Banana Coconut Cream Pie and a trip to Los Angeles

by Irvin on April 23, 2012 · 38 comments

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I was first introduced to Banana Cream Pie years ago when I visited Los Angeles years ago and was hanging out with my friend Emmie. Emmie had moved to California a few years before I had made the move west, to pursuing acting (though she got sidetracked and eventually ended up launching an awesome and successful greeting card business called Fomato – everyone run and buy some cards from her). One afternoon, Emmie got it in her head that she was going to introduce me to the best banana cream pie in all of Los Angeles. We drove all over Los Angeles trying to track it down, this heavenly slice of banana cream pie that Emmie had such fantastic nostalgic memories of. “We have to find it!” Emmie told me, describe the experience as “So amazing tasting. It was like eating banana flavored concrete. But in a good way.” Food critic Jonathan Gold clearly was quaking in his boots, fearful that up-and-coming Emmie was nipping at his toes with her evocative descriptive food phrases. Sadly, when we found said Banana Cream Pie, it tasted nothing like concrete. Even Emmie was disappointed with it, telling me it was good, but “not concrete banana pie good.” I hadn’t really thought about that experience until I made this Banana Coconut Cream Pie for a party I had help host down in LA.

It turns out that Banana Cream Pie is quite ubiquitous all over Los Angeles but not really that common outside the City of Angels. I mean it exists, and people know about it, but for whatever reason Los Angelinos have really embraced the pie and it’s available in pretty much every dive diner and coffee shop that serves pies. So it came to no surprise to me that when I received the lovely new cookbook by Joy Wilson, otherwise known as Joy the Baker, who coincidentally lives in Los Angeles, that there would be a recipe for her own twist on the Banana Cream Pie, one that mashes it up with Coconut Cream Pie.

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My paparazzi shot of Joy. Note the (totally intentional) camera shake blur. Just keepin' it real yo.

I had met Joy once, back in November at the Foodbuzz Fest where I talked about social media and she talked about being Joy. It was brief meeting though I have certainly bantered back and forth with her on Twitter and such. She’s a lovely woman, warm, easy going and friendly, exactly like her blog, cookbook and podcast would suggest. I had brought her cookbook to LA recently, when AJ and I escaped for a quick get away vacation. We had plans to host one of our “pie and pie” parties where AJ makes pizzas and I make pies and we serve them up to a gaggle of friends. I had hoped that the Joy the Baker cookbook would inspire me to move beyond my usual rut of pies that I make. Thankfully it did, as the evening ended up a good time for all involved. Turns out pizzas and pies as party food makes it pretty easy to accommodate most diets (from vegan to gluten free) as long as no one is super sensitive to cross contaminations.

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Steven, Michael and Emmie hamming it up at the party.

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AJ prepping the gluten free vegan pizza for our friend Gavi. (Photo by Rita Huang.)

I ended up making four different pies, all new recipes for me, though one of them, a gluten free apple pie was more of a FAIL than anything else. I should have known better than to use the stone ground rice flour, as it tends to be really gritty, but it was all I had brought down from San Francisco. Nevertheless, Gavi who had recently developed a gluten allergy, along with her two dads, were thrilled that there was food available to eat (even if the pie was only passable). Thankfully the gluten free vegan pizza (she had also become allergic to egg and dairy as well) was a win for her as she scarfed down two slices. But the banana coconut cream pie. This one was a winner. I barely was able to put aside a slice of it for me to photograph, because people were clamoring for more.

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Jessica diving into the banana cream pie while Tony watches. (Photo by Rita Huang.)

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Allison of Sushi Day scanning the table for what to take home, as Rita, Son and Tony look on.

Of course, this should come as no surprise for anyone who reads or is a fan of Joy the Baker. Joy is the queen of approachable. While I spin ridiculous recipes with hard to find ingredients and obscure flavor combinations, Joy takes a classic recipe, updates it with a slight contemporary twists and delivers it on a platter to the reader in her witty, slightly self-deprecating way that makes you feel like you’re her best friend. And if you lived in the same city as her, you probably would be. Or at least that’s what I tell myself whenever I read her blog. Joy and I would totally be BFFs if I lived in LA or she lived in SF (shhh…don’t tell me differently, I wanna keep on living the lie). But since we don’t live in the same city, I have her cookbook to keep me company, and, um, Twitter. It’s almost the same thing, right?

