When life hands you ripe bananas, make cheesecake

Have you ever had bananas in your kitchen that were so black and shriveled, you almost threw them out? It’s happened to me so many times. Day after day I I tell myself I will make a batch of banana muffins. And finally, the day arrives when I actually pick up the deflated bunch of almost unrecognizable fruit and head for the door, with intentions of taking them out to the woods for animals to enjoy. But, I just can’t do it.

So, this week, I squeezed the mushy fruit from its shriveled, dark skin and stirred it into a rich mix of cream cheese, sugar and eggs to make cheesecake.

I must back up a little bit at this point. Years ago, in 2005 actually, I copied a recipe for Hot Buttered Rum Cheesecakes with Rum-Caramel Sauce from that year’s December issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I ordered a bunch of tiny (4 1/2-inch) springform pans, ready to make the cheesecakes and give them as gifts. It never happened that year, or any year since that time. But, I still have the recipe. I vaguely remembered the recipe instructions for reducing some dark rum to stir into the cake batter. With the experience of tasting warm, rum-spiked bananas foster still clear in my mind — I made several flaming pans full of the dessert for a recent fundraising event for the Headwaters Science Center in Bemidji — I wondered if I could match the flavors of that dessert in a cheesecake.

In the directions, the recipe’s creator, Julia Usher, who was then the former chef/owner of a pastry shop in St. Louis, instructed to reduce some dark rum. I used dark rum when I made bananas foster, so decided this would be good flavor to add to my cheesecake. I’d tinker with an old cheesecake recipe from my recipe box.

It didn’t take long at all to make a crust of vanilla wafers and chopped toasted nuts. Once the batter was blended and fragrant with rum, bananas and vanilla, I just poured it right into the unbaked crust and carefully slid the full pan into the oven.

After the cheesecake had chilled overnight, I served it with the same caramel sauce I make for my autumn apple cake, but this time spiked it with dark rum.

When life hands you ripe bananas, make this cheesecake. It’s decadent. It tastes like bananas foster in a pureed form. And, it’s so easy to make.

Someday I’ll make Julia Usher’s little Hot Buttered-Rum Cheesecakes. I still have the 4 1/2-inch springform pans. She’s a cookbook author now. And one of my Facebook friends. How small the world has become in the last 4 1/2 years.

There is one thing that doesn’t change, though. Bananas still ripen on my kitchen counter.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake with Sweet Nut Crust and Rum-Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup raw whole almonds and macadamia nuts, toasted and divided
  • 1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring rum to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside to cool.

Chop 1/2 cup of the toasted nuts. Combine the chopped nuts with vanilla wafer crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Press mixture into a lightly buttered 9-inch springform pan. Set pan aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese at low speed until creamy and smooth. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add bananas and blend. Beat in whipping cream, vanilla and reduced rum. Blend well.

Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes. Top will appear slightly puffed. The cheesecake will be golden and set along the edges but will still move slightly in the middle when gently shaken. Carefully run a knife around edges of cake to loosen from pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.

Carefully remove sides of pan. Chop remaining 1/2 cup of toasted nuts. Serve each slice of Bananas Foster Cheesecake with Rum-Caramel Sauce and a sprinkling of nuts. Makes 12 servings.

Tip from the cook

  • Pecans would be a good choice for the crust as an alternative to almonds and macadamias.

Rum-Caramel Sauce

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and whisk in the rum. When the mixture stops bubbling, add cream and vanilla. Whisk to blend. Set aside and keep warm.
To make ahead, let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a glass bowl over barely simmering water.

6 thoughts on “When life hands you ripe bananas, make cheesecake

  1. Oh, good catch PJD. The bananas are a pretty important piece of the cake! Blend them in after the addition of the eggs. Enjoy!

  2. Although you can’t do this with the black bananas, you can nearly up to that point. If you own a dehydrator, you can make your own banana chips. Nothing more than cutting them up and putting them in. And they’re not greasy like the banana chips you buy in the store.

  3. What a great idea, Kris. I’ve never tried dehydrating fruit, but I often buy dried banana slices at the food co-op. I love them as a snack. You have me thinking about buying a dehydrator. Thanks for visiting and sharing your tip.

  4. At last count, I have approximately 30 ripe bananas in the freezer waiting for me to make something!! Thanks for this new recipe!

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