Hey, it may sound like a silly question, but let’s be honest. You’ve wondered this before, haven’t you?
If you have ever wondered what category pancakes fall under then you are at the right place. The definition of pancakes may seem detached from regular bread but both of these foods are quite similar.
Are pancakes bread? Pancakes can be thought of as a type of quick-to-make bread. Pancakes use flour and contain gluten/wheat like bread and the batter still rises a little in the cooking process.
Even though pancakes don’t need to be leavened using yeast or dough like the “regular” bread we think about, pancakes are ultimately a type of bread product.
Read below to learn more about quick bread, the similarities between bread and pancakes, and how they vary in texture and flavor.
What Is Bread, Anyway?
Humans have consumed leavened or unleavened wheat products from time immemorial.
There is no clear origin of bread but most historians believed that our early ancestors started to make versions of flat bread as soon as they learned how to create a white powdery mixture by mashing dried wheat.
When we talk about bread or its related products, there is one ingredient that stands tall: flour.
Flour is the main ingredient and the main factor in making bread look and feel like, well, bread! It gives bread its structure, mass, and a very distinct flavor. But are all flour products a type of bread or is there a system to this madness?
It turns out that there are several ways to categorize flour products. See, flour is used in just about every culinary application. Whether you are making desserts, thickening soups, baking a cake, or making bread.
But we can’t simply group everything under one category as it will create confusion and would cause a serious debate among food enthusiasts.
Pancake alone is enough to cause a lot of confusion since it contains the word “cake” in it.
Are Pancakes Bread?
So, what gives? Are pancakes bread or cake?
Yes, pancakes are ultimately a type of bread product, although with “cake” in the name, that can be pretty confusing.
Pancakes contain flour and use baking soda for a rising agent like bread. Adding the batter to a hot pan, you quickly get a fluffy, bready cake. Specifically they’re a type of bread called ‘batter bread.”
So even though it sounds weird, pancakes are ultimately a type of bread!
Categories of Bread
But WHY are pancakes bread?
The answer to this lies in several technicalities along with history, origin, and uses. But before we get into all of that, let’s start from the beginning and define the various categories of bread products.
Fortunately humans, biologically programmed to find patterns and identify categories, felt the need to create separate names for flour-based food too.
Here are two important broad categories of bread:
- Quick bread: batter bread
- Dough-based bread
Quick Bread – Batter Bread
This is the main category that pancakes fall under. While they are called pan ‘cakes’ they are still more closely associated with bread than regular cakes.
See, a cake is also technically a type of bread, but it is associated with a certain look. Cakes tend to be sweeter, moist, and have that iconic icing layer.
Sure, underneath all of that icing and fondant lies a hearty bread-based mass, but you wouldn’t call it “bread” because of how it is served and prepared.
The same can be said about pancakes. Pancakes are essentially a type of flour-based bread that is relatively quickly prepared by adding wet batter to a hot pan, hence the name “quick bread.”
Batter bread comes in many shapes and forms.
Take waffles as an example. They may seem like pancakes, and you can even make them using the same ingredients as pancakes, but they are termed “waffles” because of their origin, history, uses, and how they are served.
Batter Bread Vs. Cakes
Generally speaking, the main difference between bread and cake is how they are leavened and how much sugar they contain.
Leavened foods contain either yeast products or raising agents like baking powder or baking soda. All of these ingredients have one job: to create gas. More specifically, carbon gas!
The method of making this gas may vary but at the end of the day, all bread products are leavened the same way. For example, pancakes don’t contain yeast but are instead raised with the help of baking powder.
The baking powder reacts with the ingredients and heat and releases gas which gets trapped between the molecules of the batter, eventually raising it upwards.
As a basic rule of thumb, almost every bread-related product makes use of either baking powder or baking soda to create that distinct lift, or rise.
In the case of “regular” bread, we see an even more dramatic rise due to the presence of yeast.
The origin and history of using yeast goes back thousands of years. Egyptians are thought to have been the first to popularize the use of yeast in bread products.
