Bitter Aftertaste: The Depressed Cake

When I was a teenager I remember baking a black forest gateaux in the heart-shaped tin. It was a dense, moist cake, and after icing it started to sink, creating a large crack down the middle. I was reminded of this rather melancholic broken-heart cake when I saw the plans for Miss Cakehead’s ‘Depressed Cake’ pop-up.

Part of London’s ‘alt-baking scene’, Cakehead and her company ‘Eat Your Heart Out‘ are beyond other creative culinary events that involved grotesque and grisly baked goods covered in blood and boils, offensive adult-only confectionery and anatomically-correct cakes in the form of organs, bones and famously, vaginas. The new pop-up shop plans to generate awareness of mental health problems and raise money for related charities. Currently enticing bakers to get involved, Miss Cakehead has been asking people to wonder If a cake was depressed, what would it look like? (Luckily the depressed theme will apply to the appearance, and not the taste!)

“One in four people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives – The Depressed Cake shop (opening in May for 3 days) will provide a unique (& delicious cake) platform on which to discuss mental health issues (with a focus on depression), whilst at the same time raising valuable funds for mental health charities. We’re also actively seeking sponsors for this charity event…

The symptoms of depression can be complex – and vary widely – and so will our cakes. But as a general rule, if you are depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. The professional and hobby bakers contributing work to this event will be creating cakes that visually represent this… For example barely decorated cakes or cookies will communicate how depression can affect your ability to work, the grey & dull consistent color scheme that all fun can disappear from life. Remember they may look sad but inside each will be bursting with flavour and colour.” 

Examples already submitted have included grey meringues and black chocolate teacakes (with rainbow marshmallow hidden inside). I think this is a playful concept that will hopefully draw attention and generate discussion on a serious issue. I also like the idea of trying to translate what can often be a very difficult and private experience, tricky to convey to others, through this tasty medium. As many experience at least mild levels of depression at some point in their lives, I think the cakes will strike a chord with a lot of people.

It got me thinking, what would a depressed cake look like to me? I imagine a cake that looks very pretty and normal on the outside, but has a big empty space in the middle. A cake sinking under the weight of heavy objects a-top it. A drab, grey cake with all the sparkling icing dripping off away. A heavy jar of edible medication. A cake stuck full of pins or shaped like a deflated balloon.

Although the event will focus on depression  I think it would also be interesting to think about cakes that represent other mental health problems such as bipolar and panic attacks. If your depression was edible, what do you think it would look like? And would you take a bite out of it?

Three Good Things – The positive data-log

Sometimes things are a bit shit. So what are you going to do about it?

Things have been quite stressful for me lately and I got to thinking about some of the clinical techniques I use (which I too-often completely fail to apply to myself!). I thought I’d share with you a little technique from the school of CBT. When I was doing my own therapy, my therapist tried this with me, it’s very simple, you can do it on your own, and even weirder still, it really does seem to help with depression.

When you’re feeling low, you look at the world and your life in a different way. At least, I did. Often you don’t realise you’re doing it, it seems a wholly realistic way of looking at things. When I was depressed, it was almost as if I have a loop in my head that replayed all the bad things that had happened to me, all the things I had done wrong, all the things that were wrong with me. It rolled around continually, and each time something bad happened, or even semi-bad, I added it to the list. So it was no particular surprise when bad things did happen (as they do to everyone). I expected it. Getting caught in the rain, losing my keys, getting a bad mark on a piece of work, someone giving me a dirty look, these were all reasons that life was bad and so was I. I’d mentally make a list of all the things I was bad at. It was almost like I took a kind of morbid enjoyment in collecting these things, further evidence of just how worthless I was.

The positive data-log is a simple idea, so simple that I scoffed a bit at how worthwhile it could actually be. Each day you write down a few good things that have happened. Admitedly, for a depressed person, this will be very challenging. It may seem like there is absolutely nothing to put on the list at all. This is where you have to start really small. Things that may seem ridiculously, perhaps pathetically small. A nice cup of tea. Finding a convenient parking space. A pretty view. You don’t have to show anyone the list and actually it’s not so much the content that’s important, as the process. The process of each day taking a few moments to consider things that are good, or even just ok, is beneficial. It probably won’t come naturally, depression tunes you into the negatives. But you try and write down a couple of things for each day and it gets a bit easier over time. This method is associated with improvement in mood, and I think it’s something that most of us would benefit from trying from time to time.

Here is mine for today:

  • I ran for the bus (in heels!) and actually made it, much to my surprise
  • A had a client cancel today, but it actually gave me some extra time to finish some work
  • My supervisor complimented me on my technique today – wahoo!
  • Caught a beautiful pink and gold sunset on the way home
  • The man downstairs from my flat offered me a cup of tea. I didn’t have time to have one, but it was a nice offer.

There you go, it’s not been an extraordinary day by any means. Just a few simple things. You might be surprised at how well this works, I’m curious as to other people’s view on using this technique, both on yourself and with others.