Picture this: you are 40 weeks and 2 days. You had a prenatal appointment 2 days ago where your doctor declared you were 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Mild, rhythmic cramps have been happening for a few hours and they seem to be getting a little stronger over time.

They aren’t yet so strong that you can’t cope but enough to make it hard to sleep. And, you just pulled out the baking supplies from the cupboard. It may be 11:30pm but you’re about to back a Groaning Cake.

Wait a minute!  Bake in labour?  Yes!

I get it. It sounds like the most counter-intuitive thing to do. The reality is, though, it’s actually the perfect thing to do. While you are still in early labour, a small project that doesn’t require perfect attention to detail and doesn’t have a lot of steps is a perfect distraction technique for labour.

But, what is a Groaning Cake?  It is a traditional sweet loaf or round cake baked by labouring women. It is usually a spiced cake as it was believed the spices, which could be smelled while a person laboured, would ease the birthing person’s discomfort.

One of the great things about the Groaning Cake is that the recipe is endlessly adaptable: you can throw whatever additional ingredients you’d like in it and they all work well together. You can ice it, or not, or eat it with a smear of butter or preserves, or just have a slice or 5 plain!  The version I’ve created for you has lots of fibre in it to help your body after labour. There are fats and proteins in there, too, to give a new mother energy after the hard work of birthing a baby.

I’ve developed – and tested – a recipe just for you. It comes with suggestions for personalizing your Groaning Cake and features a maple cream cheese icing that will leave everyone drooling. 

Suggestion: make a test cake.

You know, just to make sure the recipe works for your tastes, with your oven, etc.

Mixing bowl with ingredients beside a bowl of flour.

Mix all of the wet ingredients together with the mixer and mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Batter in a silver mixing bowl with a red spatula.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.

Slice of cake with icing on a brown cake with silver fork.

One slice might not be enough of this delicious cake.


Yield: 1 loaf

HFD Groaning Cake

Groaning Cake with Icing

This traditional spiced cake is made in early labour as a distraction from contractions and makes a delicious first meal after baby is born.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes



  • 1 Cup pumpkin puree, not pie filling
  • 1/2 Cup softened butter
  • 1/2 Cup white sugar
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp butter for greasing pan


  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • OR
  • 2 tsp pie spice mix


  • Choose 2
  • 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 Cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 Cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 Cup raisins


  • 3/4 Cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1/4 Cup cream cheese
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream sugar and eggs together and add in all other wet ingredients: pumpkin, vanilla and eggs.
  3. In a separate bowl add flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices and then whisk to blend.
  4. Add 2 types of additives to the bowl of dry ingredients.
  5. Mix dry ingredients into wet until mixed well.
  6. Grease a loaf pan or 9 inch round cake pan.
  7. Pour batter into pan and smooth top out.
  8. Bake for 1 hour.
  9. Check for doneness with a clean, dry knife.
  10. When done, put aside to cool. Can be placed in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
  11. To make icing: in mixer cream together cream cheese, vanilla, maple syrup. Add icing sugar slowly. Scrape down sides to ensure all ingredient are well blended.
  12. When cool, ice the cake and serve.
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