The ultimate banana split.
August 13, 2012 9:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I make an incredible banana split?

As a kid, my boyfriend dreamed of having a banana split any time he saw one on TV, in cartoons, in a movie, etc. (He didn't grow up in North America, so the treat seemed especially exciting to him.) On a special trip to Dairy Queen, he finally tried a banana split - and he was so disappointed. He says he couldn't believe it was just ice cream and a banana.

So, with that in mind, I'd like to make a better banana split... something that doesn't disappoint. I'm not sure what he was hoping a banana split would be like (he didn't have a specific idea, but he didn't know it was just ice cream and a banana), but I'm sure there's a way to improve on the classic.

I was thinking of making a banana split with banana-flavoured cakes shaped like bananas, rather than actual bananas... but other than that, I am running short on ideas. How would you make an epic banana split?
posted by gursky to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I would find some way to incorporate Bananas Foster into it. Split the bananas alongside the scoops of ice cream as per the usual Banana Split pattern, and top with slices of banana that have been sauteed in butter, rum, brown sugar and maybe a little cinnamon.

Maybe appeal to adult-style tastes for parts of it too - cinnamon and cayenne pepper on the chocolate ice-cream might work.

Lord I'm hungry now.
posted by jquinby at 9:40 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Back in the day there was this place in Lexington, MA, called Chadwick's. It was one of these places where they would make a big production out of people's birthdays and they had a thing on the menu called the "Belly Buster" made with two tons of ice cream that they would carry out on a rack and announce to the whole place when someone ordered one. You know, totally annoying to anyone over the age of 12. They had some damn good ice cream sundaes though, especially their banana split.

If I recall correctly, it was made like this:

Split a banana
Top with three scoops of ice cream. One each of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
Top the strawberry ice cream with strawberry topping, the chocolate with hot fudge, and the vanilla with pineapple.
Top with peanuts
Pile on enough whipped cream so that it becomes a concern of the FAA and needs to be put on air navigation charts.
Top with a cherry.

It was simple, yet awesome. Of course like all good recipes you want to have some high quality ingredients to start with.

They had a larger version that they would give to you free if you could finish it. I never did take up the challenge.
posted by bondcliff at 9:45 AM on August 13, 2012 [14 favorites]

I would use chopped macadamia nuts as a topping! And crushed oreos!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:47 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure the ice cream is soft, preferably from toppings such as hot fudge or bananas foster. Banana splits are only really good when they're melting.
posted by mochapickle at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cube some banana bread. Toss it with a little butter and re-bake it until you have slightly-browned, slightly-crispy banana bread "croutons". Roast some sliced bananas under the broiler until they're sticky and sweet and caramelized. Toss them on top. Add some banana chips. Sprinkle with banana Runts. Top them with whipped banana ice cream. Go to an Asian market and look in the spice or baking aisle for "banana oil" (aka isoamyl acetate). Whip this up with some heavy cream to make banana whipped cream. Spoon this on top. Slam it down in front of him and scream, "IT DOES NOT GET MORE BANANA-Y THAN THIS, GODDAMN IT!" Or, you know, "Enjoy, sweetie!"
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:49 AM on August 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

If the ice cream isn't delicious, there are no toppings in the world that will save it.

Use gelato, chocolate, cream, and maybe hazelnut, on a firm banana. No squishy bananas, you want the texture of the fruit to complement the mouth feel of the ice cream. Use real whipped cream, nothing from a can. Use good hot fudge, or better yet, use warm ganache.

Banana splits are my favorite, favorite, favorite dessert, and I only eat them when I am home in Italy, for the aforementioned gelato reasons.
posted by lydhre at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pralines or wet walnuts go well on banana splits.
posted by Picklegnome at 9:59 AM on August 13, 2012

I would glaze and grill everything because I'm crazy like that.
Honey-rum grilled bananas
Grilled pineapple
Grilled strawberries
Find some truly awesome vanilla ice cream, and use the best goddamn hot fudge (NOT chocolate sauce!) that money can buy. Whipped cream from a can. One cherry for each ice cream/topping mound.

