Gourmet No-Bake Banana Split Cake

A slice of banana split cake on a white plate with the entire cake in the background

PINEAPPLE CONFESSIONS:
Never have I ever dissected a whole pineapple.  Me – the woman who whips up her own marshmallows, won’t buy jarred caramel sauce when homemade tastes so much better, who measures out and combines 16 ingredients over 2 days to concoct her own vermouth  recipe – can’t be bothered to dismember an innocuous pineapple.  In the produce section, faced with the choice of intact pineapple or flayed and filleted cylinder,  I’ve always chosen the latter,  gladly plonking down a few extra quid for the convenience.  During my childhood, we often enjoyed fresh pineapple in our home on Nutwood street.  I remember mom deftly slicing off crown and bottom,  paring off the skin, gouging out the brown eyes, carving the pineapple carcass into equal disks, removing the core,  and then ultimately chopping the remaining succulent flesh into chunks to be devoured after dinner.  My mouth would water at the sweet, tart, tropical scent wafting from the kitchen.  To assuage my longing to savor a hunk of the golden flesh,  mom would hand me scraps of the core to suck and gnaw on while she worked.  A poor surrogate for the fleshy real McCoy, these woody nobs with mere hints of juicy tartness managed to sate my desire until after I had cleaned my dinner plate.  Perhaps watching mom wrestle with this bromeliad beast turned me off from the dismemberment process.   It’s always seemed like too much work and  too much waste compared to the juicy payoff.  I was faced with this pineapple dilemma when purchasing ingredients for the following recipe.  Convenience won out again. 

TODAY’S RECIPE:
With another nod to edible nostalgia,  I’ve whipped up one more sweet treat from my childhood.  The actual name of this dessert is “Banana Split Cake,”  but, growing up, it was known around our house as “Happy Easter Cake,” because mom would often serve this dessert after Easter dinner, spelling out “Happy Easter” with garishly bright red maraschino cherries on the top.  My favorite part of this cake was the decadent second layer, which I believed to be pure butter and confectioners’ sugar – should I be relieved to know now that it also contained cream cheese to, um, cut the richness?  Always one to gild the lily,  I’ve spiffed up mom’s recipe substituting fresh pineapple for the original canned, freshly whipped cream for Cool Whip®, luxurious Luxardo maraschino cherries for the grocery store variety, and I toasted the raw pecans. 


Gourmet No-Bake Banana Split Cake

Close your eyes and take a bite. You’ll be reminded of a banana split when the ice cream begins to melt and the flavors meld. For a twist, my mom added a layer of tart, homemade raspberry jam between the banana and pineapple layer for an added jolt of color and flavor. I've kept it out of this version.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 full sheets of crackers)
  • pinch salt
  • Filling
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cups finely chopped fresh pineapple, well drained
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 Luxardo maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled

Directions

  1. Melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs and salt. Press firmly into the bottom of a 9×13” pan.
  2. Beat together remaining ½ cup (1 stick) butter with cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and salt 3-4 minutes until fluffy. Spread evenly over graham cracker crust. Layer with chopped pineapple then bananas.
  3. Whip whipping cream with 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar. Cover bananas with whipped cream and garnish with Luxardo maraschino cherries and chopped pecan.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Raspberry Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ambiguity. His clever, well-crafted emails arrive in her mailbox daily, sounding a bit flirty, yet remaining maddeningly ambiguous. Until she sees him again — wrapped in a young, blowsy blonde, replete with pert, up-turned nose and sparkly cell phone case.

Now she knows. Ambiguous no more.

Ambiguity. She’s discussing red velvet cake with a coworker. Or, more precisely, red velvet cake doughnuts. She’s never understood the passion for the insipid flavor of red velvet anything. “Close your eyes,” she says, “and what do you really taste? It’s not chocolate; the cocoa powder is too minimal. It’s perhaps uniquely tart – but is that necessarily a good thing? What flavor makes it so adored?” Her coworker thinks it contains raspberries – no, the luxurious red comes from food coloring these days or beets, non-Dutched cocoa in the past. Not a berry to be found.

‘But couldn’t you,” he asked, “remake it in your style? With chocolate and raspberries and cream cheese frosting?”

Yes, she could. It wouldn’t be red velvet cake anymore, but something different, richer, more flavorful, and utterly her.

