June 28, 2011

No Bake Graham Cracker Cake

{printable recipe here}
I know it's Tuesday and I should have made Dorie's sour cream cake cookies (they look a little like whoopie pies to me) but it's just SO hot. I've only had my oven on once in the last week- I think that's some sort of record for me. I did make this graham cracker 'cake' of sorts for a family party. Strawberries were on sale at Sprouts for 77 cents a pound and a bought a whole flat for making jam. We ended up eating them instead (thank goodness my mom was responsible enough to make some jam and share!) and when it was time to make dessert for the party I instantly thought of strawberry shortcake. I pulled out a few cook books, looking for a recipe to match my ingredients and found the inspiration for this dessert instead from the Lion House Bakery.

The original recipe calls for instant pudding mixed with Cool Whip, layered up with graham crackers, and topped with pie filling. I'll be honest- Cool Whip totally creeps me out. Since I was going pretty semihomemade anyways, I made my own vanilla pudding (my slightly-lightened version of Dorie's pastry cream) and whipped cream. I combined those and layered it with the graham crackers and served it with strawberries. It was cool, smooth, and delicious and the next day it was even better- the crackers had softened and the final product was almost cake like, tasting of vanilla, cream, and strawberries (how bad can that be, right?) The best part is that the oven didn't have to heat my little house at all and this recipe is perfectly adaptable. You could use boxed pudding, try out chocolate, top it with whatever fruit's in season, and even use Cool Whip, you know, if you wanted. I'm sorry the cake is hard to see in the picture, but sometimes (you know, as often as I can), I put too many strawberries on top of things. And Baby Strawberry was yelling "More more more!" while I tried to snap a quick picture!

PS Amazon is offered $2 in free MP3 credit through the 30th- just enter CLOUDMP3 on this page and then check out their selection of $0.69 MP3's- this was a good excuse to get few chick songs myself!

Anne Strawberry's No Bake Graham Cracker 'Cake'
inspired by The Lion House Bakery
{printable recipe here}

1 pounds of strawberries
1/3- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, to taste
2 cups slightly-lightened vanilla pastry cream (or 1 small box instant pudding, prepared)- see recipe below
2 cups whipped cream (or Cool Whip, if you don't have weird food hang ups like I do)
1 box (three sleeves) HoneyMaid Graham Crackers (14.4 ounces)

Wash the strawberries and cut the tops off. Select the prettiest of the berries (about half) and slice from top to bottom (you could use this great tool here). Mash the rest of the strawberries with powdered sugar to desired sweetness and gently stir in strawberry slices. Refridgerate and save for garnish.

Gently fold together the pastry cream and whipped cream in a medium bowl. In a baking dish (I used a medium Pyrex, about 7 x 11, but this is flexible) lay out a layer of graham crackers. The amount will vary with the size of the dish you use, but I needed almost a whole sleeve per layer. Don't worry if some are broken- just patch them together to make the neatest layer you can and it will all meld together later.

Top graham crackers with 1/2 of the cream and spread it evenly using an off-set spatula. Add another layer of graham crackers. Top with the rest of the cream, spread it out, and top with the last of the graham crackers.

Refrigerate for 3-12 hours (I think the best timing would be to assemble in the morning if you want to serve with dinner, but you can make the cream and everything ahead of time to go with your schedule since layering everything will only take a couple minutes). Slice and serve topped with generous portions of fruit topping and enjoy your cool dessert (and cool kitchen!)

"Slightly Lighted" Pastry Cream
adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/2 cups 2% milk
4 large egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Seeds from one vanilla bean (optional)

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream through a mesh sieve into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, carefully set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and refrigerate, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Whipped Cream Recipe
See Martha's for a detailed description how to make your own whipped cream using heavy cream if you haven't done it before (I would just tell you to dump it in the mixer, add a few shakes of powdered sugar and a little vanilla, and mix on high till it's pretty and delicious!)


  1. Thanks Anne, it looks yummy. It sounds like a recipe my kiddos could help me with. We'll try it out for family night next week.

  2. Perfect low stress but delicious dessert - what more could we ask!

  3. Looks pretty darn yummy, Anne. I'm not at all surprised the little strawberry was yelling for more! :)