Pittsburgh’s Finest Diner Pancakes: hail to the chef!

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This is a story of the 2008 Presidential campaign, a diner in Pittsburgh, Google images, and a profound love of pancakes.

And if that doesn’t pique your interest – you’re just not the foodie I thought you were.

Back in 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was hitting the campaign trail hard and making all the requisite “meet and greet” visits – manufacturing plants, senior citizen homes, truck stops – he paid a visit to Pamela’s P&G Diner in Pittsburgh, where he enjoyed the specialty of the house: pancakes.

But these weren’t just any diner pancakes. Pamela’s pancakes have an almost cult-like following among foodies. Described as light and fluffy, but with a crackly-crisp crust around the edges, these pancakes have spawned blogs, attempted clones, and lots and lots of online photos from folks who’ve actually visited the “shrine” to enjoy the pancakes in person.

Including President Obama. While he didn’t pull out his Blackberry and snap a pancake picture to share on his Facebook page, the President did have this comment (courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): “…’These really were maybe the best pancakes I’ve tasted in a very long time. Get some take-out,’ he directed the reporters. ‘You don’t even need syrup on them. They’ve got [these] crispy edges. Yea, they are really good.’ ”

Diner owners Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith were later invited to the White House to cook a Memorial Day pancake breakfast for the President, First Lady, and 80 military veterans – and their culinary star continued to rise.

More buzz online. More Yelp reviews. More Urbanspoon.

And, thankfully for me, lots of Google images.

I’m a pancake apprecianado (sic). Love pancakes; always have. So when Pamela’s pancakes appeared on my radar, I knew I had to clone them.

Unfortunately, the recipe is a closely held secret. This single quote from Pam herself (again, in the Post-Gazette): “…a secret process that included leavening and spices. You let the batter rise and sit for a couple hours, then you beat it down, let it rise again and beat it down” – is all I had to go on.

That, and Google images, which offers many, MANY shot-in-the-diner photos of these famous cakes.

So, between Pam’s quote; the review descriptions on Yelp and Urbanspoon; and the photos on Google, I pieced together a recipe that, if not absolutely true to the original, produces pancakes that are truly excellent: crisp edges; soft, tender centers; and marvelous buttery flavor.

If you’re picky about pancakes, Pamela’s are (apparently) pure bliss. And even if the cakes below don’t match Pamela’s exactly – Pittsburgh readers, let me know what needs to change – these Pamela’s wannabes are pretty darned good.

Click anywhere on this block of pictures to enlarge them to full size – this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the following:

1 cup lukewarm milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup (3 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/8 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

Stir until fairly smooth; a few small lumps can remain.

Tent the bowl lightly with plastic, and allow it to rest at room temperature for 3 hours; it’ll start to bubble just a bit (photo, upper right).

Refrigerate the batter overnight.

Next day, when you’re ready to cook pancakes, stir 1 large egg into the batter.

Heat a 9″ or 10″ skillet over medium heat; or heat a 9″ or 10″ electric skillet to 300°F; or heat a griddle that’s at least 9″ to 10″ wide, and easy to pick up and handle.

Place 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon butter into the skillet, swirling them around until the butter melts. Yes, use 1 teaspoon each; this is what will give the pancakes their signature crisp edges.

Pour a scant 1/2 cup batter into the pan, tilting the pan until the batter forms a circle about 8″ in diameter. It’s important that you do this quickly, before the pancake has a chance to set; the thin edges that result from tilting the pan to distribute the batter become wonderfully crispy.

Cook the pancake for about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, or until its underside is golden brown. Flip it over, and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more, until golden.

See how the edges are sizzling and becoming crisp?

Transfer the pancake to a plate (or lightly greased baking sheet, if you want to keep the pancake warm in the oven while you cook the remainder). Repeat with the remaining batter; this amount of batter will make 4 large pancakes.

Want to double the recipe? Go for it; double all the ingredients except the yeast, which can remain at 1/2 teaspoon.

“Do I really have to use 2 teaspoons fat for each pancake,” you say?

Here’s what happens when you use the full amount of butter and oil for the first cake, then don’t re-grease the pan for the second.

