Banana Split Poke Cake

published Jun 30, 2023
Banana Split Poke Cake Recipe

This over-the-top celebratory banana split poke cake blends together two beloved and classic American desserts.

Serves16 to 20

Prep1 hour

Cook1 hour

Jump to Recipe
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A piece of banana split poke cake with a cherry on top on a dark teal plate with another plate with a piece in the background
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe. Food Styling: Debbie Wee

Without fail, every time I meet someone new and they find out I’m a pastry chef, they’ll ask me, “What’s your favorite thing to bake?” Earlier in my career, this question would annoy me. It left me feeling as if my only worth and the only interesting thing about me was that I baked professionally. It took me nearly 10 years before I turned the question into an opportunity to shed more light on who I am. My answer now? Poke cake

On the outside, a poke cake seems like a simple sheet cake. But once you slice into it, you quickly realize it’s much, much more. The cake, poked with holes throughout, is studded with a colorful, bold filling, which makes it less likely to be dry and dull. It’s coated with a rich frosting and garnished with complementary toppings that take the cake from average to over-the-top. 

As a result, a poke cake has depth. I love making poke cakes because I can relate to its misunderstanding and assumption of being something it isn’t. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe. Food Styling: Debbie Wee

For so long, I was embarrassed that I was self-taught and that my baking style was American comfort, not French. As a result, I felt pressure to be something I was not — to fit a mold of what a modern-day pastry chef should be. Little did I realize that I was battling a parallel struggle in my personal life during this time. My entire life, I had struggled with accepting myself as gay and with my gender identity. 

I came out when I was 19, but it never felt enough. The barrage of emotions that flowed when I did come out (mine and others) left me feeling as if I had no choice but to stop there — stop searching deep within who I was for fear of further altercations and emotional distress. 

I’m at a place in my life, 20 years after coming out, where I can no longer deny who I am, to myself or others, to make things comfortable. Now more than ever, it’s vital that my authenticity is out for my well-being and for those in my community who are being attacked daily for simply being who they are. So, after years of chasing happiness and acceptance from others, I’m choosing joy and acceptance for myself. 

Like a poke cake, I’m not what you think I am; I’m queer and non-binary. So, get to know me and understand what is below the surface of my appearance, and you’ll see there is space for everyone. 

My banana split poke cake takes two beloved, classic American desserts and blends them. It’s the perfect way to celebrate pride, love, and self-acceptance because it shows that a cake can be so much more than what society says it should be. 

If You’re Making Banana Split Poke Cake, a Few Tips

  • Try the reverse creaming method. This recipe uses the reverse creaming method, which involves creaming the dry ingredients with butter before adding wet ingredients to give the banana cake more structure. This also helps the cake withstand the additional weight of its strawberry and pineapple fillings, hot fudge frosting, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and nut topping. 
  • Use 72% dark chocolate. For the hot fudge frosting, it’s important to use 72% dark chocolate. The higher cacao percentage is essential to thickening the frosting and achieving a smooth, fudgy consistency that’s on par with Betty Crocker

Banana Split Poke Cake Recipe

This over-the-top celebratory banana split poke cake blends together two beloved and classic American desserts.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 16 to 20

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the hot fudge frosting:

  • 2 cups

    heavy cream

  • 1 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    light corn syrup

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 10 ounces

    72% dark chocolate chips (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces)

    unsalted butter

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

For the banana cake:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons)

    unsalted butter

  • Cooking spray

  • 4

    very ripe medium bananas

  • 1 1/4 cups

    buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 2 1/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1

    large egg yolk

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar

    strawberry ice cream topping

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar

    pineapple ice cream topping

For the toppings:

  • 12 to 16

    maraschino cherries with stems

  • Whipped cream

  • Chopped nuts or Ice cream nut topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Let the 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter for the cake sit at room temperature until softened. Meanwhile, make the hot fudge frosting.

Make the hot fudge frosting:

  1. Place 2 cups heavy cream, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/4 cup light corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking continuously, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling around the edges but not boiling.

  2. Turn off heat. Add 10 ounces dark chocolate chips (about 1 3/4 cups) and 2 sticks unsalted butter. Whisk until the chocolate and butter are melted. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

  3. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until completely cooled and thickened, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 hours. Meanwhile, make the cake.

Make the banana cake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray.

  2. Mash 4 very ripe medium bananas in a medium bowl with a fork or potato masher until very smooth (about 1 1/2 cups). Add 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk or beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until combined and uniformly sandy.

  3. Place 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to combine. Add the room temperature butter. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until coarse and sandy, about 1 minute.

  4. With the mixer on low speed, add 3 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk one at a time, beating each until incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the banana-buttermilk mixture in 3 increments until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Transfer to the baking pan and smooth into an even layer.

  5. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.

  6. Place on a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Poke 35 holes in the cake with a wooden dowel or handle of a wooden spoon (about 1/2-inch wide): 5 holes along the short side, 7 holes along the long side. Pour some of the strawberry topping over one row of 5 holes, then pour some of the pineapple topping over the next row. Continue alternating the toppings over the remaining rows.

  7. Use a spoon or an offset spatula to push the strawberry and pineapple toppings into the holes. Pour enough of the remaining toppings over the cake to cover completely (you may not use it all) and spread into an even layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.

  8. Dollop the hot fudge frosting evenly over the cake and spread into an even layer. (For a thin frosting layer, use 2/3 frosting. For a thicker, fudgy layer, use all of the frosting.) Let sit until the frosting is set (it will still be soft), about 30 minutes.

  9. Decorate the cake right before serving: Pat 12 to 16 maraschino cherries dry with a paper towel. Top the cake with the whipped cream, sprinkle with chopped nuts, and finish with the cherries.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The baked cake with strawberry and pineapple toppings can be wrapped with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. It can also be assembled with the hot fudge frosting, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in the pan loosely covered with plastic wrap for up to 2 days.