Waffle Pancake Pie: How a Six-Year-Old Taught Me to Go Big or Go Home

The true-life adventure that started with a simple request for breakfast and ended in an object lesson in following through on a crazy idea

Having done some time in the agency world, I know what it’s like to sit through a creative brainstorming session and watch some crazy-ass ideas get thrown about while trying to come up with a point of view and recommended approaches for a pitch to a client.

“We should totally do an Augmented Reality app that lets you paste Instagrams of your pets with custom #hashtags wherever you’ve been walking them so other people can see popular spots for pets to hang out while they’re using the AR app and walking their pets. Then you can let those pet owners connect with each other over Facebook and we’ll digest their social graph data to suggest pet products that either one has liked but not the other as recommended products that they can each share back to their social networks!”

Cynically speaking, I’ve been told it’s always good to bring a couple “shoot the moon” ideas along for the ride when you’re meeting with a new client.These kinds of ideas show that you can ‘ideate’ up in the stratosphere where the demigods of technology, strategy and creativity reside. Most account folk will tell you, if they’re being honest, that they generally count on the fact that the average client won’t go for any of these “big ideas” because they have all the hallmarks of large budgets and high risk.

Designers and Creative Directors have portfolios full of these humdingers that never got built or followed-through on, even though they are some of the best eye candy you can lay eyes on in the agency world.

Personally, I have always hoped to see a client take the bait and bite on one of those big, crazy ideas and damn the torpedoes, screw the consequences and just believe in magic. I imagine I’ll end up waiting quite a while before I get to experience that mythical client experience first-hand.

What does all of this have to do with breakfast-themed pie? My six-year-old daughter, that’s what.

Approximately 48 hours ago, she served me up not only the opportunity I’d been waiting for, but the crazy-ass idea at the same time. Loving my kid and knowing a legitimate sign when I see one, I didn’t hesitate to jump at the chance and follow it all the way down the Breakfasty Culinary Rabbit Hole.

Setting the Wayback Machine for T-Minus 48 Hours

My daughter was getting ready for school on Friday morning and was unusually ahead of schedule, having woken up about an hour earlier than she usually does.

My wife — in the home office with me, drinking her first cup of coffee and trying to slowly hoist her drooping eyelids — asked my daughter loudly across the house what she would like for breakfast. My daughter was idly coloring and drawing at the dining room table and made no immediate reply.

Barely two minutes later, she comes bounding into the room with the following note for my wife:

Once we had translated her six-year-old scrawl into “Waffle Pancake Pie”, the obvious questions came rushing in. Did she want Waffles, then Pancakes, then Pie? Did she want a fusion of these items into a “Waffle Pancake Pie” creation? Also, was the picture below a drawing of her being transported a la Star Trek to a magical place where Waffle Pancake Pie existed? Was it her being showered in the magical goodness of Waffle Pancake Pie? So many questions…

The note earned her a waffle, only a waffle, which was still enough to satisfy her breakfast hunger. The note remained on my desk for the rest of the day, surrounded in a swirling miasma of unanswered questions.

I happened to be working from home because of a head cold, so the balance of the day I kept looking sideways at the note and couldn’t shake the thought out of my head: “What does she think Waffle Pancake Pie is?”

I decided to put the question to the test when she got home from school later that afternoon. I asked her into my office where I had set out a small table with some paper, pencils, pens and crayons.

“Ingrid, I’d like to know what you meant by this note you made Mom this morning. What were you asking for?”

“Waffle Pancake Pie.”

“Not waffles, pancakes and pie?”

“No, Waffle Pancake Pie.”

“What is Waffle Pancake Pie?”

“I dunno. It’s Waffle Pancake Pie!”

“Okay, I want you to draw me a picture of what goes into a Waffle Pancake Pie. If you do a good job of drawing it, and I can see what you mean and understand what the ingredients are, I promise to make it for breakfast for you tomorrow.”

This was a rookie mistake, but I was so motivated to see what she was thinking a Waffle Pancake Pie was, I was willing to commit to big promises to get her to invest a good effort in visualizing it.

Ten minutes later, this is the drawing she produced, which I annotated for clarity’s sake:

I mean, of course, that’s what Waffle Pancake Pie is. Anyone can see there’s a waffle, there’s a pancake and there’s pie (and lemons, apples, lemon pie filling and orange marmalade, OF COURSE).

It was kind of hard not to laugh after she showed me the picture, knowing I was now on the hook to actually create this thing.

