National Pancake Day: When It Is and How to Celebrate

Whether you enjoy a stack of fluffy pancakes dripping with syrup or like to smother them in whipped cream and strawberries, there’s no denying that pancakes are a popular meal choice. Any food that is beloved by all deserves to have its own holiday.

National Pancake Day is celebrated on February 28. A thin flat cake prepared with a batter made from milk, eggs, flour, and oil or butter, the pancake and its variations are found in almost every culture.

History of National Pancake Day

Also known as Johnnycakes, griddlecakes, flapjacks, and hotcakes, this batter-made breakfast item dates back more than 30,000 years. In fact, it may be the oldest breakfast food in history spanning as far back as the Stone Age and even found in the stomach of Otzi the Iceman whose human remains are estimated to be 5,300 years old.

Maple syrup for pancakes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Middle English word pancake first appeared in English in the 15th century although Ancient Greeks and Romans made what were called alita dolcia or another sweet with wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. Greek Poets, Cratinus, and Magnes wrote about them in their poetry and Shakespeare mentions them in his famous plays. During the English Renaissance, pancakes were flavored with spices, rosewater, sherry, and apples. This practice of pouring batter on a pan and frying it is common in nearly every culture around the world.

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This year guests from around the country will once again celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP and enjoy a free short stack of Buttermilk pancakes. In return for the free pancakes, guests are asked to leave a donation to designated local charities. This is your opportunity to contribute to your community and enjoy a delicious meal. Celebrated annually in spring, and since beginning its first celebration in 2006, International House of Pancakes (IHOP) have raised over $24 million to support charities in the communities in which they operate.

Is a pancake a cake? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is a pancake a cake?

Some think that pancakes aren’t cakes because of their ingredients. Others believe it is a cake since it has the word in its name.

Technically, a pancake is not a cake. It’s an unleavened flatbread that gets cooked on a frying pan or griddle.

Cakes include leavening agents such as yeast or baking powder. The leavening agents cause the cake batter to rise giving the cake its spongy texture.

Pancakes are also thinner than most cakes. Cakes are also baked in an oven while pancakes get cooked on a stovetop.

Eggs, a pancake ingredient © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are there two National Pancake Days?

A day so nice they made it twice—September 26 is the year’s second National Pancake Day. That day was first called Lumberjack Day. The creators of the holiday changed the name to honor pancakes.

People love pancakes so much that there are two National Pancake Days each year. As mentioned above IHOP restaurants have celebrated its own holiday devoted to pancakes. IHOP’s National Pancake Day 2023 takes place on February 28.

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And we also have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday, also referred to as Fat Tuesday. Lent marks a time to eat simpler food and give up things like sweet, rich, and dairy ingredients. The day before the season started was the ideal time to make pancakes to use leftover eggs, milk, and sugar.

Apple pancakes? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pancake Day traditions

Prepare your eggs, butter, and milk as National Pancake Day is here! Let’s focus on the most important part of this day: stuff ourselves silly with stacks of fluffy pancakes. Top them off with your favorite toppings or try something different like chocolate syrup or an unusual fruit pairing. Pancakes have different variations like crepes and even waffles, so you can always tweak it.

Pancake racing is also a popular tradition on this day involving racing while flipping pancakes successfully on a pan. A mob football is also a popular celebration in the UK on this holiday.

Orange flavored pancakes? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun facts about pancakes

  • The most expensive pancake in the world costs $200 due to ingredients like 23-carat gold leaf and Madagascan vanilla
  • You can order Blodplätter in Sweden which are pancakes made with pork blood
  • The world’s largest pancakes weighed almost 7,000 pounds
  • Pearl Milling Company was the first pancake mix in 1890
  • The highest pancake toss is 31 feet, one inch
Lemon flavored pancakes? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pancake Day statistics

  • 49 feet: Measurement in diameter of the world’s largest pancake
  • 6,614 pounds: Weight of the world’s biggest pancake
  • 32.5 percent: Percentage of pancakes consumed by U.S Southerners
  • $200: Price of the world’s most expensive pancake at Opus in the Printworks in England
  • 520: Calories in two servings of pancakes with butter and syrup
  • 3.17 million: Gallons of maple syrup produced in the United States in 2014
  • 31 feet: Highest pancake toss in the world done by Dominic Cuzzacrea
  • 11:  Percentage by which sales of the McDonald’s McGriddles sandwich increased after using pancakes instead of a biscuit
  • 1445: First annual pancake race was hosted in the town of Olney in England
  • 52 million: Eggs used by the British on Pancake Day
Donuts, a pancake alternative? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Try a new pancake recipe for Pancake Day

Though this is certainly a day for tradition, it might also be one to think beyond the norm. Pancakes are a delightfully simple recipe that can be altered and embellished in a variety of creative ways. Try out some of these ideas for adding a bit of zing to the ordinary pancake recipe:

  • S’Mores Pancakes: Marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips, and some graham cracker crumbs turn plain old pancakes into something unique and exciting that is reminiscent of being gathered around a campfire.
  • Peppermint Hot Chocolate Pancakes: A delight for the senses, this recipe includes chocolate sauce and chocolate chips in the batter as well as mini marshmallows and crushed peppermint candies sprinkled on top. Indulgent and delicious!
  • Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes: Enjoy the sweetness with a balance of cheese with this light and fluffy recipe. Simply mix ricotta cheese and lemon zest into the batter, add fresh or frozen blueberries, and top with powdered sugar after cooking.
Maple syrup for pancakes © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Pancake Day activities

  • Create your own pancake: Choose one of the many pancake recipes from your favorite cookbook or online, shop for the the ingredients, and handle business.
  • Head over to your local IHOP: Enjoy a pancake with all the toppings at your leisure.
  • Give the gift of pancakes: Treat your partner to a delicious pancake meal; together you’ll make the world a better place, one flapjack at a time.
Eggs, a pancake ingredient © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5 Pancake Facts

Southern Comfort: Southerners eat the most pancakes in the United States accounting for 32.5 percent of national pancake consumption

Sweet Nectar: Maple syrup was originally a sweet drink when discovered by the Algonquin Indians

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High Cakes: The record for the world’s highest pancake toss belongs to Dominic Cuzzacrea who flipped a pancake 31 feet (and 1 inch) into the air in November 2010

Joy to the World: Since 1961, Mrs. Butterworth has been the iconic godmother of American syrup

The Good Mix: The first ready-mix food which was sold commercially was Aunt Jemima pancake flour invented in 1889 in St. Joseph, Missouri

Worth Pondering…

The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.

—W. C. Fields