Keto Cakes: Birch Benders Keto Pancake Mix

These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face.

Keto is IN and carbs are OUT. At least that’s the message I get from the Keto Corner at Erewhon in Venice, CA. Keto muffins! Keto cookies! Keto bread! All the delicious carbs you want to eat but can’t but now you CAN. Including, you guessed it, pancakes!

I am not a nutritionist (obviously) and I don’t understand how food high in fat and cholesterol is better for you than food high in delicious carbs. But in the name of keto pancake research, I tried Birch Benders Keto Pancake mix. I chose Birch Benders because they have very fucking tasty pancake mixes that have never led me astray. 

Mix, water, skillet, heat, and bam! Keto pancakes!

The first thing I noticed was a salty flavor, which was confusing. Perhaps this is to make up for the taste that went missing when the carbs took a hike. These weren’t as fluffy as full on carb pancakes either. They didn’t have that decadent buttermilk flavor that almost melts in your mouth. 

The second thing I noticed was that this was a flimsy flapjack. These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face. This did not substantially impact my rating, but I do appreciate a sturdy stack with some heft. 

Overall these weren’t bad, and are probably a decent choice if you’re riding the keto wave, but I recommend adding chocolate chips. In the future, I don’t know that I’d choose the 11 grams of fat and 40% of my daily cholesterol intake over the 26 grams of carbs in my regular Birch Benders Protein Mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not bad, not great. Almost pleasant.

Mouthfeel:  Slightly salty, light, and delicate. Like a cloud.

Protein per serving:  9g per 1/2 cup.

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz.

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Ted’s Bulletin: Summer Stacks

The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate.

Ted’s Bulletin in Washington D.C. boasts about their homemade Pop-Tarts, “Ted’s Tarts”, but because I am a rebel I ordered the pancakes. The pancakes come with eggs, hash browns, and a choice of meat. You can add blueberries, strawberries, or chocolate chips. If you’re into decadence like I am, you can choose a combination. I went with both chocolate chips and strawberries.

The pancakes arrived in a solid stack of three. For a moment I was concerned they had forgotten the semi-critical chocolate chip strawberry components. A quick check of the underside revealed they had not. It also revealed a messy clump of berries and chocolate. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing, so there’s no picture of this jumble.

The pancakes were good, but not great. The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not outstanding. I have had chocolate chip strawberry pancakes done right. It’s tricky but not THAT tricky. The strawberries could have been cut into smaller pieces and spread out more. The batter could have been a little less chewy and a little more on the melt-in-your-mouth side.

Overall, this is a fun breakfast place. I’d come back, but probably to try “Ted’s Tarts”. I can also recommend following it up with truffle popcorn and frosé at Commissary, but you have to watch out for that one creep who interrupts your afternoon with your friend and nearly reaches his hand into your popcorn bowl.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A solid “good,” but I didn’t swoon over these.

Mouthfeel: A little on the chewy side. Not the good kind of chewy.

Size: Adequately sized especially since they were served with several other breakfast items.

Presentation: Messy on the underside, pristine on the top.

Price: $10.95 – $13.95

Location: 1818 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009



Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Peanut Butter Protein Mix

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection.

I don’t mean to fitness brag, but after completing a 6.2 mile trail run with a group of people and being the very last to finish, I was fucking starving. I raced home (but because I live in LA it was a 35 minute race with traffic) with only one thing on my mind: pancakes. And I needed them to be fast, filling, and semi-nutritious. This meant protein pancakes. Because I was so hungry I didn’t want to chance using a new mix I hadn’t vetted, I went for my tried & true brand: Birch Benders

Birch Benders has come out with an incredible variety of options my mouth has yet to experience. I chose a new one: Peanut Butter Protein. One flick of the oven, one cup of mix, and roughly two-thirds of a cup of water later, I was already halfway done making these. The batter looked and smelled like peanut butter, which I usually try to stay away from. If left unattended with a jar, I am likely to take cheap white bread and use it as a vehicle for loading massive amounts of peanut butter on it. But it seemed doubtful I could get into the same kind of trouble with a protein pancake mix. 

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection. Part of why I like Birch Benders so much is that I have nailed the technique and find that the batter cooks evenly and deliciously every time. (Every time except the times that I get distracted and burn them, which isn’t their fault. Making pancakes, even from a mix, involves a degree of adoration and care.)

My giant peanut butter protein pancake was fluffy and slightly sweet, solid traits that I have come to expect from Birch Benders mix. Compared to the strong smell of peanut butter when I was mixing the batter, the taste was mild. It was more like a hint of peanut butter rather than a full on mouth blast. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, but this is obviously not the same thing as shoving spoonfuls of peanut butter in your mouth. It was a nice change from my usual plain Buttermilk Birch Benders mix though, and the chocolate chips brought out more of the flavor. If you’re looking for a strong peanut butter taste I’d recommend lathering real peanut butter on top, but if you’re happy with a gentle mouth hint of nutty goodness, these will do the trick. 

