Nothing Says "I Love You" like ...

... Banana Split Ice Cream Cake :)

My children and I made this special treat last year for our family's Valentine's Day Celebration. It was such a hit that I thought I should share it here!

Inspired by a late-afternoon Paula Deen show that was playing in the background after the kids' pre-dinner video ended, this is elegant, delicious, and unbelievably easy to pull off. It would make a wonderful birthday cake! I never looked up the actual recipe, so this may vary slightly from that offered by the show -- and I'm sure you could vary the ingredients according to your own taste, using your favorite sundae as the inspiration. Here's how we did it, using a 9" square glass baking dish:

* Butter-flavor spray, to lightly grease the baking dish (optional, but it helps)

* 16 plain vanilla ice cream sandwiches (or so, depending on the size -- ours were about 1-1/2" x 5")

* Toffee bits (found next to the chocolate chips in the grocery store)

* 4-6 ripe-for-eating bananas, peeled and sliced

* 1 (10-oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

* 1/2 jar (about) hot fudge sauce

* 1/2 jar (about) butterscotch sauce

* 1 (8 oz) tub frozen whipped topping, defrosted

This is probably the most kid-friendly dish you'll ever prepare! Set the children to work peeling the paper off the ice cream sandwiches and slicing the bananas while you chop up the maraschino cherries. Then get ready to assemble!

Line the baking dish with half of ice cream sandwiches, cutting the last one or two in half to fit snugly into the pan. (Eager children will happily consume any cuttings that don't quite fit.)

Over this, layer the sliced bananas and the maraschino cherries; top with hot fudge sauce (preheating a bit in the microwave -- lid off, of course -- will help with pouring); eyeball the amount.

Sprinkle on a layer of toffee bits -- again, eyeball it. Be sure you reserve enough to decorate the top of the cake -- and for the kids to sample!

Over this, place the remaining ice cream sandwiches, layering as before. The top of the dish may be slightly wider than the bottom, so it may take an extra ice cream sandwich or so. I also laid this layer crosswise to the bottom layer, to ensure it wouldn't fall apart along sandwich lines when serving (though it does seem to come together very well upon freezing).

Pour butterscotch sauce atop this, then spread with whipped topping. Sprinkle the top with a few reserved toffee bits.

Place in the freezer for several hours or overnight.

Note: This dish is VERY heavy, and may be pretty drippy at this point! I put some parchment under it in the freezer to catch any spills. If you have the freezer space, it'd probably be a good idea to set the cake on a baking sheet.

To serve: Before cutting, run a warm, wet washcloth along the outside of the dish to help slightly loosen it from the pan (this also cleans up any sticky mess that may have occurred!) Using a sharp cake server or knife, cut into 16 equal squares. (Dipping the server or knife into a bowl of hot water between cuts helps!). Serve immediately. Store leftovers in the freezer, lightly covered, for a week or so (if it lasts that long!) :)

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