When it came to holiday sweets, my family had one long-standing tradition: an annual gingerbread decorating contest. My cousins and I would roll out sheets of dark, spicy cookie dough, grab the cookie cutters, whip up some icing, and go to town.
To this day, nothing feels more like Christmas to me than the warm spices found in gingerbread. That’s why I channeled those flavors into a recipe for Gingerbread Pancakes topped with buttery caramelized pears perfect for Christmas brunch (another one of my favorite traditions).
A heaping stack of pancakes is a glorious thing. These beauties get a jolly lift by infusing a buttermilk batter with sweet and sticky molasses along with ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. Thanks to the leavening powers of buttermilk, baking powder, and baking soda, these pancakes are delightfully fluffy and tender.
As with regular pancake batter, this gingerbread version simply requires a little tender loving care to produce showstopping results.
- Don’t overmix the batter (a few lumps are a-okay). This will keep the pancakes tender.
- The batter is airy, but it’s also fairly thick, so as you add scoops of batter to the skillet, use the backside of the measuring cup or spoon to gently smooth the batter into circles about four inches in diameter.
- Not all molasses is the same: Blackstrap molasses, which is rich in minerals, thicker, and has a lower sugar content than true molasses. Its healthful properties mean that it can also impart an unpleasant bitterness to your baked goods, so it’s best to avoid.
- The molasses and brown sugar in the batter can scorch. Keep a close eye on the heat. Cooking the pancakes in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-low should do the trick, but don’t be afraid to adjust the heat lower, if necessary.
- You’ll know the time is right to flip your pancakes when tiny bubbles begin to form on the top and the edges of the batter look dry and start to set.
How to Top Gingerbread Pancakes
In addition to a generous drizzle of maple syrup, these festive flapjacks are gussied up with dollops of lightly whipped crème fraîche, and a caramelized pear compote made by cooking the fruit with brown sugar, butter, and a touch of cinnamon.
- I prefer Bartlett pears, but any pear that holds its shape when cooked (Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou) will work well for the compote. A firm, slightly under-ripe pear will hold its shape better when cooked, while a ripe and juicy one will break down more easily and create a saucier texture. (Both are delicious!)
- If you’re not a fan of pears or have an abundance of apples on hand, go ahead and use those instead.
- Don’t feel like bothering with any fruit at all? The pancakes are equally good on their own with a simple glug of maple syrup.
- Can’t find any crème fraîche at the market? Sour cream is a perfectly delightful substitute.
How to Plan Ahead for Pancakes
Both the compote and the pancakes are well-suited to making ahead of time, so there’s no need to spend Christmas morning stuck over a hot griddle.
- For the pear compote: Make the compote up to two days ahead and simply reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave when you’re ready to serve.
- For the pancakes: Pancakes can be made a week or two ahead and frozen. Once you’ve cooked all the pancakes, let them cool to room temperature. Separate each pancake with a layer of parchment or wax paper, and store in a gallon-size ziptop bag. The morning of, microwave the pancakes a few at a time to reheat.
More Amazing Pancake Recipes
- Homemade Pancake Mix
- Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
- Buckwheat Pancakes
- Carrot Cake Pancakes
- Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce
Gingerbread Pancakes with Caramelized Pears
- For the compote:
- 5 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- For the pancakes:
- 2 cups (264 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for greasing skillet
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To serve:
- 1 (5-ounce) container crème fraîche, lightly whipped
- Maple syrup for drizzling
Make the compote
In a mixing bowl, toss the pear slices with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is bubbly, add the pears and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Make the pancake batter
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, molasses, eggs, brown sugar, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, using a spatula to stir until just combined (a few lumps are okay). The batter will be thick.
Heat and grease the griddle
Place a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat, and let it get hot. (You’ll know it’s good to go when you flick a couple of drops of water on the skillet and they sizzle.) Let the water droplets evaporate, then lightly grease the pan with canola oil.
Fry the pancakes
Scoop 1/4 cup of the batter and drop it onto the skillet. Use the backside of the measuring cup to gently smooth the batter into a circle about 4-inches in diameter.
Keep an eye on the heat, adjusting it to medium-low if necessary, so the pancakes don’t scorch. On my stove, this took about 2 minutes per side, but it could take less.
Flip the pancake when a few small bubbles begin to form on the top, and the edges of the batter start to look dry and just set.
Working in batches, if necessary, repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan as needed, until all the pancakes are cooked. Keep the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven while you make the remaining pancakes.
Serve the pancakes with the compote, dollops of crème fraîche, and a generous drizzle of maple syrup over the top.