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS  

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Mild peanut butter flavor but overall a solid & satisfying pancake experience.

Mouthfeel: The perfect blend of sweet fluff and protein.

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

More Birthday Stacks: The Local Yolk

If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

Continuing on the birthday celebration pancake journey is The Local Yolk in Manhattan Beach. While not directly overlooking the ocean, if you walk half a block in either direction you are gifted with a tanalizing ocean view. If you’re here on your lunch break, the desire to run toward the ocean and never go back to work is strong. 

The Local Yolk is a cute diner that offers several classic pancake choices: Banana, Blueberry, Strawberry, Cinnamon Apple, and Chocolate Chip. I ordered the Strawberry Chocolate Chip pancakes and my friend ordered the Banana Blueberry Pancakes. 

The first bite was delightful. But sometimes a celebratory mood overshadows the real quality. After the first bite, I realized the pancakes were just ok. They were chewy, and had a “gummy” quality to them that wasn’t great.  They had strawberries and chocolate chips both inside the pancake which I always appreciate, as well as on top. I thought there were too many chocolate chips on top. If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

My friend noted that her blueberry banana pancakes had hardly any blueberries inside of them, which is always a sad thing. The bananas were sliced an arranged nicely on top, with two dollops of whipped cream. 

Despite their “gummy” quality, we both finished most of our pancakes. I used a little more syrup and butter than I usually might to soften them up. I might come back here if I was in the area, but I’m not sure I would get the pancakes.

JUST THE STACKS – 6/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Not bad, but not glorious.

Mouthfeel: Good to gummy. My friend guessed they were made from a mix.

Size: A nice hefty serving of three pancakes.

Presentation: Cute just like the diner, nice topping arrangements.

Price: $7.75 – $9.75

Location:  3414 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Micro-Pancakery


My favorite way to eat these is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face.

I was lucky to find my current favorite protein pancake mix, Birch Benders, through a short trial and error period. A good protein pancake is tricky, you want it to be healthier than regular pancakes but you also want it to taste good, and be sustainable. One cup of this mix (two servings) is enough to power me through all sorts of activities: kayaking, Tough Muddering, and staying awake until my midday weekend nap. However, these pancakes do not have perfect stats. For example, they have six grams of sugar per serving, and that’s probably part of why I like them. Pick your pancake battles.

When I first tried these, I was instantly delighted with their sweet taste and fluff factor, two items that had been lacking in previous protein pancake mixes I’d tasted. Some people may roll their eyes at mixes, but not me. I appreciate being able to “just add water”, stir until smooth, and pour the entire bowl of batter into a pan. These make fantastic giant pancakes, too.   


This mix is the closest thing to regular pancakes I’ve come across so far. My favorite way to eat them is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face. I suggest adding chocolate chips for a little extra oomph. Yes, adding chocolate chips makes these less healthy but like I said, pick your own pancake battles, don’t pick mine. 

These also travel well. I have brought them on planes, in cars, on hikes, and to a Wilderness First Aid class, where people asked with envy if I was eating pancakes. Yes, I’ve gotten some weird looks. I don’t know if that was due to the pancakes or not. I pulled these out of the seat pocket on a plane once and paired them with a tiny, expensive bottle of prosecco which is an experience I highly recommend. 

Birch Benders makes several other pancake mix varieties: Paleo, Banana Paleo, Keto, Chocolate Chip Keto, Chocolate Chip, Pumpkin Spice, Six Grain Cinnamon, Plant Protein, Gluten-Free, and Classic. Whew!

Just the Stacks – 9/10 Tasty Stacks  

Overall Taste: Really fucking good.

Mouthfeel: Sweet fluff and protein fairies dancing on the tongue. 

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price: $4.99-$5.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Protein Pancake Series: Trader Joe’s Mix


This is literally how I imagine myself when deadlifting – as a man, picking up a pancake barbell.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s. Many of my fond memories are from the tiniest Trader Joe’s on Boylston St. in Boston and involve Mac & Cheese Bites and Lobster Ravioli. You can imagine my delight when I discovered Trader Joe’s started selling protein pancake mix. The packaging design gets an A+. This is literally how I imagine myself when deadlifting – as a man, picking up a pancake barbell. I am sad to report that the illustration was the high point of my pancake experience. I tried these twice, just to be sure. Like many protein pancake mixes on the market, all you need to add is water, which is great if you are both very hungry and short on time.

