Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coffeehouse Banana Split: my grown-up take on a kiddie classic with Magic Shell Chocolate by Cleo Coyle

The ice cream shop banana split is a classic childhood favorite. (Okay, so it's an adult favorite, too.) Typically, the banana is split lengthwise and served in a long dish with three ice cream scoops topped with chocolate and strawberry sauces, whipped cream, and chopped nuts.

The history of this dish dates back to 1904 Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist (who enjoyed inventing ice cream treats at the pharmacy soda fountain) first came up with the banana-based, triple scoop sundae. 

While in my youth I had no problem polishing off a banana split, these days that three-scoop boat is way too large for me to sink in one sitting. And after a full meal? In the vernacular of my Queens' neighborhood...Fuhgeddaboudit!

On the other hand, a taste of that heavenly combination would be a pleasant finale to any meal. If you think so, too, then voila!

Below you'll find my "Coffeehouse" version of this American classic. Basically, it's a fast, fun way of fancying up the kiddie sundae for the adult table. There's a nice "wow" factor in the look of it, too. If you make it, I sincerely hope you will...

Eat with (summer) joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle's
Banana Split 

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

My adult take on this childhood favorite starts with--

* A splash of Kahlúa at the bottom of an espresso cup. If you're not a fan of coffee liqueur, then try Baileys Irish Cream or a chocolate liqueur. If you'd rather not use alcohol, then simply omit it.

* Next comes a modest little scoop of gelato (or ice cream). In my photos, you see vanilla bean gelato. 

* Finally comes a whole strawberry and piece of banana, skewered by a Popsicle stick and covered in chocolate and nuts. The key to the recipe is using magic shell chocolate. I prefer to make my own, and I'm happy to show you how in the recipe following this one. In the meantime here are the...

Ingredients for
Chocolate-Dipped Fruit Skewers...

13 ripe strawberries (try to select uniform sizes close to 1-inch)

3 medium bananas (ripe but still firm)

1 cup magic shell chocolate (recipe follows this one)

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or peanuts, your choice)

13 wooden Popsicle sticks


Step 1 - Prep and chill fruit: Remove green stems and hull the strawberries. For tips on hulling, click here to download another strawberry recipe of mine. Cut bananas into 1-inch pieces with flat ends. Do not use pointy banana tips. Place these fruit pieces in the freezer for 30 minutes (but no more than an hour). This will help prevent the fruit pieces from splitting in the next step.

Step 2 - Make your fruit skewers: With a paring knife, cut a shallow slit on the bottom (pointy) end of a chilled strawberry. With a firm grip on the berry, gently push the end of one Popsicle stick through it. Keep pushing until you see the stick protruding out the top end of the berry. Gently spear that end downward, into (but not completely through) a piece of banana. The little fruit skewer should now be able to stand upright on your plate (as in my photos). 

Troubleshooting tip: If you can't get it to stand up, you probably have too much of the Popsicle stick pushing through the banana. Adjust the fruit along the stick so the flat of the banana is on the plate and not the end of the Popsicle stick.

Step 3 - Re-chill: Once all the fruit skewers are finished, return them to the freezer for another 15 - 20  minutes to chill them up again. For instructions on making magic chocolate, go to the end of this recipe.

Step 4 - Prep plate: Cover a plate with plastic or aluminum foil. (If you don't, the chocolate may stick to the plate.)

Step 5 - Dip, sprinkle, and chill: Gently dip the fruit skewers into the warm magic chocolate. As you pull it out, allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and stand it on the foil- or plastic-covered plate. 
When all of the skewers are finished, place them in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes to set. 

STORE: You can keep the finished skewers in the fridge for many hours before dinner or even the day before. Or you can wrap them gently in plastic or foil and keep in the freezer for two to three weeks.


Although many versions of this basic recipe are posted all over the Internet, the original source appears to be award-winning Chef Thomas Keller, who allowed The New York Times to reprint his recipe.

The secret is the extra virgin, cold pressed coconut oil, which liquefies around a modest 76 degrees F. yet firms up fast when taken below that temperature. That's why you'll see a chocolate shell form quickly if you drizzle it over scoops of ice cream. 

Likewise, for my "Coffeehouse" Banana Split recipe, once the fruit is chilled and dipped, you can place it in the fridge and watch a shell form very quickly.

Makes 1 cup


14 ounces (2-1/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons) chocolate chips*

1/4 cup extra virgin, cold pressed coconut oil**

*Chocolate chips can be milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or dark (bittersweet). In my photos, you see milk chocolate chips.

**Coconut oil is a very healthy oil IF you purchase the right kind--extra virgin, cold pressed. For a fast tutorial on what kind of coconut oil to purchase (and which I use and why), see my past recipe post, here.