And here’s what happens with 1/2 teaspoon each butter and oil; not a pretty picture. Or pancake.

I understand the need to cut calories and fat grams, but frankly, this isn’t the place to do it. Accept that these pancakes are an occasional treat, and enjoy them.

Serve the pancakes with syrup; they don’t actually need butter, as they’re already so buttery.

Or, do what they do at Pamela’s: stuff ‘em.

Pamela’s menu options include sour cream, brown sugar, and strawberries (or blueberries); bananas and walnuts, or bananas and chocolate chips. All come topped with whipped cream.

I’ve opted for low-fat vanilla yogurt and strawberries; no whipped cream.

Hey, just because I’m going whole hog with these cakes doesn’t mean I have to go WHOLE hog; discretion is still the better part of caloric valor.

Serve warm. And, unless you’re a Pittsburgh resident and Pamela’s regular, thank the magic of the Internet for introducing you to these pancakes!

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Pittsburgh’s Finest Diner Pancakes.

Print just the recipe.

Postscript: Pamela’s “hint” includes the use of spice, but I was uncertain what spice that might be… Cinnamon seems a natural choice, but cinnamon also inhibits yeast, so I was loathe to use it. My fellow baker and former restaurant chef Susan Reid says allspice is a fairly common choice for pancakes… Pamela’s habitués, any clue what the secret spice might be?

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. aak

    The mystery is finally revealed! Oh, thank you! We’re far away from Pittsburgh now and I’ll be so happy to make these for my family now and then. :) (No idea what the spice could be…)
    So glad we could help out. Have a great time! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
    1. LitigatorRater

      As a Pittsburgher, I have had these delightful pancakes/crepes on many occasions. When trying to duplicate the recipe, know that I always thought that there was a touch of vanilla in the batter. As for cooking them, one of the owners told me that using a commercial grill was one of the secrets to the success of the recipe. Therefore, folks might get a more authentic product if they use a greased flat grill and less batter. The batter is thin and will spread. When the edges are crispy, it’s time to give them a flip. They should not be crispy in the middle.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much for the tips; I love hearing from people who’ve actually had the privilege of enjoying these pancakes from the source. I’m sure having a perfectly heated flattop grill is a huge help, when trying to duplicate these pancakes’ signature crispy/soft texture, but we can all remember to keep the batter thin. And I’ll definitely try adding a touch of vanilla next time. Thanks again – PJH

  2. gaa

    Wahoo! Pittsburgh finally makes it into your blog!!! I live in Pittsburgh and can confirm that Pamela’s pancakes are THE BEST!!! I will have to try your recipe (from the photo, they look very very sismilar indeed) but I must confess that part of the treat of these pancakes is the experience of eating them in the restaurant, which is the case with many Pittsburgh food institutions (like a Primanti’s sandwich!!). PJ you have written about these pancakes before and I’ll repeat to you my offer to take you and your KAF companions to Pamela’s if you are ever in my hometown. It seems only fair reciprocation to you for all of the wonderful recipes and inspiration you give me which I happily bake every week and share with all of my family and friends.
    Yippee Skippy! So, is Pamela’s big enough to hold all 300+ of us? Or should we plan to come in stages? I’m thinking an early morning pancake breakfast, and Primanti’s for a late lunch? It would be a heck of a way to climb the food pyramid if you ask me. Thanks for all of your contributions here gaa. It is folks like you that make us what we are. <3 ~ MaryJane and the gang

    What she said! PJH

    Reply
  3. Quinn

    WOW. It’s a pancake made entirely of all the best characteristics of pancakes!
    What a great way to put it! I’m hoping these will be on our weekend menu. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. gaa

    Oofty MaryJane! Pamela’s AND Primanti’s in one day??!! Have you ever had a Primanti’s sandwich? Between two thick slices of Italian bread you have your protein of choice (roast beef? cheese steak? capicolla? or my personal favorite – “hot egg and cheese” which is hot italian sausage, a fried egg and cheese), sliced tomatos, French fries AND cole slaw! While I love Pamela’s pancakes and Primanti’s sandwiches, eating both in one day will cover your entire recommended caloric intake for a week! So, I guess you will just have to make more than one visit to the Burgh. :) BTW, we would need several seatings at Pamela’s to accommodate all of you!!

