This Bananas Foster Cheesecake with its Oatmeal Cookie Crust is a “what’s up!” to NOLA. A banana cheesecake batter in a buttery oatmeal crust gets the Big Easy treatment after baking. A dark rum, brown sugar caramel covers the cake before a whipped cream garnish seals the deal. I’m pretty sure the National Cheesecake Awards Committee will call shortly to notify me that I’m the 2021 winner. Also pretty sure such a committee doesn’t exist, but they’ll form one after this gets out.
What is Bananas Foster?
For my kiddos’ 10th birthday, we took them to New Orleans, Louisiana. Their birthday dinner was at Brennan’s, which is a NOLA institution. Because you’re at Brennan’s, it’s a given that you will have the bananas foster for dessert.
Bananas Foster was born in New Orleans. Some say Brennan’s was the first restaurant to serve it, but that’s been contested. These days, however, Brennan’s is the restaurant known world-wide for the dessert. According to our waiter at Brennan’s, Ella and Owen Brennan- and their chef Paul Blangé- thought up a recipe that featured the newly arrived fruit of the Caribbean: the banana. They came up with this dessert and gave it the name Bananas Foster in honor of the New Orleans Crime Commission Chairman, Richard Foster. I guess they figured if they brown-nosed the commissioner, they’d be looked out for.
The dish is stupidly simple. A caramel made from brown sugar and butter is boiled down to dissolve the sugar. Bananas get thrown in and simmered momentarily to heighten their flavor. Dark rum and banana liqueur are poured into the caramel and set aflame. This act of flambeing the sauce is the restaurant’s “parlor trick,” if you will. Finally, the sauce is poured over scoops of vanilla ice cream and served to diners at $10 a pop. You’re paying for the restaurant’s insurance premium, basically.
How do I make the Oatmeal Cookie Crust?
I wanted a unique crust for this cheesecake, so I veered away from the traditional graham cracker and went with an oatmeal crust. The key to making a successful crust, though, is always starting with a crisp cookie or cracker. Because softer cookies absorb the butter more, they cause your crust to be soggy and greasy. Instead, I prefer a crunchy cookie, like Mother’s Oatmeal Cookies.
Pulse the cookies in your food processor or blender until you have a fine crumb. You also need unsalted butter that’s been melted.
Do I have to use oatmeal cookies for the crust?
You don’t have to use oatmeal cookies to make the crust for this cheesecake, no. Regular graham crackers- the same amount- are fine to use here. Vanilla wafers, chocolate animal crackers, and zwieback cookies are also great swaps for the oatmeal cookies.
The most important thing is to make sure the cookies or crackers you replace the oatmeal cookies with are crisp.
How long do I bake the crust of a cheesecake?
After deciding which cookies to use for the crust, combine the crumbs and the butter until they hold together.
Grab a handful of the crust and squeeze your hand into a fist. If the crust holds together firmly, you’re ready to fill your 9-inch cheesecake pan with it. If, on the other hand, the crust immediately falls apart after you release your fist, you need to add more butter. On the contrary, if butter oozes from between your fingers when you squeeze, dry it out by adding more of the oatmeal cookie crumbs (a tablespoon at a time).
Use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust into the cheesecake (springform) pan. Once the crust is formed, bake it for 10 minutes in a 350°F (177°C) oven.
After baking the crust for 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool. Keep the oven on. You’ll need it for the cheesecake.
Once the pan is cool enough to handle, wrap the bottom and side in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Set the crust aside while you prepare the cheesecake batter.
What do I need to make the Banana Cheesecake?
As with most baking recipes, the cream cheese and eggs need to be at room temperature for the best results. If you don’t have dark rum or banana liqueur, you can replace them with rum extract and banana extract. You can also leave them out altogether, but you will need them for the sauce later.
How ripe do my bananas for the cheesecake have to be?
The bananas for this recipe should look like the bananas in the previous image. If they’re darker- meaning more mottled with black spots or even black- that’s absolutely fine. The darker the bananas are, the more banana flavor your cheesecake will have.
Begin the cheesecake batter by blending together the cream cheese, brown sugar, nutmeg, and salt on low speed, using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Once the mixture is free of lumps, begin adding the eggs, one a time, to the bowl. Blend the batter until the egg is incorporated, then add the next egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping down both the bowl and beaters in this manner. When you add the final egg, add the vanilla, dark rum, and banana liqueur along with it.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl again.
