The truth about the fluffiest pancakes on Earth

As far as food crazes go, it's hard not to be drawn in when one is as photogenic as the sky-high jiggly pillows of pancakes that have been making the rounds on social media lately. A quick search of #fluffypancakes on Instagram, for instance, yields photo after photo of the new take on your childhood weekend favorite. These are a far cry from your favorite flapjacks from IHOP, but they might just become your go-to pancake.  

What looks at first like an impossibly high stack of flapjacks quickly reveals itself to be just two or three Japanese fluffy souffle pancakes, topped with a few berries and a dollop of whipped cream, a scoop of matcha ice cream, or the always-classic pat of butter and river of maple syrup. As they've picked up speed, there are even versions out there that cater to the American need to perfect brunch: sprinkled with bacon or pecans or glazed with chocolate sauce and ice cream.

Where to get fluffy pancakes

Like most food trends, this one appears at first to have gotten its start in New York City, and that's certainly where the craze grew legs, according to Pure Wow. Taiyaki, the eatery that made fish-shaped waffle cones famous, added the towering stacks of breakfast confection to their menu earlier in the year. There, you can order them up western or eastern style with either syrup or matcha sauce, and every order comes with a mini taiyaki fish cake for optimum photo opportunities. 

It didn't take long for interest to spread, and now you can grab a stack in cities like Houston and Miami. Be prepared to wait, though — a lot of these restaurants will only commit to making a set amount of souffle pancakes per day, according to Thrillist, because once you've ordered them, they take around 15 or 20 minutes to prepare.

The trendy fluffy pancakes aren't exactly new

While Japanese souffle pancakes entered the scene in 2019 and will likely enjoy fame well into 2020, they got their start years ago in — you guessed it — Japan. According to Just One Cookbook, fluffy pancakes started popping up about five years ago, and hit a true groove in 2016. 

There, they have names like "happy pancakes" and "miracle pancakes" and can be ordered at shops devoted entirely to perfecting them. At those shops, you're likely to find fluffy pancakes with green tea or sweet red bean paste mixed right into the batter for a decidedly Japanese flair. If you don't live in a major metropolitan like Tokyo or New York, though, don't despair! These things likely have staying power, and, as you'll discover, can be whipped up at home once you know what makes them so fluffy.

What makes Japanese fluffy pancakes so fluffy?

According to NYT Cooking, there aren't a ton of surprises in the batter of a batch of Japanese-style fluffy pancakes. You've got eggs, flour, and milk... nothing too exotic there. The real difference is in the eggs: instead of just beating them wholesale into the mix, pancake chefs whip them into a stiff meringue and then gently fold them in, making the batter — and the end result — light as air. 

At Just One Cookbook, a recipe for Japanese souffle pancakes also calls for cake flour and a good nonstick skillet with a tightly fitting lid that will generate just the right amount of steam for the lightest stack you can imagine. NYT Cooking also credits a "low-and-slow" application of heat and the use of a baking ring to pile the batter into for the fluffiness of this perfectly columnar treat, something to keep in mind if you're thinking of preparing some at home.

How do you eat fluffy pancakes?

Slicing into the pillowy pancake-souffle hybrid is likely part of what makes Japanese fluffy pancakes so satisfying, and thankfully, there's not really a wrong way to eat them. You can top them with whatever you like, though a sweet matcha glaze is certainly a favorite place to start. 

From there, you can think of them as a much jigglier version of whatever you eat at home. Pour syrup all over them or dunk fluffy pieces into a side of melted butter, or top it all off with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and a dusting of confectioner's sugar for the sweetest possible dessert-like breakfast you can imagine. However you decide to give them a shot — ordered at your favorite brunch spot, prepared at home, basic, or fusion — just don't forget to snap a picture for your followers before you dig in.