Offering pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s face at restaurants is a brilliant marketing ploy. I know this because I have kids, and my young boys somehow gloss over everything else on the menu to fixate solely on the Mickey Mouse pancake option. And although it’s only one pancake (and it’s on a menu that offers multiple servings of pancakes!), they opt for that specific one with the ears. Why? Not the taste. Not the price. Not even the generous layer of whipped cream. Just its shape. The smile of chocolate chips is only a bonus. The children’s menu had my kids at “Mickey Mouse Pancake” because of the picture. Everything else was unimportant.
It’s why I adore the Pancake Pen so much. It was like it wrote to me a love note from the store shelf, as though it knew that I had grown up with fond memories of my father making creative pancakes for me every Saturday morning. Sometimes he made them in the shapes of animals; other times they were more obscure pancakes that could be translated only by one’s imagination. Fillings ranged from fruit to peanut butter or chocolate. The point was that every Saturday I looked forward to creative pancakes. It was all about the shapes. And this Pancake Pen that I would eagerly buy in about two minutes would be my inspiration for continuing the tradition.
The way the Pancake Pen works is that you fill it with the pancake ingredients. No bowl, no spoon required. Just pour the batter, eggs, and other ingredients into the pen container, screw on the lid, and shake it up. If you try to inspire your kids to make breakfast, the Pancake Pen is a fun tool for them to use. And, it’s clean. I’m thinking I’m not the only parent who has seen her kid drop a bowl of batter or accidentally stir too hard causing the batter to splatter everywhere. The end lids each screw off, allowing you to wash and rinse thoroughly or stick in the dishwasher.
The best part comes next: using the pen is like drawing an edible work of art. Flip the pen upside down, squeeze it, and draw your shape directly on the pan. (Or you can easily fill in muffin tins or cupcake liners.) I’m no artist, so for my first attempt, I stuck to drawing letters: the beginning of each of my boys’ names. There’s no way they’d fight over who got what pancake.
Here are some tips:
1) If you’re squeamish about making pancakes without exact ingredient measurements, figure it all out before you put them inside the pen. I like to feel creative and pretend that I know more than the recipe, so I simply toss in an egg or two, eyeball the flour mix, and add liquid until I like the consistency. Sometimes I’ll add my beloved Nutella in, if I’m feeling especially sassy. Then I shake it like I mean it.
2) Test the pen out by drawing a circle first on the pan. Get a feel for the ideal squeezing pressure.
3) Unless you’re very skillful at flipping pancakes, make sure your letters or shapes are thick. Skinny pancake lines are hard to keep intact when you have to flip the pancakes over. I learned this when I tried to flip the letter “J”.
4) I’d recommend not asking your children to request shapes when you’re just learning. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. My son wanted a Darth Vader pancake, and there was no way I could convince him that a skewed rectangle shape was exactly that.
5) Let your children test it out. Use cookie cutters to help them create shapes. They’ll have a blast!
You can buy the Pancake Pen online for about $10. There’s a few types on the market. The easiest way is to Google the words “pancake pen” and see which you like. I used this one from Amazon.
Regardless whether the pancakes you “pen” are perfectly shaped or an ambiguous mess, they’re sure to sweeten your family breakfasts with a side of creativity and a cup of fun.
Cori Linder is a professional editor and published author.