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How to Set Up a Pancake Bar

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Some parties require a breakfast spread instead of traditional party food.  Why not make a morning (or afternoon) celebration even more fun with a pancake bar?

Food is the center of most celebrations.  Many times it’s what makes a party a party.  Alright, I mean the guests help.  But the food that you serve at your celebration is important too.  Your guests have to eat.  And this should be an enjoyable experience.

The way you present your party treats makes them more inviting to guests. Guests love to use their flair of creativity and customize what the final dish will look like.  So whenever I have an opportunity to transform a normal food into a buffet bar experience I take it.

Hence, how I found myself creating a pancake bar at my little’s pancakes and pajamas birthday party.  Pajamas was his every day clothing request and pancakes were his favorite food.  Mix them together and you got a pancakes and pajamas party.

A pancake bar is the perfect food bar for lots of party themes, though.  You could set one up for the morning after a sleepover party.  Or host a brunch style party and have a pancake bar as the food choice instead of traditional snacks.  All you would need to do is switch out the decor and make it work for your party theme.

And if you don’t like pancakes, you could use waffles instead.  A waffle bar would be just as fun.  Add ice cream and make it a waffle sundae bar.  Delicious!

There are some things that you will need to set up a successful pancake bar.  Check out the tips below for adding a pancake bar to your next celebration.

The Pancakes

Hot, golden pancakes right off the griddle.  Doesn’t that sound good?  As fun as a pancake bar is, the thing that makes it work is the quality of the pancakes.  They need to be freshly made and HOT.  Frozen, baked or microwaved doesn’t work as well for this party food.

If you have a kitchen, this is solved easily since you can make the pancakes a little bit before you serve them and keep them warm in the oven.

But not all party locations have a kitchen.  When I set up my pancake bar, the party was held in the gym of our local rec center.  There wasn’t a kitchen in the entire facility.  

I did have a refrigerator, though, and electrical outlets.  So, I used an electric griddle (after checking with the location first).  This allowed me to make pancakes for the guests when they were ready to be served.  They were truly hot off the griddle.

When choosing the pancake batter, you can use your favorite box mix or scratch variety.  I found a box mix worked well since I could just mix up some more batter if guests were really hungry.  It is a little more difficult to do this with a scratch batter.  But, use whatever pancake mix you love.

I decided to stick with traditional buttermilk pancakes.  This way the pancake could be a canvas for all of the other toppings.  But you can definitely mix up the type of pancakes you serve.  Try chocolate chip, blueberry, pumpkin (for a fall party) or even funfetti pancakes.  Add some apple or banana slices to them.

It’s also a good idea to put someone else in charge of making the pancakes.  My mom was happy to volunteer to man the griddle.  As hostess, making pancakes while also trying to visit with guests wouldn’t have worked.

When in doubt – delegate tasks when party planning.  Since we made the pancakes to order, it let us keep them hotter for guests.  But, it also meant that I couldn’t be the one making them since I needed to be spending time with the guests.

Serve your pancakes on a cake stand or platter.  I chose my favorite blue one that matched the party colors.  The lip around the cake stand kept the pancakes on the stand instead of slipping off all over.

The Toppings

My favorite part about a pancake bar (or any food bar really) is that guests can dress their food any way they want.  Doesn’t everyone love customizing their plates to their desire?

When setting up your pancake bar, brainstorm different toppings that you can provide for guests.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Chocolate Chips (consider spicing it up with different varieties of chocolate – dark and white – or flavors – butterscotch)
  • Sprinkles (rainbow jimmies worked really well)
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Cereal
  • Mini M & Ms
  • Crushed Oreos
  • Fresh Fruit – sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas
  • Dried Fruits – raisins, craisins, apricots, figs
  • Applesauce
  • Jams
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • Nuts (although, you might want to avoid these if you have any guests with food allergies)

It’s also fun to add sauces and syrups.  I served the traditional maple syrup.  But also added a chocolate fudge sauce and strawberry syrup.  Other ideas include honey, caramel sauce and coconut syrup.

And of course, a bottle of whipped cream to finish off your pancake stack is a must.

