Cures for melancholy: sex and chocolate cake

6 Nov|Idler readers

Recipe for happiness: chocolate cake (note: this picture represents the idea of chocolate cakes in general, a sort of Platonic ideal of chocolate cakes, and is not a picture of the specific chocolate cake whose recipe is given below)

THIS week’s Cures for Melancholy, as submitted by Idler readers, with a recipe for a chocolate cake to drive away the blues.

Sex and forgetting

• Forget about everything you’re worried about for a fortnight: do only what’s essential

• Go for walks

• Avoid social media, most newspapers and most tv

• Have orgasms

• Have nice things to eat

• Talk to people you trust



The baking cure

May I recommend baking as a cure for melancholy? It was the most useful piece of advice a GP gave me, during a long cold winter when I was plunged into what had been diagnosed as depression.

When you bake a cake, you have to slow down. Although the process is easy, you need to think methodically about what you are doing, without getting distracted. It’s very soothing. You gather and weigh ingredients, put the oven on, prepare the mixture. While your cake is baking, you can enjoy the delicious smells wafting around the kitchen. Then – best of all – you have created a home-made cake to share with someone you love. They will be impressed, because no-one bakes cakes anymore. I defy anyone to feel melancholy while eating ginger cake with a cup of tea, even in November.


…bake a cake.

“Never make a cake out of obligation but always with love and generosity in your heart,”

There are many times when cooking is a chore but baking sweet treats should never be.

Making a cake provides you with a feeling of contentment and happiness. So when I was feeling down last week, I baked this ‘old fashioned chocolate cake’ from Nigella’s fabulous Feast.

It cheered me up no end. And this wasn’t due to the prospect of eating it all myself, but to the anticipation of the pleasure it would give to others (in this case my husband and children).

Nigella’s old-fashioned chocolate cake

The cake:

200g of plain flour
200g of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
40g of cocoa powder
175g of butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of real vanilla extract
150ml of sour cream

The (proper) icing:

75g of butter
175g of good quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
300g of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
125ml of sour cream
1 teaspoons of real vanilla extract
Sugar flower decorations (optional)

Remove the butter and the sour cream from the fridge so that they can come up to room temperature and preheat the oven to 180oC.

Butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins (with removable bases) with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. I don’t have a food processor so I put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk until everything is incorporated.

Divide the mixture equally into the two tins (I am a bit anal here and I do use the scales because I’m terrible at judging by eye) and place in the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes but start testing after 25 minutes. As ever the cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool on wire racks in their tins for 10 minutes and then turn out and remove the lining paper. Make sure they are completely cool before you start the icing.

For the icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water.

While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.

Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. You may need to add a little boiling water if the mixture is a little thick, or more icing sugar if it is too runny. It should be liquid enough to coat the cake easily but thick enough not to drip off.

Put one third of the icing on top of one of the cakes and sandwich by sitting the other cake on top. Put one third of the icing on the top of that cake and smooth to the edges. Then put the rest of the icing around the sides of the cake. Spread the icing in a swirly, textured way and decorate with sugared flowers if you want it to look like Nigella’s.


Got a cure for melancholy that doesn’t involve taking anti-depressant pills? Send it to: [email protected]