Who doesn’t like banana cake? Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked.
And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?
Counterintuitively, banana cake is made using mushy, overripe, spotted, or even brownish-black bananas. The kind that no grocery store would even think of trying to sell. The kind that look sort of yucky, to be honest. The kind no one wants to eat. The kind that was used as an insult in the Christmas song about Mr. Grinch: “You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”
Whenever we had those sorts of bananas in the kitchen when I was little, my Dad would say to my Mom, “Honey, why don’t you throw those things out? They look awful!”
My mother would interpose her body protectively between my Dad and the bananas and say, “No, no! I’m saving them for a banana cake.”
You see, Mom understood the banana paradox. She knew that the mushiest bananas make the best cake. She could see beyond the decaying exterior to what the banana could become.
She saw what my Dad couldn’t see: their potential.
In the same way, God can see beyond our faults and failures to what we can become. God sees the potential in people who have been written off by others, who seem to have disqualified themselves from ever achieving anything great for the Kingdom. God can still use those of us who feel that our record is too spotty, that we have too many black marks against us.
Think of Moses in the Old Testament. He murdered an Egyptian! Surely he had disqualified himself from ever being used by God. What was he? A mushy banana. But God saw the potential still in him. God used Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and the wilderness to the threshold of the Promised Land. Moses was also instrumental in giving us the Ten Commandments. Not bad for a mushy banana.
What about King David? He committed adultery with Bathsheba, then arranged it so that her husband would be killed in battle. Certainly that would rule him out for any further service to God? Another mushy banana. But God wasn’t through with him yet. Today David is known for being one of the most famous kings of ancient Israel, and the author of some of our most beloved Psalms.
And then there’s the apostle Peter, who denied Christ three times. Without doubt, that should have rendered him completely unfit for any role in God’s service: Three strikes and yer out! He was the mushiest of bananas. But God didn’t give up on him. Peter was restored by Christ and went on to become a key leader of the early Church.
The lesson here? Never underestimate the potential of a mushy banana, human or otherwise!
Has all this talk of bananas made you hungry? Me, too! Let’s head over to The Faith Cafe’s dessert showcase and see what’s on offer. We’re in luck! There’s some freshly baked banana-coconut cake.
This being a virtual cafe, you’ll have to bake it yourself, but I’m happy to provide you with our recipe, courtesy of my Mom. Tried and tested for over 50 years, this banana cake always turns out light and delicious. It’s wonderful plain, but if you’d like an extra touch of sweetness, feel free to top it with a simple white glaze of your choice.
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed, over-ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp sour milk (to sour regular milk, put 1 tsp vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough milk to equal 4 Tbsp liquid. Let sit a few minutes.)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.
In a mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and blend well. Mix in beaten eggs. Add bananas and vanilla; beat well.
In a small bowl, dissolve soda in sour milk.
In another bowl, sift flour with baking powder and salt.
Add the sour milk mixture and flour mixture alternately to the banana mixture. Stir in coconut.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.
Let cake cool, then top with glaze, if desired.
© 2019 Lori J. Cartmell