Before yeast, people made do with unleavened and fairly chewy flatbread which was the default bread for many, many centuries. This type of bread had its benefits but was limited in its culinary use.
Many people agree that even back then, a form of pancake-like batter bread did exist, but the bread that we know of today was in its infancy.
Eventually, we humans discovered that mixing yeast as an ingredient in bread and then kneading it created a far softer and airier bread.
This is when a sort of cooking revolution started and bread-makers rejoiced for discovering the next obsession of mankind.
Since then, we have been quite creative with yeast-based bread. Bakers started creating specific yeast cultures or starters to make specific types of bread with varying characteristics and flavors.
This is also around the time when the boundaries surrounding the definition of bread, cakes, and other flour-based products started to become very apparent.
Batter Vs. Dough – Differences In Flavor
There are distinct flavor differences between batter bread and dough-based bread.
Batter bread is often sweeter and can have a range of varying textures. Pancakes are known to be more of a dessert than a breakfast item. You can think of them as cakes – but flat.
They are soft and porous, and provide a satisfying dessert-like flavor. On the other hand, regular bread has a relatively neutral flavor with subtle notes.
The exact flavor of bread depends on the type. Sourdough bread, for example, has a distinct subtle sour flour due to its starter.
Focaccia bread is airier but has a mild flavor. That flavor is further enhanced with the help of flavoring ingredients like butter, olive oil, and herbs.
Here is a summary of the differences between both types:
|Pancakes and batter bread||Dough-based bread|
|Texture||Very soft, airier, can also be crumbly||Firmer but airy, is usually dense|
|Flavor||Sweet and dessert-like flavor||Neutral flavor with subtle savory notes|
|Active Raising Ingredient||Baking powder, baking soda||Yeast or starter culture|
|Preparation Method||Ingredients are mixed to form a batter||Ingredients are mixed and then kneaded into a dough|
|Ingredients||Flour, salt, sugar, milk, eggs, and flavorings||Flour, salt, sugar, eggs, yeast, water, and flavorings|
Other Types of Bread Products
There are several other types of bread, or rather bread-like products too. Doughnuts/donuts, bagels, and muffins are the first that come to mind when we talk about bread or flour products.
All of these baking goods are made using more or less the same ingredients and methods that we have discussed above but the way that they are served and the secondary ingredients that they are paired with are what determine their categorization.
Doughnuts, in essence, are purely bread-based products but you can prepare them any way.
FYI, here’s a quick guide if you want a visual cue to making your own donuts:
It is only when you apply the icing that they turn into dessert items or non-bread products. You can say the same about other broad flour products like shortbreads, cookies, biscuits, and more!
All of these foods start the same way but are then categorized differently depending on what they are served with and how they are made.
So, in the end, while it is nice to know that all bread and cake products are similar, it is also easier to confuse them, especially if you dive into the technicalities and the nitty-gritty of baked foods.
Our advice would be to trust your gut and spare yourself the headache and just use our guide above to quickly categorize baked goods.
Pancakes are a delicious hybrid between cake and bread, just like many other baked goods. Now that you know what pancakes are and how to categorize them, here are some related questions:
Can You Make Pancakes From Toast?
While you can’t exactly make pancakes from bread, you could try mixing sugar, eggs, and milk as a coating on white bread slices to make French toast.
Just fry up the drenched slices and enjoy them in the same way as pancakes. This type of food is similar in texture and flavor to pancakes and is a great way to make use of slightly old bread.
Do All Cake And Bread Products Contain Gluten?
Traditionally, yes, all cake and bread products are usually made with gluten-containing wheat flour.
All wheat flour-based baking goods contain gluten. Gluten is a protein that gives food its structure. It even helps pancakes get their distinct soft yet chewy texture.
However, these days there are many recipes for using flours that DON’T have gluten in them, like almond flour or rice flour. With these types of flours you can make cakes and bread products that are gluten-free.