This is a dessert that everyone loves because it's just so American. I love this dessert because it's completely make-ahead and beyond tasty. It belongs anywhere: the Thanksgiving pie table, the holiday cookie party — it's a showstopper.
I love the taste of the homemade whipped cream here with not too much sugar. The dessert can get overly sweet, and this recipe rides that line with great balance. I have served this with an over-the-top addition of hot fudge on the side. You can add some toppings for added texture. You can lightly freeze and serve even colder.
Swap options: Sub the same amount of chocolate sauce for caramel sauce. Add crushed, toasted almonds or walnuts on the outside, if desired.
For the caramel sauce:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 tablespoons of water with the sugar. Gently swirl the pan to moisten any dry sugar. Leave the pan over medium heat, not stirring, until caramel color begins to develop in spots. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the caramel is a deep amber color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Immediately whisk in cream, vanilla and salt, and allow to cook for an additional 30 seconds. Refrigerate and cool completely until thickened, 3 to 4 hours.
For the whipped cream:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium low speed until it becomes fluffy, and you can see traces of the whisk in the cream. Beat in the sugar to blend.
For the filling:
Measure 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce and set aside in a small bowl. Pour remaining caramel sauce into the whipped cream and fold until no streaks remain. Cut bananas into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
Line the insides of a 2½-quart bowl with plastic wrap. Put one tablespoon of brown sugar into a little dish or bowl and measure out 1 cup of whole milk for dunking the wafers. Set both aside.2.
Line the inside of the bowl (plastic wrap) with the wafers. Continue placing moistened wafers in the bowl, up and around the sides, until you have an outer layer covering whole inside of the bowl.3.
Spoon one-third of the whipped cream into the center of the cookie pit. Top with a layer of bananas and sprinkle the bananas with a pinch of brown sugar. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow this layer to chill. Place another layer of wafers down, this time drizzling with a teaspoon of the reserved caramel sauce. Repeat the process twice more, layering more whipped cream, bananas and sugar. Finish by placing a layer of wafers along the top of the bowl (and bottom of the cake) for structure.4.
Fold plastic wrap over the bottom of the cake and chill in the refrigerator for at least six hours or up to overnight.5.
To unmold, peel plastic wrap away from the bottom of the cake and invert a serving plate directly over the bowl, just as you would when unmolding a cake. With one hand holding the bottom of the plate, lift the bowl with your other hand and flip the bowl over so the cake is right side up. Top with remaining banana slices and drizzle with remaining caramel sauce.