To Make Pink Colored Pancakes

Why settle for boring old tan pancakes when you can have pink ones? The colonial cook did not yet use baking powder or sodas, so these pancakes are thinner than modern ones. They would have been eaten by hand, rolled up with a little powered sugar.

18th Century

Boil a large beet-root tender, and beat it fine in a marble mortar, then add the yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and three spoonfuls of good cream, sweeten to your taste, and grate in half a nutmeg, and put in half a glass of brandy; beat them all together half an hour, fry them in butter, and garnish them with green sweet-meats, preserved apricots, or green springs of myrtle. It is a pretty corner dish for either dinner or supper.

Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, p. 220.

21st Century

  • 1 large red beet
  • 4 egg yolks (or equivalent amount of egg substitute)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or you may use skim milk or low fat cream)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 oz. brandy
  • 1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
  • Butter for frying (may substitute margarine or oil)
  • Preserved apricots, bay leaves, or pistachios, for garnish
  1. Boil the beet with the skin on until tender. Let cool, then remove the skin with a dry towel. Roughly chop the beet and then puree it in a food processor. While the processor is running, add the sugar, egg yolks, cream, brandy, and nutmeg. Stop the processor from time to time to scrape down the sides. When everything is well pureed, add the flour to combine to a smooth batter.
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat and melt a small amount of butter in the pan. Spoon ¼ cup of the mixture for each pancake into the pan and fry on both sides until done. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
  3. Garnish with pistachios, bay leaves, or preserved apricots.

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29 Responses to “To Make Pink Colored Pancakes”

  1. January 17th, 2011

    walter zadan says:

    Interesting. I will try it.

  2. January 17th, 2011

    Jan Hunnell says:

    Love the idea of the 18th century recipes. Let me know how the pink pancakes taste.

  3. January 17th, 2011

    ALICE says:


  4. January 18th, 2011

    Patricia King says:

    Fun idea, love the recipes. This one however looks pretty unappealing. Maybe when dusted with powdered sugar they will look a lot better.
    Pat King

  5. January 18th, 2011

    Carolyn Gaertner says:

    It would be interesting if the calorie count for both recipes were included.

    • January 18th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Great question!

      Because colonial recipes use very general measurements, a precise calorie count is something of a moving target. However, our Historic Foodways team presents some tips on how to prepare these recipes with lighter substitutions on our FAQ page.

  6. January 18th, 2011

    Cheryl says:

    Thank you so much for this new website. I absolutely love it. I am a member of the Herb Society of America, Colonial Triangle Unit. It just so happens we are studying root herbs/vegetable this year, as “horseradish” is 2011 herb of the year. A recipe that uses the beet root is one our Unit will surely try! Thanks again, C.

  7. January 20th, 2011

    Bob Kardian says:

    Great idea! Would love to gather a group of seniors to attend a demo in Colonial Williamsburg of how 18th Century food is served! Then afterwards I would present to them a bag of 2-3 Pink Pancakes with the recipe as a gift!

  8. January 20th, 2011

    Bill Adams says:

    Wonderful recipe! How nice it is to offer this kind of historical information about culinary arts from America’s past. THANK YOU.

  9. January 20th, 2011

    Lesa McMahon says:

    I would like to feature this website on my educational freebie blog but it looks like the current list of recipes are scarce. Are you going to be putting up more recipes?

  10. January 24th, 2011

    Jean B. says:

    Very interesting. This is the first recipe I have looked at on your site, and I am happy to see both the original recipe and the redacted one. I am curious as to why the amounts of some ingredients were changed. It might be interesting if you spoke of the rationale for such changes.

    I am looking forward to seeing what else is on the site and what you do in the future.

    • January 25th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Jean, thanks for your comment. We’re glad you like the pink pancakes, and hope you’ll be a regular visitor as we add more recipes.

      Some of the rationale for the modern recipe translations can be found in our FAQ section.

      Happy cooking!

  11. January 27th, 2011

    CC says:

    Hmmm, this is a fun idea, but having tried it, I’m not at all convinced by this recipe.

    Firstly, despite trying them first as written, then thinned with extra milk to make them spread better and cook faster, the inside of the pancakes were always a bit wet and slimy from the beets, although the texture improved when they were left to cool. Secondly, they were overwhelmed by the brandy.

    It may be partly a question of changing tastes, but I also wonder whether the quantities have been lost in translation from the C18 to the C21 (and indeed like Jean B, why the modern quantities differ so much from those in the original recipe).

    How big was Hannah Glasse’s “large beet”? Beets, like most vegetables, have gotten bigger over the years, and less beet would improve the recipe, I think. Pink is good, slimy less so!

    The brandy: 3 fl oz is a large/double glass of brandy by modern standards. Did C18 drinkers top up their tiny glasses to the brim with brandy for a 6 oz glass, or did they, like we, only fill them part way?

    If I were to do this again, I’d try working from her original recipe and starting my batter with two heaped tablespoons of flour (a scant 1/4 cup) and three tablesppons of cream. I’d use only half a large beet (or one smallish beet), and no more than 1 1/2 or 2 oz brandy.

    • January 27th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Thank you for the wonderful comments!

