Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Banana Split Dessert

It’s not often a dessert incorporates two of my favorite things: The Dairy Queen and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Mr. Elvis Presley, but some days you just get lucky.

Banana splits seem kind of old-fashioned these days, but honestly, who among us would turn one down? They’re always a huge hit when I bring the fixings for a dessert potluck, and I had one coming up: My neighborhood’s annual block party – the perfect opportunity to test my theory.
Summer dessert royalty.

Although this recipe is devoid of ice cream, I can just see my 10-year-old-self salivating in anticipation of diving in to a huge helping. Really, it’s the Time Capsule recipe that probably most captures my childhood.

Dairy Queen was still very much in business when I was a kid. My mom had a fondness for surprising me and my brother by loading up the car and hitting the Brazier Foods on a summer evening, after we were already in our pajamas. So decadent! The manager of the South Everett branch was, I kid you not, a dead ringer for the villain in the Strawberry Shortcake cartoons – the Purple Pie Man. This added a thrilling element to the already intense drive-thru experience, not knowing if PPM himself would be filling our order. DQs are all but extinct in Western Washington now, and it takes me an hour-long drive to find the nearest one. I can only hope Purple Pie Man has floated down that river of molten chocolate into sweet oblivion. (Remember those awesome DQ commercials with the chocolate mountains and pineapple-topping waterfalls? To quote the great Tina Fey: Me want to go to there.)

Graham-cracker crust + ...
Though the title shows a singular lack of imagination, this dessert is really Banana Split Pudding in the good old Southern sense of banana pudding – a crust that turns cake-like after being heaped with custard, fruit and Cool Whip. (Of course, you know I trust Cool Whip implicitly now.)  The first twist on the classic is that you create an eggy, unbaked custard instead of using actual pudding. The further twist is that you add not only bananas, but pineapple, too, to give it that true “split” personality.

Egg, sugar and butter + ...
I first had banana pudding at the Elvis restaurant (of course there’s such a thing, and the full name is Elvis Presley's Memphis) on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. As you likely know, the King was a huge banana pudding fan and, in fact, required a dish of it to be present in his fridge at all times, in case a craving should strike. (I know this from one of my favorite cookbooks, Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’ Favorite Recipes, by Brenda Arlene Butler. An exhaustively researched, true classic.) I would like to make this same kind of commitment to 24-hour banana pudding, but fear that it would lead to a further commitment to an Elvis-like physique.

Pineapple and bananas + ...
This is an easy recipe to prepare, and the steps can be done in tandem. While the KitchenAid took care of the custard, I made the crust and soaked the bananas in the pineapple juice. You do need to plan ahead, as it takes at least six hours to settle and transform into the cakey, custardy goodness that is the characteristic calling card of banana pudding. But it's so worth it. Cutting through the layers was like a prehistoric excavation: The Cool Whip billowed atop the pineapple and bananas, resting on their layer of sugary custard, supported by the golden-brown buttery graham-cracker crust. Proving my theory that everyone loves a banana split (and banana pudding), I’m happy to report it was the high-demand dessert at the block party.

Cool Whip =
Though I think my cravings for a banana split (or pudding) reaches its zenith in summertime, this is a convenient “pantry dessert“ for year-round rotation. With the exception of the bananas, you can keep all of the ingredients in the cupboard (or freezer in the case of the Cool Whip) and whip this up whenever a craving strikes. The King would surely approve.

Banana Split Dessert

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter
Melt butter, put in graham cracker crumbs & pat down in 9x13 pan.

2 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
Beat for 15 minutes in mixer.
Pour this mixture over the graham cracker crust.

1 large can chunk pineapple
5 bananas
Peel the 5 bananas, cut in pieces and put to soak in the juice from the can of pineapple. Soak for a little while. This keeps the bananas from turning color.

Sprinkle pineapple over the mixture. Drain sliced bananas well & put on top of the mixture. Top with 1 lg. pk. Cool Whip or 1-1/2 cups whipping cream. Sprinkle chopped nuts (any kind) over the whipped cream. Decorate with maraschino cherries.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
Sweet summer bliss!

·      The eggs in this custard are never cooked, just whipped into oblivion. If this were offered in a restaurant here in Washington State, it would come with a little disclaimer that says, “Eating raw or undercooked eggs may result in food-borne illness.” I say, trust your judgment and use fresh eggs. You may wish to let your pregnant friends or those with compromised-immune systems know before they dig in. I think they’ll still be elbowing you aside to get to the goods.
·      I used softened, room-temperature butter.
·      I used pineapple canned in juice, but I’m thinking heavy syrup would be pretty rad here.
·      I used about ½ cup of chopped peanuts, and added them and the maraschinos right before serving.
·      The anniversary of Elvis’ death is August 16. What better way to commemorate the King?

Why Don’t You …
·      Float down that chocolate river with me. I’m thinking chocolate graham crackers for the base and/or a healthy layer of (room temp) hot fudge sauce before the Cool Whip. Chocolate shavings on top would also be pretty and flavorful.
·      Try the above suggestion with caramel if that’s more your thing.
·      Experiment with a base made of crushed sugar ice-cream cones. 


  1. We never did DQ in Seattle because it was so hard to get to...but here in Oly I have multiple options! I can't wait to make this with some fresh eggs from The Egg Lady.

  2. It's so good! But multiple DQ locations is just one more reason I need to come visit you!