I live on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea and am literally flanked by bodegas. They’re where I go for newspapers, chit chat, the odd pack of cigarettes, a reminder of the guilty pleasure foods that I love, and a distinct hit of New York-ness. I chose the ingredients for this recipe as a way to showcase what makes bodegas, bodegas. The randomness of their inventory facilitates reunions between you and long-forgotten beloved snacks, like Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies, which are the greatest shortbreads of all time. Bodegas are also the keepers of cult foods, of which Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, the garnish on this cake, may be the finest example. The bananas are a hat-tip to the single item of produce that you’re likely to find at any bodega, whether it carries fresh food or not. Martha Stewart, the source of the excellent peanut butter cream used in this cake, calls for natural peanut butter, which goes against every unwritten bodega law. I swap in Skippy. —Gabriella Gershenson
1 9-inch cake
powdered sugar, sifted
whipping cream, chilled
smooth peanut butter, such as Skippy
7.25-ounce packs Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
bananas, sliced about the same thickness as the cookies
In the bowl of a stand mixer or, if using a handheld mixer, in a large mixing bowl, beat powdered sugar and 1 ½ cups of whipping cream until soft peaks form.
In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter until it's smooth. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream until it’s blended into the peanut butter and the mixture looks smooth and glossy, like a ganache.
Fold peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream until just incorporated. Chill the peanut butter cream for about 20 minutes if it seems a little loose.
Spread a thin layer of peanut butter cream on the bottom of 9 cookies. Arrange them on a serving dish, cream side down, so the cookies form a flat three-by-three layer. Top with a single layer of banana slices, then a cup of the peanut butter cream, spread to the edges. Top with nine more cookies, another layer of bananas, and another cup of cream, spread to the edges. Repeat these three layers twice more, ending with a top layer of cream. You should have used 36 cookies. Sprinkle with chopped Goldenberg’s Chews and a chess cookie, if you wish.
Refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. The layers should be soft enough to cut through with a sharp knife. Slice and serve.