In my pool of childhood memories I have this image that drifts to the surface from time to time. I am sitting on a chrome legged chair at our tangerine formica-topped kitchen table. I have just finished eating my lunch. My mother opens the stove drawer and there, from a white corrugated box, she pulls a large animal shaped shortbread cookie coated with a firm pink icing for my dessert; my favorite!
I loved those cookies as a child but haven’t seen them anywhere in decades. So many of the wonderful tastes I remember from those days are now history. Times change, even tastes change, and what was once popular and readily available fades away.
But some favorites do persist; Honey Maid Graham Crackers for example. When I was a child everyone seemed to have a box in their cupboard. I think they still do. Even my grandma, known for her thrifty habits like diluting lemonade to half strength and handing out half sticks of Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum for treats, freely provided graham crackers straight from the box as a snack or dessert. I loved to sit at her kitchen table with graham crackers and a cup of milk, dunking each cracker into the cup until it soaked up the maximum amount of milk and then carefully lifting it into my mouth to melt in a soft sweetness.
New Uses for Old Favorites
I still love graham crackers and still reach for a square when I want something small and sweet without fuss or bother. I almost always have a box on hand. They are great for no bake pie crusts, making gingerbread houses with the kids or smeared with peanut butter for a quick snack. Still, while I wouldn’t be without them I hardly ever think of anything new to do with them. Perhaps that’s why I cut a recipe for a Graham Streusel Coffee Cake from Better Homes and Gardens a decade or so ago.
I pulled it out of my kitchen files again this week. When I got down to baking I hardly followed it at all. I skipped some of the butter and made a slightly lighter crumb. I also opted to make a cake similar to the one in my favorite Sunday Special Coffee Cake instead of running to the store for the cake mix called for in the original.
The result is rich with fond flavors and a delightfully crumbly struesel. It is fun knowing that it is made with graham crackers though I’m not sure that it would be obvious to the average taster. Overall it simply tastes fresh and delicious. I can’t think why I didn’t try it sooner. It can be both fun and delicious to dunk into those sweet old memories. I’ll definitely be making this one again.
Pecan Graham Coffee Cake
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pecan Graham Streusel Topping
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
In a small bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and brown sugar. Add the butter and mix to a crumbly streusel with a fork or by hand (more fun than you might think). Stir in the toasted pecan bits. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the white sugar and melted butter blending until smooth.
Add the milk and vanilla, whisking until well combined.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until smooth and well combined.
Pour half of the batter into a prepared 9-inch baking pan. Scatter half of the streusel mixture evenly over the top. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the streusel carefully smoothing the batter over the crumbs. Scatter the remaining streusel topping crumbs on top of the batter.
Bake in a preheated oven, at 375 degree, for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the cake tests done.
Cool on a wire rack.
When cake is cooled top with a powdered sugar icing made from 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and enough water (2 to 3 teaspoons) to make a drizzling consistency.
Simply eat the cake while warm from the oven.