Greenville, South Carolina, residents know where to get their banana dessert fix: Soby’s New South Cuisine has been serving a white chocolate banana cream pie since the restaurant opened in 1997. Chef Rodney Freidank, a member of the original Soby’s team and now the corporate chef of the city’s Table 301 restaurant group, swears by it. “It’s been Soby’s signature dessert since day one,” he says, and for National Banana Cream Pie Day on March 2nd, you can make it at home.
Soby’s take features a tart shell that Freidank describes as “sugary and crisp, made to mimic the vanilla wafers in banana pudding,” and a white chocolate pastry cream with fresh bananas and whipped cream folded in makes the filling. “Banana cream pie is already amazing,” Freidank says. “This is just a way of kicking it up and adding complexity to the flavor.”
Freidank recommends making the pie dough or the pastry cream ahead to save in the fridge for a few days if you’re pressed for time (for the pastry cream, make sure you wrap it tightly in plastic so it doesn’t form a skin). Surprisingly, Freidank feels that the trickiest part of the recipe is shaving the white chocolate into curls with a knife for the garnish. Though Soby’s hand shaved the curls off of a giant block for years, Freidank says it’s easier to buy the shavings, or just use white chocolate chips.
The final result makes for an unexpectedly light dessert. “You look at it, and you think, this is going to be so rich and so heavy, but then when you put it in your mouth, it’s like eating air,” Freidank says.
Since 1997, Soby’s estimates it has served around 100,000 giant pieces of white chocolate banana cream pie. “It’s an eleven-inch tart, and we cut it into eight slices, which means the slices are enormous, and people just wolf it down like it’s nothing.” When you make it at home, Freidank says, you can add your own flair to it, using different finishes of fruit, chocolate, or cocoa powder. “For me though, I don’t need any of that. Just give me the pie.”