Next, add the ripe, mashed bananas to the batter. Blend the banana into the batter at low speed, then add the cornstarch.
Once again, blend the mixture at low speed until the cornstarch is blended in. Don’t overmix the batter after adding the cornstarch, or it may bake up gummy.
How long do I bake the cheesecake?
Pour the banana cheesecake batter into the cool oatmeal cookie crust.
Set the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan into a pan that has a larger circumference. Level the batter in the pan to make sure the surface is even.
Pour boiling water into the outer pan and carefully slide the whole set up into your preheated oven.
Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
After the baking time has elapsed, turn the oven off and prop open its door. Gradually cool the cheesecake in the oven to avoid a crack from forming on its surface.
After an hour of cooling in the oven:
- Remove the cheesecake set-up from the oven.
- Remove the cheesecake pan from the water-filled outer pan.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for a half-hour.
- Once the cheesecake reaches room temp, cover it and refrigerate it for 4 hours-24 hours before slicing it.
This drawn-out process of cooling the cheesecake may seem unnecessary, but I assure you it isn’t. It’s the foolproof way to achieve a perfect (yes, PERFECT) cheesecake every time you bake.
How do I make the sauce for this Bananas Foster Cheesecake?
I kind of wonder if it is the booze that earned this dessert its name. Do you think Richard Foster was a guy who liked to get sauced? I’m not one for starting rumors, but I did always wonder about that.
Me being messy aside, to make the rum caramel sauce that tops the cheesecake, you’ll need banana liqueur, heavy cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, salted (or unsalted) butter, and dark rum. If you don’t have salted butter, replace it with unsalted butter and add a pinch of kosher salt when you add the sugar to the pan.
Before you begin, make sure anything flammable- kitchen towels, pot holders, cabinetry, your hair or your clothes- is out of range from the pan. We’re going to light the liquor on fire later, and I want you to be safe. I also can’t be held responsible for a lack of safety.
Add the butter to a sauté pan and melt it over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, whisk in the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Continue slowly cooking the brown sugar, stirring every 30 seconds or so to encourage it to dissolve.
Tips for creating the Bananas Foster Sauce
One thing about making this sauce is that it looks ugly the majority of the time you’re making it. It will go from looking like a gritty paste to curdled within 2 minutes. Keep cooking and stirring, though.
After 3 or 4 minutes of cooking over medium-low, the sugar will begin to dissolve and mix with the butter.
We’re cooking it over a lower temperature because we don’t want to brown the butter more than necessary.
Once the sugar dissolves and begins to mix with the butter, add the liquors to the pan. Heat the alcohol for 20 seconds. This will help evaporate some of the alcohol, which reduces the flare-up when we set it ablaze
What’s the safest way to flambé?
Check your surroundings. Ensure there’s no cloth (especially your clothes), hair, or flammable materials within 5 feet of the pan. If you can- and feel safe doing so- move the pan from under any wood cabinets if they’re less than 5 feet away.
Turn off the stove and use a long-handled lighter- fireplace lighters are great for this- or a long match to light the alcohol in the pan. Remember to keep your arms and face away from the pan as you light the alcohol!
Allow the liquor to ignite and burn out on its own. Don’t stir it as the flame can burn you. Pay attention to the pan. If you see what looks like a mirage, that may be a blue flame, which is harder to see than an orange or red flame.
Do I have to flambé the Bananas Foster sauce?
If you’re not comfortable lighting the alcohol in the pan, you certainly don’t have to. You will have to simmer the sauce for 10 minutes to cook off as much of that alcohol as possible, though. Keep the flame low to avoid burning the sauce.
But, if you did flambé it, once the flame dies out, whisk the caramel again. The sauce should be a beautiful brown color at this point.
With the heat still off, whisk in the room temperature heavy cream.
Can I make the caramel rum sauce ahead?
Because I like my caramel rum sauce on the thick side, I actually prefer to make it a day ahead. After I make it, I transfer it to a glass jar and store it in the fridge. When I’m ready to cover my cheesecake, I warm it for 30 seconds in the microwave to thin it before pouring it over the top of my banana cheesecake. So, all of that was to say, “Yes, you can make it ahead.”
