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in the kitchen with: faith durand’s tropical banana pudding

by Kristina Gill

This week’s recipe in celebration of mother’s day is long, but worth the effort.  It is a tropical banana pudding, with coconut pudding and rum-spiked whipped cream cozying up to the bananas.  It was concocted by Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn, a home cooking and kitchen design blog. I was inspired to ask Faith to do a unique take on the classic banana pudding, when I was reading through her new cookbook about bakeless sweets— perfect for the months when turning on an oven is unimaginable!  Give yourself some time with this recipe.  You can do the whole thing, or pick and choose which elements you’d like to use.  The important thing with banana pudding is to give it some beauty rest.  Let it sit at least a couple of hours before serving so that it is in peak form (and flavor) when you devour it.  If you’re in New York, Faith has a few events coming up next week, including an afternoon workshop at Sunday Suppers on May 18.  You can find the details of these events by clicking here.  Though it’s a week later, the workshop may be a great mother’s day gift for your mother or for both of you!   Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who read the column!  –Kristina

About Faith: Faith Durand is executive editor of The Kitchn,, and a cookbook author.   She has also contributed to O Magazine, Vegetarian Times, and Reader’s Digest, and her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New Haven Register, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and The Columbus Dispatch, among many other newspapers.  Faith lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband Mike and an ever-growing collection of whisks. You can read more of Faith’s work on The Kitchn and faithdurand.com, and follow her on Twitter @faithdurand.  Her latest cookbook is Bakeless Sweets: Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fluff, Icebox Cake, and More No-Bake Desserts.

See Faith’s recipe for Tropical Banana Pudding after the jump.

Tropical Banana Pudding with Coconut Brittle & Rum Caramel
Serves 6 to 8

Coconut Pudding

  • 2 cups (180 g) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) cream
  • 11/2 cups (360 ml) whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (13.5-ounce / 400-ml) can coconut milk, well-shaken
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Toasted Coconut Brittle

  • 1/2 tablespoon (7 g) unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl and spoon
  • 2 cups (160 g) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Rum Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (180 ml) cream
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Banana Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups (165 ml) cream
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce / 340-g) box Nilla Wafers
  • 4 to 5 large ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick (6-mm) coins

Make the Coconut Pudding

  1. Put the sweetened coconut in a 3-quart (2.8-L) saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring very frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the coconut has turned light tan. It will give off a lot of steam and dry out slightly. Watch carefully, as it will quickly turn from toasted to burnt. Set aside about 1/3 cup coconut for the garnish.
  2. Add the cream and milk to the coconut remaining in the pan, and whisk in the sugar. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat. Steep for 15 minutes, then strain out and discard the coconut and return the liquid to the pan.
  3. Put the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl and whisk out any lumps. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk. It is important that this mixture be as smooth as you can make it.
  4. Return the strained cream mixture to low heat. Warm it just until the surface quivers. Turn off the heat. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of the cream mixture into the cornstarch and egg mixture and whisk vigorously to combine. The mixture should come together smoothly, with no lumps. If you see any, add a little more liquid and whisk them out. Slowly pour the cornstarch and egg back into the pan, counting to 10 as you do and whisking continuously and vigorously.
  5. Turn the heat back on to medium and bring the pudding to a boil. Work all the angles of the pot, and scrape the bottom as you whisk. It will take 2 to 5 minutes to bring the custard to a boil, with large bubbles that slowly pop up to the surface. Boil, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat. Stir in the rum and vanilla extract. Immediately pour the pudding into a shallow container, and place plastic wrap or buttered wax paper directly on the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until ready to assemble the banana pudding.