    Reply
  5. erinhibshman

    I have never been to Pamela’s (I live on the other side of the great state of Pennsylvania, and I don’t get out to Pittsburgh very often. These look WONDERFUL and I know what I will be making this weekend. We usually make pancakes, and I think giant ones will be a great treat. Thank you for another great recipe to try out – YUM!

    Erin, let us know what you think, OK? And if you ever DO get to Pittsburgh… definitely stop by Pamela’s and take some pics to share! PJH

    Reply
  6. KAF_Keri

    When you said “whole hog” at the end I thought for sure you were going in a Pigs-in-a-Blanket direction! I bet these pancaked would be fantastic around some maple breakfast sausages. Yum!!!

    Ah, Keri, a woman after my own heart… Yes, I can see some of those little sausages tucked inside these cakes – with a drizzle of maple syrup or sprinkle of maple sugar – for sure! :) PJH

    Reply
  7. ksilloway

    Re: The Spice. I haven’t had these pancakes, but I”ve had the best French toast (in NH) that had just a hint of nutmeg in the batter. Would that inhibit the yeast?

    Nutmeg would be fine; it’s garlic and cinnamon that inhibit yeast. And nutmeg does sound like a “fit,” doesn’t it? Thanks! PJH

    Reply
  8. Sandy

    Wow…these look fabulous! Will for sure try them. They look a bit like the 49er’s Flapjacks from The Original Pancake House (oh how I miss that restaurant and the 49er’s Flapjacks). The 49er’s are huge (plate size), have a real crispy, crunchy edge and are not Swedish pancakes nor regular as for thickness. I believe they have a sourdough base. I would love to have a knock-off version of the 49er’s. Will try the Pamela’s pancakes and see how close they are to the 49er’s.

    Sandy, they do sound very similar – let us know how they compare, OK? Have you seen this clone? And this video? PJH

    Reply
  9. Lori F.

    Another “Burgher” checking in here but I’m sad to say I’ve never been to Pamela’s. Each time we head to the Strip District we seem to end up at Primanti’s and La Prima Espresso for a cuppa something delicious while doing our foodie shopping. Thanks so much for shining the culinary light on our fair city! We love our good, honest food here made with recipes handed down through many generations and nationalities.

    Lori, sounds like you’ve got another foodie stop to add to your list – so glad we could help. I’d love to visit Pittsburgh sometime; maybe I can morph into Jane and Michael Stern and just travel around the country finding all the solid, classic places to eat, places people have enjoyed for years, featuring the local cuisine. Does that sound like a great job, or what?! :) PJH

    Reply
    1. Mrs. McGuigan

      La Prima is a definate stop whenever you are on Penn Ave. The best cappacinno you will ever have. Oh, and the pastries are divine. Please do come in !

  10. blufflady2000

    The spice… it is just possible that if it is really SECRET.. could be cardamom? That is the huge secret in Norwegian cake doughnuts.

    Interesting. Cardamom is the “secret” in a ginger cake I make, too – a little bit goes a long way, and it’s very distinctive, though people usually can’t guess what it is. My grandmother is Norwegian, and used to fry up cake doughnuts regulrly – I’ll have to check her recipe. Thanks – PJH

    Reply
  11. OTquilter

    I am definitely making these soon. They will bring back memories of breakfast at Pamela’s with my sister and her family each time we visited Pittsburgh. Now if I could only walk down the street to Penn Mac to shop and stop at La Prima for a cappuccino! Thanks, PJ!

    I never knew Pittsburgh was such a food magnet – I’d love to visit! La Prima, Pamela’s, Primanti – they all sound wonderful. Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  12. kaf-sub-mhellman

    If you’re going to get a Primanti’s sandwich, go to the Strip District location (open 24/7) and visit PennMac while you’re at it. I miss shopping there!
    Do you think Halley would notice if her whole blogging staff “disappeared” for a few days? Hmmm, I wonder… ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. Sarahbelle

    Oh! How beautiful! I can nearly smell the butter!
    Any chance that a good Gluten Free version of these could be accomplished by the simple substitution of KAF GF Multi-purpose flour for the KAF traditional AP flour???? {hope, hope}

    Also: don’t even think about leaving Pittsburgh without visiting Church Brew Works and enjoying their incomparable Pirogies and in-house micro-brews!!

