This is, hands down, the best Banana Pudding that ever was and ever will be. So easy to put together, this oddly comforting American-style trifle achieves greatness with six simple ingredients. Creamy, fruity, light and satisfying, this is one of my very favorite and most requested desserts.
I first tried this dessert at the source of it’s creation, The Buttercup Bake Shop in NYC. Buttercup Bake Shop is most famous for their cupcakes, but it was the banana pudding that stole my heart. After I had secured their cookbook, the banana pudding recipe page became dog-earred and sticky from use. Now, after making this crowd pleaser over 30 times, I know the recipe by heart.
World’s Best Banana Pudding
Adapted from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup instant vanilla pudding powder (instant pudding in the box)
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 box Nilla wafers (or other vanilla wafer) [See Note]
- 5-6 large ripe bananas, thinly sliced
Note: Today I used Trader Joe’s Vanilla Wafers in place of Nilla Wafers. Although still yummy, I think I like the Nilla Wafers better. Perhaps because that’s what I’m used to.
The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to make the vanilla-pudding base for the dessert at least 4 hours before you want to assemble the dessert. I try to do it the day before so I don’t have to think too hard.
Using an electric mixer, combine the cold water, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla pudding powder. Mix until creamy and homogenous, about 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to assemble the pudding, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir a third of the whipped cream into the pudding base to lighten. Then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.
Using a trifle dish or other clear container, layer the dessert. Cookies, then sliced banana, then pudding, repeat. I usually make about 5 layers, but you may make more or less depending on the size of your container. To make it pretty, layer so that the outermost ring of the cookies and bananas presses right up against the side of the trifle dish so that you can see the layers in the completed dessert.
Crumble whatever leftover cookies you have on the top of the pudding. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
STORAGE: The longer the pudding sits, the softer the cookies become. The pudding will still be a little crunchy after three hours. The next day, the cookies resemble small pieces of cake. A whole different experience, but still delicious.
GENERAL VARIATION: Over the years, I’ve made this dessert a number of different ways. I’ve added layers of toasted nuts (pictured in the first photo), toffee, caramel or chocolate sauce. Those are all good, but I come back again and again to the basic recipe because its that good.
PEANUT BUTTER VARIATION: My favorite variation on this recipe is to substitute Nutter Butters in place of Nilla wafers. If you do this, You MUST let the pudding sit for at least 8 hours before you serve (longer is even better). The dessert is easier to eat after the waiting period (Nutter Butters are harder and thicker than Nilla wafers and therefore take longer to soften up) and the peanut butter flavor in the cookies is much more pronounced. Worth the wait.