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February 7, 2024
Banana Cream Bars Are My Family’s Retro Delight

A vintage recipe that’s just as delicious 40 years later.

My grandmother’s recipe box is filled with vintage gems, and though we’ve combed through the index cards and newspaper clippings together countless times, she always describes each recipe as if for the first time. Her favorite to rave about is a layered pudding dessert called “Our Delight,” carefully clipped from South Seattle newspaper the South District Journal. It’s dated November 17, 1982, and despite its retro name, the creamy treat’s timeless appeal persists.

The recipe for Our Delight was published by local woman Lee Armstrong, the winner of a holiday recipe contest. Our Delight features a pecan shortbread base layered with sweetened cream cheese, instant vanilla pudding, and banana slices, all topped with whipped cream and shredded coconut before being cut into generous squares. The recipe employs a certain accessible opulence that defined the era. When you taste all of those cold, creamy, and crunchy layers, it’s easy to imagine how this dessert won first place.

Our Delight is my ideal version of banana pudding. It’s not overly sweet, and it’s balanced by the toasty aroma of pecans and coconut. Using homemade pudding is more work, but it’s totally worth it. Instant pudding tends to be very sweet, while homemade versions are richer, silkier, and taste of real vanilla. To keep things simple, I’ve opted to skip the cream cheese layer, instead adding a big spoonful of tangy sour cream to the whipped cream topping.

The original Our Delight

The pecan shortbread base has a pleasantly sandy texture, but it doesn’t have any sugar in it. I was initially skeptical, but I urge you to follow the recipe! After experimenting with adding varying amounts of sugar, I can confidently say Lee Armstrong knew what she was doing. The unsweetened base is the cleverest part of the recipe—it saves the dessert from overbearing sweetness and allows the banana and vanilla flavors to really stand out.

Armstrong’s original recipe calls for a 9×13 pan (enough to feed a small village). I’ve scaled the recipe down to fit an 8-inch square pan, which still makes a generous 12 servings—enough to feed a crowd but also not unmanageable for a smaller household to eat and share over the course of a few days. Luckily, it’s the kind of dessert that only gets better after a day in the fridge. Served chilled alongside a hot cup of coffee, this is a dessert that definitely lives up to its name.

RECIPE: Our Delight Bars

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.