    HI there,
    Pancakes are usually one of the easier things to make GF, so definitely give it a try. Remember that the frying method is going to be key. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. auntiekeeko

    What an interesting recipe. I’ve been on something of a pancake quest lately so your blog came at a good time. My ideal pancake is light and spongy and I’ve come to think that one of the secrets is to let the batter rest. Besides the crispy edges, can you describe the texture of the interior for me?
    Hi Auntie,
    PJ is out of the office for a day or two, but I’ll ask her to drop you a note when she can. Thanks! ~ MaryJane

    Hi – The pancakes’ interior is moist, maybe 1/4″ to 1/3″ thick, pretty close-textured (i.e., not fluffy/airy); I kind of see them as “eggy,” even though there’s only one egg in the recipe. Lots of butter flavor. What I really like is they’re not at all dry; I’m not a fan of thick pancakes, which to my mind can oftentimes be quite dry inside. Hope this helps – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  15. Dscheffner

    You will have to get some coffee from Prestogeorge when at the Strip District (across from Wholey Fish). Your recipe is very close.
    That PJ, she has quite the magic touch, eh? ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. PGManager

    Hi PJ! I have to say that I both honored by and love your review of our famous crepe hotcakes! I am one of the managers of Pamela’s P&G Diners. As it is a “secret,” I cannot offer you any hints to our recipes, but I can say that I posted part of your blog to our new website, under our “News” section for all to see! I have linked to your recipe as well, as we try to keep our news section brief! I appreciate the review, and your pancakes look great!

    Thank you so much for your kind words about our restaurant! We look forward to seeing you again soon!

    ~Elizabeth Hessel, Manager, Pamela’s P&G Diners, Mt. Lebanon.

    Elizabeth, I’m honored you’ve posted part of our blog to your Web site – so happy to even come close to being part of the Pamela’s experience! I’d love to come visit sometime, though the Vermont to Pittsburgh drive is quite daunting… Thanks for connecting here. PJH P.S. I wonder if you use King Arthur Flour? If not, give it a try sometime!

    Reply
  17. Sarah Heat

    I actually ate at Pamela’s and Primanti’s in one day. It was a lot of food. This was when I visited Pittsburgh about 7 years ago. I’m happy to give this recipe a try- I’ve always wanted to know how to make them so crispy and delicious. Thanks!

    Wow, that’s definitely a memorable one-two foodie punch, eh? I’ll be sure to replicate your experience if I ever get to Pittsburgh, Sarah. PJH

    Reply
  18. Estelle

    I have been staring at these on and off since 11. I am totally making them on Sunday! I will use a non-stick crepe pan which will likely make the flipping easier. YUM!!!!

    Hmmm… Estelle, for some reason, I sometimes have trouble getting things to crisp in non-stick pans, as the oil seems to pool around on the pan rather than work at crisping whatever I’m cooking. If non-stick doesn’t give you a nice, crisp edge, then you might want to try a regular pan next time. With the butter and oil, I didn’t have any problem with them sticking. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  19. MaryNeedsSleep

    I left Pittsburgh 11 years ago and still long for Pamela’s pancakes. And the homefries – I’ve never been able to replicate their homefries. Anybody else had any luck?

    Thank you so much for this post!

    I wonder what makes their home fries special, Mary? I see from the menu that they’re potatoes lyonnaise – which are simply cookies, sliced, potatoes fried with onions. Can you shed any light on how they might differ from other fried potatoes? Thanks – PJH

    Reply
    1. Michelle

      Every time I’ve eaten the lyonnaise fried potatoes at Pamela’s it reminds me of potato salad. I’m thinking possibly they use mayonnaise. When mayonnaise is heated it would turn to oil…wouldn’t it?

