I lived in New York City right when the cupcake craze began. The time where Magnolia Bakery was the queen of all cupcakes and people stood in lines that wrapped around the block in order to get their hands on a cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, Magnolia cupcakes are delicious (especially that frosting) but I was standing in that loooong line just to get their banana pudding. Layers of creamy vanilla pudding mixed with bananas and Nila wafers - it is close to being the perfect dessert. Since I live a long way from Magnolia bakery these days and only get to NY a couple times of year, I have developed my own recipe for this nostalgic dessert that (dare I say) might just be better than the real thing.
The key to this banana pudding is the Nila wafers. Don’t get imitation vanilla wafers, make sure to get the Nabisco Nila Wafers. I tried it once with the Whole Foods 365 brand of vanilla wafers and it was a little off. There is something in the original Nila wafers that screams banana pudding. The smell, the texture and the taste of those vanilla wafers are what makes this dessert. This is also one of the few desserts that actually get better as it sits. The wafers get all soggy and infused with the banana and pudding flavors. Delicious. I could eat it straight out of the bowl in heaping spoonfuls.
The below recipe calls for making your own pudding from scratch. But if that is not your jam, then feel free to buy instant pudding and use that instead. One box should be all you need.
Banana Wafer Pudding
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- Approximately ½ box Nila Wafers
- 2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
- ½ cup salted caramel (optional)
In a medium saucepan, add the milk. Place the vanilla bean on a work surface. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the bean in half lengthwise. Using the knife tip, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, then add the seeds and bean halves to the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and discard vanilla bean.
In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in ½ cup warm milk mixture into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining warm milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens and becomes a pudding texture, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pudding back to the bowl and whisk in butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until pudding is cool.
Assemble the dish. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in ¾ of whipped cream into pudding. Set aside remaining whipped cream.
In a large bowl or trifle dish, assemble the banana pudding by adding a layer of Nila wafers, followed by ¼ of pudding mixture. Top pudding mixture with a layer of banana slices and a drizzle of salted caramel (if using). Repeat layers 3 more times. Top dish with one layer of Nila wafers, remaining whipped cream and garnish with crushed Nila wafers.