Tutorial: Crepes {& Smith Family Thin Cakes}

As Kate mentioned in her Caramel Cake post, this week as an ode to Father’s Day, we’re sharing signature recipes from our own fathers!  Now looking at the picture to the right that might seem strange, but stick with me here.

Growing up I had no idea what a “crepe” was.  But what I did know was “Thin Cakes”.  They were my Dad’s most famous dish and everyone in our family looked forward to thin cake Saturdays when he would stand at the stove-top with an enormous bowl of batter and a few hot skillets in front of him.  The rest of us would stand around the island just waiting to be next in line for a hot one to land on our plate.  He never used a recipe, but rather “a little of this and some of that, but not too much of that…etc”  The thin cake tradition, as I understand it, started with my Dad’s family when he was just a boy.  They would meet on the family farm and make Thin Cakes, a recipe passed down from his Aunt’s Danish heritage.  My Dad always told us a story about his uncle saying “Boy, you must have a wooden leg because I don’t know where else you’re stuffing so many thin cakes!” To this day no one makes a thin cake quite like my Dad Bill, but I think I’ve come up with a darn good recipe.

Growing up I assumed everyone ate Thin Cakes, but it wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that was a family specialty.  I also learned that the rest of the world knew something nearly identical but by a much fancier reputation: Crepes.  I learned that essentially we were eating crepes, but in a slightly non-traditional form (explained below) and years of Thin-Cake making actually trained me to be one heck of a crepe maker!

Some people are intimidated by crepes, but they couldn’t be easier.  Like many foods, success is really in the technique.   So below I’ll show you some of my tips to get perfect crepes every time.  I’ve also used fancy recipes and fancy equipment, but this recipe is the most basic form that any home cook can make.  Chances are you have everything you need right now!   Eggs, sugar, oil, flour, and milk.

Here we go…


Mixing a Lump-Free Batter:  A good batter is essential for a good crepe.  While lumps are just fine (and sometimes desired) in pancake batter, it’s not such a plus in crepes.  For this recipe you can throw everything in a blender, but if you’re doing it by hand, follow these tips for lump-free batter every time.

1.  First mix eggs, sugar, and oil.

2.  While whisking, slowly add flour.  The problem most people have is that they add everything at once and there is too much liquid for the flour to break up so it stays in clumps.  Keep adding flour and whisking.  You’ll have a very thick paste (but no lumps!)  The resistance is what helps incorporate all of the flour.

3. Keep adding flour until it’s becoming too thick to whisk, then slowly add milk a little at a time and whisk to incorporate.  If you still have some flour left, alternate it with the milk.

When everything is whisked together you should have a lump-free batter.  It will be very thin.  A very common mistake people make with crepes is adding too much flour because they’re used to a pancake or waffle batter consistency.  Growing up making these with my Dad, he always told me the consistency was the key and he was right!

The Pan: I have a fancy crepe pan, but the pan I use most often is a regular ol’ non-stick skillet.  You can vary the size depending on how large you want the finished product.  I keep a stick of butter with the wrapper half off right next to it for easy greasing.  Just give the hot pan a quick rub and then pour in your batter.  It’s essential that your pan is pre-heated before you put the batter in.

This is the other key element.  Don’t use too much batter! Again, people are used to making pancakes here.  You only want just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan.  Hold the pan with one hand and the batter with the other and as you pour the thin batter, twirl the pan around in a circular motion just until the batter coats the entire bottom.   You don’t need to actually measure the batter, you just want to pour it in, but in case you’re needing a visual, I’ve noted that you’ll need roughly these amounts for the skillet size:

8″ skillet: 2 1/2 Tablespoons batter
10″ skillet: 3 1/2 Tablespoons batter

Cooking and Flipping: Again, I have an official wooden “Crepe Flipper” but a rubber spatula is what I use most.  Look at the edges of my crepe in the picture below.  It doesn’t take long at all for the crepe to set and you’ll be able to run the edge of your spatula around the entire edge of the crepe.  One you can do that and it easily lifts, you can then flip.  I use my spatula to gently lift up the edge and then I grab it with my fingers and just flip it over.

Cooking the second side literally only takes about 15 seconds and after that you can flip it onto a plate.  Either keep them warm in the oven or stack them and let them cool.

Thin Cakes:  Alright, I promised “Thin Cake” details.  In our house growing up a thin cake was made in the largest pan we had.  They were as big as the plate.  And they’re eaten hot off the skillet.  Right when it gets plopped on your plate, do this:

After that’s rubbed around, dump some maple syrup on it,

and then roll it up burrito style.  I know, super complicated.

But that thin, buttery, syrup-y roll is heaven on earth I tell ya.  There was a time during my second pregnancy when I ate these every. single. day.  Almost always at about 4pm.  My then 2 1/2 year old knew the recipe by heart!  In fact,  we eat thin cakes way more often than we eat pancakes or waffles.

If you want to take a more traditional route and eat “crepes” then you can make them pretty.  You can fill and either fold them up into quarters, or roll burrito style.  They can also be made ahead of time.  Just stack them between sheets of waxed paper, pop them in a zip-lock bag, and store in the fridge or freezer.

Crepes can be eaten either savory or sweet, and hot or cold.  Most people in the US are used to sweet crepes, but meat,cheese, and vegetable fillings are delicious too!  More traditional sweet fillings you can try are pastry cream, pudding, nutella, the chocolate mousse from this cake, and fruit of all kinds.  Try topping with Strawberry Sauce, Buttermilk Caramel Syrup, Hot Fudge, or just a dusting of powdered sugar and sweetened whipped cream.

 

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78 comments

  1. my dad made crepes every sunday while i was growing up… i think he still does. i think its the 'frenchie' in him. he always makes his batter in the blender. maybe i'll have to make some this week to honor him. thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! Someone else had thin pancakes growing up! My family has a recipe for thin pancakes & whenever I make them for someone else, I have to tell them they're similar to crepes! But the best way to eat them is to put lots of butter & then sugar– and if a buttery sugary mixture drips very slowly out the bottom as you eat them (rolled up), then you know you did it right 🙂

  3. Ok girls… it's my birthday this weekend and I plan on cooking entirely from this site! I'll post some pics next week and let you know how it goes!!! My mom and I are gonna tackle this one together (with my sister who is visiting too)!

    Saturday morning we are gonna start off at 6am with a trip to a blackberry farm! I see a blackberry galette in our future!

    HUGS and thanks for the many many many amazing recipes and tips!

    XO!

  4. Syrup? Are you people out of your minds? The IDEAL topping for Crepes (and I'm gonna assume for Thin Cakes and Swedish Pancakes as we called them growing up) is….

    NUTELLA!!!

    My favorite combo is Nutella with bananas and whipped cream or Nutella with strawberries and whipped cream.

    It's mostly just important to have NUTELLA!

    🙂

    P.S. Here in Japan you can get savory crepes with fishy fillings! YUM! (for them.)

    P.P.S. I make my Crepes/Swedish Pancakes with whole wheat, soy milk, and no sugar these days. Helps off-set the guilt of having what is essentially a dessert for dinner. (We're Brinner fans around here.)

    1. EXACTLY!! I wanted to know what was wrong with these people! Nutella is the way to go! It’s soooo delicious! I love it with bananas too! And it’s more authentic. That’s how I had them in Paris. 🙂

  5. My very very favorite to-die-for topping for a crepe is my mom's homemade chokecherry syrup (similar to elderberry if you've never heard of it), and softened cream cheese. Oh, I LOOOOOVE!!

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