Banana cream pie in a cup solves some vexing pie problems. Once you eliminate the tricky part, traditional pie crust – mimicking a cookie crumb crust instead – all you have to make is a simple vanilla pudding and layer it with bananas. Basic ingredients, easy prep, guaranteed to look cute (which my whole pies never are).
And if you’ve ever had a pie-transporting disaster – I’ve had several, and not just with my own pies – you’ll realize how much smarter it is to move pie tucked in jars than to have gooey filling sloshing around in a delicate crust.
This recipe was a surprise find from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook by my friend Erin Wade and her partner Allison Arevalo, who own the mac and cheese restaurant Homeroom in Oakland. Homeroom’s sweets – peanut butter pie, homemade oreos, carrot cake – are as popular as the main attraction, and it comes as no surprise that a duo that has made their living on mac and cheese can be counted on for comfort desserts.
In the book, Erin and Allison tell the story of when Erin’s sister Alexis visited Homeroom and planned to make banana cream pie as a special dessert that night. She messed up the crust and ended up improvising banana cream pie in mason jars. It was such a hit that Erin and Allison created a version for their regular menu. Such a great story – and it makes me feel better about my own many pie disasters.
I took the kids to visit Erin at Homeroom recently when they had a short day at school. Erin, Allison and their husbands worked hard on the decor at Homeroom, fashioning tables from old wooden bleachers and tracking down a card catalog cabinet to hold customer loyalty cards.
One wall features a giant chalkboard.
My sons were all over the trailer mac, which has hot dog slices in the mac and cheese and crumbled potato chips on top.
The girls and I stuck with the classic: creamy, cheesy, and topped with breadcrumbs. We agreed it was the best mac and cheese ever.
You know the desserts have to be good if anyone can eat more after this.
Back to the banana cream pie, which from a cooking standpoint is really vanilla pudding dressed up. Milk, egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar (and vanilla, which I forgot to show). Easy.
Heat up more milk. I’m not showing this on the stovetop because our electricity was out. But fortunately my mom has a gas stovetop. And a lighter.
Add the milk-egg-yolk-cornstarch mixture.
Cook until it gets thick. This only takes a few minutes.
When the pudding thickens, your stirring implement – I can’t find my whisk in our moving mess, so I’m using a fork – will leave track marks as you stir, and it will bubble up like lava when you don’t (be careful of your hands!). Now you can remove it from the heat and pour it in a bowl to cool.
Here’s my very dark stovetop, which thanks to the magic of software I was able to lighten up for you.
The pudding should be thick enough to stick to the whisk/fork. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Now we dress it all up with bananas and cookies. Homeroom uses the classic vanilla wafers. I used a few digestive biscuits, because that’s what I had around. Graham crackers would also be great, or Nabisco’s Famous chocolate wafers, which are Oreos without the filling. (The price on the chocolate wafers at Amazon is way high, I’m just including the link so you know what to look for at the supermarket.)
Homeroom layers in the vanilla wafers whole, but not all cookies are as small and absorbent. I crumbled up my digestive biscuits to be safe, also because I didn’t have hours (or a working refrigerator) to let everything absorb.
Layer cookies, bananas and pudding.
Top with bananas and cookie crumbles just before serving, to keep everything looking fresh.
The dessert-in-mason-jar thing may be precious, and normally I prefer to determine the size of my own serving. But I have to admit that aside from being photogenic, banana cream pie in a jar is positively practical.
Thanks to Erin and Allison (and Alexis!) for this pie-for-dummies recipe. We love it as much as we love your mac and cheese.
For my Bay Area friends, if you want to get your banana cream pie from the source (with a starter of mac and cheese goodness), head to
400 40th St, Oakland, CA 94609
And for my friends in central Ohio, Just Pies (in Worthington, Westerville or Gahanna) has an out of this world banana cream pie, which comes in small, medium and large sizes. When my friend Edie stayed with us, she loved the banana cream pie so much she oh-so-innocently directed every other pie-seeker thereafter to the other pie we bought (a mixed berry with pecan streusel). It is dang good, and their crusts are amazing.
Banana Cream Pie (In a Cup)
This pie-for-dummies recipe makes banana cream pie easy, simple (no crust) and portable. Homey and comforting, this casual take on a classic is really vanilla pudding dressed up dressed up with bananas and vanilla wafers. Adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from HOMEROOM, America’s Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant.
- 6 cups whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 large bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 18 to 24 vanilla wafers
- To make the pudding: In a bowl whisk together 1 cup of milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining 5 cups of milk over medium heat.
- When the milk begins to simmer, add the milk-yolk-cornstarch mixture and whisk rapidly. Continue stirring over medium heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. When it’s thick, the whisk will leave track marks as you stir, and the pudding will bubble like lava when you stop. Careful of your hands, as the popping bubbles splatter hot pudding.
- Remove pudding from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Let cool at room temperature for an hour or more (it continues to thicken as it cools).
- To assemble: In six (or eight) 8-ounce cups or mason jars, layer 2 or 3 vanilla wafers, 2 or 3 banana slices, and 1/2 cup (or 1/3 for smaller servings) of pudding. Repeat to fill.
- Cover each cup or jar and refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The pudding will soften the vanilla wafers and create a soft layer of “piecrust.” Refrigerating the custard will also allow the pudding to continue to thicken. You may serve it warm, but the pudding won’t come together quite as well. Before serving, top with fresh banana slices and/or cookie crumbles if you like.
Makes six 8-ounce servings (or eight 6-ounce servings, which I think work better for kids).
- Make ahead: You can store the pudding covered for up to 2 days in the refrigerator before assembling the pie servings.
- For a richer pudding, use 1 cup cream (as Homeroom does) or half-and-half in place of 1 cup whole milk.
- “Crust” variations: graham crackers, digestive biscuits, or Oreo (really what you want to use are Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, which are Oreos without the filling). These options work better if you crumble the cookies first, as they are not as small and absorbent as vanilla wafers.
Here’s the link to a printable version.