and mostly taste the pancakes, personally i like very much pancakes and usually eat them with Maple syrup and raisins.

Submitted by Azzarine on Wed, 13/03/2019 - 10:07

For me, the best pancake topping is butter and sugar. I'm just let the butter melt on the hot pancake, then add a spoon of sugar and rool the pancake into a tub. This is amazing !
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Submitted by iso on Wed, 06/03/2019 - 09:07

as for me Pancake is best mean for breakfast.I eat pancake as a breakfast with honey or batter.I suprised for British people commonly topping lemon .I have never eat it with lemon.I would try some day .In my country people prefer love rice.We don't eat pancake so much. also I suprised people eat egg so often.On average I eat eggs three time of week.I know Egg has a lot of protein,Instead of having a egg I drink milk so much.

Submitted by Gus2019 on Wed, 06/03/2019 - 00:10

It´s a interesting tradition. I didn't know about pancakes in Uk, but now I know the principal reason, 40 days before easter, the people from UK celebrate Pancake Day. I wondering how is the taste of pancake with lemon and sugar on the top of them, it´s the most popular topping in Uk. I prefer chocolate with some of honey.

Submitted by Leo on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 23:33

What can I say about it? It is so delicious.

Submitted by ADELE on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 13:31

My best topping is chocolate, sometimes i top on with honey or jam. In my country we usually do crepes and we eat sometimes at breakfast.
I have the same topping in my pancakes. We don't named as Pancakes but we named as "Tortilla de huevo" and yes. We eat often at breakfast and dinner. Although it is not common because people from my country prefer to eat bread for breakfast.

Submitted by Lichtlein on Thu, 28/02/2019 - 11:27

I was curious to know that most popular British topping for pancakes is lemon with sugar. As for me, I prefer as a topping sour cream most of all, sometimes it could be honey or soft boiled eggs mixed with some butter and salt. But the last topping is better to eat with American pancakes, which are puffy and prepared with using yeast. But anyway, which ever topping you prefer, it is a tasty dish, meanwhile it is a nice old tradition to follow.
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Submitted by MAO on Thu, 28/02/2019 - 03:10

Because pancakes aren't the traditional food in Taiwan, I hardly can point out what the best pancake topping is. The preferred-flavor depends on various people. As for me, i would like to choose lemon juice and sugar, the most popular topping. That is because i like the fresh taste and smell of lemon, and that will be good to mix it with some sweetness, which make me feel like falling in love....