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A slice of Los Angeles in pie form.

Emmie never did find her banana concrete cream pie, but she seemed pretty happy with the banana coconut cream pie that I served up at that night. I was even able to get a few LA food bloggers, including Allison of Sushi Day to stop by to say hello and eat a slice or two of pizza and pie. I adore Los Angeles and hope to go back soon. Maybe I’ll even invite Joy over next time for pizza and pie. Because, you know, we’re totes BFFs. Well me, and the other four million other readers of her blog.

Special thanks goes to Hyperion for providing me a review copy of Joy the Baker Cookbook. Though the book was provided by them, I was not compensated for anything I wrote above and all opinions are my own.

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda @zomppa April 23, 2012 at 5:22 am

Boy, that is one gorgeous pie – and what a spread!! I would not step away from that table….

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Irvin April 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Thanks Belinda! It was a super fun party. I love that my friends Rita and Damon let us host it down there for us.

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Allison Day April 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm

LOL thanks a lot for making me look like a total pig! (Not that I can help myself, when it comes to your delicious food! ;) ) But oh man, that banana coconut cream pie was SO good. Now I’m craving it again, thanks. ;D

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Irvin April 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

What are you talking about? I LOVE that picture of you. You’re all seriously studying the spread, trying to figure out what you want to take home. It’s awesome. So fun to see you!

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Allison Day April 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

We definitely enjoyed the leftovers. :D We always love getting to see you when you’re in LA! Your friends rock, and your food is always excellent.

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Kim Bee April 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Irvin I have never been to a party with a spread like this before. This is beyond impressive. Your pie looks so scrumptious, I adore banana cream although it can be hard to find here. I am also eyeing that pizza on the wood board, good lord how was there any left? I love that you share your foodie parties with your readers. Makes me feel like you feel about Joy. Like I’m part of the party.

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Yay! I love that idea that you are part of the party too. That’s part of why I blog. And yes, that pizza on the wood board was fantastic. We actually made 6 pizzas, but there were some no shows, so we ended up with about 1 to 1 1/2 pizzas leftover. Much to our hosts pleasure, as they ate it for the rest of the week!

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Carrie April 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

This looks so good… living in NH I can say people around here have not embraced the banana cream pie. I think I need to try this recipe since I’ve never tried it and I do love coconut…. and I <3 Joy her recipes never let me down!

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Ah… That’s because you NH people are all too busy eating lobster rolls and drowning in maple syrup. But if you like coconut and bananas, this pie is for you! And yes I love me some Joy!

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Rachel Jane April 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I am ashamed to say that I have never had a banana cream pie before! I’m going to blame it on the fact that I do not live in LA. I am a massive fan of coconut milk, great suggestion! Have you made this pie with the addition of coconut milk?

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Irvin April 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm

You know, I actually have NOT make it with the addition of coconut milk, because I didn’t have the forethought to buy any coconut milk at the store. But I can only imagine it tasting all the more amazing with the addition as I love coconut milk. If you do make it, let me know how it turns out please!

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Beth (OMG! Yummy) April 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I used to be in a four-couple gourmet group that lasted for well over 10 years. We were so well suited for each other and cooked up some amazing meals. But oh the banana cream pie we made at one dinner still makes us laugh. I think we riffed off of an Emeril Lagasse recipe if my memory serves me but the short of it is, it was so good that we nick-named it the banana-gasm. You probably HTBT but it still makes me laugh. Just looking at your recipe, I’m sure it would qualify. The rum in the crust – yum!

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm

You had me at banana-gasm! Love it. I love the idea of a gourmet group. That sounds awesome!

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Karla April 24, 2012 at 4:57 am

That pie is amazing! I’m making my shopping list right now. But, I have another question–not cooking related. You say that you adore Los Angeles–and I keep hearing things about that city. We are considering moving there but I can’t get away from the whole fake Hollywood idea. Is there something more?

