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.
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.
- 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
- Melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs and salt. Press firmly into the bottom of a 9×13” pan.
- 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.
- Whip whipping cream with 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar. Cover bananas with whipped cream and garnish with Luxardo maraschino cherries and chopped pecan.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.