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Planets and Pancakes

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Cook up some yummy pancakes for supper then use food colouring and washing-up liquid to make beautiful milk planets and find out how detergent breaks up fat molecules. This milk art video gives you an idea of what you can do.


Pancakes: milk, eggs, flour, salt

Planets: milk, food colour, washing-up liquid, saucer


1. Make the pancake batter

  • Measure 60g plain flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt

  • Break one egg into a jug, pour into the bowl and mix with a fork or flat whisk

  • Gradually add 120ml milk, whisking until you have a smooth-ish batter

2. Let it stand while you do some science

  • Pour some milk into a saucer

  • Add a drop few drops of different food colourings

  • Dip your finger in a little washing up liquid

  • Touch it gently onto the milk surface

  • Experiment with different colours

3. Cook your supper

  • Heat a knob of butter or oil in a frying pan

  • Pour in about two tablespoons of batter and swirl round the pan

  • Cook on a medium heat until golden brown

  • Flip with a spatula to cook the other side

4. Serve with your favourite savoury toppings

  • Savoury ideas: cheese, ham, tomato, mushrooms, baked beans

  • Sweet: try jam, chocolate spread, syrup or the classic sugar and lemon.


What’s going on? The science in a sentence… The fat droplets in milk break up when soap is added, the food colour helps us see this happening.

Why is this useful for our daily lives?

Understanding how soap works is important, especially for handwashing during a global pandemic.

The pepper trick uses the same principle as the milk planets activity. Use the pepper to represent the germs and help children understand what happens when we wash our hands with soap.

TedEd have a great video on handwashing including some fantastic animations with soap superheros!

Other ideas for supper If you fancy something even easier then supermarkets sell pre-made pancakes and batter mixes or if you fancy going gourmet then check out these savoury pancake ideas. And finally…. Full fat milk works best for the milk planets experiment but you should still get some effect with semi-skimmed. Some of the food colourings available in supermarkets work better than others – experiment with different colours and types if you can.

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