Her Red Velvet – ambiguous no more.


Raspberry Red Velvet Cake

  • Servings: One 8-inch Cake
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Whether this a truly a red velvet cake depends on what defines red velvet for you. This one contains rich, dark, moist chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry and lashings of cream cheese frosting and is anything but ambiguous with flavor.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1.2 oz. package freeze-dried raspberries, crushed to a powder (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red food coloring
  • Raspberry Jam
  • 4 oz. package frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment and dust with flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee, and salt. Stir in the dried raspberries (reserving a bit for decoration, if desired).
  3. Combine together water, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients (the mixture will be very wet).
  4. Working quickly, divide batter between pans and bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, invert onto cooling racks and cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile, make raspberry jam. Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and set.
  6. To make frosting: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until creamy.
  7. Sandwich cake with plenty of cream cheese frosting and raspberry jam. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting. Chill until ready to serve.

Autumn Apple Cake

Apples, cinnamon and rum-soaked raisins capture autumn in this moist Bundt cake. Coffee cake? Snack cake? Impressive post-meal dessert? It works for all three – you decide.

Autumn Apple cake on a bed of fallen leaves

Autumn in L.A.

Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.”  L.A. subtly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.


Autumn Apple Cake

Adapted from Richardson’s Canal House Inn apple raisin cake.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dark spiced rum
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cut into ½” dice
  • Glaze and Icing
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan, knocking out excess flour. Combine golden raisins and rum in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside and let soak.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and drained golden raisins. Spoon batter into pan.
  3. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 75 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar and honey and heat on medium until sugar is completely melted and glaze is thickened and bubbling. Brush over top and sides of cake. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze and drizzle over cake. Serve plain of with sweetened whipped cream

Sliced Autumn Apple Cake

Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. Set this recipe aside for Easter or Mother’s Day.

A pink grapefruit tart with whipped cream and shaved white chocolate

If you want your tart a little more “pink” try adding a dash of red food coloring.  I kept mine au naturale.

What does one make for a football and dessert party? Considering the season, my schemings first turn to creamy pumpkin, crisp apple, or juicy pear – the fruits of the season. And spices…oh, there should be spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ah, gingerbread. Gingerbread…and pear. Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake, warm and comforting; a celebration of Autumn. YES!

How I got from those thoughts to a refreshingly light pink-grapefruit tart, I haven’t a clue. Oh, but I’m so glad I did!


Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. A press-in crust keeps the fuss-factor down.


Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pink grapefruit zest
  • ⅔ cup pink grapefruit juice
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
  2. Beat together eggs, whipping cream, sugar, salt, grapefruit zest and grapefruit juice. Pour into tart shell and bake about 30 minutes or until filling jiggles only slightly in center.
  3. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, transfer to refrigerator and cool completely. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

A bowl of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
I’m celebrating a birthday this week. I remember this time last year, sequestering myself in a remote cabin in Sedona to figure out my life…all of it…over a brief seven days. I didn’t get very far, but I did decide that getting laid off would be a good thing (it was!) and that I needed to rekindle my dreams of inn ownership (I have!) and that “this” (whatever “this” was at the time) wasn’t enough for me (it’s not).

Another year wiser.

My co-worker, Dennis, also has a birthday this week. To celebrate, I made this bittersweet chocolate peanut butter ice-cream. We served scoops of it in crispy waffle cones, although I’ve decided it would even be better sandwiched between giant peanut butter cookies. Gilding the lily once again – some things never get old.


Dennis’s “You’ve got peanut butter in my chocolate” Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped (at least 60% cocoa), divided (5 oz. & 3 oz.)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Pinch off small bits of the peanut butter mixture and arrange on a dinner plate. Freeze plate of peanut butter bits until ready to use.
  2. Warm one cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, whisking the entire time, then remove from heat. Add the 5 oz. chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Set a strainer over the sauce pan and set aside.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in another medium sauce pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks whisking constantly (to avoid scrambling eggs). Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.
  4. Stir the custard mixture over a medium heat with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners as you stir, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla, and then cool completely by placing pan in an ice bath.
  5. Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. A few minutes before it’s finished, add the 3 oz. reserved chopped chocolate and frozen peanut butter bits.