I love expressing my nurturing nature to new mamas by giving them something delicious and nourishing to eat, and what is more nourishing than a home baked cake?


After reading Ami McKay “The birth house” a few years ago,  I started baking this traditional cake called a groaning cake for my doula clients. The birth house is the story of a traditional midwife in Nova Scotia in the mid 1900’s.

To quote Ami :

“The tradition of the groaning cake, or kimbly at (or following) a birth is an ancient one. Wives’ tales say that the scent of a groaning cake being baked in the birth house helps to ease the mother’s pain. Some say if a mother breaks the eggs while she’s aching, her labour won’t last as long. Others say that if a family wants prosperity and fertility, the father must pass pieces of the cake to friends and family the first time the mother and baby are churched (or the first time they go to a public gathering) after a birth. Many cultures share similar traditions…a special dish, bread, or drink, spiced with cinnamon, all spice, and/or ginger. At one time there was even a groaning ale made to go with it…”

I have since discovered that the tradition originated from the UK, and that the postpartum period was called “the groaning”. Apart from the cake itself, there was also a tradition, originating from Oxfordshire, of eating groaning cheese,  a large wheel of cheese, which was eaten  starting from the middle, and once hollowed out, the baby was passed through the cheese for good luck.


2 ½ cups (or 325g) Flour

3 eggs

4 tsp. baking powder

½ cup (or 110ml) oil

½ cup(or 118ml) orange juice

1 tbs mixed spice

¼ cup (or 90g) black treacle (I like to use 1/2 cup, as it makes the cake darker and gooier)

1 1/3 cups (or 260g) brown sugar (I’ve used dark muscovado sugar and it gives the cake an even gooier and dark sticky texture which I love)

1 ½ cups (approx 100g) grated apple

1tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

Sift dry ingredients together. Add eggs, oil, orange juice, black treacle and sugar. Add almond and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add grated apple. Mix well. Pour into lined and greased loaf tins. Bake at 180 C (160 if  using a fan oven). for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Makes two loaves.


groaning cake 2

I bake a groaning cake when I go on-call for a birth (I freeze the cake and take it with me when she calls in labour-by the time the baby is born the cake has usually thawed, and the freezing and thawing seems to make the cake more gooey and cakey, yum!).  I like to share the cake between the new parents and the midwife/birth team. I also bring one to my new postnatal clients. I have yet to meet a mum who hasn’t loved its taste.

I have baked a gluten free version for clients using Dove farm gluten free flour, and it worked well if a little drier.

Recently I also made a vegan paleo version, it’s more puddingy than cakey, but it still hits the spot,  here is the recipe:

1½ cups almond flour

1 tablespoon coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 flax eggs (mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water for each egg replacement, and leave to rest until it becomes thick)

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2  cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup black treacle

1 tablespoon mixed spices

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup grated apple

bake at 160 for 30 min or until cooked.

I started eating a ketogenic diet in 2018, so I have now concocted a Keto groaning cake recipe :

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted (coconut oil for dairy free)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tbsp black treacle (OK so not technically sugar free-but I think the amount is low enough)
  • 1/4 cup xylitol(or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup orange squash (sugar free)
  • 1 cup grated courgette
  • 2 tablespoons mixed spices
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 handfuls blueberries

In 2021 I started using a different version, because a lot of my local friends are both gluten free and vegan, and I wanted the holy grail of groaning cake: A keto, gluten free and vegan versio

Keto vegan gluten free groaning cake

Vegan with egg replacer

  • 5 Eggs at room temperature (For the vegan version I use 5 “eggs” worth of Egg replacer, which you can find in most supermarkets.
  • 3/4 cup Erythritol (or xylitol)
  • 1/2 cup Coconut oil
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup of black treacle
  • 1 cup grated apple (or courgette if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoon mixed spices

It has a better texture than the previous recipe (although still quite pudding like)

Enjoy, and please do comment with your experiences/taste of this cake!

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