We can’t imagine summer without banana pudding. So, we took this favorite southern dessert and turned it into a cheesecake topped with banana meringue cookies and crushed vanilla wafers. Creamy, delicious, and loaded with banana flavor, it mimics that perfect southern treat.

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
3 cups vanilla wafers
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ cups ripe bananas
24 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons banana extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup crushed vanilla wafers
banana meringue cookies (recipe below)

Heat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan on the bottom and sides. Add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan; butter the parchment.

Melt the stick of butter and set aside. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and sugar; pulse until incorporated. Using a flat-sided measuring cup, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on a sheet tray then into the oven and bake for 9-12 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Place the spring-form pan in the center of 3 large pieces of aluminum foil and wrap the foil up the sides of the pan to make a water-tight seal. The cake will be baked in a water bath, so the idea is to use the foil to keep the water out of the cheesecake. Reduce the oven to 300˚F.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the bananas to a smooth purée. Measure out 1 ¼ cups of the banana.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, flour, salt, and banana purée together for 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture is very smooth and fluffy with no lumps. Add the sugar and continue beating until very smooth. Add the extracts and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stop when the final egg is just incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the eggs into the mixture.

Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan. Transfer the banana mixture to the springform pan and tap on the counter gently to release any excess air. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 75 minutes. The cheesecake should be only slightly jiggly in the center when done. Turn off oven, open the door for a few minutes to release some heat then allow the cheesecake to cool for 1 hour in the oven. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, cover tightly, and transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator. Chill for at least an hour or until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove the springform, top with banana meringue cookies and more crushed vanilla wafers. Makes 16 servings.

Banana Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons banana extract
¾ cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 315˚F. Add pieces of parchment paper to cover two cookie sheets. Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and banana extract until very firm. Gradually add sugar and beat into the egg white mixture.

Drop or pipe by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined sheet trays. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven overnight to cool and dry. Makes 20 cookies.