Cheer up with cake

Cake has been a short-term cure for the unhappy in the UK for years. For most people in times of distress, looking at a nice bunch of flowers just doesn’t do the trick. A fistful or two of sugary icing tends to work much better.

Of course therapists would argue against using sponge as a kind of positive reinforcement tool is probably unwise, and most people would admit to being guilty of a bit of emotional eating every now and again.

Interestingly there have been a few projects recently embracing the link between baked goods and pure joy.

For example, at the beginning of August The Depressed Cake Shop popped up for Mental Health Awareness Week selling treats like Black Dog macaroons, and Misfortune cookies.

Last year Marianne Keys launched a book, part baking recipes, part memoir Saved by Cake. In interviews she says that she was quite literally saved by baking, and that it weaned her off the medication she was taking for depression.

Similarly last year’s winner of The Great British Bake OffJohn Waite had battled with depression for over eight years, and said that having something to focus on helped his condition. His cookbook also includes a chapter on bakes to cheer you up.

“When I’m in the kitchen, measuring the amount of sugar, flour or butter I need for a recipe or cracking the exact number of eggs – I am in control. That’s really important as a key element of my condition is a feeling of no control.”

There are of course downsides to going cake crazy, the most obvious being a life confined to wearing leggings and stretchy t-shirts. It’s doubtful that the act of eating delights from the oven are sole cause of happiness, but perhaps the creative process that goes into making them and (sometimes) sharing them.

Cookery classes have long been used as therapy in the NHS, and the East London NHS trust have set up ‘Recipes of Life’ which integrates talking therapy with healthy cooking and eating sessions.

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YES that is me with past Great British Bake Off winners Ed Kimber and John Waite in a hot air balloon in front of the Eiffel Tower. Another day, another mode of transport with reality TV stars.

So it’s good news all round, cake can officially make you happy – but learn from that time you were first told red wine and dark chocolate were good for you, and woke up with a pretty ferocious headache. Don’t eat all the cake. Or at least don’t eat all the cake at once.

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