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banana boat cake

This was the main dessert for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

banana cake with boiled brown sugar frosting

The frosting is what makes this cake special and bananas are the unlucky ingredient.

It’s crazy how many “explanations” there are for the superstition that bananas on boats bring bad luck, illness, and bad fishing. Here are but a few from Snopes.com:

  • When top-heavy ships of earlier eras would sink, precious little other than the bananas they’d carried would be found floating on the surface, thereby leaving some to conclude conveyance of the fruit itself had led to these naval mishaps.
  • Spiders, snakes, and other poisonous vermin living among bananas carried in the hold would, on long haul trips, expand their horizons by infesting other parts of the ship.
  • Because the speediest sailing ships were used to get bananas to their destinations before they could spoil, those attempting to fish from them never caught anything while trolling.
  • Fisherman became ill after eating the fruit.
  • Other fruits would spoil more quickly when bananas were being shipped along with them, causing folks to deem bananas “bad luck.” (Technically, it wouldn’t have been ill fate that resulted in the spoilage of other foodstuffs, but instead, the ethylene gas emitted by bananas as they ripen.)
  • Crew member injured by slipping on discarded banana peels.
  • Banana oil rubs off onto the hands of a fisherman, thereby “spooking” the fish.

banana boat

Makes me wonder if Banana Boat sunscreen was named as an ode to the superstition. Anyhow, this cake was lucky for me because it turned out perfectly. One thing though, I think it tastes better the day after it is baked.

*** Note: The cake was the first of the recipes I made for the party, so don’t mind me, I thought I was being cute and clever when I placed lucky and unlucky “charms” in the photos as I made the cake. 🙂

banana cake

Banana Cake with Boiled Brown Sugar Frosting


  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2½ tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 3 large or 4 small bananas
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 8-ounce cream cheese, room temperature

Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Measure out the milk and then add the vanilla and 1½ tablespoons of the lemon juice to it, set aside.


In a medium bowl, mash the banana with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, and set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.

butter and sugars

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter and the sugars until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time until just combined.

flour and milk

Alternate adding thirds of the flour mixture and halves of the milk to the egg mixture to the mixer until just combined, beginning and ending with the flour.

fold in bananas

Fold in bananas.

smooth top

Pour into the prepared pan, smooth the top, place on the center rack of the oven and reduce heat to 275 degrees. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

baked banana cake

Place on a rack and cool completely.

butter brown sugar

Frosting: Melt butter and milk over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, bring to a boil and let boil for 1 minute.

powdered sugar

Turn off the heat and stir in powdered sugar.


Whip the cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy, add the warm brown sugar mixture, and beat until smooth and creamy.

banana cake

Frost the cooled cake. This cake is best the next day. Cut and serve.

Serves 12

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1 Marissa { 05.26.16 at 7:11 AM }

Banana boats are also unlucky because your daughter just broke her nose on one! But this cake looks awesome.

2 Linda Hopkins { 05.26.16 at 8:09 AM }

Haha, so true Marissa! I wasn’t sure if that was something you’d want me mentioning. xoxo

3 Tram Mai { 05.27.16 at 7:52 AM }

OH.MAI.GOSH! I LOOOOOVE THIS CAKE!!!!!! Sooooooo deliciously moist & full of sweet flavor!!! I’m soooo making this!!

4 Paula { 06.08.18 at 8:05 AM }

You didn’t sift the confectioners (powdered) sugar, that’s why it has lumps in the frosting.

5 Linda Hopkins { 06.08.18 at 8:28 PM }

Paula, feel free to sift the powdered sugar, but the frosting was not at all lumpy on this cake.

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