When we first moved into our house 37 years ago, a sweet 80-plus-year-old woman, Vivian, lived across the street. I spent many hours sitting in her front yard discussing life and made countless trips back and forth across the street to hang diapers on her clothesline. Our backyard is quite shady so putting a clothesline up at our own house seemed pointless, and Vivian so graciously allowed me to use hers. Don’t even ask me how I got a load of wet diapers and the baby over to her house; I have no recollection and, quite honestly, still marvel at the fact I even did such a thing.

In addition to being a kind, and generous neighbor, Vivian was also an amazing baker, and we were often the beneficiaries of her time in the kitchen. And, lucky for me (but not so lucky for my waistline), she willingly shared her recipes. A couple of weeks ago I got to thinking about the yummy Chocolate Graham Bars recipe Vivian once shared with me and decided that since they don’t actually require any baking it would be a fun project to do with the grandkids.  

By the way, those of us who live in Minnesota have a variety of desserts made in a cake pan that we refer to as “bars.” In other states, I think they’re referred to as “cookie bars,” but to be honest I’m not exactly sure. I grew up in California, but apparently I’ve lived in Minnesota for so long that I’ve forgotten the correct term. I never remember even eating a bar when I was growing up. Clearly I had a deprived childhood! Ha!

To start, you’ll need a 9 x 13 pan. You’re going to line it with graham crackers so you’ll want it to be as square as possible. We started with this one:

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Hmmm . . . though the pan looks nicer, those round corners are a bit problematic. Even the kids can see that.

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So, I pulled out the pan I got for a shower gift 41 years ago! It’s ugly, and should probably be thrown away but it’s perfect for these bars.

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Fitting the graham crackers in so they all lay flat it somewhat like putting a puzzle together. A serrated-edged knife is helpful for cutting the smaller pieces to fit. It’s a little putzy but doesn’t take long.

While you are lining the pan you can start cooking the filling on the stove top. Of course, it’s easier not to get sidetracked and forget about it if you don’t have kids “helping” you.


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Once the filling is thick and bubbly, pour it over the top of the graham crackers and spread it out. This took a lot more patience than I remembered having to use in the past because the crackers kind of slid around as I tried to evenly spread the filling. In other words, don’t try to rush through this particular stage of the process.

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Now, top it all with more graham crackers – and don’t be thinking you get to use the exact same puzzle design you used on the bottom layer. Unfortunately, the added height and spread of the pan means you’ll have to come up with a whole new plan. (Have I mentioned I’m not a fan of puzzles?)

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Now for the easy part. Frost the top with chocolate frosting. I’ll include the recipe, but in a pinch you can use the store bought variety. In an effort to let the grandkids help I gave them each an appetizer knife, knowing I’d have to finish it off myself when all was said and done.

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The result? Pure deliciousness.

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Please note: These cookie bars do get softer as the day goes on, which is personally the way I prefer them. They can be frozen and taste just as good in their frozen state (I know this because I experimented – for you. It was a sacrifice). If they are allowed to thaw they still taste good (again, I took one for the team) but are a bit softer.

Chocolate Graham Bars

  1. Line bottom of 9 x 13” pan with whole graham crackers.
  2. In a large saucepan add:
  • 1 cup brown sugar (hey, I said it was yummy, not healthy)
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¾ cup milk
  1. Cook until bubbly and thick. Pour over whole crackers and spread.
  2. Cover the top with whole graham crackers.
  3. Spread chocolate frosting over the top.

Frosting recipe:

  • ½ cup soft butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Melt together and allow cooling. Blend in:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Stir in:

  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons milk