My first attempt at making these failed spectacularly. The main problem was too many blueberries. I got overly excited to use fresh farmers market blueberries and dumped a generous handful (or two) in the batter. Due to the blueberry abundance, the giant single pancake I made didn’t cook evenly. Parts of the middle weren’t cooked through and some of one side was burned. Taste-wise it was terrible. I made a painful decision to throw the pancake away.

On my second attempt, I went back to basics, in case these were terrible due to operator error. I made several small pancakes, instead of a single giant one. I added a few chocolate chips to each after I had dolloped the batter into the pan. I monitored them carefully. Finally, it was time to eat them.

Overall, these were mediocre. They were a little chewy and had a slightly odd, grainy consistency. The pancakes themselves were pretty tasteless and needed toppings. At a certain point, adding chocolate chips and syrup to protein pancakes defeats their purpose but that tipping point is a personal decision. These are marketed as “buttermilk” pancakes and include buttermilk powder as one of the ingredients, but they didn’t have any of that decadent buttermilk taste. On the plus side, they were filling, have a decent amount of protein, and virtually no fat or sugar. I felt sufficiently nourished after lifting heavy things and putting them back down, so these served their purpose, though not in the most delicious way.

Just the Stacks – 5/10 Tasty Stacks  

Overall Taste: Bland with a hint of whole grain.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and grainy.

Protein per serving:  10 grams per 1/3 cup (I used 2/3 cup).

Price: $3.49 for a 1lb. box.

Available at: Trader Joe’s stores.

King’s Pancakes: Too Much Blueberry?


If you want a pancake that tastes like an over-sweetened piece of cake, go with the blueberry compote option.

I stopped at King’s Pancakes in Garden Grove (just outside Anaheim) on the drive home from a week long work conference. I was exhausted and in desperate need of vegetables but I wasn’t thinking clearly and thought I needed pancakes instead. King’s Pancakes offered several decadent pancake options including Cinnamon, Strawberry Banana, Chocolate Chip, and Strawberry Cheesecake.

Image via TastyStacks.

I went with the Blueberry Double Pancakes which are served as a stack of four buttermilk pancakes filled with blueberries and covered with blueberry compote. They are further topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream. The pancakes themselves are fluffy and rich tasting. The blueberry compote was unnecessarily sweet and overpowered the great natural buttermilk flavor. If you want a pancake that tastes like an over-sweetened piece of cake, go with the blueberry compote option. I tried to push most of it to the side, but the damage was already done. Also, I don’t know why adding whipped cream to a stack of already sweet pancakes is necessary though it was aesthetically pleasing. Overall, I felt like I was eating a stack of sugar, which made me full but also vaguely nauseous. I think these would have been quite good without the super sweet blueberry pile on top, and my rating reflects this.

Just the Stacks – 7/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: The blueberry compote made these too sweet for me but the pancakes themselves were very good.

Mouthfeel: Sugar saturated, and not in a good way.

Presentation: Delightful. There was an instant smile on face when these were set down in front of me.

Size: A medium stack of four pancakes.

Price: $8.59

Location: 9742 Chapman Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92841

Monster Cakes: The Griddle Cafe

Let’s talk about the fluff factor! These pancakes measured up to ¾ of an inch thick of pure pancake fluff.

To celebrate my first year in LA, I had to do something big. Something delicious, decadent, and massive. That’s right, I went out to eat giant pancakes. The Griddle Cafe in West Hollywood is known for their gargantuan stacks. You can know this and still not be prepared for them to set down so much pancake in front of you.

I was seated next to a gentleman who debated whether or not to get a pancake at all because they were so large. He was getting on a plane, he explained, and he wasn’t about to take a pancake on a plane. I didn’t tell him that I frequently take pancakes with me when I fly. Pancakes travel pretty well, that’s my travel tip for you.

Image via TastyStacks.

The Griddle Cafe has endless options including “Black Magic” with crushed Oreo’s, “Hear Me Roar” with strawberries and Frosted Flakes, “Banananana” with brown sugar baked bananas, and “Teacher’s Pet” with baked cinnamon apples. I decided on the “BLUESberry,” blueberry filled pancakes with blueberry sour cream on top, and “Eyes Wide Open,” pancakes with a shot of espresso and chocolate chips. I only ordered the short stacks, which is 2 pancakes each. This turned out to be comically too much pancake even for me, but half the fun is having these absurdly large stacks set down in front of you.

The Eyes Wide Open pancakes were fucking divine. The chocolate chips were evenly spaced throughout and they came with a giant scoop of butter. They didn’t even need anything on them, but since I was going for decadent that day, butter seemed like a good idea. It turned out to be an outstanding idea. Both had powered sugar on top, a nice touch. The BLUESberry came with blueberry sour cream on top which was interesting. The first bite was good, but then I lost interest. It just wasn’t that flavorful. The Eyes Wide Open stack was so good this didn’t have a major impact on my rating, but it was a little disappointing. Due to their size, I ended up taking home a good portion. I made my way through the chocolate chip stack over the next 24 hours and it passed the leftover test with flying colors.

