I was very skeptical when one of my friends recommended that I try Magnolia Bakery in New York City. Not because I didn’t think it would be good – they’re very well-known thought the city for having incredible Cupcakes. I was skeptical because my friend recommended that, rather than getting one of their famous cupcakes, I should try their Banana Pudding. She claimed that it is the best Banana pudding that she’s ever had.
Here’s the thing though – Banana Pudding (or Nanner Puddin’ for those from the Deep South) is extremely important to me. As long as I can remember, Banana Pudding has been the focal point of my extended family’s Thanksgiving meal. The rest of the traditional Thanksgiving foods only serve to provide more energy for eating Banana Pudding.
I don’t come from a family of cooks, so we don’t really have many (or any, really) “secret family recipes” that have been passed down for generations, but what we do have is Banana Pudding, and I fiercely protect that recipe. Many many people, from very close friends to even some chefs, have asked for the recipe and every time I have to respectfully decline saying that I’ll gladly make it for them instead. I have never had a better Banana Pudding than my family’s Banana Pudding. It is a big Big BIG deal.
As I explained my history with Banana Pudding to my friend, I could sense her confidence in Magnolia Bakery’s version diminishing. But after all of that, she said that she still thinks that I should try it. I was in.
Magnolia Bakery has a few different locations around the city, but each one is cute and charming. Light pastel colors and white trim and accents make the spaces seem bright, airy, and most importantly, larger than they really are. You can see bakers in the back icing and decorating various cakes and pastries that are then moved to one of the glass display cases to entice you into buying just one more thing while you’re already there. However, I only have eyes for one thing in that display case. The only reason I was there. The Banana Pudding.
The Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery comes in many different sizes from a small single serving to a Double Bowl which serves 20!! But the small is the perfect size for an afternoon snack so, that’s what we went with.
We grabbed a table and I immediately dug into my Banana Pudding in order to discern how well it compared to my Banana Pudding. Once I reached my verdict, I looked up to find that my friend had yet to even open her Banana Pudding and was anxiously watching me for my reaction.
“Don’t worry. It’s really good!” I said. The tension melted and she admitted, “Oh my God, I was so nervous.” To which I responded that, “This is the closest to my family recipe that I’ve ever had.”
There aren’t many components to Banana Pudding, but getting the ratio and balance of those components right is what differentiates between a good and a great Banana Pudding. Magnolia Bakery nails that ratio. The vanilla wafers are slightly soft while remaining crisp in the middle, the bananas are fresh (not much else you can do to improve that component really), and the pudding is a perfect consistency with a hint of vanilla flavor to highlight the natural banana.
Although I have only ever tried one thing (Banana Pudding, if you haven’t caught on yet) from Magnolia Bakery, based on my experience and their reputation, I’m confidant that everything they offer will be just as good.
I was very impressed with the Banana Pudding at Magnolia Bakery. So much so that on a return trip to New York City, I went back to Magnolia Bakery just for more Banana Pudding; and in a city with the numerous options and the culinary reputation of New York, that is about the highest compliment that I can possibly give.
I was amazed that it tasted so close to the Banana Pudding that I grew up on. But if anyone is going to get it right, I’m glad that Magnolia Bakery is that one to do it. That is the highest compliment that I can possibly give.