The pancakes of my childhood were made from scratch—thin, delicate round cakes onto which we poured our favorite Log Cabin syrup.
Today, just like life, pancakes have become more complex. They’re now made with blueberries, chocolate chips, strawberries, bananas, and even peanut butter. And sometimes, they’re not even round anymore, especially not when Pancake Warrior Elle Jay Orbase is around.
Part-chef, part-artist, Orbase has taken pancake-making to a whole new level. Using Maya Hotcake Mix, he turns pancakes into superheroes, smiley faces, pineapples, potato fries, and into a silhouette of an island resort, complete with palm trees and a hammock.
It started back in elementary school, when Orbase, who, even then, loved art, would draw posters and cartoon figures. Originally from Cotabato City, he studied in Cebu and, after graduation, took up culinary courses on weekends while working in a call center. He later worked as a demi cook in Shangri-La Mactan.
Chancing upon a pancake griddle while walking in a mall, he decided to experiment with pancake shapes, using Maya Original Hotcake Mix (and later Maya’s Complete Quick and Easy Hotcake Mix).
What began as a hobby became a full-time career when he created The Pancake Warrior YouTube channel. With 16 million views and 100,000 subscribers, he has certainly earned the YouTube Silver Play Award that was given to him.
During a recent workshop at the Maya Kitchen, Orbase showed us how he creates imaginative pancake shapes. First, he wipes a nonstick pan with cooking oil, to make sure the pancakes don’t stick. Then, using a squeeze bottle filled with pancake mix tinted with food coloring, he draws an outline of the figure he wants to create.
It’s important to draw the outline, he said, because this will serve as a guide for the figure. It also prevents the mix from scattering on the pan.
Orbase employs a freehand style when shaping the pancakes. This requires true artistic skills, which he obviously has. My own attempts at freehand drawing of a butterfly, a flower and a smiley face weren’t even close to the beautiful figures Orbase created during the workshop.
Luckily, pancake art is very forgiving. Provided you still haven’t heated the pan, you can erase your mistakes and start over again. Even though it may seem like the figure doesn’t look like much, once you flip the pancake over, by some sort of pancake magic, it will still look pretty good.
If worse comes to worst, and you find your creation irredeemable, the best thing is, it’s still edible and you can always eat your mistakes.
Here’s Orbase’s step-by-step instructions on how to make beautiful pancake shapes. With Mother’s Day coming soon, this would be an exciting—and delicious—project for mothers and their kids to tackle on that all important Sunday (and fathers can join, too).
Maya’s Pancake Art
For the pancake mixture:
1 box (500 g) Maya Original Hotcake Mix
2 medium-size eggs
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 ½ c water
For the pancake art:
Assorted food coloring
Cooking oil (for the nonstick pan)
Nonstick pan (preferably a crepe pan)
Wide pancake turners
Make the pancake mixture:
Mix all the pancake ingredients in a bowl until slightly lumpy (see package directions). Note: You can also use Maya’s Complete Hotcake Mix, which requires only the addition of water. Follow package directions to make the mixture.
Divide the mixture into individual squeeze bottles, the number of squeeze bottles depending on the kind of figures you want to make.
Make the pancake art:
Put the appropriate food coloring into each squeeze bottle and shake the bottles so the mixture becomes evenly colored. For example, if you want to make a smiley face, put yellow food coloring into one bottle of mixture to draw the face; red food coloring into another squeeze bottle for the eyes, etc.
Reserve one squeeze bottle of pancake mixture for making the outline. For this, you will need to color the mixture with black or brown food coloring. You may also need a squeeze bottle filled with uncolored pancake mixture.
Drench a large piece of paper towel with cooking oil. Wipe the surface of the nonstick pan with the oil, so the pancakes don’t stick.
Using the squeeze bottle with the black or brown food coloring, draw an outline of the shape you want to make on the pan. Do not turn on the heat yet. The outline is important as this serves as your guide when pouring the mixture, and it also keeps the pancake mixture from spreading.
Once you are sure of your outline, you can turn on the heat. Fill the outline with pancake mixture, according to the shape you are trying to create. Let cook until large bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake.
Wipe a large pancake turner with cooking oil. Then use the pancake turner to flip the pancake so the other side cooks.
Cook until the pancake is no longer fluid and is completely cooked. Transfer the pancake to a plate and serve immediately. You may serve the pancake with butter, pancake syrup or fruit preserves.
If at first you’re not able to make perfect shapes, don’t worry. The Pancake Warrior says just keep practicing.
Make sure to use edible food coloring.
If you find it hard to draw the shapes freehand-style, you can use cookie cutters as your guide. Make the outline using your desired shape of cookie cutter, then just fill in with the pancake mixture. Suggested cookie cutter shapes: hearts, stars, teddy bears, etc.