Let’s talk about the fluff factor! These pancakes measured up to
¾ of an inch thick of pure pancake fluff. Yes, I measured because I was so impressed. Go here with very hungry friends, or after you’ve come back from an all week hiking or camping trip. Or of course, if you just want to feast your eyes and soul on some truly massive pancakes. It’s impossible for these not to bring a smile to someone’s face.

Just the Stacks – 8.5/10 Tasty Stacks 

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: The Eyes Wide Open were wonderful, the BLUESberry bored my mouth.

Mouthfeel: Overall luscious and wonderful. Perfect consistency throughout, which can be hard to achieve in such herculean pancakes.

Size: “As big as tires” – the man next to me.

Presentation: Fucking beautiful.

Price: $9.95-$13.95

Location: 7916 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046


It’s Not You, It’s the Pancakes: Mel’s Drive-In


You should never have trouble cutting pancakes.

The worst pancakes I ever had in Los Angeles were at Mel’s Drive-In in Sherman Oaks. It was my second date with a guy who was cute but super flaky. Our second date took place approximately six months after our first one. But also, he lived in the Valley so I didn’t have high hopes for a lasting relationship. Back to the pancakes. In an appreciated effort to be very sweet, he pre-ordered me TWO orders of pancakes before I arrived. This is a risky move. If the pancakes are super fucking amazing, lukewarm or even cool pancakes are no big deal (to me), but if the pancakes are anything less than that, there’s big trouble. I was worried the moment he texted me that he had already ordered me pancakes since I was still a good 10 minutes away.

My fears were well founded. The pancakes were terrible. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I’ve never had so much trouble eating pancakes. I even had trouble cutting them. You should never have trouble cutting pancakes. I doused them in syrup, which I rarely do. It didn’t help. They were chewy, and a bad chewy. It was like overdone steak you have to chew and chew and finally give up and just swallow the chunk anyway. These are supposed to be your basic “Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pancakes.” You can add berries and bananas which probably would have helped. I don’t know how Mel’s fucked up these alleged buttermilk pancakes so badly, but they did. This is a chain, so I don’t know if the other locations are any better, and I can’t say I am in any kind of rush to compare.

In case you’re wondering what happened to the guy, who knows. He disappeared back into the Valley. But he did leave me with a pair of Superman booty shorts from a certain Superman production, so I don’t have any hard feelings… except about those pancakes.

Just the Stacks – 0/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via Jared from Flickr.

Overall Taste: Trash.

Mouthfeel: Trash.

Size: Decent.

Presentation: Trash masquerading as a stack of pancakes.

Price: $9.95 ($1.75 for berries/bananas added)

Location: 14846 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403


Sound Bites: Snowstorm Pancakes


I was instantly delighted by Sound Bites, but it’s possible I would have been instantly delighted by going to any diner in a snowstorm.

Image via Alex M.

There was a snowstorm during my first visit back to Boston since I became an LA resident. Do you know how hard it is to plan a trip several months in advance to coincide with a Boston snowstorm of any kind? There’s a reason this saying is so popular: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. In any case, despite the icy, not ideal snow, I considered myself lucky. My friend suggested we walk to breakfast near her, knowing my pancake inclinations. It was roughly five degrees and sleeting at the time so I was pretty thrilled. This is weather you just can’t get in LA. I was instantly delighted by Sound Bites, but it’s possible I would have been instantly delighted by going to any diner in a snowstorm.

In terms of pancakes, Sound Bites offers: Plain ol’ Cakes, Whole Wheat Cakes, Pumpkin Cakes, Cornbread Cakes, Kara’s Corn Cakes, Specialty Cakes which include toppings like blueberry, banana, chocolate chip, and Great Combo Cakes. Overwhelmed with options, I finally settled on Chocolate Chip Strawberry Cakes. The pancakes were excellent. The only criticism I have is that the waitress mistakenly gave me a side, which was two cakes instead of the full order of three I asked for. Possibly she made this error because I ordered an entire other breakfast dish as well. In any case, the strawberry and chocolate chips were cooked into the batter instead of merely dumped on top, and they were fucking wonderful. Everyone should experience eating delicious pancakes surrounded by snow outside.

Just the Stacks – 8.5/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Near snow-cake perfection.

Mouthfeel: Excellent consistency, this can be hard to achieve when mixing in more than one topping into the batter.

Size: Smaller than I wanted, I could have easily eaten the stack of three I was hoping for.

Presentation: Simple.

Price: $6.99 – $9.99

Location: 704 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144