Dancakes Owner/Artist – Daniel Drake (St. Louis, MO)

Daniel Drake - Co-Owner/Artist

Daniel Drake
Co-Owner/Artist
Saint Louis, MO

I have a weird job.

I graduated high school with less-than-stellar grades. I didn’t go to college. Probably could have, but didn’t; I was tired of the school system and loved the simple freedom that came from living and working paycheck to paycheck. Part of the reason my grades were so bad was my incessant doodling; I wrote and illustrated my own comics instead of turning in my math homework.

After school ended I found myself working the slow shifts at a diner in South St. Louis called Courtesy. And when I say slow shifts, I mean, problematically slow. Working for tips ain’t no joke. After a few months of the dredge, I started to think a little more creatively. Folks on the morning shift would throw mickey-mouse-ear dollops on their pancakes to brighten days and open wallets, and I had a light-bulb moment: Pancakes don’t need to be round. Technically, any shape you draw on the griddle will cook solid and hold form.

The very first smiley face pancake I ever served netted me a $15 tip (thanks Chad) and changed my life.

Fast forward several years of this: After learning some layering and design tricks (thanks Tracy), all of a sudden a photo collage of me making themed pancakes and silly faces (thanks Brent) went viral. In November of 2013 I was flown out to NYC with my best friend, Hank, to appear on national television (NBC’s The Today Show) making celebrity pancake faces for the whole country.

Once you’re on national TV, folks just start getting in touch. “Do you do birthday parties?” they’d ask. “Absolutely,” I’d say. I had never done birthday parties before, but why wouldn’t I? They were offering a lot more than my wage plus tips. One thing led to another and Dancakes was born. I had the art chops, and Hank possessed a fantastic business acumen that made him an invaluable part of what we wanted to build.

That was several years ago.

Today, we have privilege to fly around the world serving pancake art to people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and from all walks of life; From Sao Paulo to Dubai to Bangkok to Louisville Kentucky, this medium makes people smile. Our brand is growing and our company now features multiple full-time professional pancake artists. We have millions of social media followers and are blessed not only with the chance to travel, but the chance to be a content creator for massive brands and personalities, and we get to do all of this as friends, and as a family.

To say it is a delight is an understatement.

As we move forward, I try to be mindful of 2 things.

First: Be in the moment. Everything is temporary and the joy right now is the only joy there is. So soak it up.

Second: Mistakes are delicious. Play fun games, win fun prizes.

  • Dancakes In Studio Livestream 2020 EP20 Pancake Art Livestream Roundup – September 13, 2020 by Daniel Drake (09/15/2020) Another Sunday, another Dancakes Donation Livestream in the bag! This week’s was an absolute pleasure – we had a ton of our favorite friends returning and a very, very lively chat. It was really cool to spend our afternoon with you. Remember, next week we’re starting a little bit earlier (2pm CDT) so set your […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • The Joy of Pancakes LIVE 9/11/20 - Freedom The Joy of Pancakes LIVE – 9/11/2020 “Freedom” by Daniel Drake (09/15/2020) The first prompt was 'Freedom' - but afterwards I threw on a chilled out sloth, and a technicolor snith (from harry potter). Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • The Joy of Pancakes LIVE 9/9/20 - Dune The Joy of Pancakes Live – 9/9/20 by Daniel Drake (09/09/2020) Hey everyone! Dan here. Here you can watch our first LIVE episode of the Joy of Pancakes – streamed from our studio in St. Louis, MO, on September 9th 2020 at 3pm CDT. This is the very first time we’ve tried Joy of Pancakes in a live format and so we’re working out the kinks […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • Dancakes In Studio Livestream 2020 EP19 Pancake Art Livestream Roundup – September 06, 2020 by Daniel Drake (09/07/2020) Here’s a round-up of the lovely requests we received from our September 6th Request livestream! Want to check out our next one? Tune in every Sunday at 3pm CDT and you’ll get to hang out, shoot the breeze, and maybe even get your very own pancake art requests made live with Dan, Ben, Dana, Hank, […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • A pancake art portrait of Bob Ross with blue hues used for the face. Portrait of a Legend | The Joy of Pancakes 004 by Daniel Drake (09/07/2020) We’re back at it again with yet another episode of the lovely and relaxing The Joy of Pancakes! This week’s prompt? ‘Portrait of a Legend’ – I decided to try and craft a recolored portrait of the man who inspired the series, Bob Ross. (New to pancake art? Want to follow along? Check out our […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • Chadwick Boseman Tribute Pancake Art Featured Pancake Art – Chadwick Boseman – A Tribute by Daniel Drake (09/04/2020) Posted In: Featured Pancakes
  • A photo of the pancake art design crafted in episode 3 of the joy of pancakes, showing a scene of planets with a space ship floating in space. Planets in Space | The Joy of Pancakes 003 by Daniel Drake (08/29/2020) The third installment of our new series The Joy of Pancakes is now available for your viewing pleasure- we hope you’ll set aside some time to check it out! (New to pancake art? Want to follow along? Check out our Dancakes 101 comprehensive pancake art tutorial and get up to speed!) This week’s prompt was […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • Pancake Art DTIYS: Aggretsuko | The Dancakes Challenge Pancake Art DTIYS: Aggretsuko | The Dancakes Challenge by Daniel Drake (08/28/2020) She’s cute; she’s a young professional; and she is filled to the brim with rage. Her name is Retsuko, and she’s the red panda protagonist of the hot animated show, Aggretsuko – season three releases on Netflix today! On this installment of The Dancakes Challenge, join Dancakes artists and as they attempt to draw the […] Posted In: Dancakes Stories
  • Bluey and Bingo pancake art Pancake Art Livestream Donation Roundup – August 23, 2020 by Daniel Drake (08/24/2020) Here’s the weekly round-up of donation requests made during our sunday evening livestream! We’ll be doing it again same time, same place next week. A huge thank you to all our friends and fans who stopped by to give us requests, support our business, and keep us entertained during the stream; if you made a […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates
  • Buried Treasure Pancake Art from the Joy of Pancakes episode 2, showing a treasure chest made in pancake art. The colors of the image are warm and rich. Buried Treasure | The Joy of Pancakes 002 by Daniel Drake (08/22/2020) It’s here! The second episode of our fresh, relaxing new pancake art instructional/inspirational series, The Joy of Pancakes, is available here and on our YouTube channel for your Saturday morning consumption! The prompt for this week’s episode is ‘Buried Treasure’, and I walk you through the process as I craft one of my favorite freestyle […] Posted In: Dancakes Updates