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Michelle, mayo does get rather greasy, it’s true. A classic lyonnaise is just butter and olive oil, but Julia Child used heavy cream in hers. From what I can see in pictures from Pamela’s, and descriptions, it sounds like the potatoes are buttery – perhaps they add a touch of heavy cream, as well? That would definitely add that creamy texture… PJH

  20. knemeyer

    I’m so glad Estelle mentioned the non-stick pan because I would’ve done that too being a little afraid of my stainless steel pan sticking. You should add your reason not to use nonstick to the blog and recipe. BTW, just might try this recipe this weekend!

    Well, hate to “condemn” non-stick without a fair trial – I just have misgivings. It might work perfectly well. I think if you cook the first cake and have trouble, simply switch to a different pan – how does that sound? PJH

    Reply
  21. Brenda

    …and be certain your pan is adequately preheated before adding butter and oil! Too many people have hated good-quality stainless steel because everything sticks to it when the only problem is that food was added before the pan was hot enough.

    Reply
  22. eanng37

    I too am dying to try these. I have a recipe for a green apple sour dough pancake that I do occasionally and using a yeast batter really does kick pancakes into overdrive when you can plan ahead the night before. The ones in your photos look like what my hub would just love, he’s not a big fluffy cake person either. And they look like they have some chew to them…. my mouth is watering!
    I was also thinking of using my non-stick, but saw the comment regarding how it may affect the fried edges, but a regular stainless makes me too nervous so I’ll pull out my tried and true well-seasoned cast iron skillet. This time tomorrow the plan is to be diving into a plate of these with applewood smoke bacon and lots of maple syrup! Unfortunately I live down south so I can’t get the original, but not having anything to compare yours to isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they’ll likely remain a go-to recipe for me from now on on their own merit. Thanks for the recipe!

    Hope you have a very happy Sunday morning with what sounds like a delicious breakfast – enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  23. Zanne4848

    No one is mentioning cast iron. Is there some reason not to use this? I have both a round, flat cast iron griddle, a large cast iron frying pan and a steel crepe pan. Would all or one of these work?
    Thanks.
    I can’t think of any reason why a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle or crepe pan wouldn’t work for this recipe. Give it a try! ~Amy

    Cast iron is great – I’m sure Pamela’s uses a cast iron or black steel griddle, as most diners do. Go for it! PJH

    Reply
  24. Zanne4848

    One more question: is there any way to make these ahead of time? Maybe refrigerate or freeze, then reheat? I’ve always made regular (small) pancakes in larger quantities than I need and then I freeze them – they reheat great in the microwave. If I did this with this recipe, after microwaving they could be thrown on the griddle again (briefly) just to crisp up a little. I would make smaller pancakes than what’s in the recipe.
    Any one try this yet?

    I think it would work, so long as you crisped them briefly before serving – don’t see why not. When you give it a try, let us know how they come out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  25. bunditoast

    WOW! AUTHENTIC DINER TASTE! What more can I say. Put the batter together last night. Tried first with syrup only. Loved it. Then, spread on the sour cream and sprinkled lightly with Brown Sugar, topped with fruit from a package of frozen triple berry fruit (thawed). Was skeptical at first, but the first bite was awesome. This recipe will not go into the circular file.
    I may not know what Pamela’s diner cakes should taste like. But I know if my efforts are close to being as good as hers, this recipe is a KEEPER.

    Glad to hear that the recipe worked so well for you! I really have to try it soon.-Jon

    Reply
  26. sohn

    Made them today in honor of Obama’s swearing in this morning. Delicious! I used a non-stick pan and only canola oil, while not the same crispiness that you can get with oil + butter, it was still yummy! Thank you!

    Thanks for reporting your tasty results – much appreciated to know the results with non-stick pan and canola oil. Glad you enjoyed them! PJH

    Reply
  27. Margo

    Hi PJ,
    I love your blog posts and have had great success with your recipes! I have a request: could you please post a recipe for baked chocolate doughnuts? I LOVE your baked pumpkin doughnut recipe, and my kids keep asking for chocolate ones. Thank you!
    Margo

    Hello Margo, I do believe we have a Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnut recipe on our site. It should be what you are looking for!-Jon

    Reply
  28. narfing

    I doubled my batch and it was divine!! My recipe findings:

    Freezing: I wouldn’t recommend. Use another recipe.

