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Mr. Graham’s Legacy

By: The editors of Relish magazine

He’s remembered today for Graham crackers, but Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) was known during his lifetime as a health-food advocate. This Connecticut-born Presbyterian minister (1794-1851) espoused a vegetarian diet, supplemented by firm, crusty homemade bread made from coarsely ground whole-wheat flour. And while Graham successfully promoted this “graham flour” and the “Graham diet,” attracting devotees such as newspaper editor Horace Greeley and utopian Bronson Alcott, it’s unclear whether he actually invented the cracker. By 1898, however, the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) was producing it. Today’s version, made with refined white flour that Graham abhorred, looks (and probably tastes) nothing like the original, but it certainly fills the bill in this cake.

GrahamCrackerCakeGraham Cracker Cake

Serve with lemon sorbet, ice cream or frozen yogurt. 

Cooking spray

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 6 cracker sheets)

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp coarse sugar (optional)

1/2 tsp coarse salt (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a deep 9-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment.

2. Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended.

3. Combine graham cracker crumbs, cookie crumbs, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add crumb mixture to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beating on low speed just until well blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar and coarse salt, if using.

4. Bake 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Serves 12.

Photo by Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

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