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Irvin April 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Oh yes! I absolutely ADORE Los Angeles. Don’t be fooled by the fake fake Hollywood facade. It’s easy to visit LA and only do Hollywood tourist things, or be influenced by the media that tends to focus on the Entertainment industry there. But there is so much more than that.

The truth is, LA is HUGE. It’s sprawling with something like 400 square miles? Ridiculously large. Two people can say they are from LA but they live 100 miles from each other and NEVER get to each other’s neighborhoods. I have a friend that lives in Pasadena, and I think I’ve seen him once since I moved to California 15 years ago (I visit LA probably twice or three times a year). I have an aunt & cousin that live down near Laguna Beach, and I have visited them exactly once as well. They live in a different part of the city that I visit and it’s nearly a different world. And definitely with a population of over 12million people, not everyone works in Hollywood.

LA has tons to offer food wise, especially if you like ethnic food. The Mexican food is wonderful, the Korean food is fantastic, the Chinese dim sum amazing and the Thai food is the best outside of Thailand. In fact, the largest population of Thai people outside of Thailand live in LA. LA was also one of the pioneers in the upscale food truck movement (wikipedia Kogi Korean BBQ). The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite farmer’s markets period. Not just in LA but just in general.

Oh, and if you like vegetarian or vegan food, the restaurants in LA are outstanding. One “good” aspect of the Hollywood influence (I think) is that so many people are on specific diets or just trying to look healthy and clean and stay fit that there are a million awesome options for nearly every walk of life. If you like soul food, there’s the classic chicken and waffles, if you raw vegan there’s a restaurant for you too. Heck, if you like vegan soul food, there probably is a restaurant there that caters to that taste as well! Of course, there’s something for pretty much everyone in-between. It’s a paradise for the food lover.

For me, LA is really about the friends that I go down and visit. I adore my friends down there, and the ones that do work in the “Industry” you would NEVER tell. Looking at the people at our party, the ones that work in “Hollywood” are always the most unassuming people. Looking at the photos I used up in my post, the only person in them that works in the industry is Tony, with the long hair and red plaid shirt (5th photo down). He’s the LEAST fake person I know. You would probably never guess he works in Hollywood, but I think he might have worked on the Hunger Games movie (not sure, I almost never ask him what he’s working on and he rarely talks about it unless asked).

The ONE thing I will say I hate about LA, isn’t the Hollywood thing (it’s surprisingly easy to avoid if you live there). It’s the driving everywhere. I’ve spent more time in the car getting to the destination than at the destination itself. When I visit, I stay with my friends out in Santa Monica, and I rarely leave the west side of LA, unless I venturing out to get Thai or Korean food.

I can’t tell you to move or not move to LA, but I will tell you that there is definitely more than the fake Hollywood there. But I can understand your concern. Just keep in mind that there’s always more than just the stereotype. LA is no exception.

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Karla April 25, 2012 at 7:21 am

Thanks Irwin! We are actually planning a trip there this summer (and to SF) to try to scope out the city from our perspective and see if we could live there. I do love the idea of people trying to live healthy lifestyles—but I also HATE driving! If you have time…I would love to hear your fav restaurant recommendations—especially for Korean food. Since moving from Hawaii, that is what I miss the most.

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Oh man. There are SO many Korean places. It depends on what type of Korean food you want. Tofu, BBQ, Noodles, etc. I’ll try to write a blog post about it. But if I don’t get to it before your trip, just ping me an email (eatthelove at gmail dot com) and I’ll send you recommendations.

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mary fran | frannycakes April 24, 2012 at 6:50 am

Um, that looks amazeballs. Now I want that pie…

Sorry to hear about your gluten-free crust fail, you usually do so well with the crazy flours.

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Irvin April 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Oh I wasn’t at home, and didn’t have access to me usual arsenal of flours. I had grabbed some stone ground rice flour because that is all I had, and I really need to just toss it. It’s SO gritty. I usually use a superfine ground rice flour that I find at the Asian supermarket. I’m just out at the moment. The pie wasn’t BAD it just wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. Oh well.