    Substitute White whole wheat flour: Works!

    Substitute applesauce for oil: Works! But add with the eggs instead of leaving sit out.

    We appreciate the feedback! Thanks so much! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  29. cookin'onwheels

    Thanks for the wonderful article. I am Pamela’s sister and Pam and Gail have shared their recipe with me. Upstate New Yorkers can get the famous crepe-like pancakes at my food truck, Cookin’ On Wheels.

    Food trucks are spreading everywhere! I love a great one–sounds like a trip to Upstate NY is in store! Thanks for the update! Kim@KAF

    Hey there. Soooo, we have a big parking lot here…what time will the truck be rolling up? ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  30. NM Dawn

    I just wanted to let people know that they work great gluten free, too! Very yummy.

    Excellent info., Dawn – thanks so much for sharing! PJH

    Reply
  31. ilovethepiano2003

    I’m another Pittsburgh resident, though not a native to the city. I haven’t been to Pamela’s, but really enjoyed making these pancakes for dinner, the weekend after the recipe surfaced. Instead of stuffing them with the recommended filling, I layered grated cheddar cheese, thin ham slices and a tiny bit of spicy brown mustard in the center before rolling the pancakes. My picky eleven-year-old son wanted seconds, these were so good. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m making these pancakes again this weekend.

    I hadn’t considered making these savory, but boy, your version sounds delicious! I’ll start considering a whole new world of possibilities for these. Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  32. kidpizza

    MISS PJH:
    Good afternoon. I am just curious..is there any chance 1 beaten egg is required in this formula. Also, 1 TBLS of sugar seems very high for a recipe that employs 1/2, tsp of yeast.
    Please help. I may just try these myself as they look very good.

    ~KIDPIZZA

    Hey, Kid – the egg isn’t strictly required, but you’ll get a different result without it – the pancakes will be less tender. The sugar tastes just right to me, but definitely reduce it if you like – it’s not necessary for structure, just flavor. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  33. svhegira

    I have so many fond memories of sitting in the Shadyside restuarant with my mother and each of us savoring each bite and being astounded that we ate the whole stack. Missing her and Pamela’s so this was a wonderful find! Just wish my mom was around to share them with me. Thank you.

    We are so glad this brought back good times. I’m sure your mom is thinking of you too right now. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  34. svhegira

    This recipe brings back so many fond memories of eating these lucious pancakes with my mother at the Shadyside Pamela’s. I miss both and this gives me a chance to savor these pancakes in florida. Just wish my mom was around to share them with me. Thank you.
    We are so glad this brought back good times. I’m sure your mom is thinking of you too right now. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  35. "doughhook newbe"

    This sounds and appears to be somewhat like the cakes I get at island city cafe in Sabula,Ia. Living just across the mississippi river in Savanna,Il.-Iget there often and pig out-oink-oink. I am going to mix up a batch for breakfast tomorrow using cardamom as my secrent ingrediant spice. I don’t think it will effect the yeast but will let you all know tomorrow. By the way I am a new baker and have ordered alot of your flours and equipment to do the best I can with the help of the community and ka staff. Look forward daily to your posted recipes and the wealth of information on this site. Love the thin almost crepe pancakes. Maybe try some sourdough starter next time. Thanks again for the wonderful job

    Reply
  36. jkliveng

    I cannot believe how perfect these were. I am not a fan of thick fluffy cakes, but eat them anyway because it’s often the norm. I could hear the crunch when my boyfriend took a corner bite, even across the table. <3!!

    I agree – thick pancakes turn to sawdust in my mouth. Give me thin/buttery/eggy any day. Glad you enjoyed them! PJH

    Reply
  37. Floy

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!! I have been searching for a replica for Pamela’s pancakes for some time. Can’t wait to give it a try!