I should also admit at this point, that my wife had just left for a weekend excursion about 20 minutes before Ingrid finished her drawing of the pie — leaving me alone and in charge of the kids until Sunday (in fact, she’s not back yet at the time of this writing). This means I was in full Bill Cosby mode, planning a giant cartoon-themed pie for my children as breakfast on the first morning their mom would be away. World’s No. 1 Dad to the rescue! <cough>

Waffle Pancake Pie: It’s On Like Donkey Kong

Saturday morning arrives and I take both my kids with me to the grocery store to purchase the somewhat ridiculous list of items I would need to make the pie I had promised my daughter. How ridiculous? You be the judge:

  1. Ready-to-Bake Graham Cracker Pie Crust
  2. Buttermilk Pancake Batter Mix
  3. Frozen Waffles
  4. Eggs
  5. Two Red Delicious Apples
  6. A Lemon
  7. Can of Spray Whip Cream
  8. Can of Lemon Custard
  9. Jar of Marmalade
  10. Can of Mandarin Oranges

Seems like a list of totally legit pie fixin’s, I know. The cashier at the grocery store definitely gave me a look after my daughter announced we were baking a pie after she rang up our items. I just shrugged and smiled weakly before I skulked off with my children and a cart full of craziness.

From here on out, I will simply refer to the photographic record to explain the process the resulted my daughter’s fanciful breakfast creation.

Waffle Pancake Pie: The Photo Essay Recipe

Armed with ingredients and ready for culinary battle.
The apples had to be dealt with somehow, so we decided to cut them up and dust them with sugar and cinnamon to use them as a garnish on top of the pie when it went into the oven.
Honestly, I was at a total loss with the lemons, but decided finally to slice them into thin slices and sugar them. I would put them on top of each slice and a dollop of lemon custard and whip cream as a garnish.
The bottom of the pie was smeared with a layer of Marmalade followed by a layer of Mandarin Oranges. Frankly the oranges were a deviation on my part, since I was worried about the insane sugar-splosion resulting from a pure jam layer in the bottom of the pie. I consider it a mild creative license, at best.
From there, drown the whole sugary mess in a layer of buttermilk pancake batter to create the “Pancake” in our “Waffle Pancake Pie.”
Now comes three cut-up frozen waffles to make a strata of waffle in our pie, then coated in a smeared layer of lemon custard/pie filling. Now I’m starting to truly admire how absurd this thing is, in its own way.
One more drenching in buttermilk pancake batter to make a crust on top of the pie and then garnishing with the apple slices to complete the effect. At this point, I’m pretty positive this thing is going to turn into a soup pie with all the wet ingredients inside.
For those of you interested in following along from home, my daughter prepared a complete list of ingredients you can use when preparing your own Waffle Pancake Pie.
Forty-five minutes later in a 375-degree oven and this bad boy emerged, surprising me more than anyone else, since I was expecting something more like an edible version of the Volcano science project from ‘The Brady Bunch.”
No one was more shocked than I at how dry the pie turned out given how wet everything was that went into making it.

The Moment of Truth and Lessons Learned

Once the pie was out of the oven, it took another 30 agonizing minutes of anticipation as I put it in the freezer to cool it down to be able to plate it and serve to my daughter,who was nearly beside herself with giddy anticipation.

Here it is in all its glory: Waffle Pancake Pie a la Ingrid. It may not give the Cronut a run for its money, but I am preparing a PowerPoint presentation I plan on pitching to IHOP next week in pursuit of a licensing deal.

Finally, after much patient waiting, the creator and her creation met face-to-face:

This Ingrid and this is Ingrid’s Waffle Pancake Pie. Both of their worlds are about to change forever.

The $64,000 in all of this, of course, is “How does it taste?” Well, as you can see, a six-year-old would probably dive into a plate full of fermented herring if it had enough whip cream on it. So I wasn’t going to take her word for it.

So I, too, have partaken of the Waffle Pancake Pie.

For all the craziness that went into the ingredient list, the resulting confection is actually pretty conventional. The buttermilk pancake batter created a very cake-like texture that combined with the apples to give a taste impression of apple spice cake. Oh, but then you get a snoot full of lemon pie filling. Oh, and then there’s a mandarin orange comin’ at you, along with a zing of marmalade. None of those crazy citrus flavors are strong enough to shock your tongue, though, because they’re buried deep in the bready goodness of the pancake and waffle layers.

Frankly, what I found most surprising was that I could imagine having a slice of this pie as a piece of cake served at some small cafe or bakery. Who knew? My six-year-old has a savant streak in the pastry chef department.

In the end, I have to admit it was fun as hell to say “Yes!” to the big, crazy idea and follow it all the way through to a real-world outcome and the wide-eyed, sugar-glazed stares of appreciation that come from a six-year-old who got to see crayons and pencil turn into whip cream and lemon custard in less than a day’s time.

That? That’s worth every dish in my sink, the look my wife will give me and the formal complaint just filed by my pancreas for the GIANT SUGAR BOMB that was dropped on it in the form of Waffle Pancake Pie.