But, it’s best on this banana cheesecake. Allow it to cool for an hour, then spoon it onto the surface of your chilled, de-panned cheesecake.
How do I garnish the Bananas Foster Cheesecake?
Since this recipe is a riff on the dessert, I like to mimic the original by piping a garland of vanilla whipped cream (you can use the recipe in this post) onto the cheesecake’s edge.
Use a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip to pipe a border on the edge of the caramel-sauced cheesecake.
Arrange dried banana slices and chopped walnuts on the whipped cream border to complete the decoration.
Tell me that’s not the most gorgeous dessert this side of Bourbon St!
How do I serve the Bananas Foster Cheesecake?
Between the caramel rum sauce and the garnishes, you don’t need any additional toppings for this Bananas Foster Cheesecake.
Serving this cheesecake with chicory coffee is always a hit with my family and friends. Regular coffee is a great option, too. The kiddos say milk is the only suitable beverage, but they’re kids, so what do they know?
What’s the best way to store this cheesecake?
It is essential to keep cheesecakes chilled until you’re ready to enjoy, though.
Depending on how fluid the caramel sauce was when you drizzled it onto the cheesecake, it may drip in the cool air. I guard against spills by setting my cheesecake on a larger platter.
If you have cut into the cheesecake and removed slices, press a piece of wax paper or parchment paper up against the cheesecake’s exposed sides. This keeps it from drying out and becoming gunky in the chilled air.
The cheesecake will keep, in the fridge, for 3 days after cutting. Four days after baking.
Can I freeze my Bananas Foster Cheesecake?
If you plan to freeze this Bananas Foster Cheesecake, do so before topping it with the rum caramel and decorating it.
De-pan it as usual and wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic film. Store it in the freezer for 2 months. Thaw it completely in the refrigerator before topping with the caramel and whipped cream garnishes.
If you’re looking for a Mardi Gras dessert with which to indulge before Lent, this is your champion. I’m the champion, too…I just need that committee to be formed and find me.
In the meantime, pin this recipe to your Mardi Gras or favorite desserts board, then share it with your crew.
Bananas Foster Cheesecake with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
- 9-inch springform (cheesecake) pan
- long handled lighter or match
Oatmeal Cookie Crust
- 2 cups (355 grams or 27 oatmeal cookies (or graham crackers)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar optional
- 1/2 cups (113 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 4 8-ounce packages (904 grams) cream cheese room temperature
- 1 cup (205 grams) light brown sugar lightly packed
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tablespoon dark rum (or rum extract)
- 1 tablespoon banana liqueur (or banana extract)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups (350 grams or 3 large) bananas very ripe, peeled and mashed
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) cornstarch
Caramel Rum Sauce
- 4 tablespoons (57 grams) salted butter (or unsalted butter and a pinch of kosher salt)
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons dark rum
- 2 tablespoons banana liqueur
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream room temperature
- whipped cream recipe linked in post
- chopped walnuts
- dehydrated banana slices
Prepare the Oatmeal Cookie Crust
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).In a mixing bowl, use a rubber spatula or your hand to combine the oatmeal cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until they hold together.
- Grab a handful of the crust and squeeze your hand into a fist. If the crust holds together firmly, transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan. If, on the other hand, the crust immediately falls apart after you release your fist, add more butter until it reaches the proper consistency. On the contrary, if butter oozes from between your fingers when you squeeze, dry out the mixture by adding more of the oatmeal cookie crumbs (a tablespoon at a time).
- Use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust into the bottom of cheesecake pan creating a 1/4-inch side border as you form the crust. Once the crust is formed, bake it for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
- After the crust is baked, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool. Keep the oven on for baking the cheesecake.
- Once the pan is cool enough to handle, wrap the bottom and side in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Set the crust aside while you prepare the cheesecake batter.
Make the Banana Cheesecake
- Once the mixture is free of lumps, add the eggs, one a time, to the bowl. Blend the batter until each egg is incorporated before adding the next egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping down both the bowl and beaters in this manner.
- Add the vanilla, dark rum, and banana liqueur with the final egg. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl again. Add the mashed bananas to the batter. Blend the banana into the batter at low speed, before adding the cornstarch. Blend the mixture at low speed just until the cornstarch is blended in. Don't over-mix the batter after adding the cornstarch, or it will result in a gummy texture.
