No Bake Banana Split Cake, made gluten free. A graham cracker crust, topped with fluffy cream cheese, bananas, crushed pineapple, vanilla pudding and whipped cream—and a cherry on top!
No bake cakes are lovely for so many reasons. Not only do they, well, require no baking which is perfect for the warmer months. But no bake cakes are also lovely because they're best when they're made ahead. For crying out loud, Ina Garten has built an entire empire of cookbooks and cooking shows on the concept that you should be able to host a perfect party—and enjoy it along with your guests.
This no bake banana split cake is quite similar to a no bake gluten free chocolate eclair cake. It really does elevate the form, though, like only crushed pineapple, bananas, plus the light and fluffy cream cheese layer can do.
Whenever a dessert like this one has multiple layers, regardless of how simple those layers are, I need a visual. In fact, when I wrote out this recipe in my mad scientist notebook, I penciled in a picture of the layers so I didn't take a wrong turn.
Some bright, simple photos of the layers (graham crackers—cream cheese layer—crushed pineapple—banana slices—pudding—more graham crackers—whipped cream—chopped nuts) is much better, though. Don't you think?
I make my own graham crackers, since I'm biased in favor of my own recipe for gluten free grahams from Gluten Free Classic Snacks. But both Schar and Kinnikinnick make gluten free graham-style crackers (links below). I have tried Schar's version and they're quite good, but incredibly expensive. If you've tried Kinnikinnick's grahams, what did you think?
Either way, when the weather warms, you'll be needing lots and lots of graham cracker crumbs. Go ahead and make a double or triple batch of my recipe, and stock up before it gets too hot!
No Bake Banana Split Cake
1 recipe Gluten Free “Nabisco” Graham Crackers (or 1 pound store-bought gluten free graham crackers)
2 tablespoons water*
1 1/2 teaspoons (3 g) unflavored gelatin*
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (124 g) granulated sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juices, drained of all liquid
3 medium ripe (but not overripe) bananas, peeled and sliced
Maraschino cherries, with stems in their own juice
*If you would like to make the whipped cream without the gelatin to stabilize it, simply omit the gelatin and water, and the related instructions. You will have to freeze the cake and serve it frozen, rather than refrigerated, as it will not set up properly otherwise.
Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with crisscrossed sheets of parchment paper and set it aside.
Make the instant vanilla pudding according to the recipe instructions, transfer it to a large bowl, place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 1 hour or until cool to the touch.
Make the stabilized whipped cream. Bloom the gelatin by placing it and the water in a small, heat-safe bowl, and stirring it gently to combine. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature until the gelatin swells. Place the gelatin mixture in the microwave and melt at 60% power for 20 seconds until melted. Set the gelatin aside to cool briefly. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, place the chilled cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the cooled gelatin, and beat just until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the whipped cream to another bowl, and set it aside briefly.
Make the cream cheese layer. In the same mixer bowl, place the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar, and beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add about 1/3 of the stabilized whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture, and fold in the whipped cream. Set the cream cheese mixture aside.
Mix the pudding with whipped cream. Remove the cooled pudding from the refrigerator and peel off the plastic wrap. Whisk the pudding until smooth and loose with a handheld whisk. Add another third of the stabilized whipped cream to the pudding and fold in the cream. Set the pudding mixture aside.
Assemble the cake. Cover the bottom of the prepared pan with a layer of graham crackers, breaking them as necessary to evenly cover the surface. Top with the cream cheese mixture and spread it into an even layer. Top with the crushed and drained pineapple, and spread that into an even layer. Top with a single layer of banana slices, then the pudding mixture, spreading the pudding into an even layer. Top with a second layer of graham crackers, and then with the remaining stabilized whipped cream. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and press down gently to help them adhere to the whipped cream.
Refrigerate the cake. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours to allow the filling to set and the graham crackers to soften. Place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes before removing the entire cake from the pan by pulling up on the parchment paper and setting it on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, slice the cake into 9 or 12 equal pieces and serve chilled or frozen topped with chocolate sauce, more banana slices, more chopped peanuts and a few maraschino cherries.