The 19th Century Origins Of Banana Cream Pie

One of the most comforting treats, banana cream pie offers a rich, sweet, and velvety filling. It's one of those desserts where you put a spoonful in your mouth and can't help but lean back and close your eyes as you savor the buttery crust and creamy filling.

While bananas are available throughout the United States, the banana cream pie is most commonly found in the South and the Midwest; however, it has found a large following in Los Angeles, according to The New York Times. Maybe what attracts so many people to banana cream pie is its simplicity. The filling consists of pastry cream (milk, sugar, vanilla, eggs, cornstarch, and butter), heavy cream, crème fraiche, and bananas, per The New York Times. The crust can be either made of graham crackers or a buttery dough. A key to getting the most flavorful banana pie is allowing the whole pie to chill before slicing so the flavors all blend together, per Serious Eats.

While the modern version of banana cream pie emphasizes the cream part of the filling, that wasn't always the case.

An evolving recipe

One of the earliest known published recipes for banana cream pie called for sliced bananas and powdered sugar placed in a pre-baked pie shell, according to Serious Eats. The "Woman's Exchange Cook Book" from 1901 advises cooks to then put the filled pie in the oven for a few minutes and then remove it once the bananas have been softened, according to the South Florida Reporter. After the pie is removed from the oven, the cookbook instructs the cook to cover the filling with whipped cream and to flavor it with lemon juice.

A recipe published just five years later in "The Blue Ribbon Cook Book" describes a filling made of bananas and custard, but the two were not blended together, per the South Florida Reporter. It's unclear when the recipe evolved to include the custard and bananas being mixed together to form the filling. Banana cream pie continued to grow in popularity in the decades following. According to the South Florida Reporter, American soldiers listed banana cream pie as one of their favorites in 1951.

Through the years, variations of the banana cream pie have been made using chocolate, coconut, and almonds. No matter how you make and enjoy it, simply savor the creamy deliciousness that has earned fans for generations.