If you’re brand new to TikTok, it’s only a matter of time before you realize that when it comes to everyone’s favorite new social media app, it’s all about style over substance. For me, that moment came when I stumbled across the “pancake cereal” trend that has absolutely dominated the app this month — racking up over a billion views under its respective hashtag. Like March’s whipped instant coffee fad, pancake cereal requires absolutely no skill or special tools to make, and most importantly looks amazing!
Never mind how it tastes, right? Who wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of tiny pancakes? Looking cute, cool, or interesting is all food needs in order to go viral on TikTok.
For non-users of the platform, there’s no crazy recipe for success here. Tiny versions of things are cute, and TikTok loves cute things. This particular trend originated back in April thanks to a post by Sydney Melhoff who “discovered” pancake cereal after she made a batch of regular pancakes, removed some of the batter splashes from the pan and realized the tiny mini pancakes tasted amazing. From there, she made an entire bowl, put a pad of butter on top, poured some milk over it, and set the whole thing to “Over It Chinese New Year Remix” by JohhnyG.
The rest was (supposedly) delicious history. Unfortunately, once you look past how cute pancake cereal is and think about what it might taste like, you’ll quickly realize that the answer is: probably not terrific. First, you make a large batch of tiny little pancakes (okay, those sound good), then you spatula them into a bowl (no problem), then you put a pad of butter on top with a maple syrup drizzle (right, because they’re pancakes), and then you pour milk into the bowl (because it’s implied by the whole “cereal” bit). At which point, you quickly discover that there’s a reason all the videos end as soon as the milk is poured in. No one actually wants a bowl of soggy little pancakes.
With a fair bit of cooking time on our hands in quarantine, we took her Melhoff’s pancake cereal recipe and tested it out. She’s a legend in the tiny food genre (oh yes, it’s a thing), so this was the natural place to start. Once we realized that, adorable as it was, the recipe wasn’t going to work from a taste standpoint, we got creative with it and cobbled together a something that was far more enjoyable (if perhaps slightly less adorable).
Everything You Need To Make Pancake Cereal
- Pancake mix (you can, of course, make your pancakes from scratch, using real vanilla bean and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract like our pancake-obsessed food editor, but you don’t need to)
- Zip-lock bag
- Maple syrup
Like Dalgona coffee, you likely have everything you need to make pancake cereal at home right now. You don’t need to follow a special pancake batter recipe and you don’t need any special tools, just use whatever pancake mix you have in your pantry, pour it in a zip-lock bag, clip the tip, and pour batter droplets the size of a penny all over the pan. [Please at least put a little vanilla extract in there -the pancake-obsessed editor]
Everyone in your house will make fun of you for pretending to be a pastry chef with your piping bag, but the smell of freshly made tiny pancakes will win them over. Once your pancakes are done, put them in a bowl, add a pad of butter, drizzle some maple syrup.
Sounds simple but you mentioned something about it tasting bad?
Yeah, it’s absolutely awful. Once milk hits your pancakes, they will instantly soak it up and start to swell to twice their size as they become inundated with milk. Also a pad of butter in milk? What are you out of your mind? The milk will make it cold and it won’t melt. You’ll ignore it until you get wrapped up in a conversation and take a bite without looking only to find a pad of cold butter in your mouth.
Truthfully, there isn’t a single pleasant bite to be had with this dish. If you don’t have plans to film yourself putting it together and setting it to some way-too-loud remix that blows out everyone’s speakers, just don’t even bother. No shade towards Sydney Melhoff — she’s a master at making cute tiny foods. But in no world does this taste good.
But there’s got to be a way, right?
I wasn’t about to spend almost an hour making really tiny pancakes just to throw them away. So I got creative with it, not for TikTok fame, not for the sake of this article, but because I couldn’t bring myself to leave pancake cereal in the realm of “a thing that is not nearly as delicious as it sounds.”
Let me set the scene for you:
The time was 10 p.m. A gentle westerly wind blew through the kitchen window. The faint sound of a dog barking at a possum could be heard in the distance over a gentle wash of chirps from the late spring crickets. As the dank smell of freshly smoked cannabis wafted through the house, a lonely man toiled away above his stovetop — drip-dropping pancake batter onto an iron pan radiating with heat. One-by-one, the housemates who had previously criticized the man with his bag-o-batter floated into the kitchen like Looney Tunes characters, enticed by the irresistible smell of pancakes after a weed session. Eyes wide with wonder and stomachs grumbling.
“Ready yet?” they asked.
“No,” said the man, cackling maniacally as he scooped the last of the pancakes into a bowl, tossed them with butter, and arranged them on a piece of foil. “For now, comrades, they must toast.”
“Oh… alright then,” his friends said, eyeing him strangely. “Um… just let us know when you’re done or whatever?”
The man set his ancient toaster oven to 300 degrees and it began to rattle. Its coils took on a menacing red glow. As the man pulled open the toaster oven’s creaking door, the smell of a fallen onion from someone else’s sandwich overwhelmed him.
“Damn, I’ll have to clean this stupid thing first,” he thought.
After a deep clean, the man was back on track. He gave his pancake dots 30 minutes of baking time in the real oven, plus a single toast cycle. At this point, the man’s housemates had lost interest and either gone to bed or ordered pizza. It was better this way. His mad creation was finally complete and was his alone to savor.
And it was actually pretty damn good.
So wait, you did what?
The biggest problem with TikTok’s pancake cereal is that it isn’t at all like cereal. It’s just tiny, and in a bowl with milk. That doesn’t make it cereal and if you don’t believe that, just take a look at this sushi iteration (disgusting). So I decided to toast and dry my mini pancakes like bread crumbs in the toaster oven to give them a more cereal-like consistency and more resistant to being soaked. Then I doused them in a cinnamon-sugar blend, and let them cool until they were room temperature. You know, like cereal is.
- Once you’ve made mini-pancakes, toss them in a bowl with butter and maple syrup so that you don’t put those ingredients in the milk like some kind of monster.
- Arrange pancakes on a piece of foil and place them in an oven set at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Remove pancakes from oven and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar to taste.
- For an extra toasty crunch, toast your pancakes in the toaster oven with your preferred amount of toast cycles.
- Let pancakes cool.
- Put pancakes in a bowl, pour your choice of milk, and enjoy your legitimately good tasting pancake cereal.
The end result is deliciously crispy (we’re talking ASMR-level crunch here) and incredibly filling. The butter and syrup toss and extended oven time allowed the flavors to comingle a little and marry with the milk in a way that isn’t totally offensive.
Does this taste better than the actual TikTok pancake trend? Absolutely. Is this better than your favorite cereal? It depends on how much you like pancakes. Is it at all worth the time and effort that it takes to make this? It depends on how much you like the idea of pancakes and cereal or have people over for breakfast you want to impress. But if you’re going to go through the trouble of making over a hundred tiny pancakes, you might as well take another few minutes to truly make something that actually tastes good. Even if it’s not as prone to virality.