What Is A Groaning Cake And How Is It Related To Labor?

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Many different cultures have traditions related to postpartum, and a groaning cake is one of said traditions. It can be traced back to the early 1900’s, and a midwife named Dora Rare.

She lived in Scott’s Bay in Nova Scotia, Canada, and is referenced throughout the PBS documentary, The Birth House, which is based off a novel by the same name. It’s a portrait of the struggles women have to this day, when looking to protect their right to choose how to labor and keep the best parts of the knowledge which has been passed down from generations alive, while living in a world of modern medicine, which is certainly needed in some instances.

You can read more about where the idea for such a book came from, the real life stories behind the book, midwifery in the 1900’s, and more related topics, all on the author’s website. Back to the groaning cake…

A groaning cake is a rich spiced cake that traditionally women bake during labor, hence the name. It was typically made for eating after the baby arrived, both to give the mother strength in her recovery, as well as to serve visitors who came to visit the mother and new baby.

Essentially, the cake was to be baked by the laboring mother as a form of distraction during early labor, as well as for anticipation to eat once baby arrived. It’s very well known in the UK and in Canada, which is where its supposed origin is (as referenced above).

Old Wives’ Tales said that the scent of the groaning cake being baked in the house the mother labors and births in helps to ease the mother’s pain. Some said that if she would crack eggs to bake a cake during labor aches, contractions wouldn’t hurt as much, nor would labor last as long. I have no examples or citations for the actual effectiveness of this, other than it being a longstanding, and fairly interesting, tradition. Do you know of any other traditions surrounding labor that sound as.. bizarre.. as this?

The groaning cake is an extremely forgiving recipe, which means the ingredients are flexible (as much as baking can be), so you can certainly experiment with favorite or in-season ingredients. Also, the recipe reads very similar to a spice cake, and it certainly looks and tastes like one, too.

Here are the ingredients for a basic groaning cake:

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tbsp ginger (grated, fresh)

1/2 of a sweet potato (peeled and graded)

1 large apple (chopped and grated)

1 carrot (grated)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (chopped)

1/4 cup dates (pitted and chopped)

1/4 cup apricots (pitted and chopped)

1/4 cup orange juice

4 eggs

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1 tsp almond extract

1 cup raw, local honey

3/4 cup coconut oil (melted)

Here are the steps:

(1) Heat the oven to 180 Celsius and grease and line bottom of pans with baking parchment, four 1/2 pound loaf pans.

(2) Soak the dried fruit in orange juice.

(3) Mix together flour baking powder baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.

(4) Beat eggs in a separate bowl.

(5) Add the remaining ingredients into the eggs.

(6) Combine the dry and wet ingredients gradually, until just mixed.

(7) Divide the batter into four loaf tins.

(8) Bake for about 40 minted or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

(9) Allow to cool. Then enjoy! This tastes great served warm with butter or a dollop of cream. It freezes well, too!

And a bonus… Here is a recipe card for you!

Just subscribe to the email list here to be directed to the free resource library, where you can download your own printable copy.

Have you heard of a groaning cake before? Would you make one for preparation and celebration of your next labor?

~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama

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