Bake, then Gradually Cool the Banana Cheesecake
- Pour the banana cheesecake batter into the cooled oatmeal cookie crust. Level the batter in the pan to make sure the surface is even. Set the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan into a pan that has a larger circumference. Pour boiling water into the outer pan and carefully slide the whole set up into your preheated oven. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
- After the bake time has elapsed, turn the oven off and prop open the door. Gradually cool the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour.
- After an hour of cooling in the oven, remove the cheesecake from the oven. Remove the cheesecake pan from the water-filled pan, then remove the aluminum foil from the cheesecake pan.Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for a half-hour. Once the cheesecake reaches room temp, cover it and refrigerate it for 4 hours-24 hours before slicing it.
Prepare the Caramel Rum Sauce
- Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, whisk in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Slowly cook the brown sugar, stirring every 30 seconds or so to encourage it to dissolve. It will go from looking like a gritty paste to curdled within 2 minutes.
- After 3-4 minutes of cooking over medium-low, the sugar will begin to dissolve and mix with the butter.Once the sugar dissolves- it will look like thick gravy- and begins to mix with the butter, add the dark rum and banana liqueur to the pan. Heat the alcohol for 20 seconds.
- Turn off the stove and use a long-handled lighter or match to light the alcohol in the pan. Remember to keep, anything flammable (hair, clothing, cabinetry, your arms and face) away from the pan as you light the alcohol!Without stirring or tilting the pan, allow the liquor to ignite and burn out on its own. Once the flame dies out, whisk the caramel again. The sauce should be a beautiful brown color at this point.
- With the heat still off, whisk in the room temperature heavy cream. Allow the sauce to cool for one hour for a thinner sauce or refrigerate it overnight for a very thick caramel sauce.
Garnish and Enjoy the Bananas Foster Cheesecake
- Remove the collar of the springform pan and smooth the sides of the chilled cheesecake. Spoon the caramel rum sauce onto the surface of the cheesecake.
- Use a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip to pipe a border of vanilla whipped cream onto the cheesecake's edgeArrange dried banana slices and chopped walnuts on the whipped cream border to complete the decoration.
- Slice and enjoy within 3 days. Refrigerate leftover cheesecake.
Oatmeal Cookie Crust Swaps:Instead of oatmeal cookies use:
- Graham crackers
- Vanilla wafers
- Chocolate animal crackers
- Zwieback cookies
Safety Tips to Observe when Flambeing (I am not responsible for any damage or injuries as a result of failing to follow these instructions):
- If you're not comfortable lighting the alcohol in the pan, you cook off the alcohol, instead. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes after adding the alcohol to cook off as much of the alcohol as possible. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the sauce.
- Check your surroundings. Ensure there's no cloth (especially your clothes), hair, cabinetry or flammable materials within 5 feet of the pan.
- Make sure you have a fire extinguisher or flour close at hand to douse any unintentional flare-ups.
- Use a long-handled light or match to light your alcohol.
- Move the pan from under any wood cabinets if they're less than 5 feet away before lighting the alcohol.
- Pay close attention to any invisible flame in the pan. It will appear as a blue flame, mirage or "air waves".
Make Ahead Caramel Instructions (up to 1 week ahead):
- Make the caramel as instructed.
- Transfer the sauce to a glass jar and store it in the fridge.
- When you're ready to cover the cheesecake, warm it for 30 seconds in the microwave to thin it.
- Pour the caramel over the top of the banana cheesecake as desired.
- You can also double this caramel rum sauce recipe and use it as a topping for frozen custard or poundcake or a dipping sauce for churros or fresh fruit.
- Keep the cheesecake chilled until you're ready to serve it.
- Press a piece of wax paper or parchment paper against the cheesecake's exposed sides to keep it from drying out in the chilled air.
- The cheesecake will keep, in the fridge, for 3 days after cutting or 4 days after baking.
- Freeze the Bananas Foster Cheesecake prior to topping it with the caramel rum sauce and decorating it.
- Remove the collar of the springform pan and wrap the cheesecake in two layers of plastic film. Follow the plastic with a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Store the cheesecake in the freezer for 2 months.
- Thaw it completely in the refrigerator before topping with the caramel, whipped cream, and your desired garnishes.