Over the winter I read a magical book called The Birth House by Ami McKay. The story is about a young woman named Dora Rare who becomes a midwife’s apprentice. Her story is beautiful, heartbreaking, and raw. As you follow Dora through her life, you learn so many amazing things about women’s health and Eastern Canadian culture at the time. Anyway, I wasn’t planning to make this post a book review, but I highly recommend you read it.
There is a recipe in The Birth House for something called a Groaning Cake. I had never heard of one before I read the book. On the author’s website she describes the tradition and meaning behind the groaning cake:
The tradition of the groaning cake, or kimbly at (or following) a birth is an ancient one. Wive’s tales say that the scent of a groaning cake being baked in the birth house help 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 absolutely love baking so even though I’m not pregnant or labouring, I thought it would be a nice gesture to bake the cake in celebration of school starting soon! I also just really love cake… so I’ll take any excuse really.
Groaning Cake Recipe:
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup oil
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup molasses
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 ⅓ cups sugar
- 1 ½ cups apple
- 1 tsp almond extract
Sift dry ingredients together. Add apple. Beat eggs. Add oil, orange juice, molasses and sugar. Add to dry ingredients. Mix well. Add almond extract. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes. Makes two 9 x 5 loaves or about 18 muffins.
I decided to make them into muffins because that way I could bring some to work. I also added a cream cheese icing because it is the most delicious icing out there, and although my icing skills are currently sub-par I’m still practicing when I can. So I guess they’re cupcakes!
So don’t laugh, but all I had left was Halloween cupcake liners. It was either that or Santa Claus and I think that the flavours of cinnamon, apple, and molasses obviously scream an Autumn vibe… Upon tasting the batter (homemade means that I licked the spoon), the almond oil really stands out and it’s lovely, I’ve never baked with almond oil before. They smell amazing baking in the oven, I understand how this smell could relax a labouring mama!
The recipe actually yielded 29 enormous cupcakes and took about 15 minutes in the oven.
So how do they taste? The almond oil makes such a difference, they taste sweet and warm and the cream cheese icing really complements the cake well. I hope eating a couple (okay, seven…) brings me good luck! My partner has already eaten half the batch… I mean, we don’t really have a lot of storage containers, so he might as well…
Good luck to all the midwives studying this year and good luck to all the hopefuls applying for 2016!