Banana Split Cake: All-American Dessert
29 Jun, 2012 - Lindsay Crandall
My cooking skills are laughable – or they were, until a few months ago. No one ever taught me to cook, so my abilities never stretched beyond making macaroni topped with shredded cheese or popping a frozen pizza in the oven and pairing it with a sliced cucumber. It’s embarrassing to admit. My husband jokes that when he married me I could burn water. And it was more or less true.
After thumbing through Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food, devouring Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and recently reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, I made the conscious decision to take my culinary destiny into my own hands. A life lived well cannot be sustained exclusively on food that originates in a box. With the help of my husband, who cooks intuitively and has been designated cook at the fire station where he works, I have taken to slow roasting vegetables, building homemade pizzas, and experimenting with soups. I may still fumble around the kitchen, but I can follow a recipe (most of the time).
Though I’m not much of a cook, I’ve always loved baking. My early repertoire included boxed brownies and cookies from a tube – though, again embarrassingly, I did forget to add egg to a batch of brownies I made for my husband early in our marriage, and they were just plain disgusting. In recent years, I’ve taken on breads, cookies, cereals, and cakes, all from scratch and all delicious. Somehow, whipping together baked goods comes more easily to me – perhaps because, to me, baking equals love. Taking the time to piece together a dessert, in particular, is akin to lavishing my own “sugar” on others.
But now it’s summer in Alabama, and baking when the it’s nearing 100 degrees outside is absurd. That’s why the perfect summer confection should never go near the oven. My perfect summer dessert is banana split cake – a no bake, layered dessert that shouts to be eaten outdoors at a picnic in July. It evokes memories of the Fourth of July, swimming and running around before recharging with a sugary slice.
Now, I want to get one thing straight – this isn’t an organic whole food dessert. It is heartily all-American: buttery, sugary, and layered with fruits shipped from tropical locations or packed into a can or jar. Surely, Alice Waters would slap me on the wrist for suggesting it to you. The recipe was passed to my mother from an older neighbor when I was a baby, so we’re not exactly sure where it originated. All I know is, when I fed it to my husband, he oohed and mmmed all the way through it.
Banana Split Cake
3 1/2 sticks of butter (do not substitute)
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs
2 cups of confectioners’ sugar
20 oz. can of crushed pineapple
Large tub of whipped topping
Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan. Mix in graham cracker crumbs. Be sure to mix thoroughly or your crust won’t lift out of the pan with rest of your slice (this happened to me). Press into a 9 inch by 13 inch pan and put into the freezer to harden.
In a large bowl, mix the confectioner’s sugar, eggs, and 2 sticks of softened butter. Beat on high speed with a hand mixer for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes a thick, creamy custard.
Pull the pan out of the freezer. Layer the custard mixture before adding a layer of sliced bananas, each about a half inch thick. It helps to slice the bananas as you add them, rather than slice all four bananas beforehand. Drain the can of crushed pineapple, and spread on top of the bananas. Next, layer the whipped topping and top it with as many walnuts and cherries as you want. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.
Voila! A dessert perfect in the sweltering summer. As much as I try to make my foods from scratch and buy local, fresh ingredients, I can’t imagining tinkering with this recipe. But I’m sure with a little creative forethought, several of the ingredients could be substituted to suit your fancy, or the recipe could be tweaked to include fewer processed ingredients. To me, it’s perfect as is.
I will offer one tiny serving suggestion: Enjoy it with someone you love! All those oohs and mmms make sharing this cake all the better.