Just as depression has many guises, so too are there many ways to live with it. Marian Keyes has, at different times, turned to "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, meditation, mindfulness, B12 injections, Bach Flower Remedies, journaling and cold showers", and plenty of others. But after an "avalanche" began in her head in October 2009, she found a less publicised but more durable (for her, she stresses) form of relief: cakes. Not eating them (although she does admit to getting high on her own supply), but making them for all and sundry. Her experiences of the healing power of cookie cutters, flour-covered hands and everyone's-a-winner recipes are gathered together in Saved by Cake, a book that would give anyone the confidence to get in the kitchen - and to face the world outside it.
From spinster aunts to kids' birthdays to men of square jaw, there's a recipe here for every occasion, and Keyes also liberally sprinkles one precious ingredient that nearly all cookbooks lack - humour. And so, we are told, white chocolate "suffers with its nerves" while melting, that when her husband revealed he knew how to make Millionaire's Shortbread it was like "discovering he was secretly Argentinian and had enjoyed a moderately successful polo career in his twenties" and that "there is something about baked cheesecake that benefits from the ageing process, like fine wines and George Clooney". You'll find plenty more that break the ice (or should that be melt the butter?) before you get down to rolling your sleeves up, and no matter how much of a 'disaster' the finished product turns out to be, Keyes' description of the year her two brothers took over the Christmas Cake duties will make you laugh.
Keyes is a zealot but, over the nine recipe sections in the book - Classics, Cupcakes, Cheesecakes, Liquid Cakes, Pastry, Meringues and Macaroons, Biscuits and Cookies, Fruit and Veg, Chocolate - she stresses time and time again that excellence does not require perfection. So what if your macaroons aren't all sized to the exact millimetre? Did you enjoy making them? Are there any left? Job done. Such a message helps people more than Keyes probably realises, and will transport a fair few monkeys from backs and into soundproof cages for a bit.
Even if you're always meaning to but never find the time or energy to get around to making any, Saved by Cake is a soothing read and a celebration of how one person got through what they were going through. Some may feel it needed a closing chapter with more of the hard-found wisdom and painful acceptance Keyes offers in the introduction, but perhaps that's the point: our coping skills, like our cake-making skills, are works in progress. Keyes should definitely write another cookbook. Hopefully we'll see her baking the recipes from this one on TV screens at some stage.