Griddle cakes, also known as pancakes, hotcakes, or flapjacks, are thin, flat cakes that are particularly popular as breakfast foods, but can be served at any time. They are made from batter prepared on a frying pan or griddle and are generally flipped repeatedly to ensure they are fully cooked on both sides. Simple griddle cakes in various forms have been prepared and eaten throughout history, and many different modern cultures have their own particular variations of the thin cakes. This nearly universal popularity has led to the existence of many restaurants, sometimes referred to as "pancake houses," that are almost entirely focused on making different kinds of pancakes.
Different cultures tend to favor different kinds of griddle cakes, though they are all variations on the same common theme. Some are similar to crepes in that they are very thin; this is true of English pancakes and of some kinds of cakes made in various Asian countries. Other kinds of griddle cakes contain additional ingredients, such as bacon, seafood or seasonings. Pancakes are commonly topped with syrup but can also be topped with anything from fruit to eggs, based on the type of pancake, personal preference, and culture.
Even within a single geographic region or culture many different kinds of griddle cakes may be served on a regular basis. The most common pancakes served in much of the United States, for example, are usually made from a thick batter into a circular shape that is about one-half inch (1 cm) thick. This is, however, only an average — griddle cakes are available in all different shapes and sizes and can be thick and dense or fluffy and porous. Some pancakes, for example, are made as wide as large plates while "silver-dollar pancakes" are usually only an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm) in diameter.
Size is not the only variable aspect of a given type of griddle cake. In many cases, additional ingredients are added to the batter in order to change the taste; these ingredients may include cheese, blueberries, or other flavor-enhancing foods. Toppings may also vary; maple syrup and butter are the most common topping for griddle cakes in the United States, but flavored syrups, fruit, whipped cream, and chocolate are also common. Those who do not favor sweet tastes may choose to top their griddle cakes with cheese, vegetables, or meats based on their personal preferences.