Alternately, chop up the banana, strawberry, and pineapple and throw them in a saute pan with butter, brown sugar, and rum, and cook through until you have a banana split sauce. Pour that over your ice cream, top with hot fudge/whipped cream/cherries. Oh my god so hungry.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:01 AM on August 13, 2012

Oh and if you're feeling super decadent, make some actual fudge and pour that over the ice cream while it's hot; it will solidify a bit as it cools on the ice cream, but some might consider that a feature, not a bug. Yeah, that's not actually how people make hot fudge but banana splits are important business, and sometimes you can't afford to stand on tradition.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2012

This is obviously not a "true" banana split, but vanilla ice cream + fridge-cold banana + dollop of nutella is a delicious, delicious thing.
posted by phunniemee at 10:11 AM on August 13, 2012

bondcliff describes what is, to me, the classic banana split. If you make it with all quality ingredients (rather than the crap available at Dairy Queen), it will be amazing.
posted by grouse at 10:14 AM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd argue a Dairy Queen Banana split barely deserves the name.

Get excellent ice cream and fudge sauce (as pre-made goes, Stonewall Kitchen's is pretty good), fresh fruit to make the strawberry and pineapple sauce, home made whipped cream -- it will be much better. (You can also use marshmallow sauce. So good.)

You also will do very well if you grill or saute the bananas and pineapple first. I don't really like cooked strawberries.
posted by jeather at 10:16 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

What bondcliff describes is what I've always understood to be The Official Banana Split.

Dairy Queen's is lacking because they only have soft serve ice cream, not the scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Looks like it might not even have any nuts.

But if there are any ice cream shops --like Baskin-Robbins or a smaller chain -- around you that do regular, by-the-scoop ice cream, they'll surely have The Official Banana Split or some variation with a substitution or two (it's when they start taking away ingredients that you run into disappointment).

But if you want to make something at home, I think you've really got two main options: 1. build The Official Banana Split with quality ingredients and maybe some substitutions (chopped walnuts for peanuts, maybe caramel sauce instead of pineapple) and try to produce something as close to the iconic banana split of your boyfriend's dreams, or 2. build the ultimate ice cream sundae, with whatever embellishments you choose, and work some banana in there somewhere. That's not really a banana split, but it's maybe more tailored to your/his tastes.
posted by katieinshoes at 10:17 AM on August 13, 2012

For the ultimate banana split, check the December, 1965 Boys Life (and let's keep the snark to a minimum, concerning their girlfriends' hairstyles).
posted by Rash at 10:18 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure from your wording, but do you mean your bf went to DQ and they just gave him a banana with some ice cream on top and tried to pass it off as a banana split? He was likely disappointed because a) that's not a real banana split, and b) Dairy Queen's ice cream is horrible sub-standard crap that shouldn't even be allowed to be termed ice cream. For a traditional banana split, follow bondcliff's recipe and use high quality ingredients. Make sure the banana is completely ripe but not brown. And let the ice cream soften on the counter for 5-10 minutes before scooping/serving. It needs to be melty. Also, banana splits are no fun unless served in an actual banana split dish/boat, so I'd procure one or two of those. Your best bet would probably your nearest restaurant supply store or check online.
posted by katyggls at 10:22 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

You want proper ice cream, not that white foam they serve at DQ, home made hot Chocolate Fudge, a fresh banana real whipped cream and a marshino cherry on top. Nuts are optional. Layering of fudge with icecream and cream until you can't see over it. Pour on more fudge and put the cherry on top and eat.
posted by wwax at 10:26 AM on August 13, 2012

In Girl Scouts, you make banana boats during camping trips. Here's how:
1. Keeping the banana in its peel, split it lengthwise leaving it attached at both ends.
2. Stuff the opening with really good stuff, like chocolate, brown sugar, butterscotch, mini marshmallows.
3. Wrap the whole thing in foil and put on a grill. Cook until soft (a few minutes).

I am positive that if you unwrapped it straight off the grill and then added ice cream and whipped cream, it would be even more amazing.
posted by Houstonian at 10:28 AM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Banana brulée: split the banana lengthwise and coat the flat part of each half with sugar-- depending on how you want to serve this, you may want to cut the halves to half-lengths. Throw the lot under a broiler (or use a brulée torch, but I prefer the former, as the heat cooks and softens the banana) and let the sugar melt and begin to caramelize. Brown sugar would be fine for this application. The goal is to have a partly caramelized hard sugar coat on the cut face of the banana- a little crunch to go with the softened fruit.

Also, bright red maraschino cherries are garbage. Try to track down some proper Luxardo Marasca cherries in syrup. The flavor is outstanding, they're pitted already. That's a proper cherry.

If you want more crunch (I would), crumble a fortune cookie or two on top.

Oh, one more thing-- if you freeze a banana or two (especially overripe ones) and then pulverize them in a blender, you can get an ice-cream-like substance. That could be something good to add, perhaps as small spheres, around the 'split.