Directions:  In a microwave-safe container, stir together chocolate chips and coconut oil. Microwave for 15 to 20 seconds then stop and stir the chips. Chocolate burns very easily so be sure to heat the mixture in short intervals. Return the container to the microwave for another 15 to 20 seconds. Stir again until chocolate is melted and smooth. 

This mixture is now ready to use in the above recipe or you can drizzle it over very cold ice cream and the "magic" shell will quickly form. The chocolate should stay in its liquid form unless chilled. If the mixture begins to solidify, return it to the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds and stir until melted and smooth once again.

Eat with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

2 Week
Countdown to...

A Brew to a Kill

Last year's hardcover
bestseller, releasing
in its paperback 

To learn more,
click here. 

"A foodie's delight...
And a satisfyingly
rich mystery."

~ Kirkus Reviews

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.


  1. Oh Cleo, those are gorgeous! that would definitely wow the dinner guests. thanks for sharing!

  2. These would make the perfect "little bit" of dessert; especially after backyard picnic! I may try a bit of pineapple as I'm not a banana fan but trust me Mr. Nanc would ask for extra banana!!

    Thankks for thinking of our waistlines and our need of a sweet treat.

    1. Thanks, Nanc, and I agree, a pineapple slice would work well in this mix. It might be harder to skewer with a Popsicle stick so I'd switch to a wooden skewer. That should do the trick.

      Always a pleasure to see you in the Kitchen, Nanc, have a great week...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Oh boy, Cleo! I thought I'd pass out from excitement reading this lovely and elegant recipe. I'm glad to know how to make the magic shell chocolate too.

    Thank you!

    1. MJ, we can't have you passing out on us. I'll send over some smelling sea salts (gourmet, of course)! :-)

      Thx for dropping in today. Have a delicious week...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Oh, wow, Cleo! These are gorgeous and so much fun!!!! Love a recipe for a magic chocolate shell. Thanks! 2 weeks to countdown for you. Very excited.

    Daryl aka Avery

    1. Daryl/Avery - You're so sweet, and they are a lot of fun to make. (Marc even asked to help!) There's just something about dipping things in chocolate that's incredibly satisfying--and there's the all-important taste test. (And, yes, Marc is always ready to volunteer for that, too. :))

      Thanks again and have a wonderful week...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. Oh my goodness, Cleo! Another brilliant, knock-em-dead idea, and I can't wait to spring this on my next batch of guests. Perfect summer dessert.

      2 weeks.... 330 hours.. okay, I admit it, I'm waiting very impatiently!


    3. Thanks, Laine, you are so sweet! I hope you enjoy the recipe and continue to enjoy your summer...

      (Bless your heart for counting down with me on the release of A BREW TO A KILL in mass market paperback. It's a "soft" release, of course, since last year was the big hardcover debut of the book, but it's exciting to have a new book in stores. Take care...)

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing. I just figured out what I will be making for my lunch with company next week ;)

    1. BusyMom/Shawn - That's wonderful to hear! I hope you have as much fun dipping the chocolate as we did. My final tips: Be gentle as you dip the fruit skewers, and make sure to allow the excess chocolate to drip off before setting them back on the plate. Also,the fruit skewers are delicious chilled in the fridge. If you place them in the freezer, don't keep them in there long. Once frozen solid, strawberries are not easy to bite into so it's really best to eat the fruit skewers within a day or two after making them (and store them in the fridge rather than the freezer if you can). I think that does it! Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen, Shawn. Have a delicious week...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Love the take on a traditional sundae, I will definitely be trying this one!

    1. Thanks, Karen, I hope you find it as tasty as Marc and I do. May you eat with (summer) joy...

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Bet that would be good with creme de menthe instead of the coffee liquour.

    1. I see we have a mint lover in the house! True, not all of us are fans of mint, but if you are, go for it. (I'd switch the ice cream to chocolate in that case.) Some other possibilities for flavored liqueurs (that would also nicely complement the banana split theme), would be: cherry liqueur, banana liqueur, or chocolate liqueur.

      On the other hand, for folks who enjoy after-dinner coffee (like me), serving this dessert in an espresso cup with coffee liqueur at the bottom makes a nice surprise when your spoon sinks down.

      I'll tell you another secret--serving it in an espresso cup packages this dessert very shrewdly. In other words, the amount of ice cream or gelato in this dish is admittedly small (which is good for our health), but it's hard to notice when it completely fills the little demitasse (a sort of coffeehouse version of Weight Watchers' "use a smaller plate" idea).

      Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen. May you have fun with the recipe and...eat with (summer) joy!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter