Must or Bust: TikTok recipes over time

Elena Higuchi and Annabel Tiong

Chances are, at some point in the cesspool of quarantine boredom, you finally caved and bought a $24 milk frother to try the “to-die-for” whipped Dalgona coffee. Many similar recipes hit their stardom thanks to TikTok and lockdown, transforming students and teachers alike into professional chefs. Now, as TikTok recipes are leveling up, we would like to raise the question of whether the past “must-tries” of TikTok were really that good, or if they deserve to be labeled a “bust.”

1. Pancake Cereal 

Using the recipe from, I endeavored to create the most uniform, round pancake bites ever in order to mimic the almost unbelievable aesthetic of TikTok chefs. At first glance, this recipe is deceptively easy. Using a premade pancake mix (graciously gifted to my parents for Christmas), all I had to do was add some milk and an egg. As someone who has about 10 minutes of patience max for cooking, this was a welcomed surprise.

HARD PASS ON THE PANCAKES: The misshapen lumps attempting to pass as ‘‘pancake cereal’ simply look unappetizing, but the flavor actually confirms your suspicions. Photo provided by Annabel Tiong.

However, problems began surfacing. After pipetting each pancake out (with more concentration than I use on my Lit Essays), I quickly realized that my batter was much too watery, dripping everywhere into large blobs. Several minutes later, I ended up squeezing everything out in a desperate attempt to prevent batter from dribbling onto the whole stovetop. 

What I ended up with was something resembling pancake scrambled eggs. I will say that my two takeaways are: make sure your batter isn’t too runny and flip them one by one, rather than all at once. I firmly believe that both of these issues can be remedied by having more patience, but the amount of time to beat lumps out of a thicker batter and individually flip each pancake is beyond me. Overall, I would recommend pancake cereal if you have nothing better to do on a Sunday morning, but for a taste that isn’t much different than cutting up one large pancake into tiny pieces, it’s a bust for me. (Besides, nothing is worth scrubbing batter off the counters for an hour.) It really does just taste like multiple mini pancakes, with a bit of sogginess from adding milk on top. 


2. Vodka Pasta 

SOME TRENDS DON’T DIE: Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta with heavy cream and tomato is still as delectable and rich two years later. Photo provided by Elena Higuchi.

Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta was all the rave back in 2021 ever since she posted the recipe onto her Instagram story. The creamy, rich pasta with tomato and hints of spice was incredibly visually appealing and was surprisingly easy to make. I used this recipe from, with the substitution of green onions with shallots and shell pasta with rigatoni pasta. 

As a side note, the vodka in the pasta is not necessary and could easily be substituted or not included at all. The vodka is only used while sautéing the tomatoes and cooks off, so there’s no vodka being consumed. 

The pasta was really simple to make and can be made with ingredients found in your household, with the exception of heavy cream and tomato pasta. It wasn’t very expensive to buy the ingredients for the pasta and the recipe served about six people. 

The pasta had a smooth creamy sauce that had the subtle sweetness of the tomatoes with a little kick of spice from the red pepper flakes. It had a just-the-right balance between sweet, savory and spicy. 

Gigi’s pasta is definitely a must-try, even two years later! 


3. Whipped (Dalgona) Coffee

In all honesty, I fell victim to the whipped coffee trend back in 2020, so I’ve already made it before. However, I was willing to try it again because I forgot how it went two years ago. So, I ordered my instant coffee and new milk frother because I threw out my old ones a few months ago, thinking that I’d never be needing those again! Haha.

SWEET OR SOUR?: Whipped or Dalgona coffee, which was first popularized in 2020, is quite underwhelming in actual flavor. Photo provided by Elena Higuchi.

It started off pretty well. I used this recipe from, with a few small adjustments to suit my dietary needs and what I have at home. Instead of 2 tablespoons of sugar, I used about 2 ½ pumps of Torani’s Cane Sugar Sweetener. I also used lactose free milk, which is a bit sweeter than regular milk because the added lactase enzymes break down the lactose into simple sugars. 

Frothing the instant coffee, sugar and water was pretty straight forward and it was ready in under a minute. I just added it to the milk and it was ready to drink.

I was pretty excited to try it because the frothed coffee looked delectable. But, when I took my first sip, I could just hear the sad trombone “wah wah wahhhh” sound effect as the disappointment hit me like a bright, orange cement mixer truck. 

Like the sinful apple in the Garden of Eden, the whipped coffee looked so tempting with its rich caramel hues that seduced me to betray my moral consciousness and left my mouth watering for its sweet reprieve from my mundane life. But, the flavor was anything but sweet… or creamy. It was sour! It tasted like sour, foamy milk. No cream, no sugar. 

Now, I remember why I didn’t bother to remember how the whipped coffee from 2020 tasted. It was so bad that I blocked the traumatic experience of drinking that from my memory. This trend has truly aged like old milk.