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Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day

Updated on April 9, 2020
David3142 profile image

I am a self-taught home cook who enjoys sharing recipes with people.

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake day)

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and next year (2014) it falls on 14th March. Although originally a Christian date, it is now more widely known throughout the UK as Pancake Day due to the tradition of eating pancakes on this day.

On this lens, I will explain the history of Shrove Tuesday along with pancake recipes and some of the odd traditions still upheld throughout England and the rest of the UK on this day.

Photo of pancake courtesy of Tom Adriaenssen - wikimedia commons

What is Shrove Tuesday?

Shrove Tuesday in the Christian calendar, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. During the six weeks of Lent, many Christians choose to fast as a form of penitance. Traditionally, this fasting meant eating plainer food, hence pancakes were eaten prior to the start of Lent as a way of using up rich foods such as eggs, milk and flour.

This tradition is kept alive today in the UK and other countries, even by non-Christians, in the form of Pancake day.

Shrove Tuesday falls exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday and so the exact date changes year to year. Shrove Tuesday will be 12th of February this year, and 4th of March in 2014.

Here is a simple to follow recipe for creating pancakes. These pancakes are the English version (thinner and less airy than the US version).

Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 50 min
Yields: 6 (one pancake each)


  • 1/2 lb plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pint milk
  • 2 eggs


  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour, then break the eggs into this.
  3. Add about 1/4 of the milk to the well and stir slowly, bringing more flour into the centre and adding the remaining milk as needed, until a stiff batter consistency is achieved.
  4. Beat the mixture well for approximately 5 minutes to get air into the mix, then add any remaining milk.
  5. Leave the mixture to stand in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Using a lightly greased, hot frying pan, pour batter into the pan until the bottom is covered with a thin layer. Tilt the pan to ensure the batter covers the pan evenly.
  7. When the pancake has started to brown underneath, it needs to be turned. You can either flip it or use a fish slice.
  8. Brown the second side and then slide onto a plate ready for serving with the topping of you choice.
Cast your vote for Pancake recipe

Ideas for sweet toppings

There are many toppings that can be used for pancakes. Here are some of my personal favourites.

  • Lemon juice and sugar - Simple, classic, tasty, a traditional favourite across the UK.
  • Golden syrup - For those with more of a sweet tooth.
  • Nutella - My wife's favourite.
  • Brandy and sugar - Adults only.
  • Jam - Always good, I tend to use strawberry jam in mine.

Savoury toppings

Although most people opt for sweet toppings, savoury toppings can also be incredibly tasty. Why not try a savoury pancake before tucking into the sweet. Here are some I've had and enjoyed in the past.

1. Ham, cheese and eggs - I first came across this in a restaurant in France and was hooked. You have to try it to understand how well these fillings go in a pancake.

2. Spinach and ricotta - Lighter, but still very tasty. The greens help assuage the greedy feeling I get when faced with pancake topping decisions.

3. Tomato, goat's cheese and onion - A classy pancake if ever there was one.

Photo Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Favourite pancake toppings

Which is your favourite out of the following pancake toppings? If your favourite doesn't appear, why not leave a comment describing it?

What is your favourite pancake topping?

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Olney Pancake race
Olney Pancake race

Pancake day traditions throughout England

In many English towns and villages, there is a lot more to Pancake day than just Pancakes. It was once tradtion for a towns to hold a 'mob football' game on Shrove Tuesday where large numbers of people would meet for a huge football (soccer) match. There was no limit to the number of people on each team and the rules were quite loose i.e. no murder or unnecessary violence. Despite the name 'football', the ball didn't need to be kicked either, it could be held rugby style.

This tradition continues in some places. Perhaps the most famous is the Royal Shrovetide Football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, but mob football games are also held in Atherstone, Warwickshire; Sedgefield, County Durham; and St Columb Major in Cornwall.

Another tradition that continues to this day is pancake races. The premise is simple; participants race through the streets of the town while carrying a frying pan and flipping and catching a pancake as they go.

One quite strange tradition exists in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where local schools close early and people gather together to skip with skipping ropes.

Photo of Pancake race courtesy of wikimedia commons

Pancake Races

A couple of examples of Pancake races from England. Enjoy!

© 2013 David

Your pancake comments

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    • David3142 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from West Midlands, England

      @Arachnea: Thank you.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      6 years ago from Texas USA

      This is an interesting custom. As Wednesday was celebrated just after Mardi Gras on the 5th this year. I like the pancakes. They remind me of crepes. Very nice lense.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      7 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Just plain with lemon juice and sugar!


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