By Lisa

My offer was innocent enough, and both kids leapt at it, but there was a semantic conflict that nearly brought down the house.

“I want pancakes,” Finn shouted.

“I want griddle cakes,” Ella countered.

“No,” he protested. “Pan. Cakes.”

“They’re Griddle Cakes,” she insisted.

“I. Want. Pancakes.” Finn stomped.

“Finn! They are the same thing!. They are GRIDDLE CAKES!”


At which point I held up the griddle, and Ella said, “Finn, pancakes are griddle cakes.”

He looked at the familiar evidence: the yellow melamine mixing bowl, the whisk, the griddle on the stove, and the tears stopped. He laughed.  “Oh! Not I know that pancakes are griddle cakes.”

I grew up eating pacakes on Sunday mornings, which my father made from Bisquick, and which I don’t buy.  I have tried recipe after recipe, mix after mix and never quite found the perfect formula until Ella brought home from the library the excellent Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts, a nonfiction story about how Fannie Farmer got her start.

The recipe is a dream:  simple, straightforward, failproof, and it makes the perfect pancake.  The griddle cakes, as we now call them, because that’s what Fanny called them are not to thin, not too thick, easy to cook, easy to eat. WIth Grade B Maple Syrup, you may well rediscover the family breakfast table.  While I do keep a box of mix on hand for emergency dinners, it gets used maybe once a year.

In the book, Fanny teaches her young charge how to cook many things, including griddle cakes, so of course Ella, now 6,  has taken this lesson to heart, and so has Finn, age almost-4.

We had few extra frozen blueberries stashed, which we sprinkled on her griddle cakes, and Ella remembered  to watch the griddle cakes until they were bubbling and dry around the edges, and then she carefully slid the spatula under the disc and… flip! the perfect pancake.

She stood on a step stool, and I was close by, talking her through the steps, what was to safe to touch, what not. She does have basic knife & kitchen safety skills, so I felt relatively okay about the safety aspect of the experiment.  I was less okay about what would happen if the pan–I mean griddle cake collapsed in a gooey mess. But the recipe is, as I said, a dream.

But then Finn wanted a turn.

I took a deep breath. I said okay.  I tried to help him, but he is stubborn.  I showed him how to flip the pancake a few times, hand over hand. Then I showed him what was very, very hot.  Then I stepped back.  He, too, has been in the kitchen a lot with me.   Kory stood just behind him.

And just to prove that you, too, can make the perfect pancake, my not-quite-4-year old really did flip his own griddle-pancakes.

Of course, the real cooking was nearly as big a hit as the eating, and soon Ella was clamoring:

“It’s my flipping turn!”

And so, for your eating and flipping pleasure:

Fannie Farmer’s Griddle Cakes

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Sift together all dry ingredients into a large bowl. This is an essential step. We just use a sieve, and work over the sink for easy clean up.

2. In a glass measuring cup beat the egg.

3. Add milk to the egg.

3. Pour egg and milk mixture slowly over dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate.

4. Add butter.

4. Cook batter on a hot griddle. Don’t turn the griddle cakes too soon! Wait until they are bubbling all over the center and a little dry around the edges.