Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Gall Bladder Cake

This might have been a medieval recipe or a magical potion, in my wildest, most fantastical dreams, or in some of my more obscure fiction.

It isn’t.

This cake is not made of gall bladders.

I love my Pops.

We have had a complicated relationship over the years, but I love him.

Pops loves his food. His appetite knows no bounds.

His mother was, and my mother is a very good cook.

His relationship with food would be uncomplicated, but for the fact that Pops also has health issues. For a long time, he somehow rumbled along, even with a heart condition. Somehow, he continued to eat pretty well whatever he wanted to eat, pretty well whenever he wanted to eat it.

Then the pain began.

I haven’t suffered the pain of gall stones, so I can’t say what it’s like, but, apparently, the symptoms can be deeply unpleasant. I certainly know that Pops suffered. 

Pops had to change his diet and he had to have his gall bladder removed.

Pops has a sweet tooth and he’s a big fan of good old-fashioned home baking. There isn’t much point giving him bought stuff, especially if it’s low-fat, sugar substituted and e-numbered up the ying-yang. It’s just not real food to him.

I like food. I like to cook, and I know a little bit about how food works, so I experimented and I came up with a recipe, and with it, I baked Pops a cake. I baked several over the ensuing weeks and months, but this recipe was his favourite.

All of this happened some years ago, and I never thought about it again. I gave Mum the recipe, and that was that.

Then, a couple of months ago, a FaceBook friend of mine found that she had pregnancy induced gallstones, and, suddenly, she had to change her diet, too. Emma had this to say:

Moan post: So it appears that the offspring (as in small child, not as in dodgy haircutted band) couldn't care less whether you're 6 months pregnant with gallstones, they are still going to use you as a climbing frame and eat your carefully thought out 'what the hell CAN I eat that's not going to cause me pain' snack. Which was grapes by the way. Bloody grapes, not cake or ice cream or anything outrageous.

Naturally, I dug out my recipe for gall bladder cake and messaged it to her. The following day, she had baked the date and walnut version of the cake and eaten it well, not all of it, obviously. The comments on her FaceBook page ran as follows:

Stacey: Fat free cake? What is this witchcraft?!

Emma: It IS witchcraft - only explanation for something fat free tasting that good. The lovely Nic responded to my whining yesterday about the double horror of being diagnosed with gallstones whilst 6 months pregnant. Therefore no fat allowed, therefore no cake. EVERYone knows pregnant women NEED cake as much as they need folic acid. Want me to send you the recipe in a pay it forward stylie?! It's goooooood.

I’m glad she enjoyed it, and I love the idea of paying it forward. 

This is a dense, homely cake. It isn’t fancy, but it is quite satisfying. I suppose I thought that making this recipe for Pops was just one of those moments in time. I suppose I thought it was a disposable recipe, but now it’s out in the World. I’m sure it was paid forward, and I hope that others will enjoy it too.

Now for that Recipe: Gall Bladder Cake

4oz (115g) wholemeal flour 
2oz (60g) oats
4oz (115g) demerara sugar
3oz (90g) raisins
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
100ml yoghurt
50ml apple juice

METHOD: Put all the ingredients in a mixer and make a batter. Cook for about 35mins at 175 degrees (350F gas mark 4).
Emma's photo of her Gall Bladder Cake

There's also a date and walnut version:

4oz  (115g) wholemeal flour
2oz (60g) oats
4oz (115g) demerara sugar
3oz (90g) chopped dates
2oz (60g) chopped walnuts
1tsp mixed spice 
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
100ml yoghurt

1 dessert spoon demerara sugar
1 dessert spoon oats

METHOD. Put all the ingredients (except the topping) in a mixer and make a batter. Sprinkle the topping ingredients on the batter before baking to form a lovely crust to the cake. Cook for about 35 mins at 175 degrees (350F gas mark 4).


  1. Ah, the immense power of yoghurt.

  2. Great cake with quite the name!

  3. Like you, I've not experienced gall stones, but worked with a colleague who suffered a lot, and I mean a lot, with them. Too late for him to make use of your recipe, but I sure will!

  4. This is a dense, homely cake gallbladder gallstones symptoms. It isn’t fancy, but it is quite satisfying. I suppose I thought that making this recipe for Pops was just one of those moments in time.