Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Banana Split Dessert Bars {Recipe}

It's official... I have a problem with banana split-styled desserts. But they're just sooooo good!

I brought these cake/bars to my National Night Out block party, and they got rave reviews all around.

What You Need:
For the Bars:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
3/4 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)

For the Chocolate Layer (and drizzle):
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

For the Strawberry-Pineapple Layer:
1 cup frozen strawberries (defrosted--reserve the juice!)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (optional)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch

For the Vanilla Pudding Layer:
1 3.5oz. (small) box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk

For the Whipped Cream Layer:
2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 cup powdered sugar
(or just use Cool Whip or another pre-made whipped topping)

Toppings (optional):
Maraschino Cherries
Chopped nuts (any kind)
Chocolate sauce (from above)
Shredded Coconut
Mini Chocolate Chips

Yield: About 24-36 bars

Click this link to purchase a printable version of this recipe for $1!

Bake the Bars:
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees (F) and line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Add half of the flour mixture. Mix well.
Add the bananas. Mix well.
Add the remaining half of the flour mixture. Mix well.
Add the buttermilk. Mix well.

Pour into parchment-lined pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes. The bars/cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on a cooling rack for about an hour. While it cools, you can work on the remaining layers.

Make the Chocolate Layer:

Heat the cream on the stove or in the microwave until small bubbles form along the edges-- do not allow it to boil. If you use the microwave, keep a very close eye on it. When it boils, it makes a huge mess in the microwave in no time.
Pour the heated cream over the chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl. Let it set for 30-seconds to a minute.

Whisk until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. (It starts off kind of milky and mottled looking. It will come together.)
Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool. (You want it to become the consistency of thick pudding.)

Make the Strawberry Layer:

Strain the juice from the strawberries into a measuring cup. You want between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of juice. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, whisk together corn starch and sugar. Add the reserved strawberry juice. (If you need extra, you can always take some of the juice from the pineapple. if you're using that. Otherwise, add a little water.)

Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring frequently until it thickens- almost to the consistency of jelly.

Remove from the heat and add the strawberries and (drained) pineapple. Stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

Make the Pudding Layer:

In a mixer bowl, combine the pudding mix, cream and milk. Mix on low to combine. Let set for 2-3 minutes.

Mix again on high until the mixture resembles a mousse consistency-- with lots of airy bubbles in it. For me, this usually takes between 3-7 minutes depending on how cold the milk is and whether I'm using a stand mixer or a hand mixer.
Set in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes while you work on/assemble the rest of the bars.

Make the Whipped Cream:
Quick Note on the whipped cream: generally, you don't want to make whipped cream too much in advance. I added corn syrup to this to help it stabilize, but still, try to make the whipped cream as close to when you're going to serve the bars as possible. It helps keep it from weeping and from shrinking.

Place your mixer bowl and beater(s) in the refrigerator for at least 10-15 minutes before you whip the cream. This helps the cream whip up better.

Combine the cream, corn syrup and powdered sugar in the chilled bowl.

Mix on high until stiff peaks form (7-10 minutes). (Store in the refrigerator if you're not ready to use it just yet.)

Assemble the Bars:

Spread the chocolate (about as thick as pudding) on top of the bars.Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Reserve about 1/2 to 1/4 cup for drizzling. (Put the reserved in a ziptop baggie to make it easy to drizzle later.)
*Note: If  you spread the chocolate when it is too thin/runny, the top layers can all slide off. Take my word on this one!  

Spread the strawberry layer over the chocolate layer. Again place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set a little.

Spread the vanilla pudding layer over the strawberry layer. Again with the refrigerating between layers.
*Note: I used a piping bag to get the pudding on the strawberry layer. I've found this helps keep your layers separate. You could also use a ziptop baggie with a large hole cut out of the side.

For the whipped cream, I piped the cream on using a tip #1M. But you could just as easily spread it on top with a spatula, if you want.

I recommend leaving the bars in the pan for serving. I took mine out, and after a while, the toppings began to slide off.

To decorate, use a maraschino cherry, chocolate drizzle, chopped nuts, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips... the possibilities are endless.

Click the Links Below to See:
Banana Split Cupcakes (My FAVORITE recipe!)
Banana Split Cake
Banana Split Cake Pops

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