Amy Drew Thompson | Orlando Sentinel
It wasn’t long after I dropped it off that my phone pinged with an incoming text.
“My God, Woman. This banana pudding.”
I was driving, so I couldn’t answer right away, but the reaction was natural. I smiled and thought, I know — right?
Back in December, I blew out the end of the year with an insanely decadent and equally easy recipe for peanut butter marshmallow squares.
“See you in 2023, sensible diet!” I wrote.
We’re well into April now. And following last week’s foray into barbecue, a medium where the phrase “sensible diet” registers as gibberish, I’d say it’s time to stick a fork in the last shred of our New Year’s resolutions. Or in this week’s case: a spoon. Because I am about to drop what has to be the world’s best banana pudding recipe — for which you need no cooking skills whatsoever — into your lap ahead of barbecue season.
Now, banana pudding is not rocket science, which makes it an ideal recipe pour moi. I’m no serious baker, but if I can pull off a ricotta cheesecake with plums, I can for-sure do up a pudding of which your Southern granny would approve. But not without someone else’s recipe. Which is where The Domestic Rebel Hayley Parker comes in.
I love her.
Her recipes are among my most “saved” for future exploration. And when you see the top-shelf food porn in her Instagram feed, you’ll know why. As for this one — the flaky, breakaway Nilla Wafer crumbs, swollen with dessert humidity, the sexy glimpse of slick banana, the creamy pudding, the airy whipped cream …? I swear I heard a funky bass line kick up just writing that. So, yeah. I had to make it.
And it seriously delivered on the name.
At its core, banana pudding is essentially a trifle, with fruit — sliced banana “coins” in this case — layered in among something cakey and something creamy. And although modern banana pudding is forever chained to Nilla Wafers, which do something magical when they get just a tad soggy amid these other ingredients, the earliest incarnations of this dessert included sponge cake, as do many trifles.
To be honest, the Nilla wafer metamorphosis into something cake-like was even better an extra day after I served it to family, which is when I delivered the balance to some co-workers at the office. Because I’m sweet that way. And to get the dang thing out of my fridge before I ate it all.
One of my co-workers felt similarly. When Jay Reddick, the Sentinel’s Viewpoints Editor and Combat Sports Reporter (he covers professional wrestling) asked if he should leave some in the fridge for a colleague who’d had some earlier, she balked.
“You know what?” she told him. “It’s too ooooh good! Heavenly! Take it home tonight! Please!!”
Yes, four Os. I didn’t make that up.
Reddick, a North Carolina native who knows his way around what he calls “nana puddin,” was similarly star struck. His was the aforementioned text that interrupted my drive home.
“I’m a vanilla wafers guy,” he explained. “And the proportion here was perfect. It didn’t distract from the creamy consistency, but there were plenty of them. Really, ratios on everything were just right. Not too whippy, just sweet enough.”
Enough to make me wish I could take credit. But I can’t. I just followed the instructions.
My Things To Do teammate Central Florida Explorer Patrick Connolly was, for once I’d gather, happy to be here in town instead of riding in a tank, off-road cycling or hot on the trail of invasive pythons in the black nighttime of the South Florida wilderness. A Nilla Wafer fan, as well, he reached out to his mom to get his childhood nostalgia facts straight.
“I don’t have a lot of banana pudding experience,” he began (Connolly hails from Pittsburgh, PA), but I love Nilla wafers … and was delighted to see them. [The pudding] had the right combination of fluffy cream and pudding. It’s the kind of thing you can eat midday or at a summer barbecue without feeling too heavy or sleepy.”
Moments later, he had even more Connolly-based input.
“Per my sweet mother,” he wrote, “’We did have [Nilla wafers] for snacking but I also made banana pudding with them, too … all layered nicely like a torte — so yummy!”
Nothing better than texts from mom. Though this pudding — seriously, you can’t mess it up! rivals even that. Make it.
THE VERY BEST BANANA PUDDING EVER
Courtesy of The Domestic Rebel
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
14 ounces (1 small can) sweetened condensed milk
5 ounces (1 large box) instant banana pudding mix (just the dry powder)
1 cup 2% or whole milk
11 ounces (1 box) Nilla Wafers
About 8 medium bananas, sliced. Make sure they’re barely ripe — too ripe/soft and they’ll brown faster
1. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract and, using whisk attachment, whip until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Remove whipped cream to a separate bowl and set aside.
3. To the wiped-out stand mixer bowl add cream cheese and, using the same whisk attachment, whip until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add in sweetened condensed milk and beat until smooth and no lumps of cream cheese remain, stopping to scrape bottom and sides of bowl as needed. Add in dry pudding mix and mix well, then slowly stream in milk. Mix until fully combined.
4. Add 2/3 of the whipped cream to pudding mixture and fold in gently until fully combined and no whipped cream streaks remain. Set aside.
5. In your prepared pan, place an even layer of Nilla wafers. Top with an even layer of sliced banana coins. Top this with half the pudding mixture and spread evenly. Repeat with another layer of Nilla wafers, followed by another layer of sliced banana coins, and the remaining pudding layer, spreading it evenly. Top with the remaining whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
6. Just before serving, crush remaining Nilla wafers and sprinkle over the top. Store leftovers covered in the fridge, maximum 2 days.
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