      The Pink Pancake was probably intended to be served as a colorful vegetable patty rather than a more crepe-like pancake, regardless of the name. It’s thicker than a regular pancake and the inside texture was a matter of preference. It was also likely served at room temperature, or “cold” by definition of the 18th century. This will have an effect on texture, as you noted.

      Since we are used to cooking with standard measures and temperatures in the modern world, having to translate the idea of an 18th century person’s “some” or “a little” can be very subjective. Even the idea of a teaspoon or tablespoon varied from one foundry to another.

      The number of egg yolks required in a recipe were dependent on the size of the chicken that laid them. There were no Grade A Jumbos in the 18c. A “large” beet was simply that. It depended on the gardener. In a world without central air conditioning, the amount of flour required depended on the outside humidity. Frankly, this is a recipe that is, by definition, “to taste.” Your idea of “too sweet” might be another’s “not sweet enough.”

      You are probably right that tastes have changed from the 18th to the 21st centuries, especially when it comes to alcohol. As far as cooking with brandy, they liked it! They liked a lot of it! No kidding! The amount of brandy called for in the translated recipe is based on the drinking glasses in the Governor’s Palace kitchen, not a modern shot glass.

      Welcome to the 18th Century!

      Jim Gay
      Historic Foodways

  12. February 15th, 2011

    Monica Goddard says:

    What a great idea and source. My son ‘s class is studying the colonial period and revolution and I was looking for a recipe to share with them.

  13. October 12th, 2011

    Cathy Walcutt says:

    We tried these recently at Montpelier. My son was so pleased with them I went looking for the recipe. We were told to just add pureed beets to our pancake mix. They did not use brandy in their recipe. We will be making them this weekend. I look forward to another way to get vegetables in my children.

  14. October 27th, 2011

    makenzie jones says:

    Great recipe! I tried them yesterday and they were delicious. They took my mouth on a roller coaster ride of flavor. YUMMY YUMMY I wish I was Ben Franklin.

  15. November 17th, 2011

    Jacquline Williams says:

    In the original 18th C recipe is the cream mentioned actual cream skimmed directly from the top of the milk, or as I am reading it more like Crème fraîche?
    I am curious because reading a previous comment describes a wet pancake, with the thicker Crème fraîche might it not result in a dryer cake?
    I am curious to try this recipe replacing the cream with both thick Arabic yoghurt (labneh) and homemade Crème fraîche.

    • November 17th, 2011

      Historic Foodways says:

      Go for it! Please feel free to make any changes in the recipes you would like. I am sure that the people made substitutions all the time based on what was available.

      You do raise an excellent point. What we buy in the store today as cream is probably different from was sold in 18th century markets. For one thing, it is safer, the processes of Pasteurization and homogenization make a far safer product that lasts much longer. It does, however, lose much of its character in the processing. We occasionally get to work with real un-pasteurized fresh cream from our grass-fed Red Milking Devons, and it can pretty much be picked up in your hand. It also is much yellower in color then modern cream.

      When we translate the recipes we use modern store-bought cream because it is what most people will have access to. The exact consistency of batters and the like is always problematic in that each day the flour has different amounts of moisture in it and our eggs are often different sized from day to day. So if looks too thick, add a bit of water. If it is too thin, add more flour. It is a matter of feel.

  16. November 16th, 2012

    Ramona Ato says:

    I tried this recipe with some tweeking in so far as the beet was of medium size and I did use fresh cream from the udder (given to me by a friend) .In some ways it reminded me of a red velvet cake but oh, so much better. The cream gave it a definite moisture that wouln’t have been there if I used store bought cream. Thank you for this site; it’s marvelous/.=

  17. October 12th, 2013

    Jen says:

    I made this at Historic London Town summer 2011 and followed the recipe pretty much as it was. We had beets growing in the colonial garden and I think that is what I used. The only problems encountered were a) beet bits seemed to get _everywhere_ and b) I needed a bigger mortar and pestle for the volume of beet. The flavor was quite nice, a very interesting change from a modern American pancake flavor. The color of both the batter and finished pancake was amazing. The leftover pancakes went with me to a party and were quickly consumed!

  18. February 5th, 2014

    Cassie says:

    They ate pink pancakes in the revolutionary war period? Wouldn’t that be an unnecessary waste to make them pink?

  19. May 4th, 2017

    Kjirsten says:

    I made these for an 18th century cooking demonstration for kids. The recipe was easy and successful. I pureed canned beats the night before and brought them with me in tupperware. Sadly, we had to skip the brandy. The flavor was excellent, and the apricot jelly really was a perfect combination. The kids were of course pretty intimidated, but some of them were willing to give it a try and were pleased with the taste. The adults loved them, and even the skeptics gobbled them up.

    • May 4th, 2017

      Kjirsten says:

      I forgot to add: We made several batches with soy milk for the dairy-free folks, and the soy milk was surprisingly good in them. It actually tasted a little better, to my surprise.

  20. October 20th, 2017

    I made tis recipe and it was delicious. But when I tried to find the original it is not in my copy of The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. Can you tell me which edition the original came from?

    • October 23rd, 2017

      kcosta says:

      Hello Terri- I am glad you like the recipe. We do too! It is in the 1796 edition of the cookery book. Enjoy and thanks for your support!

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