Graham Cracker Pie for Father’s Day

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Graham Cracker Pie for Father’s Day ~ the vintage custard and meringue pie I made every year for my Dad.

Graham Cracker Pie was one of the first things I learned to make.  When I was a teenager  I was charged with making Graham Cracker Pie every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, and a few holidays and birthdays in between.  It was my dad’s favorite.  It was the pie his mom made for him, and as the oldest daughter I sort of took it upon myself to carry on the tradition.

It’s simple, homey and unpretentious.  It hails from an era when vanilla pudding, slow cooked on the stove, might be the highlight of the week for a family.

There was only one problem with it.  It hardly ever turned out right.  At least not for me.  My crust was always soggy, the custard filling turned out gloppy, and it never, ever, held its shape on anyone’s dessert plate.  I can just hear all the aunts and uncles and cousins exclaiming about how delicious it was, no matter whet it looked like, and that the important thing was how it tasted, blahblahblah.

The tension was unbearable when the time would come to cut the pie.  All eyes were trained on it, the knife would go in, then slowly out, and then the dreaded moment when the pie server slid out the first slice. That first slice would inevitably teeter off to one side, half of the crust would stick to the pie plate, and immediately the soupy filling would flood out from both sides of the cut pie and form a big custard moat.  Eventually even the meringue couldn’t hold its own against the avalanche of custard, and would topple in on itself as well.

It was hell.  But every year I made the pie because it was my dad’s favorite.  And he loved it, warts and all.

I haven’t made it in years.  Decades actually. We didn’t even keep track of the original recipe, so it’s a lost piece of family lore.  Good riddance, I say.

Why am I making it today?  Well, I didn’t get a Father’s Day card out in time.  I tried to Fed Ex it on Friday but they said they don’t deliver to his zipcode on Saturday, and the USPS said the same thing.  I thought of getting it there by Monday but that would have been $46. It was either make him a virtual pie or paste his head on one of those animated dancing rapper/ninja/chipmunk e-cards…

Graham Cracker Pie
oven to 400

2  cups graham cracker crumbs (I used ginger snaps this time)
1/2  cup  unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1/2 cup brown sugar

  • Mix the crumbs, butter and sugar in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the crumb mixture for a garnish.  Press the rest into your pie dish with the back of a measuring cup or large spoon.  Try to get it as even as possible.
  • Bake for 6 minutes, then set aside.


1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
  • Put the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • Whisk in:

2 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

  • Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat, until the mixture begins to thicken and comes to a gentle boil, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Continue cooking, whisking, until very thick, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Take off the heat and stir in:

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • Pour into the pie crust.


oven to 325  
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Beat the egg whites and vanilla until they are foamy and increased in volume..  Then gradually beat in:

3/4 cup sugar (I used extra-fine)

  • Beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Spread onto the custard and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes or until the meringue is browned.

Notes:  Needless to say, I fiddled with the recipe as I remembered it.  For one thing, this recipe includes both egg yolks and cornstarch…under the circumstances one can’t be too careful!  I substituted ginger snaps for graham crackers, a little bit crazy seeing as it’s called Graham Cracker pie and all, but that’s what I had.
As for the results of the cutting of the first piece, I’m not touching it with a ten foot pole till it chills.  Can you blame me?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    June 19, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Wonderful! I miss these All-American pies from bygone days!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    June 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    You know I love pie! This looks terrific – I hope it turned out as great as you hoped. We were camping this weekend so we didn’t have anything this pretty!

  • Reply
    Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes
    June 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I give you credit for trying to make that pie when you were a kid!

    I must say, this pie looks delicious, and I plan on giving it a try!

    Have a great week!

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    June 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I think your pie looks quite delicious but you sentiments for your dad are even sweeter! I know he loved this post!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    custard pies are totally fickle, and really, who wants to wait half a day or longer for it to set up? ridiculous. this was a sweet post, sue, and your pie sounds delightful–i don’t think i’ve ever had a plain ol’ vanilla custard pie!

  • Reply
    The Slow Roasted Italian
    June 18, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    The pie looks heavenly and sounds amazing. $46 is unreal! I would have snail mailed and sent an email card in the meantime. But, thats just me. I was fortunate to have my dad here visiting right before Fathers day, so we celebrated early.

  • Reply
    Cathy at Wives with Knives
    June 18, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    We love, love, love this pie, especially with fresh strawberries piled on top. Very smart to add cornstarch to the filling recipe. I remember a year when I served my pie in bowls and passed out spoons. It didn’t look great but I don’t remember any complaints. I also like your suggestion to use gingersnaps instead of graham crackers. Yummy.

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    June 18, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Waiting to see if this slices perfectly – I agree with the aunties its about how it tastes.
    Bet your dad really appreciated his virtual cake!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2012 at 11:38 am

    The pie looks delicious….I love graham cracker crust!Your pictures are so beautiful,Sue!

  • Reply
    June 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Looks good, warts and all! I love pudding pies…there is something very comforting about these old recipes!

  • Reply
    L o v e l y t h i n g s
    June 18, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Looks so good…wish I had a piece right now! I’m sure the first slice was beautiful…I loved that you used those Amy’s cookies.

  • Reply
    June 18, 2012 at 4:00 am

    This looks almost exactly like the banana cream pie I just made, minus the bananas! How funny. I think I like this one better though—graham crackers are my favorite thing and would prefer their flavor to take center stage. 🙂 Beautiful!

  • Reply
    Ellen B Cookery
    June 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    This looks delicious and very impressive! I like that you didn’t have the right ingredients in your pantry because it just goes to show that everyone can customize any recipe to their taste and to what’s available.

  • Reply
    Inside a British Mum's Kitchen
    June 18, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Oh that’s so sweet! $46!! what a wonderful pie – that flood always happens with my lemon merginue pies!! Yours looks simply divine!
    Mary x

  • Reply
    June 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    What a sweet post. I always try to remember people’s favorite desserts or meals and love surprising them with it! I’m sure he will love this virtual cake. Much better than the animated ecard ;)You can never go wrong with a graham cracker crust….ever!

  • Reply
    June 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    LOL! I was scrolling down to see how it cut when I saw your final note. You know I’m going to check back to see how it turned out. I’m in awe of custard pies that do not flood off the crust. I rarely make them because I’m just not patient enough to let them fully chill!

    P.S. Good call with the whole dancing ninja rapping chipmunk selection. I’d have skipped it too!