Dear Constant Reader,
The novelty for this cake is that it’s made with graham cracker crumbs instead of flour. The recipe comes from the pamphlet 100 Delicious Walnut Recipes by the California Walnut Growers Association, probably published in 1920. I’ve also found a similar recipe for the cake (but not the frosting) in a Utah newspaper from 1915.
We had a box of graham crackers left over from making s’mores at the Mini Expo cook out and I wanted to make something for our Sunday Social after Cover Girls. This fit the bill nicely.
A couple of notes:
Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge early and let them come up to room temperature. It will be easier to cream the butter and to beat the egg whites stiff when they’re not so cold.
Toast the nuts first. Toasted nuts always taste better. Also, get as much of the skin off the walnuts as possible — it can be bitter. Obviously the Walnut Growers want you to use walnuts, but the cake is probably just as good with other nuts or no nuts at all.
Most vintage recipes call for squares of unsweetened chocolate, which was an ounce. These days chocolate usually comes in bars with 4 squares to the ounce, but double-check and use a scale if you’re in doubt.
One of the challenges was figuring out how many graham crackers to use. The recipe calls for “26 graham crackers”. Is one cracker one of the rectangular cracker quarters? The square half crackers, like for s’mores? Or an entire unbroken cracker sheet? The right answer seems to be 26 square crackers aka 13 full cracker sheets.
Here’s how you make the cake:
Crush graham crackers to fine crumbs. I like to use a rolling pin, but it’s faster and more uniform if you use a food processor. Separate eggs and beat whites to stiff peaks. Mix sugar & baking powder, then cream with butter. Mix together egg yolks, milk, vanilla, cracker crumbs, and nuts. Fold in beaten egg whites. Pour batter into buttered pans. The original recipe says just to “bake in loaf or layers”. A little research lead me from this vague instruction to the appropriate size and shape of pans and the temperature and time. Let cool before frosting. See recipe below for specifics.
To make the frosting, cream butter and powdered sugar. Add melted unsweetened chocolate. Add enough cold coffee to make the frosting spreadable. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t usually ave left-over coffee hanging about. I use instant espresso powder for intense flavor and make a single cup. I used about 1/4 cup of cold espresso, but the amount will depend on what consistency you like your frosting and a bit on how humid it is. Finally, mix in ground walnuts. Frost the cake(s). If you used round cake pans, level the layers before frosting and stacking (or use cake bands so you don’t have to).
It went over really well. Someone tasting the cake said the cake and the frosting have the right balance of sweet. Everyone loves the mocha frosting.
Graham Cracker Cake
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
26 graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix sugar and baking powder. Cream with butter. Add egg yolks, milk, graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and vanilla. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold in. Bake in greased pans: two 9″-round pans or two loaf pans or a 13×9″ rectangular pan for 30 minutes at 350F. Let cook and frost with Mocha Nut Frosting.
Mocha Nut Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup cold strong coffee
1/2 cup ground toasted nuts
Cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate. Add enough coffee to make a spreadable consistency. Stir in ground nuts.
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