The Coffee (and other refreshments)

The pancakes and pajamas party was a mix of adults and kids.  The kids were still pretty little, so most parents didn’t want to leave.  In addition, I try to make my birthday parties an opportunity for parents to get to know each other.  I see them as a way to build community and it’s amazing all of the connections people make with each other.

Help the adult guests feel more comfortable by serving coffee, tea and other refreshments.  We had a juice bar set up for the kids.  But for the parents, I served coffee with sugar and milk.  To keep it warm, I used hot/cold disposable coffee cups (affiliate).  The adults enjoyed an afternoon pick me up while also socializing.

The Decorations

When setting up your pancake bar, adding decorations is a must.  I strung a pancake bunting in front of the table the pancake bar was set up on.  The pieces were taken from the “Happy Birthday” bunting that I designed for the pancakes and pajamas theme.  You can find more party printables in this theme here.

Making a party bunting is pretty easy.  Check out these easy ways to string it together here.  Using just those two pieces to make a separate bunting reminded me about how much I love party printables.  With just a little imagination you can find even more uses for them to decorate your party than just the original purpose.  They let you take your party decorating to a whole new level.

Food tent cards were also an essential part of this pancake bar.  A food tent card is a small card that has the food name on it.  You can write the food name on yourself or use an editable program to add the name in a specific font and color.

Food tent cards are important for helping guests identify the toppings and sauces that you are serving.  Some may seem pretty obvious, but many will not. 

They are also really easy to make.  Check out how to create your own food tent cards for your next celebration here.

Keeping Things Organized

A pancake bar will take up space at your celebration, so make sure you have a plan on where to put it.  If you are hosting your party at home, a kitchen buffet or dining room table would be great locations.

For a party on location, set up a long table and add a tablecloth.  I also had a traditional dessert table in addition to the pancake bar, so these two tables were set up in an L shape.  This way guests were able to serve themselves some desserts and then head over to get their pancakes.  You can check out more layout details about this pancakes and pajamas party here.

Organize your pancake toppings into separate bowls (these small glass ramekins bowls (affiliate) are pretty and can be used party after party).  Add a spoon to each bowl.  If you use wooden spoons (affiliate), you can label the handle with the topping name by stamping it on.  Then the spoon can easily be replaced in the correct topping to prevent cross contamination.  (This can be important if you have guests with food allergies). 

Next to each bowl, place your food tent card with the name of the topping.  Then, there will be no question what each topping is. 

For the syrups and liquid toppings, I poured them into clear glass bottles with stoppers (affiliate).  This made the presentation look prettier and the adults were able to pour them onto the kids’ plates.  Add a food tent card next to the syrups (or add a label on the bottle) so guests know what is in each one.  Many syrups look similar, so clear labeling is a must.

When you set up your pancake bar, make sure you have plates and utensils easily accessible.  I wrapped my utensils in a napkin and attached a matching napkin ring.  I also had a stack of napkins available for any sticky messes.

Pancakes are Served

Once the first batch of pancakes are ready, invite guests to serve themselves.  The best part about the pancake bar is that after it’s open for business, there is little that you need to do.  Really it’s all about checking on the supply of toppings and syrups.  And then refreshing anything that’s out as needed.  And, of course, make sure that everyone has enough napkins too.

After you are done making the pancakes, let guests know that you are working on the final serving.  Many will want seconds and this gives them another opportunity to enjoy more pancakes.

One question that I’ve heard a lot is do you need to still serve cake if you are having a pancake bar.  The answer is really up to you.  If you are hosting a birthday party, guests might expect cake.  The guest of honor might want cake too.

For this pancakes and pajamas party, my little guy wanted donuts.  So we stuck a candle his favorite donut and he blew it out.  You could also stick the candle in a stack of pancakes and blow that out.  Cake isn’t a necessity, more of a preference.

Adding a pancake bar to your next birthday party, baby shower or other special celebration is a great party food idea.  And pancakes doesn’t have to be the theme of your party.  You can have a pancake bar no matter what theme you choose.  Just change up the party decor to match your specific theme.

Want to save for later?  Pin me now and you can return when you’re ready to host your own pancake bar.

Check out all of the details from this pancakes and pajamas party here.  And if you are interested in hosting your own pancake bar with a pancakes and pajamas theme, you can find the party printables set here.

Happy Celebrating,


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