Since pancakes are indeed cakes, why not dress them up and layer them high with cream cheese whipped cream and fresh berries for a breakfast-for-dessert dish? Or maybe even better, a dessert-for-breakfast treat! By whisking the dry and wet ingredients separately before combining the two, the risk of overmixing is reduced, which helps create light and fluffy pancakes.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Combine the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla extract in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or a medium bowl and whisk until incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and gently whisk until combined, being careful not to overmix (small lumps are okay). Let the batter rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place 2 cups of the berries in a medium bowl and mash with a fork until fairly smooth. Place the remaining 2 cups berries in another medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and gently toss to coat. Set the berries aside to macerate.
When the batter is ready, heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and swirl the butter in the skillet as it melts to evenly distribute. Pour 1 cup of the batter into the center and cook until large bubbles begin to form on the surface of the batter and the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Carefully flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining butter and batter to make 4 more pancakes and allow all the pancakes to cool completely.
Meanwhile, whip the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed until smooth and light, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl and the whisk halfway through with a rubber spatula to ensure there are no lumps.
Add the heavy cream, the remaining 4 tablespoons maple syrup and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Raise the speed to high and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes more.
Assemble the cake by placing 1 pancake on the center of a serving plate. Using an offset or small spatula, evenly spread about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese mixture onto the pancake, followed by 1/4 cup of the mashed berry mixture, spreading both components all the way to the edges of the pancake.
Top with another pancake and repeat the process with the remaining cream cheese mixture, mashed berry mixture and pancakes. Top with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the whole berries and a drizzle of their juices. Serve each slice with some of the remaining whole berries and a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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