    This is one of those you really want to use all the tasty fat to get the right ‘cakes. enjoy! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  38. pancakeboy

    I made these pancakes and they were amazing – thank you so much for this recipe. I didn’t catch the “instant” yeast in the recipe, so I made them with “active dry”, and made sure the milk was at 105 degrees. The only “issue” I had with the pancakes – and they tasted great – was that you could tell they were made with yeast – a very faint yeasty flavour. Was that because I used dry active instead of instant yeast?

    I think the very faint yeasty flavor is part of the deal; but I’d say if you want to avoid it, try making the batter with only its 3-hour rise, no refrigeration overnight. That will keep the yeast count down a bit. Glad you liked them! PJH

    Reply
  39. DrEvil

    I was back in Pittsburgh last weekend and went to Pamela’s twice (my first times since being at CMU in the 1980’s.) I am going to try the recipe here in Denver tonight. And yes, it is somewhat similar to 49-er flapjacks but the end result is quite different. We’ll see. I think the keys will be the yeast rise and the oil/butter. My recollection from 30 years ago when you could see the griddle in the Squirrel Hill location was that the cook had a premixed bottle of oil/butter to squirt onto the griddle for each cake. I have no idea what the spice is.

    I’m jealous that you’ve been to Pamela’s! Definitely on my bucket list. I hope this recipe lived up to your memories, though that’s quite a challenge… :) PJH

    Reply
    1. DrEvil

      They worked perfectly. Crispy edges and chewy in the middle. Definitely mix your melted butter and oil together ahead of time. The first time you coat the pan the butter might burn. You can waste that then recoat. The mixture will spread out in a even circle, then you pour in your batter to get the perfect effect.

  40. sandra montello

    Has anyone suggested mace? In the past, mace was commonly used in bakeries. When I was training in the big hotel bakeshops, all the old-school bakers used mace. I never see it being used much anymore…

    Reply
  41. elaine322

    I’ve never made a pancake recipe that includes yeast. These sound wonderful so I plan to try them this weekend. I did not know that cinnamon retards yeast growth, so thank you for that info. Regarding the spice-if cinnamon does retard the yeast growth, why couldn’t it be added right before cooking when the egg is added? Since it’s healthy, I always include cinnamon in my pancakes. Any word yet on nutmeg or ginger? Thank you for the wonderful post!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, Elaine, definitely add cinnamon – or nutmeg, or ginger, or any other spice you like – right before baking. I did hear that allspice might be the “secret” :) PJH

  42. Trang

    How did I miss the original post? My husband & I both went to Pitt and were lucky enough to be regulars at Pamela’s while we studied in the ‘burgh. We have since moved away from the city & make sure to travel back at least twice a year. We were just there this weekend and enjoyed the best breakfast ever! Maybe it’s because we miss it so much when we are away…
    We love the crepe style pancakes– I enjoy mine plain with just a touch of syrup. Our daughters (ages7,5,& 3) enjoy just a sprinkle of chocolate chips.So good! I am going to try this recipe soon!
    You must get to Pittsburgh sometime–so much food to enjoy!! My favorite dessert is Prantl’s Bakery’s light as air whipped cheese cake. We ALWAYS make sure to pack a cooler with us to bring one home! If you could replicate that recipe, I would be SUPER happy!

    Reply
  43. Susan Drummond

    I tried this recipe a few months ago, and did not like them at all. Guess you have to be a Pittsburgh native to enjoy the weird chewiness. :(

    Reply
  44. Philaburgher

    Oh sooo close. We love these pancakes; Pamela’s is the one place we take all out-of-town visitors, since moving here from Philly area. And every one of them can’t wait to come back for more. We always go to the location in the Strip, since its ambiance adds to the overall experience.

