This No-Bake Banana and Peanut Butter Caramel Icebox Cake Is the Best Recipe I’ve Ever Developed
I’ve developed many, many recipes over my career in food. My first cookbook had 225 casseroles; my second had over 100 puddings. Here at Kitchn I have hundreds of recipes under my name. So when I tell you that this one right here is possibly my favorite, it’s a very big deal. But truly — when asked for a favorite recipe, this creamy, dreamy icebox cake with layers of banana and sweet cream, drizzled with peanut caramel, is always top of mind.
This recipe originally appeared in the 2014 Kitchn Cookbook, cowritten with Sara Kate, our site’s cofounder. It was a second attempt: I originally had another concept for an icebox cake that, when I tested it, was a flop. But I knew we needed an icebox cake. At the time we were writing the book, one of the site’s most wildly popular recipes was for no-bake strawberry icebox cake — a cake that doesn’t need the oven. Icebox cakes are a magical stack of graham crackers, whipped cream, and fruit that melds into a tender, cakey dessert. Readers love icebox cakes’ cool simplicity, their generous proportions, and how they transcend the sum of their parts.
I wanted a new icebox cake for the book, but with what flavors? I decided to go a little Elvis, with ripe creamy bananas, a whipped cream that gets its richness from sweetened condensed milk, and a homemade peanut butter caramel sauce that puts it over the top.
I’ll never forget the moment I first tasted this. I NAILED it (not to brag or anything!). Dreamy sweet, with that peanut butter nuttiness and the bananas melting into the creamy layers: It’s the ultimate peanut butter lover’s cake for summertime and picnics and potlucks.
Icebox Cake Tips: How Long to Refrigerate and Make Ahead?
Like all icebox cakes, this one is about assembling, not baking. You’ll make a sauce and the whipped cream, then layer them with the graham crackers. Then it goes into the fridge to sit and become a flaky, tender cake. I love the make-ahead aspect of these no-bake desserts, but I often get asked how far you can make them ahead.
Most icebox cakes need about four hours to set in the fridge and meld magically together into a cake. You can also make them a day ahead and let them sit overnight in the fridge. I do not recommend making this much more than 24 hours ahead, however; it will start to get a little soggy.
Prep time 35 minutes
Cook time 16 minutes
Serves6 to 10
For the peanut butter caramel sauce:
- 1/2 cup
- 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 cup
- 1/4 cup
creamy peanut butter
Generous pinch of kosher salt
For the cake:
- 4 ounces
- 1/2 cup
- 1/2 cup
- 1 (14-ounce) can
sweetened condensed milk
- 2 3/4 cups
cold heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 3 1/2 to 4 sleeves
graham crackers (about 19 ounces, or 28 to 30 whole crackers)
Place 4 ounces cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened. Meanwhile, finely chop 1/2 cup roasted peanuts and 1/2 cups pecans until you have 1/2 cup of each. Place both in a small bowl and stir to combine. Make the peanut butter caramel sauce.
Make the peanut butter caramel sauce:
Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Stop stirring and cook over high heat for 3 to 10 minutes, until the sugar develops brown streaks or is light brown in color.
Swirl the pan by the handle and watch for the first sign of smoke. As soon as the caramel turns dark brown and smokes, take the pan off the heat, add 1/2 cup heavy cream, and whisk to combine. Be careful – the mixture will steam and bubble up violently.
Return the pan to low heat and bring to a simmer. Add 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Whisk until the sauce is very smooth, then remove the pan from the heat.
Make the cake:
Beat the cream cheese with the whisk attachment on medium speed until very smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, very gradually add 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed, and beat until smooth. With the mixer still running, slowly pour in 2 3/4 cups cold heavy cream. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, 5 to 10 minutes.
Peel and quarter 3 medium bananas lengthwise, then finely chop. If the peanut butter caramel has cooled too much to pour easily, rewarm it gently over low heat, then transfer to a measuring cup with a spout.
Spread a spoonful of the whipped cream onto the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan, or a similarly sized platter. (This keeps the graham crackers from sliding around.) Arrange enough graham crackers, breaking them as needed to fit, to completely fill the bottom of the pan in a single, tight layer. Spread 1/4 of the remaining whipped cream (about 1 3/4 cups) evenly onto the graham crackers.
Scatter 1/3 of the bananas evenly over the whipped cream. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the nuts, and drizzle with about 1/4 cup of the peanut butter caramel sauce. Repeat the layers 2 more times. (Reheat the caramel as needed if it’s too thick to drizzle.)
Top with a final layer of crackers. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top, sprinkle with the remaining nuts, and drizzle on the remaining peanut butter caramel sauce.
Refrigerate uncovered until the crackers have softened completely, at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.
Storage: Leftover cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Reprinted with permission from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand; copyright © 2014. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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