Magnolia’s Banana Pudding

Last week I went to New York, and I could not help taking an abbreviated tour of the city’s most noted cupcakeries while I was there. Of course the iconic Magnolia Bakery topped my list, and I knew I had to try their cupcakes. With a line around the block, they’ve got to be good, right? Well I didn’t actually like the cupcakes that much. The frostings were super duper sweet and lacked much flavor, and the cakes kind of bland and on the dry side. I mean, they certainly weren’t the worst cupcakes I’ve eaten, but I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. In fact, my entire trip to Magnolia bakery might have felt like a waste, if not for one tiny Facebook comment from my friend Steve: “The cupcakes are really good but the banana pudding is insanity!” So, almost as an afterthought, I asked the guy who packed my cupcakes if he could add a banana pudding to my order.

I am having trouble finding the right way to describe it to you. The first word that comes to mind, “heaven,” does not actually do much in the way of letting you know what I’m talking about. The standout feature of this pudding is its texture. Fluffy? Frothy? Cloud-like? And it practically disappears in your mouth. Turns out, it’s actually vanilla pudding folded into whipped cream! It manages to be rich and light simultaneously, with just the right amount of bananas and soft cookies to keep things interesting. Really, the bottom line is that you need to eat this pudding. Which, unless you live near New York City, means thank God for the internet! Because a quick Google search led me right to the recipe, reprinted from one of the bakery’s cookbooks. And now I’ve made it at home (yes, a mere 4 days after I returned from New York) and can tell you that I am not the only one who thinks it is fabulous. My husband, my roommate, and my friend Toby (the only ones who have eaten it so far) all agree with me wholeheartedly, and I am sure more converts will follow.

A quick note: I was so anxious to share this recipe that I don’t even have any pictures to show you! Rest assured, the pudding not much to look at, but you should definitely make it anyway.

Magnolia’s Banana Pudding
from “More From Magnolia” by Allysa Torey
via The Recipe Link

I wanted to cut this recipe in half, as 4 quarts is a LOT of pudding to be consumed in the space of a day by a household of three, but it’s hard to work out half a can of condensed milk or half a box of pudding mix. However, I found that the initial pudding mixture will actually keep several days in the fridge, so I quartered the amounts of the remaining ingredients and have been making it up a little at a time (nobody likes black bananas in their pudding!). I’ll add the adjusted amounts below.

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (preferably Jell-O brand)
3 cups heavy cream
1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions!)
4 cups sliced ripe bananas (I estimated this as 4 large-ish bananas)

In a small bowl, combine the condensed milk and water. Mix with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until well-blended. Add the pudding mix and beat for 2 minutes, then cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to several days. (I imagine you could actually use a whisk instead of an electric mixer, but I haven’t actually tried it.)

To make the pudding all at once:
In a large bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold the pudding mixture gently into the whipped cream until the mixture looks even in color and any streaks of pudding are gone. Layer the mixture with Nilla wafers and thinly sliced bananas in a large, four-quart serving dish (or several smaller dishes). Refrigerate the finished pudding 4-8 hours, and serve.

To make the pudding in 2 smaller batches:
Whip 1 1/2 cups of cream as above, and fold in half the pudding mixture (I sliced the thickened pudding with a knife into quarters inside the bowl to divide it, then used a the rubber spatula to remove the portions as I needed them). Layer with 2 sliced bananas and half the box (6 ounces) of Nilla wafers, and refrigerate as directed above.

To make the pudding in 4 smaller batches:
Use 3/4 cup of cream, 1/4 of the pudding mixture, 1 banana, and 3 ounces of Nilla wafers.

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