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Joanie Zisk April 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

Such a beautiful pie! What an interesting idea to put a splash of vodka or light rum in the crust, I’ll have to try that.

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Irvin April 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The alcohol helps to inhibit the gluten in the crust, so it doesn’t get tough. You can work the crust, roll it out with as much flour as you want, and you still get a tender flaky crust. I love using alcohol in my crust.

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Mallory April 24, 2012 at 9:50 am

Ohio loves banana coconut cream pies…or maybe it is just my family. It is a favorite of ours and I was happy to see it in Joy’s cookbook, whom we all love! I love your idea for a pie and pie party…genius!

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I highly recommend the combination of pie and pie. Everyone loves pizza and pie AND they are both easy to customize for various food restrictions.

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Lauren April 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Hi Irvin, love the blog and this yummy post. I just can’t get a good banana or coconut, or any kind of cream pie here in Spain. So I will have to try this one myself at home! In fact, thanks so much for putting the recipe ingredients in US and Metric, helps a lot. Since you are already making my life (and others outside the US) so much easier, think you could also do the same for the temperatures/degrees? : )

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Lauren! I’ll try to keep that in mind moving forward. Sometimes I forget that most people outside the US use metric, especially since most of my readers are in the US. But thanks for the reminder.

I know that there are many resources online for converting though, so feel free to google it for any of my previous recipes.

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thelittleloaf April 25, 2012 at 1:19 am

There’s something so incredibly satisfying and indulgent about cream pie – it doesn’t have any pretensions, just good, honest, thick, creamy deliciousness. Yours look perfect :-)

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Totally agree. And this one definitely fit that bill. Highly recommend it!

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Sonia April 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I totes wish we were friends, so I could crash that party. In fact, I feel inspired to host my own shindig of that kind. That banana cream pie looks deeeelish. I am also a fan of JTB and recently created her banana bourbon bread pudding. Amazing!

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Irvin April 25, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Me too! If we lived in the same city and were friends, you wouldn’t be crashing the party, you’d totes be invited! Next time you in the west coast, let me know. I can’t guarantee a pie and pie party, but if I’m available, I’m usually down with getting coffee or a scoop of ice cream (I do live a block away from Bi Rite Creamery – a fantastic artisan ice cream shop).

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Sonia April 26, 2012 at 5:10 am

That sounds fabulous. The offer goes both ways if you are ever in Chi town.

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Jessica April 25, 2012 at 9:57 pm

This looks so amazing! You are now the king of beautiful pies!

P.S. Love the paparazzi photo of Joy ;-)

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Kat April 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Hi Irvin!
I wonder why I could never succeed making this banana coconut cream pie.
How did you do it successfully? I’ll try again for sure and this time I’ll refer to your recipe as my guide :)
Thanks also for the tempting food photos. Looks like they were made by professional. Have you ever heard about food photography site called http://www.foodporn.net ?
Your pics should be on the Food Porn home page, that’s for sure!

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cookingrookie April 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Yum, so rich and decadent!

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Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. May 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

You know, I have never had coconut cream pie! I know! What the heck? I love coconut too. I must change this. This pie looks so incredibly tasty! I’m a big fan of banana cream pie so I’m sure I would love this!

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LoD February 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Just wondering if the filling can be made the day before and refrigerated, then fill the pie shell the next day?

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Irvin February 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Absolutely! You can make the filling a day ahead and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Just make sure to press the plastic wrap onto the filling, to prevent it from forming a skin!

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claudia May 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Irwin–you never ate banana cream pie growing up in the Midwest? Is that because everyone made pudding with banana slices and Nilla wafers? Or we were just so much more sophisticated ‘up north’ in Chi-town???

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Irvin May 7, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Nope! I think it was more because I grew up in an Asian-American household and we almost never had dessert, we had fruit after dinner. Desserts were a rare treat and they usually involved someone’s birthday (cake) not pie. Perhaps that’s why I’m so obsessed with baking them nowadays! I was deprived all childhood long…

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