MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Is There A Difference Between Pancakes & Flapjacks?

What do you call those fluffy, circular batter cakes, which are pan-fried to a light golden brown & served with syrup (or fruit, Cool Whip, or any number of other scrumptious add-ons)? Are they pancakes..or are they flapjacks? Is there even a difference?

Here in the US, “flapjack” & “pancake” are basically just synonyms for the same exact thing. The same goes for Canada, too. But “flapjack” means something altogether different across the pond, over in the UK. A British flapjack is more of a dessert-style granola bar, comprised of rolled oats, butter, and brown sugar, and sometimes containing syrup, dried fruit, chocolate, and/or nuts. And an English flapjack gets baked in an oven (as opposed to being fried on a griddle), before typically being served in squares or rectangles (versus the round cakes we know & love).

Ever since the word “pancake” first showed up in the 1400s, it’s meant pretty much the same thing that it means today: flat, pan-fried batter. Flapjack, however, evolved a bit over time. It first came about in the 1600s, as some folks started using it as an alternative word for pancake. There were several others, though, who used “flapjack” to refer to a kind of apple turnover or flat tart, and that’s what’s led to the modern-day English version of the baked oat bar. (Flapjack didn’t even show up in print until the 1930s).

Now, while the word “pancake” refers to pan-fried batter both here in North America and over in Britain, English pancakes, themselves, are a tad different. Here in the US, our pancake recipes usually consist of some raising agent (like baking powder), which produces a thicker, fluffier cake. British pancakes, however, don’t have a raising agent, so they’re a lot flatter (more like crêpes).

Either way, whenever you order them you’re going to end up with arguably the best part of breakfast, regardless of where you are & whatever you call them.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at Andy@WFRE.com!

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