You agreed in a pre-pageant haze to take over this year’s Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper. Lent seemed so far away. Now it’s around the corner. You know people will show up hungry. You know you have volunteers. What you don’t know is how to turn on the church oven.
Breathe. You can do this. We can help. Through Building Faith we have experts to offer wisdom for just such occasions. Consider this a BTDT article, which of course stands for “been there, done that.”
Pancake Supper Printable
For any pancake supper, it helps to have something on the table to remind guests about the meaning of the event. Check out this Shrove Tuesday tri-fold created by Gail Jackins at St. Cuthbert in Houston. Feel free to use or adapt it, and please credit the author.
11 Pancake Pro Tips
From the pancake master himself, David McCullough, we have 11 tried and true tips for success in the pancake kitchen. McCullough’s experience cooking pancakes for a crowd comes from years of preparing breakfasts at a Quaker youth camp. He assures us that the theory and execution of cooking for 75 is the same as for 200.
1. Use electric griddles
These work much better than a stovetop. Aim for at least three or four griddles or as many as you can get. Each griddle can produce eight to ten pancakes at a time.
2. Estimate 3 – 5 pancakes per person
Err on the side of more. Can you have too many pancakes?
3. Prepare pancake batter ahead of time
Batter can be refrigerated. Use a whisk and a light touch. Overmixed pancakes are dry and tough. If the first pancakes do not rise enough, sift a little more baking powder over the batter and gently stir in.
4. Thaw breakfast meats ahead of time
5. Preheat your griddles
Heat your griddles 30 – 40 minutes before the doors open. You want them hot, about 375˚F. Start on your pancakes as soon as the griddles are ready. Feed your helpers first! The first batch won’t look that good, and feeding your helpers is good for morale!
6. Precook breakfast meats
Sausage or other meats should be cooked about an hour before the doors open. They can be kept hot in aluminum pans covered with foil in an oven at 250˚F.
7. Cook your ‘cakes like a pro
A ladle is the best way to ensure same-size pancakes and ease of pouring. A half-cup ladle is perfect. Flip your pancakes when there are popped bubbles over the entire surface of the pancake. Only flip them once. Pancakes can be kept hot in a foil pan in an oven at 250˚F.
8. Assign your volunteers
Recruit one pancake cook for 2 griddles. Have one or two “runners” to refill pancake batter, replenish cooked food and drinks, etc. Recruit one experienced (calm and friendly) person to oversee the kitchen.
9. Determine your “front of the house” setup
At some churches youth provide food service (Mission trip fundraiser, anyone?). Others have self-serve buffets. And still others do family style with platters on each table.
10. Plan cleanup
Think carefully about your options. Disposable tableware makes for quick cleanup. Reusable dishes, glasses, and utensils create a different feel and are more ecologically sound (but also make for lots of dishwashing).
11. Finally, a checklist:
- syrup in individual bottles, regular (1 per table) and sugar-free (1 per 3 tables)
- butter or margarine in individual containers (1 per table)
- beverages and accompaniments (like sugar and cream for coffee)
- pancake mix and ingredients
- additional pancake toppings (optional)
- breakfast meats
- spray oil for griddles
- napkins, plates, cups, forks, knives
- pitchers, carafes, or coolers for water and other beverages
- serving table or station
- tables and chairs for guests
- tablecloths or roller paper to cover tables
- trash bags
- paper towels
- kitchen cleaning spray
- dish soap and sponge
Bonus Tips for Gluten-Free Options
Here are a few bonus tips for providing gluten-free food options for your community. For more on attending to members’ dietary needs, sensitivities, and allergies, see “Food Matters: 7 Dietarily-Sensitive Meals for a Crowd” by Sabrina Evans.
1. Prepare and cook gluten-free pancakes on separate equipment
Avoid using the same mixing bowls, utensils, and griddles for pancakes with gluten and gluten-free pancakes unless they have been thoroughly cleaned between uses.
2. Provide a separate butter or margarine dish to use for gluten-free pancakes
Reserving a butter container for those who are eating gluten-free pancakes helps keep crumbs from wheat flour pancakes out of the butter container.
3. Post labels on food items to identify which contain gluten and which are gluten-free
This is one of the recommendations offered in Evans’s article. Labeling foods is a simple way to give guests information about the foods available and to enable kitchen volunteers to keep track of which serving platter is for gluten-free pancakes and which is for pancakes with gluten.
The Big Picture
Remember that this is a holy act of servanthood that you are performing as you help your fellow Christians prepare for Lent. God be with you!
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on February 21, 2014. It has been revised, updated, and republished January 4, 2023.