Technically, pancakes should be classified as a dessert. They contain all the same ingredients as regular cake, but because they’re made outside of the oven, somehow they get a pass. True, pancake batter contains less butter and sugar than ovencake batter, but the finished product is served to us slathered in butter and drenched in syrup. When you’re out at brunch enjoying a short stack, you’re essentially eating an entire 8" layer cake all by yourself, and yet when I want to eat an entire cheesecake for breakfast, my husband says it’s “concerning” and he’s “worried” that I’m “not dealing with current events in an emotionally healthy way.” In response, I have established a delicious middle ground: these ludicrously decadent cherry cheesecake pancakes. In any rational society, these would probably be enjoyed in tiny slivers after dinner, but in my chosen reality they are a healthy part of a balanced breakfast, as they contain three of the four food groups and are made in a pan.
As discussed in my peach cake recipe, perfectly-in-season summer fruits should not be overly fussed with, because there’s little any of us can do to improve them. Here, I tossed my sweet cherries with a tiny bit of sugar to bring their juices out (in a process called maceration). When you do this, taste your fruit about a minute after you add the sugar, and then add a little bit more as you see fit. If cherries are out of season by the time you discover this recipe, using frozen ones will work just fine. And if you’re not into cherries, this can be made with just about any fruit you desire. Just remember that fruit is the magic ingredient that somehow transforms these pancakes into healthy breakfast food, so it’s important not to omit it.
Makes 6 big pancakes, or 12 reasonably sized ones
- 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) melted butter, plus additional for greasing the pan
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 3/4 cups sour cream
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/16 tsp. white vinegar or cream of tartar (you don’t need to measure this perfectly—just use a teeny, tiny amount)
- 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup milk, plus additional, if desired
- Approximately 1 lb. fresh cherries (again, doesn’t need to be perfect)
- 2 tsp. sugar, plus more, if desired
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt. Once combined, whisk in the sour cream, milk, and vanilla. Add the graham cracker crumbs and flour, mix until smooth, then set aside.
Begin preheating a large nonstick skillet, preferably with a lid, over medium-low heat. Put a sheet pan into the oven and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the vinegar (or cream of tartar) until they hold stiff peaks. (This will take longer than you expect it to, so don’t assume you’re doing something wrong. Just be patient.) Stir the baking powder into the pancake batter, then fold in the beaten egg whites until smooth.
Add a little bit of butter to the skillet, then start pouring in portions of batter. (I like using a 4-oz. food disher for this.) Cover the pan and let the pancakes cook undisturbed for at least 3 minutes. When the tops look set, flip the pancakes over and cook for another minute or so until they’re golden brown on their bottoms, then remove them to the sheet pan in the oven to stay warm as you make the rest of the pancakes.
While you’re waiting for your pancakes to cook, make the toppings. First, the cherries: use a paring knife to cut the cherries in half, throw out the pits, then toss in a bowl with the sugar and set aside to macerate.
To make the cheesecake sauce, use a mixer beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt together for a few minutes until light and fluffy, then beat in the milk. If you’d like your sauce to be a bit less thick, beat in a bit more milk until it’s the consistency you like.
Once all the pancakes are cooked, layer them with cheesecake sauce, top with cherries, and serve immediately.