Yes, I’m jumping on the cream tart bandwagon!
I’ve seen these cute cakes all over Instagram and Pinterest, often large, letter-shaped creations topped with fruit, meringues, macarons, and flowers. A quick internet search tells me they started with Israeli baker Adi Klinghofer, and they pretty much exploded from there. Once I saw these as a challenge on The Great British Bake-Off I knew they had gone mainstream. I’m definitely a year late to this trend, but since no one I know had any idea what I was talking about when I tried to describe these cakes, I’ll pretend to be a trendsetter at least in my own life. These cakes are stunning to look at but most importantly to me, they didn’t seem all that difficult to make!
One thing that I realized though, in my search for some specifics of how exactly people were making these cakes, is that there isn’t a ton of variety to the recipes. The most variation seems to come in the cookie part, usually a sable base, but sometimes a sugar cookie, sometimes flavored with almond, sometimes vanilla. The filling seems to be a choice between cheesecake, pastry cream, or a stabilized whipped cream, sometimes with a curd added between the layers. And then you can top with whatever you want, but otherwise, that’s pretty much it.
There seemed to be, at least to me, a glaring omission here.
You have vanilla cookie. You have creamy filling. You can top with fruit and more cookies.
No one has thought to turn this into banana pudding?? I couldn’t believe it!
I set out to fix this egregious error, and it.was.fabulous. I baked off 6-inch rounds of vanilla sable dough, piped layers of a creamy, cheese stabilized whipped cream, filled the gaps with banana pudding and chunks of banana, and topped the whole thing with more whipped cream, sliced bananas, and mini nilla wafers (along with some quick mini meringues I made from the leftover egg whites from the pudding recipe, very very optional).
Once everything chilled and softened, I sliced into it, and yes, it was banana pudding! Just a bit neater than the version you might find at your family barbecue.
Or…would you? Turns out, there might be a reason why no one had made this type of cake into a banana pudding version. Banana pudding is kind of divisive! I discovered this when trying to give away some of the cake so that I didn’t eat the whole 6 inches myself. Out of three people, one told me she hates banana pudding, one hates bananas, and finally it turned out one looooved banana pudding. So that’s a roughly 33.3% occurance rate for banana pudding lovers. Who knew?
But for those of you out there who do like bananas and you like them in pudding, trust me, this is a cake for you!
Banana Pudding Cream Tart
Pudding recipe adapted from Cook’s Country, pate sablee from Martha Stewart.
For the pate sablee:
6 oz unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup + 1 tbs powdered sugar
3 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
For the Banana Pudding:
2 slightly underripe bananas
3/8 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tbs corn starch
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs lemon juice
For the whipped mascarpone cream:
8 oz. mascarpone (or cream cheese)
1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (to taste)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
For Topping (some optional ideas):
mini nilla wafers (or crumbled sablee)
fresh mint sprigs
Make the sablee dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and sugar and combine on medium speed until the butter is pale and fluffy and fully combined with the sugar, then add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add in the flour and salt, and stir on low until everything just comes together, about 15-20 seconds. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and fully wrap in the plastic. Chill for at least one hour.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees, and divide your dough into 4 equal portions. Roll and cut each portion into 6-inch rounds (I found this easier to do between sheets of plastic wrap), chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating as needed, until set and lightly golden around the edges. Set aside to cool completely.
Make the pudding: Heat oven to 325 degrees, and place one unpeeled banana onto a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the peel is blackened, then let cool. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and 1/8 cup sugar until smooth. In a pot, combine half and half, remaining sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once this mixture is heated, slowly whisk in a bit of it into the yolk mixture, then pour that into the pot with the remaining half and half mixture and cook, whisking the whole time, until everything thickens and bubbles appear on the surface. This will be quick, about 1-2 minutes! Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Transfer the pudding mixture to a food processor and add the roasted banana and 2 tsp lemon juice and run the machine until the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the pudding and chill at least 45 minutes.
Cut remaining banana into small chunks and then toss with remaining lemon juice and set aside.
Make the whipped cream filling: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the mascarpone or cream cheese on medium speed with the sugar and vanilla until loosened up and fluffy, then add the heavy cream and whip on high just until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overmix (the mixture can curdle if you whisk it too far). You want a firm mixture that can hold its shape when piped. Transfer the cream mixture into a piping bag and set aside.
Assemble the cake: once you have all your components prepared and baked off, you are ready to assemble. Take one of your cookie rounds and place on a cake board or a plate, and pipe a border of the cream filling around the outside. Then pipe about five blobs in the center and a few in between your outside border and the center. Fill the gaps between the cream filling with the pudding, and top with a few scattered pieces of banana. Top with another cookie round and repeat, until you have your final cookie round resting on top. Pipe an even layer of the cream filling atop your final cookie round, and then arrange your toppings as you like. Chill the whole cake for at least 4 hours to soften the cookie, then slice and serve. The longer you chill it the easier it will be to slice, but the pudding is best the day it’s made, so tread that line carefully!
If you want to go the more traditional route and use a vanilla pudding here, you can definitely do that! I really like banana though, and since the cake itself didn’t have as many bananas as a traditional banana pudding might, I decided to blend them into the pudding as well.