Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Western Girl’s Take on a Southern Tradition

Please welcome this week's guest blogger Jacklyn Brady, who has a new book out (Rebel without a Cake--you've got to love the title!) just this week!

Thanks so much for inviting me to spend the day here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. I’d like to say a special thanks to all the readers who have made the Piece of Cake series so popular. You certainly know how to make an author feel great.

As some of you know, I’m a western girl at heart. I was born in Utah, lived there for three weeks, and then moved to Montana, where I spent my Wonder Years. Until just five years ago, I’d spent my entire life in the West. And then, on an impulse born out of a desire to live close to my grandchildren, my oldest daughter and I moved to the Gulf Coast region and landed a couple of blocks from the beach in Northwest Florida.

This area is less like you might think of when you hear someone say “Florida” and more like Alabama. In fact, people sometimes joke that we live in lower Alabama, which really is true. I’m not complaining. The area is beautiful and the people are great. But I did land in a world of strange and unusual things—at least from the perspective of my western upbringing.

Take fried mullet backbones at your neighborhood picnic and sweet tea everywhere you look. Until I moved here I’d never even heard of a mullet – at least not the fish variety – and tea certainly didn’t flow like water.

One of the unusual things I noticed when I moved here was that banana pudding seemed to be everywhere, and people seemed to love it. That struck me as odd because banana pudding wasn’t a staple in my diet up to that point. On the rare occasions I came across a bowl of the stuff, it was most likely instant pudding made with banana flavoring and the nicest thing I can say is that I wasn’t a fan.

Everywhere I went those first few years it seemed banana pudding (and sweet tea) were there. At church get-togethers, holiday gatherings and the local buffets. Even at the local Chinese buffets. Since I thought I knew what banana pudding was all about, I never imbibed … until one day my daughter brought home a serving of the homemade stuff from a pot-luck at her place of work. That serving of homemade pudding changed my opinion forever.

And so, for those who, like me, have not grown up with an appreciation of the deliciousness that is a true Southern Homemade Banana Pudding, and who don’t have a family recipe they treasure, I give you this recipe. You can also find it in Rebel Without a Cake, available now at your favorite bookseller.

Homemade Banana Pudding

This recipe has been passed down for a few generations and, like so many recipes of its kind, information on serving sizes has been lost (if it ever existed.) I’m going to say this recipe will serve 12, but if you have a table full of folks who really love their banana pudding, it may only serve 6.

1 box vanilla wafer cookies
5 bananas (ripe but still firm work best)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
3 egg yolks
2 cups milk (I’ve made the recipe with non-fat milk and it’s deliciously rich and creamy. No doubt, it would be even richer and creamier if made with whole milk, but in my opinion it’s not necessary)
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (as with any recipe, real vanilla extract produces a better flavor than vanilla flavoring)
whipped cream (You can use a prepared whipped topping if desired.)

Begin by placing a layer of vanilla wafer cookies in the bottom of a medium-sized mixing bowl. Place a layer of sliced banana over the top.

Repeat two more times with layers of wafers and the remaining bananas.

In a saucepan (or double boiler) on medium-low heat, combine the rest of the ingredients except the vanilla. Stir well with a wire whisk.

Allow to cook until thickened, stirring constantly to prevent scorching (about 15 minutes). You’ll want the mixture to thickened, but not too thick; otherwise, the wafers don’t absorb it well.

Add the vanilla and stir.

Immediately pour over the wafers and bananas. Let sit for about 5 minutes or so before serving, to allow the wafers time to absorb the pudding. Top with whipped cream.  (You can either top the entire pudding to serve to a group, or top individual servings just before service.)

Gather ingredients

Begin with one layer of vanilla wafers and top with a layer of sliced bananas

Combine the rest of the ingredients except the vanilla. Stir well with a wire whisk.

Repeat layers twice more.

Pour thickened custard over wafer/banana layers

Pretend not to notice the cat stalking the milk and eggs….

Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Jacklyn Brady lives on the Gulf Coast and writes the Piece of Cake Mystery series which is set in New Orleans and features cake artist and trained pastry chef, Rita Lucero. 

Rebel Without a Cake, book #5 in the Piece of Cake Mystery Series, is available at your favorite bookseller now. Jacklyn loves to hear from readers. Connect with her on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter


  1. Welcome Jacklyn! what a story--it's hard to imagine where you might have moved to create more culture shock:). I love the title of this new book! Also love banana pudding so delighted to see this recipe. Wishing you many sales! xo Lucy

    1. Thanks so much Lucy/Roberta! I agree with you. I'm not sure I could have created a bigger culture shock, at least not within the borders of the USA :) But I do love it here and the people are fantastic!

  2. Wonderful to have you here! Now you've got me craving bananas.

    1. Thanks so much for having me, Sheila. This is a great blog, always full of interesting stories and great recipes.

  3. Thank you, Jacklyn. I, too, love banana pudding...the GOOD stuff, with cooked pudding, not instant. :)
    Love your book cover and kitty, too.

    patucker54 at aol dot com

    1. Thanks, Pat. I kept trying to get the kitty (Tinkerbell) to ignore the process, but she insisted on being part of it all. I had to give in or suffer the consequences... sigh.

  4. Thanks for joining us today, Jacklyn! I'm so jealous of you living a few blocks from the beach. I live on the northern edge of sweet tea territory in southwest Virginia. It starts getting very plentiful in North Carolina. Thanks for sharing your banana pudding recipe. I rarely make it but I don't know anyone who doesn't love it.

    1. LOL Krista -- you know what happens when you live right on the beach, right? You never go! Well, at least not during tourist season. I do love hauling the laptop over there and finding a quiet table to write, though. I haven't been to your neck of the woods yet, but would really like to visit one of these days.

  5. Thanks for being here to today, Jacklyn! This pudding looks yummy--lots better than the instant variety.

    1. Thanks Peg. Yes, it's soooo much better than the instant variety. It's a whole 'nother critter.

  6. Welcome, Jacklyn. Thanks for the nifty recipe and beautiful photos. I think the calico cats is a great addition.



    1. Thanks MJ/Victoria! And Tinkerbell thanks you too. She thinks you're splendid for appreciating her contribution.

  7. MONTANA! I have got to get back there! I have had banana pudding & I think I will make it again soon.

    1. Yes! Montana! It's such a great place, isn't it? I need to get back there too.