Make the Coconut Brittle

  1. Lightly butter a large metal mixing bowl and silicone or rubber mixing spoon.
  2. Melt the butter in a 3-quart (2.8-L) saucepan over medium-high heat until it foams up. Add the unsweetened coconut and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until it is evenly toasted to a golden brown color. Turn off the heat and toss the coconut with the salt and ginger. Pour the coconut into the buttered bowl. Rinse out the saucepan and wipe it completely clean and dry.
  3. Add the sugar to the saucepan and stir in the warm water and the corn syrup. Turn the heat back on to medium-high and whisk the mixture to dissolve the sugar. When it comes to a rolling boil, stop stirring. Boil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the sugar begins to turn light brown. Keep a close eye on it; it will go from light brown to burnt very quickly. Gently swirl the pan as the sugar changes color. It will turn dark amber and begin to smoke. (If you have a candy thermometer, you can make this easier by using it. Heat the sugar syrup to 300°F or slightly higher. Don’t go beyond 310°F.) As soon as you see that first wisp of smoke, turn off the heat and carefully pour the syrup in a slow stream into the bowl with the coconut.
  4. Stir to completely mix the syrup with the coconut. Let cool for 15 minutes. When the mixture has mostly cooled, use a big metal spoon, bench scraper, or sturdy pastry blender to chop the brittle into fine crumbs. (You can also run it through a food processor.)
  5. Store these fine crumbs of coconut brittle in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. (It won’t go bad, but eventually moisture will leak in and cause it to lose its snap.)


Make the Rum Caramel Sauce

  1. Whisk the sugar and 1/4 cup (60 ml) water in a heavy 2-quart (2-L) saucepan. Turn the heat on to high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and let it boil vigorously, without stirring. After 5 minutes, check for hints of darkening color in the syrup.
  2. If you don’t detect any, continue boiling until you do. This will take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes total of vigorous boiling, depending on the strength of your stove burner and the weight of your pan. Keep a close eye on things. (If you have a candy thermometer, you can make this easier by using it. Heat the sugar syrup to 350°F / 175°C or slightly higher. Don’t go beyond 375°F / 190°C.)
  3. You will begin to see streaks of a medium-brown color form around the edges. When this happens, take the pan by the handle and gently swirl it to help the sugar combine. Watch carefully: Once you see the first color change, the syrup can turn from amber-colored to burnt very quickly.
  4. When the syrup is completely amber-colored, add the cream in a slow, thin stream and use a long-handled whisk to carefully whisk it together with the hot sugar syrup. Be cautious, as the syrup will bubble up furiously. Don’t be concerned if the sugar hardens into a lump at first; keep whisking vigorously and it will melt and combine smoothly. When the sugar and cream are completely mixed, bring them back to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and salt, and let cool. This sauce can be refrigerated in a closed container for up to 3 months.


Assemble the Banana Pudding

  1. Beat the cream with the rum, sugar, vanilla, and salt until it holds firm peaks.
  2. Choose a large trifle bowl or any bowl that holds at least 2 quarts (2 L); spread a spoonful of coconut pudding on the bottom of the bowl. Line the bottom of the bowl with vanilla wafers. Spread a third of the coconut pudding over the wafers and arrange about a quarter of the banana slices on top. Top with whipped cream. Drizzle lightly with caramel and sprinkle with coconut brittle. Repeat, layering wafers, coconut pudding, bananas, and whipped cream, then sauce and brittle.
  3. As you go, insert a few wafers pressed up against the side of the bowl. Finish with a thick layer of whipped cream, and drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with the reserved toasted coconut and additional brittle.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving, until the cookies are slightly softened (insert a knife into a cookie layer and if it meets no resistance, it’s ready). Serve generous scoops in pretty dessert bowls, with extra coconut brittle on the side.

Why Faith loves this recipe

This rich and boozy banana pudding is my tribute to one of the greatest no-bake church potluck desserts of all time: Southern banana puddin’, the South’s down-home answer to the British trifle. A few weeks ago I was in Colorado, cooking for a group of my husband’s graduate students, and I tested this recipe out on them, only to discover that many of these northern kids had never even heard of banana pudding! I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) and glad to remedy that situation, as banana pudding, with its layers of creamy custard and Nilla wafers (a must!), bananas and whipped cream, is one of the great all-American desserts.  (Photography by Faith Durand)

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  • Just bought bananas, and a quick scan of the ingredients reveals I have almost everything else. SO making this this weekend…

  • I’m very happy to uncover this site. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely loved every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your blog.

  • I don’t think 1/6 – 1/8 of a tablespoon of corn syrup per serving is going to kill you… But try another liquid-sugar of equal viscosity if you’re concerned. Corn syrup is very purposefully used in candies, though, so it might not come out to the same consistency. Try homemade sugar syrup cooked to a pale-golden color.