Pancake Art: A How-To Guide

That’s Elmo. It’s not a great pancake, but that’s lesson 1 in pancake art… sometimes the finished product doesn’t look so hot. So what. Your kid will still love it. This is my first attempt at a “how-to” blog. News flash, it’s not gonna look so hot either. I chose Elmo because kids love that little monster, and he’s pretty basic to draw. As I emphasized heavily in my “about me” section, I’m not an artist… but you don’t have to be to make your kid smile. I’ve discovered that it’s very difficult to try to document everything I’m doing just by saying “Hey babe, take some pictures of the pancakes while I’m making them” to my wife. Doesn’t work when you’re using a crappy camera phone, and you’ve got a hungry two and a half year old, and an even hungrier 8 month old in the background. So, the photos aren’t great… nor is the documentation. I’ll get better at this… promise. In the meantime, here a glimpse of how I make the pancakes, and I’ll try to walk you through each step that I took to make that Elmo pancake you see above.

The tools.  A griddle. Honestly, I just got this thing. It’s awesome…. but for the majority of my pancake making days… I just had a regular old skillet. Either works fine. A big ole spatula so you don’t spend a bunch of time making an awesome pancake, only to have a bad flip. A squirt bottle thingy. This is the tool that makes the magic happen. This is the part where a light goes off in your head, “Oh…. THAT’s how he does it.” An image of whatever you’re about to draw. I usually pull one up on the iPad or my phone… or one of Atley’s coloring books.

The pancake mix. Really, you can use anything. I use Krusteaz because they sell giant bags of it at Costco and it’s convenient. You can make your own… whatever. The most important thing is how you mix it. This is about involving your little one in the making of the pancakes. My favorite part of all of this is Atley, my daughter, helping me mix up the batter. Before you mix, this next part is essential to preventing clogs…

Sifting. This is an important step, and it’s a great spot to get your kid involved. I have Atley scoop up the mix, and dump it into the sifter. I sift, dump out the large balls of mix that will clog your bottle, the pour in the water and stir. Kids love to mix and stir… let them for a little… then finish it off yourself. Make sure it’s not too runny, but not too thick either. Depending on the exact bottle you have… you may have to play with the consistency of your batter a bit.

Side note: Your kid doesn’t actually have to wear a stethoscope while making pancakes with you… Ok, now it’s time to make the pancake. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the different shades of pancake comes from leaving the batter longer on the griddle. So, whatever you want the darkest in your pancake… is where you start. For Elmo, you want the outline, the center of the eyes, and the mouth the darkest…. followed by the nose, the face, and then the eyes last. The timing of this is a trial and error process based on your griddle and the heat of your burners. It’ll take a few tries to get the hang of it. Here’s Elmo:

There will always be one part of the pancake you want to be the lightest in color. That should be the last thing you fill in, followed by a final flip after only a few seconds of cooking… if you’re worried about the batter being too soft, it will cook on the flip side.

Looks like a blob of crap when you finish filling it in… the moment of truth comes in the flip. I’m a horrible judge on how good a pancake will turn… some that I think will be amazing are awful, and vice versa.

Like I said up top… just an okay pancake. I’ve had better… I’ve had worse. See all that shrapnel off to the side of his face? Splash from the flip. You can totally slice that off with the spatula, a knife, or some kitchen cutting shears to tighten up your performance a bit.

Remember… no two pancakes are the same. Sometimes you mess up on the art… sometimes you burn ‘em… sometimes you start, realize they’re awful, chuck ‘em, and start over. Here’s the first character pancake I ever tried…

Here’s a pretty burnt Elmo that’s not really edible. Griddle was a weee bit too hot.

See? Not pretty. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section for anything I didn’t cover and I will answer all of them. Remember, this isn’t about making an amazing pancake… it’s about making amazing memories with your kids.


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10 Responses to Pancake Art: A How-To Guide

  1. nancy graves says:

    The most awesome part is the time and love that goes into your relationship with Atley! What a dad! great job!

  2. Debbie C says:

    Totally awesome! I love the interaction with your daughter and how you’re helping her to be comfortable with cooking (& making it fun)! Such a great skill and such a cool bonding experience. :) And, this is TOTALLY ART…it’s just edible art.

    ( I lettered in art in HS at an Art School; I think all my teachers would agree.)

  3. Amy B says:

    Yes! I did have an aha moment when I saw the squirty ketchup dispenser thing. Great idea!

  4. Kiersten G says:

    Sooo awesome!!! I wanna try this!!

  5. Janey says:

    “Remember, this isn’t about making an amazing pancake… it’s about making amazing memories with your kids.” Not true.
    Can I paraphrase the Cookie Monster? “Not about amazing looking pancakes. Not about amazing memories. Is about amazing breakfast.”

    My mouth is watering – and I’ve already had breakfast!

  6. Wow! Loved your pancakes! And your love to your kids…
    I was amazed by some Artistic Pancakes I just found here but it was a little too much for myself, mostly because here in Brazil we don’t have all the right ingredients. But now I’m gonna go for your basic idea!!! That’s much more like the ones I’m used to make and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna work just great.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!!

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