You are a champion for doing this for your boyfriend.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:00 AM on August 13, 2012

I came here to nth doing something to the banana. I was thinking frying it, maybe get it sticky with a bit a caramel, then roll it in a mix of crushed pecans and coconut, then frying it!

I love the idea of bananas foster too.

Also, a marachino cherry with a drizzle of juice down the slopes of Mt. Whipped Cream.

The best ice cream, toppings, etc. Dairy Queen "ice cream" isn't even ice cream. There's no DAIRY in it!!!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on August 13, 2012

A great banana split has the following texture/temperature/taste components:

1. Hot and cold -- ice cream is cold. Whipped cream is cold, as is some marshmallow and most of the toppings. You need hot things in there, be they hot fudge or caramel.

2. Creamy and crunchy -- ice cream is creamy. Sauces are creamy. A lot of toppings are liquidy/creamy, so find some crunch. Nuts, some fruits (pineapple chunks), and other crunchy toppings like sprinkles will add to this. In my mind, walnuts are really the best, but you can go with anything at all.

3. Sweet and salty -- almost everything on a sundae is sweet, which is great! However, if you can get some salt in there (salted walnuts, salted peanuts, salted caramel), then you're going to increase your enjoyment of the dish by a power of something-or-other.

4. Correct toppings on the correct flavors -- knowing what tastes best on top of vanilla (hot fudge, for me), chocolate (I love it with caramel) and strawberry (pineapple, for a fruity burst) or whatever three flavors of ice cream you choose is going to make things better. If you choose to go with all of one flavor of ice cream...don't. Man, it's a BANANA SPLIT, for goodness sake!

5. The banana -- slice it lengthwise. Make sure it's so ripe it's just this side of bruised. You should have a large enough banana that the length covers the entirety of all three scoops set side-by-side. Banana in every bite is my goal with a banana split.

6. Cherry -- A banana split isn't a banana split without a cherry on top. Whether you like the fancy-pants kind or the bright-red things from the supermarket (my favorite), don't neglect this part.
posted by xingcat at 11:11 AM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think xingcat just won the internet.
posted by mochapickle at 11:15 AM on August 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, the problem is that you went to Dairy Queen. bondcliff has shared the canonical recipe for the banana split. The only permissible variations are rotating the toppings so that the strawberry is on the vanilla, the fudge is on the strawberry, and the pineapple is on the chocolate. Walnuts are optional, as are chocolate sprinkles, but both are encouraged.

Dairy Queen uses exclusively soft serve, as far as I can tell. This does not a banana split make. DQ has its place, and the Blizzard is truly a wonderful invention, but it is not where you want to go for ice cream as such.

You want to go to some place like Friendly's (if you're on the East Coast, that is), or any other old-timey place that borders on the old-fashioned soda fountain. They'll know how to set you up right.
posted by valkyryn at 11:17 AM on August 13, 2012

Is he a Simpsons fan? If so, maybe a Banana Kaboom is in order. (i.e. a banana split with sparklers and tiny American flags.) If you'd rather not burn the house down, use some festive party picks instead. Food tastes better with ridiculous decorations.

I wouldn't worry too much about the perfect banana split if his only reference is Dairy Queen - just about any grocery store ice cream will be an improvement on those freakshow blorps of carageenan and titanium dioxide. Dairy Queen is the uncanny valley of ice cream. If silicone breast implants could lactate, they'd probably produce Dairy Queen soft serve.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:47 AM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

lydhre's suggeston for hazelnut ice cream is brilliant. I would top with toasted chopped hazelnuts and warm Nutella instead of fudge. And instead of strawberry sauce from a bottle, I'd make my own with real strawberries cooked in sugar.

Also, don't make it so huge it hurts to finish.
posted by Dragonness at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2012

I agree that bondcliff has the traditional banana split recipe, but I have seen marshmallow cream (aka Fluff) on the vanilla instead of pineapple.

Also, the whipped cream needs to be in 2 piles, one between each set of scoops, and each pile of whipped cream should have a cherry.
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:09 PM on August 13, 2012

If your boyfriend has never had a banana split before (and he hasn't, if he only had the dairy queen version), I would strongly advise against trying any of these weird, out-there variations for his first true banana split experience. You have to, have to give him a traditional, old-timey, all-American banana split. Otherwise it would be like if someone had never had pizza, and you had them try a white slice with bbq chicken on it. Sure, it's pizza, but it's not pizza.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:15 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

As xingcat points out, the banana needs to be super-ripe. Variants involving cooking the banana are new-fangled ideas that are not the banana-split your guy has read about; the classic is a regular raw banana. BUT, speaking as one of those people who love barely-ripe bananas, won't eat one if it has any brown spots at all on it, that won't do at all for a banana split. Cold changes everything, though: a barely-ripe golden banana will be chilled by the ice cream into near-flavorless too-firm hard-to-cut-with-a-spoon monster. You really need the banana to be as ripe as you can stand it.
posted by aimedwander at 12:32 PM on August 13, 2012

1) Banana (cut in half, of course)

2) Ice cream - I recommend vanilla on all 3 scoops. Use an ice cream that doesn't take 2 hours to thaw before you can swallow, but you don't want something melting as soon as it hits the air. Quality & texture are paramount.

