Baking at the Hive: Banana Split Dessert

I am blessed to be a part-time baker at BeeHive Assisted Living and Memory Care in Oregon, Wisconsin. It’s my joy to see my desserts put a smile on the faces of our residents. I thought it would be fun to share a few recipes with my readers. Enjoy!

Recipes which begin with a graham cracker or cookie crust are some of my personal favorites to create. Banana Split Torte is actually a no-bake recipe, so perfect for summers–but I make it once a month all year-round because it’s a BeeHive favorite. Since I bake for residents who are in memory care, I like to choose vintage recipes they might remember from their younger days. This one fits the bill. Most of the ladies remember taking this classic to potlucks and family gatherings.

There are three days each week where refrigerator space is available (the days just before grocery shopping day), so those are the days I choose to prepare dessert recipes which require refrigeration. It can be prepared one day in advance. Making it too far ahead will mean the bananas will begin to brown–still tasty, but not as appealing to the eye.

The pineapple can be sweetened or unsweetened, according to your preference, but make sure it is well-drained. Don’t just dump it in a colander and call it done. Press the juices out. I also like to count out the number of cherries I need for garnish and drain the juice off of them too by setting them on a paper towel so that the juices can bleed off. It makes for a prettier presentation later.

I’ve included the recipe I use as a guide. I make two 9×13 pans and cut each dessert into 16-18 servings. You can most certainly divide this recipe in half for a single 9×13 dessert.

Recipes are a guide. Use your common sense, personal experience and tastes to tweak the recipe, as you’ll see in this photo of my recipe page (above).

The Graham Cracker Crust

Kudos to you if you can make a decent graham cracker crust out of 1/3 cup margarine and 3 cups of graham crackers crumbs like this recipe states. I personally want a dessert crust that’s not going to fall apart when cut. If that’s your goal too, use 2 sticks of melted butter, 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Toss the mixture well. Split the buttery crumbs evenly between the two pans. To get a firmly pressed and smooth crust, I use a wide spatula to press the crumbs into place, then pop them into the fridge to firm up a bit while I prepare the filling. [Note: you can substitute crushed Nilla Wafers for the graham crackers–just omit the 1/2 cup of sugar.]

Cream Cheese Filling

Here’s my tweak on the filling. I cream 3 packages (8 oz each) of softened cream cheese with 1 stick of softened butter. Then I add at least 2 teaspoons of vanilla…probably more like 1 tablespoon (because I’m really into vanilla). Next, I dump about 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar) into the bowl with the creamed butter and cheese. Turn the mixer on very low to stir in the powdered sugar then turn that mixer up to medium-high and let it do its thing for about 5 minutes, scraping that bowl a few times to make sure all of the ingredients reach the super-fluffy and wonderful stage. Yep, it’s kinda like a thick layer of frosting. Yes, you can leave the butter out, but be forewarned. If you do something as crazy as that to save calories, you’ll sacrifice a lot of amazingness and will probably need to add the milk I crossed off the recipe to get it to a good spreading consistency.

For maximum fluff, beat at medium-high speed at least 5 minutes

Once you have a bowlful of silky cream cheese fluff, remove those crusts from the fridge. I then use a cookie or ice-cream scoop to evenly distribute globs of that cream cheese fluff around in the pans, then smooth it around with a small silicone or offset spatula.

A different dessert, but this is the technique I use for distributing the filling.

Banana Split Topping Layer

Now’s the time to slice those bananas into little coins and sprinkle a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over them. Toss the bananas around a bit in the lemon juice (this helps prevent browning). Using 3 bananas per pan (4 if the bananas are small), I lay the banana coins all over the top of that yummy cream cheese filling. [As you can see in my scribbles on the recipe, I sometimes make a “patriotic” version of this dessert, substituting fresh blueberries and strawberries for the bananas. Equally delicious.] Once you’ve got those bananas distributed evenly, cover the top with crushed pineapple.

Don’t cheat the people who like the edge pieces–get that fruity goodness to the edge of the pan!

The last layer

The last layer is your whipped topping. At work, I use Cool Whip or something of that nature. This dessert is extra-delicious if you top it with sweetened whipped heavy cream. If you go the homemade route, be sure to stabilize the whip cream if the dessert will not be served the same day.

The last thing I do is drag the tip of a knife through the whipped topping to create a grid for the cherries. Not everyone has mastered the skill of cutting 9×13 desserts into equal pieces, so I like to give the kitchen staff a little visual guide. The grid also helps me in placement of the well-drained maraschino cherries. Cover this dessert and tuck that amazingness back into your fridge again to chill for a few hours if you’re serving same day, or overnight for something to look forward to tomorrow.

The grid varies depending upon how many servings I need

At serving time, follow the grid marks and cut your pretty dessert into servings. I guarantee, there will be no leftovers. That is, unless you’re making it for yourself. If that’s the case, you might want to save a piece or two for tomorrow.

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