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What are Hotcakes?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hotcakes are flat, typically round, cakes made using a batter of varying degrees of thickness and spooning or ladling the batter onto a hot pan or griddle. Sometimes also called pancakes, they are a common type of food eaten all throughout the world and may typically be enjoyed at any meal. They can be made savory with the addition of herbs and spices, as well as cooked vegetables or similar ingredients, or made sweet by adding fruit, maple syrup, or chocolate chips. Hotcakes go by a number of different names throughout the world, and many different varieties are created in different countries.

In the United States (US), hotcakes are generally regarded as a breakfast food, though it is not unheard of for them to be enjoyed at any time of day. The US version typically involves a fairly thick batter made using egg, milk, flour, and a rising agent such as baking powder. This provides a certain amount of lightness to the cakes and creates bubbles during cooking. The batter is spooned or ladled onto a hot griddle or pan, and cooked on one side until the bubbles form, at which point it is flipped and allowed to finish cooking on the other side.

American hotcakes are often enjoyed as a sweet dish, usually topped with butter and maple syrup. They can also be made using fruit such as blueberries, bananas, or strawberries, and may even be made with chocolate chips to create a very sweet dessert cake. There are also popular versions of hotcakes made using corn meal, called Johnnycakes, and early American pioneers would make them using sourdough mixtures.

Hotcakes are considered by anthropologists to likely be one of the oldest forms of cooked foods. Ancient peoples would have been able to easily combine ground wheat flour with liquids such as eggs or milk to create a batter, which they then could have cooked on a flat stone or in an earthen pot. This is likely why a variation of these types of cakes can be found all over the world.

In France, these cakes are usually made using a thin batter and allowed to spread out in a very thin and light type of pancake called a crêpe. Hotcakes made in the United Kingdom are quite similar to the French crêpes, while Scottish pancakes are thicker and more like American cakes. There are many versions of hotcakes made throughout Asia, such as the Indian pooda and an Indonesian variety that uses coconut milk and rice flour called serabi.

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