This from-scratch Banana Pudding is made with homemade pastry cream, vanilla wafers, and plenty of fresh bananas. You can build it in a trifle dish, but a baking dish makes it easier to assemble, refrigerate, and serve.
In a medium non-aluminum saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until tiny bubbles appear on the surface, about 6 to 8 minutes (about 180 degrees Farenheit). Stir to prevent the milk from scalding.
Meanwhile, In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cornstarch and salt. While whisking constantly, pour in half of the hot milk. Whisk in remaining hot milk and return to saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a firm consistency, about 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in vanilla. Scrape in to a bowl. Cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or refrigerate for up to 4 days (cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream).
To make the whipped cream:
Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla in mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cover and chill until assembling the banana pudding (up to 10 hours in advance).
To assemble the banana pudding:
In a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, arrange wafers in a single layer (you may not use all the wafers). Top with a single layer of banana slices, then spread the pastry cream evenly over the bananas.
Spread whipped cream evenly over the pastry cream. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight (the longer it sits, the softer the cookies will be, and that's not a bad thing). Garnish with additional crushed wafers and banana slices if desired.
Pastry cream: 1 (3.4 ounce) box of instant vanilla pudding (made according to package instructions) can be substituted for the pastry cream.
Heavy cream: Chill in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before whipping to ensure the ultimate fluffy results and easiest whip.
Nilla wafers: Lightly-sweetened, vanilla-scented, and round, these cozy little cookies are at most grocery stores or buy Nilla wafers online.
Yield: This Banana Pudding recipe makes about 12 cups (3 quarts), enough for 12 servings, 1 cup each.
Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Make ahead: Banana Pudding needs some time to soften, so make this luscious dessert a day in advance.