    I made this recipe the other day, thought admittedly did not let them sit overnight (will plan ahead next time). And today, we went to Pamela’s in Mt. Lebanon for a current reminder on their taste and texture. Pamela’s is a bit sweeter, and definitely has a vanilla undertone. They almost remind me of a vanilla cake batter flavor, though not that sweet. I think their recipe has more sugar, though my dh thinks they sprinkle with confectioner sugar after plating (they are so moist and buttery, it would never show). Is it possible that it could be melted butter instead of the oil in the batter?
    I plan to make again soon, and will experiment a bit more. Thanks so much for posting, I’m thrilled to get so close to the texture and those scrumptious crispy edges. I took some photos if you’d like me to send, please let me know how to share.
    Oh, and the lyonnaise potatoes are very good – buttery and probably cooked in bacon grease. Great potato consistency – soft but not crumbly, not quite as much crisp as I’d like, but when you get those tidbits, they’re fabulous.
    Coming from Philly, voted as the best sandwich city, I’d much prefer a Tony Luke’s cheesesteak, a Primo’s Hoagie, or a porchetta, broccoli rabe and sharp provolone on a Sarcone’s Italian roll over a Primanti’s, but they’re a novelty to try. If you come to the ‘burgh, I’d also highly recommend dining on Mt. Washington, rated one of the top ten views in the world by Conde Nast. Do so at night when the city is all lit up below; even more spectacular when there is a game being played in one of the stadiums.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Thanks so much for all of the great Philly info and for the almost-side by side comparison of the pancakes. I’m sure the recipe will keep getting tweaked by bakers, and maybe we’ll hit on the “real” recipe one day. ~ MJ

  45. Colin McDonald

    Very tasty. Not quite perfect but these are now the go to recipe for my kids. By the way…family of five? Triple the recipe!

    Reply
  46. David

    There is most definitely vanilla and lots of it in the original Pamela’s.
    What really makes them is the edges. My wife and I split an order along with whatever our egg or omelet order is and have property line disputes over the edges.

    Reply
  47. Yvonne

    I was reading the recipe roundup email this morning and in it, you mentioned thin & crispy pancakes, and I thought ohhhhh, they couldn’t have, could they? But you did! I have to try this recipe.

    As far as the spice — there really isn’t a spicy flavor to them. There’s no cinnamon, no allspice. Definitely some vanilla going on but very subtle on that, not in-your-face vanilla.

    Regarding the lyonnaise potatoes, I’ve tried duplicating and have yet to get them right. My husband and I think there’s butter and margarine in there, and there’s definitely some paprika, because the potatoes can be on the orange side depending on how heavy handed the cook is on any given day. They’re also rather salty, and creamy (think German potato salad, not the mayonnaise-based summer salad).

    And please, if you are coming to Pittsburgh, I would love it if you would make time to visit the knitting store I manage. :)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks so much for your authentic Pittsburgh take on the pancake spices! Barb@KAF

  48. Carolyn

    Thanks for this recipe!! After tasting my first few pancakes I doubled the sugar and they turned out prefect. My three year old begs for these! :) I eat them with homemade raspberry sauce and cream cheese filling. So yummy!

    Reply
  49. Paula

    Eating pancakes at Pamela’s is seriously an amazing experience…. Now if you can copy their potatoes… Wow! I’d never leave the house… Just woof down pancakes and potatoes all day. What a great place. Going to try these pancakes this weekend and I’ll let you know if they come close ;)

    Reply
  50. Atalanta

    My BF is from P’burgh and Pamela’s was a staple of his. In 2014 we were there a lot the beginning of the year and would hit Pamela’s each visit. Keeping that taste in mind, I changed your recipe as follows: instead of 1 tbsp sugar, I use 2 tsp malt and 1 tsp unsulphured mollasses. I also use a mixture of coconut oil and butter to cook them. The verdict is close enough without the drive. We have them with bangers made by a local polish smokehouse. Best breakfast.

    Reply
  51. Fran Tunno

    Can’t wait to try these. I discovered Pamela’s when I lived in Pittsburgh from 2010 to 2012, post Obama’s visit. The man has excellent taste.

    They are phenomenal and I have always wanted to replicate them. Now I can try. I wonder if just vegetable oil is good, or peanut oil? Peanut oil supposedly will give you the nice crispness also. (I think I saw containers of something like butter flavored Crisco near the grill when I was there – which I prefer not to think about). But who cares when pancakes are that good! Thanks for this recipe!

    Fran

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re so welcome, Fran! Feel free to experiment with the type of vegetable-based oil you use to see which gives you the texture you prefer. Happy pancake-making! Kye@KAF

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