women

‘Baking helped me through the darkest times’

Looking for ways to cope with her cripping depression, bestselling author Marian Keyes discovered cake baking and ended up collecting her favourite recipes in a cookbook, Saved By Cake

Medically speaking, there’s no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Which is very annoying to discover when you’re right in the middle of one. It started in October 2009, when panic started rolling up from my gut and down from me head. I was in the middle of promoting a novel and I thought it must be the stress of that, but when that came to an end, I plunged far deeper into the awful, alien strangeness. I was diagnosed with depression, but it didn’t feel like depression. Granted, I had lots of the symptoms: I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t eat.

Then one day, my friend Helen was visiting. Her birthday was coming up, and I decided I wanted to bake her a cake. I hadn’t baked in decades – not since I and my classmates had been forced to assemble some joyless rock cakes in Home Economics when we were 13. To he honest, I didn’t really hold with baking. I was suspicious of anything ‘crafty’. But things were different now. So I baked Helen a cake – a chocolate cheesecake, as it happens. And I enjoyed making it so much that I baked another. I started reading recipe books and looking up stuff on the internet. I couldn’t stop baking. And although I consumed a truly heroic quantity of my produce, I couldn’t eat it all, and eventually had to start giving it away – to family, neighbours, random strangers. And still I kept – and keep on – baking. It makes me concentrate on what’s right in front of my nose. I have to focus: on weighing the sugar, on sieving the flour. I find it calming and rewarding because, in fairness, it is sort of magic.

Marian’s Black Hole Chocolate Cheesecake

Description: Marian’s chocolate cheesecake: worth waiting for

Marian’s chocolate cheesecake: worth waiting for

‘So called because it’s so dense, it seems to collapse under the weight of its own fabulousness’

Hands-on time 30min, plus chilling, cooling and setting. Cooking time about 1hr. Serves 10

For the base

·         50g (2oz) butter, melted, plus extra to grease

·         100g (31/2oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped

·         200g (7oz) digestive biscuites, finely crushed

For the filling

·         200g (7oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped

·         200g (7oz) mascarpone cheese

·         200g tub full-fat cream cheese

·         50g (2oz) caster sugar

·         2 medium eggs

·         1tsp vanille extract

·         1/4tsp black pepper

·         150ml (1/4 pint) double cream

1.    Grease the sides and line the base of a 23cm (9in) springform tin with baking parchment. To make the base, melt the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. When the chocolate is melted, take off the heat and mix in the melted butter and crushed biscuits. Press mixture into the base of the tin, bringing a little ‘lip’ up the sides. Stick it in the fridge for at least 1hr.

2.    To make the filling, preheat the oven to 170oC (150oC fan) mark 3. Melt the chocolate as before and let it cool a little. With much gusto, whip the cheese in a separate bowl with the sugar, eggs, vanilla and black pepper – this is one situation where an electric whisk is a godsend! With the motor running, add the cream followed by the cooling chocolate and mix until combined.

3.    Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the biscuit base and bake for 40min.

Description: Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the biscuit base and bake for 40min.

Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the biscuit base and bake for 40min.

4.    Then, without opening the door, turn off the oven and let the cake sit there for at least 2hr. during the cooking time, your cake will have risen, but it will slowly sink back into itself.

5.    But it’s not time to eat it yet! No, into the fridge with it for at least 6hr, preferably overnight. Then slice and serve.

Description: Time to eat: into the fridge with it for at least 6hr, preferably overnight. Then slice and serve.

Time to eat: into the fridge with it for at least 6hr, preferably overnight. Then slice and serve.

Per serving

569cals, 45g fat (27g saturates), 38g carbs (29g total sugars)

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