Groaning Cake: Whole-Wheat Almond & Apple Gingerbread


Groaning cake or “Labor Bread” as I’ve been calling it, is a wholesome gingerbread cake that originates from ancient English folklore dating back to the 1800’s. Newly popularized by Amy Mckay’s Novel “The Birth House” this tradition of preparing labor cake became known to me through homebirth research. Also known as “Kimbly Cakes,” wives tales say that the smell of this gingerbread or fruit cake baking can ease a woman’s labor and hasten the process. Ideally it is to be prepared during early labor to busy a woman’s mind, body and soul and to warm the home with a wonderful aroma. (I believe really the idea is to keep a woman active and vertical furthering baby down the birth canal rather than laying back and delaying progress.) This cake is meant to be eaten during early labor or after labor to store or renew energy, although the wive’s tales say that it is to be given away and shared during the days after a child is born, for good luck. The earthy, rich aroma’s are sure to fill your home with an instant sense of comfort and calmness.


For me spicy molasses desserts are especially sentimental. This recipe is my own interpretation of the general idea and tradition of the recipe. I wanted something that didn’t have too much sugar, something fairly nutrient dense, and something with a lot of aromatic flavors. This crumbly quick bread is fortified with iron rich un-sulphured molasses, coconut oil and almonds (for slow burning energy) and even oats and flax for lactation support. This rustic bread can be glazed with a lemon or orange glaze, or even frosted with some cream cheese frosting if you wish. This recipe is perfect for sharing any time of year, but I imagine it would be especially festive during the Fall and Winter holiday season!

“In Cambridgeshire, the term was differently used, it referred to a pain-killing cake which included gin and crushed hemp seed (cannabis) among the ingredients, which midwives gave women in labour.” (Porter, 1969)


“In the northern counties, women recovering from childbirth were given rich fruitcake, gingerbread, or Cheshire cheese, and female neighbors were invited in to share it, as part of the celebration. Several writers from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries mention a form of divination, similar to that done with wedding cake, but more boisterous. Slices of the cake or cheese would be cut into chunks by the new father, tossed in the midwife’s smock, and given to unmarried girls so that they could put them under their pillows and dream of their future husbands. Sometimes, another slice was given to the first person of opposite sex met on the road as the child was taken to it’s baptism.” (Radford, Radford, and Hole, 1961)

Groaning Cake: Whole-Wheat Almond & Apple Gingerbread

Wet Ingredients-

  • 1/2 Cup Organic Coconut Oil (or Butter) Melted
  • 1/3 Cup Organic Un-Sulphured Molasses
  • 1/2 to 2/3 Cup Milk, Coconut Milk or Heavy Cream (See Note)
  • 3 Eggs (or Flax Egg Equivalent)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Grated Apple (2 Apples)
  • 1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2/3 Cup Sucanat or Coconut Sugar

Dry Ingredients-

  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (Sprouted Wheat, If Available)
  • 1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 3 Tablespoons Ground Flax Meal
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg

+ Mix-Ins: Up To 1 Cup Total of Sliced Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Dried Figs, Dates, Raisins, Dry Apricots, Dry Cranberries

  1. Pre-Heat Oven to 350 Degrees. (F)
  2. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (excluding your mix-ins) and stir until smooth.
  4. Add your mix-ins and allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes (or as long as you need. It can even be refrigerated and baked later if you find that your “plans” are being tampered with.)
  5. Pour batter into a buttered and floured bundt pan or two tea loaf pans. Loaf pans will bake for about 30 minutes, a bundt cake will bake for 40-55 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean. (You can make this into 8″ or 9″ cakes or even bake it into muffins if you prefer.)

Note: Next time I plan to use about 1 cup of sour cream instead of milk for a moister cake and maybe some Brewer’s Yeast for an additional Lactification boost.

”The tradition of a groaning cake, or kimbly, at birth is an ancient one. Wives’ tales say that the scent of the 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.” — Ami McKay, The Birth House


Image Courtesty Of: WikiSource

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