I've made many changes to my standard pancake recipe, although stupidly I keep forgetting to write down the changes to make sure they stick. I think, however, that I have a handle on the differences that have transformed my pancakes into something quite similar to those lush diner cakes.
First, I am substituting cake flour for some of the all purpose flour which my original recipe used. Second, I use more liquid than normal. Third, I use a tad more leavening, and finally, I don't oil my skillet. I'm using a nonstick skillet with a very flat bottom, one that I purchased with pancakes in mind. I noticed that many nonstick skillets seem to have a hump in the middle that makes the pancakes cook unevenly. Therefore I was on the lookout for a perfectly flat bottom with a nonstick finish (although someday I hope to get a carbon steel pan and season it myself). I picked up a Vollrath 12" nonstick skillet at Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago. Vollrath is based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and manufacturers their pans right here in the U.S.A.
I found that when I oiled the skillet, the pancakes cooked up spotty instead of evenly brown, so I just quit adding oil or butter. The nonstick surface on the Volrath works great and I get that even look I've been after for years, ever since I was a short order cook in my teens.
I tried to take a photo of the crumb of the cakes, but my camera refused to focus and I refused to let me pancake get cold while I was fiddling around with the camera. You can see how fluffy it is, though.
These puppies nearly melted in my mouth, yet they weren't mushy. Now if only I am accurately remembering the recipe...
1 cup (4 oz.) cake flour
1 cup (5 oz.) unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups buttermilk or soured milk OR
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder and 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
Dash of vanilla extract (optional)
Put the dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Separate the egg and put the yolk in the melted, but slightly cooled, butter. MIx the white with the buttermilk or milk and vanilla extract, if using. Pour the egg/butter mixture into the milk mixture, stirring well to combine.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir to combine but don't over beat (you will have a few lumps left in the batter). Heat skillet over medium high heat and when a drop of water starts to sizzle, it's ready. Pour batter into the skillet to achieve the size of pancake you want, then wait until bubbles start to form on the surface of the batter. Peek under the pancake to make sure it's brown enough, then gently turn it over and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until browned on the bottom side. Eat. Yum.