Elsie's getting top billing in this recipe for Pancakes Barbara but there are a few other grand dames and fine fellows in the back story of this wonderful dessert.
The first time I heard of Pancakes Barbara was at the Miss Gay Sobriety Pageant in Greenwich Village a few years ago. A talented recovering substance abuser performing as Pancakes Barbara brought the house down with an exquisitely detailed replication of Doris Day's "Shaking the Blues Away." Every detail – a dazzling smile, his fine figure shimmying in a lurid aqua dress backed by a coterie of dancers in black tie performing every step and gesture exactly as in the film Love Me or Leave Me — click here to see the clip. Pancakes Barbara took home the crown that evening.
I thought Pancakes Barbara was just a kooky drag name. I attended the show with my old pal Ray Martin, who was the first to clue me into the real identity of Pancakes Barbara. Because he's the kind of guy who knows about these kind of things.
Time passes. Spectacularly Delicious launches with an early post about Aebleskivers. Another friend, Stephen Drucker, an early supporter of the blog and also someone who knows about these kind of things and a whole lot more (creator of the New York Times' Styles section, editor of Town & Country, House Beautiful… the same Stephen you've seen time and again on the Barefoot Contessa) suggested Pancakes Barbara as a possible future topic.
Another editor pal at House Beautiful, Bill Irvine (a knower of things too) and I got to talking about legendary decorator Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl). Which reminded me that Elsie's Recipes for Successful Dining (1934) was in my cookbook collection. Leafing through, there it was: Elsie's rendition of Pancakes Barbara.
But wait — there's more. Doing some holiday shopping at Bridgehampton's chicest boutique, Maison 21, owner Louis (check out his blog and see just how much he knows) pointed out that Pancakes Barbara appeared in the classic film The Women, starring Joan Crawford (wicked home wrecker), Norma Shearer (a good woman wronged) and Rosalind Russell (worldly, wise-cracking side kick). Louis linked me to IMBD's info on P.B. "Almost as theatrical and certainly as decadent as flaming crêpes Suzette, pancakes Barbara are pancakes smothered with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, blanched walnuts, and hot chocolate sauce. Just hearing about them can put on five pounds."
Elsie's successful dining can be credited to such sage advice as this: "When one is serving this dish it is absolutely necessary to keep a réchaud, or dish-warmer, in the dining rooom so that the pancakes and sauce may be kept hot." So I guess I'll be adding that to my kitchen must-haves itemized on The Kitchen Designer.
If there's anything more to be said about Pancakes Barbara, I'd love to hear it. In the meantime, click here for the recipe for Pancakes Barbara and try them yourself.