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Banana Pudding Layer Cake

From: Pastry chef Amy Lemon, NOLA, New Orleans. This is Chef Lemon’s spin on Emeril’s famed banana cream pie.

Yield: 10 servings

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. melted, unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 very ripe banana, peeled, and mashed
8 or 9 firm, ripe bananas
2 cups whole milk
1½ cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch, sifted
1 qt. heavy cream
1½ Tbsp. gelatin (2 envelopes)
3 Tbsp. cold water
12-oz. package vanilla wafers
as needed for garnish, dried sweetened banana chips
as needed, fudge sauce or chocolate sauce
as needed for garnish, fresh mint sprigs

Preheat oven to 375°F. In bowl of a food processor, add graham cracker crumbs, butter, brown sugar and 1 mashed banana. Pulse to combine. Scrape mixture into a 9” springform pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake until set and golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Set aside on wire rack to cool completely. In medium saucepot, combine milk and ½ cup sugar. Halve vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out seeds with tip of knife and add to pot along with pod. Bring to gentle boil, stirring to dissolve sugar; remove from heat.

In large bowl, whisk egg yolks until frothy. Add cornstarch; whisk to dissolve. Slowly add ½ cup hot milk mixture to egg yolks, whisking constantly. In slow, steady stream, continue to whisk in remaining hot milk mixture. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer back into saucepot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until mixture is thick like pudding, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well-chilled, 3-4 hours up to overnight.

Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against surface to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate until well-chilled, 3 to 4 hours up to overnight. In medium bowl, beat 2 cups heavy cream until thick. Add ½ cup of remaining sugar; continue to beat until soft peaks form. Remove and discard vanilla bean pod, and whisk pastry cream until smooth. Fold pastry cream into whipped cream.

In small metal bowl, dissolve gelatin in water. Place over small saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until softened. Fold softened gelatin into pastry cream mixture.

Peel and cut bananas into ¼”-thick slices.

To assemble cake: Spoon 2⁄3 cup custard over crust; spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula. Arrange 1⁄3 of banana slices in tight, tiled pattern over custard, pressing slightly to push into place. Spread layer of custard over bananas, and top with a layer of closely arranged vanilla wafers, about 2 cups, to cover. Spread another layer of custard over wafers and top with another third of the bananas, followed by another layer of custard and last portion of bananas. Spread remaining custard over the top, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

In medium bowl, beat remaining 2 cups cream until thick. Add remaining ½ cup sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with star tip.

To serve: Remove sides of springform pan. Slice cake into 10 pieces. Cover back edge of each piece with vanilla wafers or soft ladyfingers. Decoratively pipe sweetened whipped cream over the top. Garnish with dried banana chips; drizzle with fudge sauce. Garnish plate with mint sprig.

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