For the hot chocolate syrup: Bring the maple syrup and hot chocolate mix to a simmer, whisking constantly, in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to simmer until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Keep warm.
For the pancakes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, hot chocolate mix, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the milk, butter, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour the milk-egg mixture into the flour mixture, and gently fold just to combine (it's OK if there are some lumps).
Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter; when it melts and the foam subsides, pour 1/4-cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, evenly spaced. Cook until the surface of the pancakes begins to bubble and the bottoms have darkened by a few shades, about 4 minutes. Flip the pancakes, and continue to cook until the bottoms have darkened by a few shades and the pancakes are springy when touched in the center, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter. (Keep cooked pancakes warm in a low oven.) Serve with the hot chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
For best results, don't use hot chocolate or cocoa mixes that contain powdered milk or other dairy products, which can change the structure and texture of the pancakes.
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