Abigail Monti | Daily Nexus

There was a period of time not too long ago when TikTok users couldn’t open the app without seeing a bowl of tiny pancakes floating in milk. While Sydney Melhoff’s bowl of dime-sized pancakes doused in milk kick-started the trend in 2020, creative cereal variations continue to take the world by storm. 

As someone who refuses to download TikTok for various compelling and totally valid reasons (read: stubbornness), I came across this cereal trend admittedly later than most. If anything, the fact that I witnessed this trend on Instagram — which is notoriously months behind on the latest TikTok fads — before it fizzled out completely speaks to the longevity of this cereal craze. 

While the phase of pancake cereal has begun to subside, increasingly sweeter and more labor-intensive mini confections are still dominating social media. I’ve witnessed mini muffins, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, cookies, croissants, waffles, french toasts and more being drowned in milk. You can bet that a TikTok user somewhere has splashed milk on a mini version of pretty much every confection out there. 

Some variations are more feasible than others. Yet the more outrageous the idea, the more views the video tends to get — like these individually shaped, iced and sprinkled mini donuts boasting close to a million views. The factor of milk also adds to the trend’s impracticality: Any miniature baked good is likely to turn soggy within seconds of touching milk. 

And yet the world can’t get enough of it.

So what makes this trend so popular? Well, first of all, it’s an excuse to turn dessert into breakfast. Reminiscent of beloved childhood cereals like Cookie Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Pop-Tarts cereal, the confection cereal trend is guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth. And while it might not be the most nutrient dense breakfast option, sugars, starches and other carbohydrate-heavy foods are proven to boost serotonin levels. The combination of sugar and nostalgia brings comfort for those  eating mini breads, pastries and other nostalgic carbs for breakfast. 

The second reason contributing to the trend’s popularity is the fact that people simply love tiny things. From HGTV’s tiny home show to BuzzFeed’s tiny chef videos to those tiny erasers that had every middle schooler in a chokehold circa 2015, tiny things are known to make people smile. Needlessly complex yet undeniably adorable, there’s something inherently aesthetic about miniature replicas of ordinarily large things.

Having done my research and thoroughly convinced that this trend was going to change my life, I set out to make my own cereal. Out of respect to the trend’s origin, I started with mini pancakes. The process was similar to making regular pancakes, just slower and more tedious. I spent a few rounds struggling to flip the mini pancakes with a spatula before realizing a fork was the superior tool. Eventually, I gave up on perfectly round dimes and shot for abstract quarters instead, which also helped speed up the process. 

When my bowl was finally complete, I drizzled the pile of mini pancakes with syrup and doused them in milk. Afraid they would become exponentially soggy with time, I immediately wolfed the little guys down. Unfortunately, that meant the bowl I just spent half an hour meticulously making was gone in less than a minute. But to be honest, I didn’t really care — it was delicious. 

For my more sugary variation, I chose to make mini-chocolate-chip-cookie cereal. I followed the same recipe I normally would for cookies, except I used a teaspoon to measure each cookie and let them crisp up a little more than I usually would. I used a mug as my receptacle.  

The cookies seemed to absorb the milk much more than the pancakes and began disintegrating rather quickly. While the cereal’s structure didn’t last long, it’s hard to go wrong with milk and cookies. 

While mini pancakes and cookies aren’t the most practical breakfasts, I don’t regret participating in the newest TikTok trend. Surprisingly, I ended up liking the pancakes slightly more than the cookies. Ultimately, I probably wouldn’t make either cereal version again, but that’s more due to laziness than dislike. 

Will the mini-dessert cereal trend last? It’s hard to say. I struggle to imagine anything topping the complexity of mini-latticed-cherry-pie cereal, but the creativity of TikTok continues to surprise me time and time again. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the March 9, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.