The self-raising cookie
Marian Keyes explains in the introduction to her recipe book, Saved by Cake, how she finds baking calming and rewarding because ''it is sort of magic - you start off with all this disparate stuff, like butter and eggs, and what you end up with is so totally different. And also so delicious".
Two years ago the 48-year-old chick-lit novelist revealed on her blog that she had been battling with a debilitating depression.
''My dear amigos, happy new year to you all and I hope your festive season was not too unpleasant. I'm very sorry but this is going to be a very short piece because I am laid low with crippling depression," she wrote.
It started in 2009, she says in Saved by Cake.
''I couldn't sleep; I couldn't breathe; I couldn't eat; I couldn't read - by the time I came to the end of a sentence, I'd forgotten the start . I thought a lot about dying."
There were attempts at available cures. There was the medication, a visit to a psychiatric hospital, (''literally an asylum"), cognitive behavioural therapy, acupuncture, anything she thought might help her. Nothing did.
Until one day she baked a cake. Keyes enjoyed baking the cake so much that she baked another one. And then another.
''I couldn't stop baking."
Keyes is very careful not to prescribe baking as a cure to everyone who suffers from depression.
''But it gets me through. My challenge - everyone's challenge - is about living through the today and I find that baking passes the time. To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes."
A result of her therapy is a delightful recipe book with chapters on cupcakes, cheesecakes, meringues and macaroons, chocolate cakes, fruit cakes and favourite classics. There are recipes for every occasion. Her favourite?
''Making biscuits has given me the most pleasure because I get to use my [many, many] cookie cutters. I get to make my shoes. Edible shoes. And handbags. And owls. And stars. And hearts."
The recipes are for beginner and experienced bakers and for everybody who loves to see the magical transformation from a little bit of this and a little bit of that into a delicious edible goodie.
'Saved by Cake' published by Penguin UK. R257 (hardback) at Exclusive Books
Marian Keyes' Rocky Road Cake
- 500g rich tea biscuits
- 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 300g milk chocolate
- 200g butter
- 300g golden syrup
- 100g dried dates, chopped small
- 100g dried apricots, chopped small
- 120g hazelnuts, skins off, roasted and chopped roughly
- 100g mini marshmallows
THIS is a no-bake cake. Easy to make and everyone loves it.
I used ready-roasted hazelnuts with their skins off, but if you prefer to roast your own, place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast in a 180C (gas 4) oven for five to eight minutes or under the grill for two minutes until browned, checking regularly that they aren't burning.
To make the cake, begin by lining a 20cm square tin with clingfilm - leaving bits overhanging the sides so you can lift the cake out easily. Break the biscuits into small pieces, smaller than bite-size, but not reduced to crumbs. Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a large, heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the broken biscuits, then add the dried fruit, nuts and marshmallows.
Stir well, then pour into the prepared tin and refrigerate for six hours.
Lift out of the tin and peel off the clingfilm. Cut into 16 chunks.
Watch people devour.