3) Solid toppings:
* Crushed nuts. Not quite powder, but not too far from it. I prefer peanuts or walnuts.
* Crushed candy like M&Ms or Reese's Pieces

4) Fruit toppings.
* Strawberries are wonderful.

5) Gooey toppins
* Hot fudge
* Butterscotch
* Caramel

Lay out your banana.
Set in your ice cream scoops (I recommend 3)
Add either a gooey or a fruit topping to each.
Add a solid topping to each.

Variety is the spice of life. Mix & match the toppings & see what he thinks!

Though I admit, some of the fancy suggestions are making me want to try something a little more culinary!
posted by goedekers at 1:06 PM on August 13, 2012

A good banana split must include three types of ice cream, three types of sauce ( at least two must be hot), whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry. Anything less is substandard.

personally, I always preferred xingcat's sauce and ice cream pairings when I went to a traditional ice cream parlour. You don't need hot fudge on chocolate ice cream. My local Shaw's had hot butterscotch, and that went on the chocolate.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2012

This is probably not what you're looking for if you want the classic, but those little baby bananas improve anything banana-flavored. So much more depth of flavor! You could split one, measure out the ice cream with a teaspoon, and make a tiiiiny tiiiiny banana split. A breakfast-size banana split, if you will.

Also, to really propel your banana split into the stratosphere, you need to make your own fudge. This recipe (I make it without the peppermint) is incredibly easy and bears the same relation to the jarred grocery-store kind that a steak bears to a McDonalds hamburger. I cannot keep it around the house because I will eat it by the spoonful out of the fridge in its solidified form. It is truly paradisaical over homemade strawberry ice cream.

To make an especially delicious strawberry sauce, slice the strawberries very thinly, toss them with about a tablespoon of sugar (and a very little bit of Amaretto if you have it), and let them sit for about an hour before pureeing them, cooking them a little, or whatever else you have in mind. The strawberries will release a bright red liquid that's the most intensely strawberry-flavored thing you've ever tasted.

Caramel sauce: For this, you can just go with La Lechera-brand dulce de leche, heated to liquify. It's pretty damn good.

If you're OK with departing from tradition a little, melted Nutella as a topping might also be good.
posted by ostro at 2:20 PM on August 13, 2012

I strongly second or third the points about texture and contrast. A banana split or sundae without adequate creamy/crunchy, hot/cool, or sweet/salty elements is almost not worth eating.

Apple bananas/baby bananas definitely add more banana oomph per bite.

And for cherries, might I recommend using sour (or sweet) cherry pie-filling cherries? Fresh cherries get overwhelmed by everything else, but pie-filling cherries give you the deliciousness of cherry without the OMGCHEMICALS flavor of the more traditional maraschino. The sweet kind are perfectly acceptable, but sour adds a nice tang.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2012

Dairy Queen? If he dreamt of eating a hamburger would you initiate him to hamburgerdom with McDonald's? McDonald's and DQ have their place, but they aren't really top of the heap.

There is some good/fancy advice in this thread, but I have a few ideas:

1. Go for quality, full-fat ice cream. French vanilla, vanilla bean and/or dulce de leche.
2. Brownie bits. Chocolate goes well with banana. It just does. I'd go with cakey over fudgey to keep the sweetness down a bit.
3. Nuts. Walnuts or pecans. They bring texture and break up the sweetness a bit.
4. No sprinkles. They are all sugar, no flavour.
5. The bananas should be a day or two less ripe than for banana bread.

There's some instant-freeze chocolate shell stuff. Amazing stuff, but maybe over the top.
posted by KevCed at 7:00 PM on August 13, 2012

In this part of the world a banana split is not complete without:

Chocolate hail
Chopped walnuts
Passionfruit pulp.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 10:55 PM on August 13, 2012

« Older non-judgmental, thorough dentist in Toronto?   |   How do I make a meet & greet photo more... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.