One of the most common questions that I get asked about my blog is how I pick desserts to bake. I sheepishly explain that I keep a Google doc full of recipes picked up from a bunch of sources — from other blogs, from food magazines, from cookbooks — that I'm working my way through, slowly but surely.
And while that method's worked for me for many years, it can be a little limiting. Since I'm the only person maintaining the list, I tend to only pick recipes that appeal to me and mostly ignore the ones I don't like, no matter how popular they might be or how often readers request them. For instance — you won't find any carrot cake recipes on my blog. Or any other sort of vegetable cake, really. Because despite the abundance of cakes made with carrots or zucchinis, I'm a firm believer that vegetables shouldn't belong in dessert (with the exception of rhubarb). Ditto with peanut butter cookies — people love them, but they're just not my jam.
So when my friend Meredith initially requested that I make a pancake layer cake for her birthday, I initially balked. I'm not the world's biggest pancake person — I prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones any day, and if push comes to shove, I'll always order waffles or French toast over pancakes. Because pancakes are just another thing that isn't my jam.
But hey! When a dear friend requests a specific kind of cake for her birthday, I deliver.
For the special occasion, I was intent on making the best pancake I could. I tried a bunch of recipes from the internet and various cookbooks, but in the end, found that Billy's recipes for pancakes (from his awesome cookbook!) were my favorite — in particular, his buttermilk pancake recipe is fast and easy, delivering delicious pancakes each time. I also worked with Simon, who graciously provided me with 5 different sorts of pans to test and figure out which kind was ideal for pancake making. You can read all about my pan testing adventures on their blog, Simon SAID, in which I make these pancakes over and over again using pans from All-Clad, Le Creuset, Mauviel, and Williams-Sonoma.
Some baker's notes:
- The pancakes are best warm; if making a cake, be sure to make the maple mascarpone whipped cream first, before making the pancakes. You can stack them in a birthday cake fashion like I did, but if the pancakes are still warm, the cream will start to melt and the cake will fall apart pretty quickly. If you're not planning on making a birthday cake, it's best to serve the cream on the side.
- The mascarpone cream itself is not very sweet and is only sweetened by a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup — between the sugar in the pancakes and chocolate chips, I worried that sweetening the cream would just be too much of a sugar overload. If that's your jam though, feel free to add 1 tablespoon or more confectioner's sugar to the cream. Just be careful not to add too much; it gets sweet fast!
(pancakes adapted from Whip It Up!, everything else by yours truly)
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) heavy cream, cold
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
- a pinch of kosher salt
(makes around six 5-inch pancakes)
- 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) buttermilk
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) chocolate chips
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks start to form. Once peaks have formed, add 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and continue beating for another 30 seconds until the cheese and sugar have been incorporated throughout the cream.
- Turn off the mixer and drizzle 3 tablespoons maple and a pinch of kosher salt over the cream. Use a rubber spatula to fold the caramel and salt into the whipped cream, until well combined. Refrigerate until the pancakes are ready to serve.
For the Chocolate Chip Pancakes:
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk together until well combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/4 cup water, 1 large egg, 2 tablespoons canola oil, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Whisk until combined, and the egg has fully broken apart and is combined in the mixture.
- Sprinkle the dry ingredients (from the 1st step) over the surface of the wet ingredients (from the 2nd step) and whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined — do not overmix! Overmixing leads to tough, chewy pancakes. You want to keep mixing only until the dry ingredients have just disappeared, and no more. The batter will appear lumpy, but that’s normal. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the batter, and whisk a couple of times until the chocolate chips are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Let the mixture stand aside for 10 minutes — the mixture should continue to thicken and almost become foamy and sponge-like in texture.
- After around 10 minutes, heat up a frying pan over medium heat. Spray the cooking surface with a light coating of cooking spray and pour in around 4 tablespoons of batter. Cook until you see bubbles foam around the edge, about 1 to 2 minutes, before using a spatula to loosen the edges and bottom of the cake and flipping over. Continue to cook another minute or so, until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining batter. Make sure you continue to monitor the heat of the pan, adjusting it accordingly — if the pan becomes too hot, the outside of the pancakes will brown before the inside gets a chance to cook.