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?

Bit of a head scratcher there. I’ve gotten some pretty “out there” asks from rogue event guests. I think the one that most sticks in my memory came from a gentleman at a brunch event in Orlando, FL, who requested I make a pancake of me making a pancake of me making a pancake of me making a pancake etc, etc, etc…yeah. That one filled the griddle. Not sure where the photo went, but he asked for a similar one the year after, too. I call it ‘Pancakeception’. We’ve got to go deeper.

Are there any things you still struggle with in pancake art?

Oh, all the time. Pancake art is such an awkward medium, there’s so much extra work you have to do that isn’t a part of, say, illustrating with pens and ink. You have to mix all of your colors fresh every session, you can’t really sketch things out and trace over them, you cover your drawing up as you go and can’t see the final product, the whole thing is mirrored, the layering is really important…yeah. You get better at all of that stuff with practice but sometimes you’re standing in the studio shake-mixing colors for the thousandth time and your arms are tired, and you think, “Man, why did I pick this medium to build a career around?”

I think on a more technical level the biggest challenge for me with pancake art in general is patience. I see Dana come in and take hours and hours mixing colors on the fly to give her pieces these brilliant and dynamic lighting effects, and it just makes me tiiiiiired. Consistency, too, is a problem for me. Sometimes, especially when I’m trying to draw a really realistic portrait of someone, it’s hard to straddle that line between “carbon copy” and “artistic interpretation”, and I mess up peoples’ expressions or fail to capture their ‘essence’. I dunno! I will never consider myself a master of this art form even if other people do – that way, I’ll keep learning.

What's your favorite breakfast restaurant?

Oh gosh. Definitely Southwest Diner just down the street here in St. Louis. The menu is simple and stays consistent, the food is delicious and affordable, the coffee is crap – but, y’know, in that awesome ‘this is a diner experience’ way – and the staff are all some of the best and coolest people in the city. ‘Course, I’m answering this question in month 4 of the COVID-19 pandemic, so…I, uh, hope they’re still around when this all blows over. Otherwise I guess I’ll have to open something myself.

What's the coolest place you've traveled to?

It’s kinda cool how hard this one is for me to answer. I’ve been extremely blessed, and had opportunities that have taken me all over the US, and then internationally to Sao Paulo Brazil, Bangkok Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sharjah and Dubai in the UAE. All of those places were crazy to visit in their own way and I’ve got really great memories of each. If I had to pick, though…

Gosh. This is hard! Visiting Dubai was really cool – there’s a peculiar cultural juxtaposition going on there that opens your mind to a lot of things. Waking up at a hotel in Sharjah – an epicenter of Islamic cultural heritage – and hearing the ethereal ‘call to prayer’ echo over the nearby towers and neighborhoods, or going into downtown Dubai and taking an elevator to the 150th floor of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world at the time I visited it – and looking out over the other skyscrapers like you’re playing a game of Sim City…that whole experience was surreal. Hank and I were in the same building as Al Gore at one point? Almost all the portraits I drew during that trip were women wearing abaya, the black headscarves, and they almost all asked me to draw their portraits with the snapchat flower crown filter. That was an interesting little quirk! Yeah, all in all I loved having the chance to go there, even if dancing in public is technically illegal.

Are your pancakes edible?

They absolutely are.

Pineapple on pizza?

Yes. It’s the sweet and the savory, what the sages of old have passed down as “delicious”.