• Upside-down mango and coconut cake (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
Tray bakes feed the soul (or just your freezer) for minimal effort, maximum reward.
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11 Dec 2020 - 8:35 AM  UPDATED 11 Dec 2020 - 8:36 AM

When life gives you lemons, make cake. There is nothing quite like one to brighten things up. We defy anyone to stay mad, sad or bad while creaming the butter, dissolving the sugar, or gently folding through the fruit or melted chocolate.

Baking heals weary souls. It's as simple as that. Actually, even more simple than that is the fact that eating the bakes heals everything. Go on, go ahead and whip up a tray full of healing right now.

The best bit is that every single one of these recipes bakes enough to share.

When everything crumbles

If you've had the kind of day where the world is out to get you (and boy, are we all having a few of those lately), a blackberry crumble sheet cake will set you right. Feel free to eat the whole darn lot - or, of course, keep a tiny slice for later...

The cake that cures everything

The cake that cures everything

'The chocolate cake that cures everything' is literally the name of this enormous cake. Ruth Reichl created it for My Kitchen Yea,  and it's so easy and so good that you can only feel content and happy while making and savouring it.

Meet your therapist, Louise

Louise cake is a New Zealand treasure, and rightly so. Layers of shortbread biscuit, raspberry jam and coconut meringue deserve to be treasured.

It's gotta be brownies

Wickedly rich, unashamedly fudgy and even studded with a cherry-on-top, these brownies are the only thing you need to cheer up a friend in need. Here's a gluten-free version to try, too:

Gluten-free beetroot, hazelnut and orange brownies

These brownies bring the wonderful combination of orange, chocolate and hazelnuts together in small individual packages. They also benefit from the earthy sweetness that the grated fresh beetroot adds… not too sweet and layered with flavour. Because they are also slightly fragile, make sure you bake them either in silicone pans or paper-lined metal muffin tins to make removing them from the pans hassle-free.

Coffee lift

If it's perking up you need, then tiramisu is here for you. The very making of tiramisu is nicely distracting from life's problems and pains, and the caffeine hit so welcomely.

Lamos make life good

Could lamingtons be the ultimate sweet tray bake? They definitely seem far harder to make than they actually are (which is true of many things, not just cake). This version is gluten-free, so everyone gets to indulge. This version adds raspberries - genius!:

Chocolate and raspberry lamingtons

Rich, decadent, indulgent and insanely large these lamingtons are perfect to serve as a dessert with fresh raspberries or to share with another chocolate lover (but only if you can part with the other half!).

Layers of love

Much like tiramisu making (see above), layering these hazelnut meringue cakes is absorbing and meditative. It's a wellbeing project, not just a delicious bake.

Caramel worries away

Sure, we've covered brownies, but this one is all about smooth, rich, melting dulce de leche. That just happens to be dolloped on top of a bloody good brownie. One bite and you'll know exactly what is meant by the term 'mindful eating'. Also, these:

Classic walnut brownies

Rich, decadent, totally addictive and, best of all, so easy to make – what else could you want from a brownie recipe? 

Three reasons to feel good

The pastel de tres leches (three milks cake) is what happens when marketing goes right. Nestle put the recipe on their sweetened condensed milk cans sometime in the 1940s and the cake has comforted probably a trillion-zillion people since then.

Add some zing to your day

That zip of zesty lemon flavour always gives you a lift. Even better when it's coming at you via these intensely sweet/tart lemon bars. Pucker up!

Chocolate caramel slice

This has to be the perennial favourite... biscuit base, gooey caramel centre and chocolate topping is a combination made in heaven. This chocolate caramel slice has been given a little makeover with a feather-patterned topping.

Parkin here

Parkin is your invitation to park yourself for an indulgent little moment in the midst of life's chaos. Gingerbreadish in both flavour and texture, it's made with plenty of old-fashioned treacle to give it a moreish bite in the mouth.

Melt and mix your cares away

You can whip up this easy chocolate coconut cake on a whim. No excess beating or fussing required. You melt, you mix, you bake, you swoon.

When life feels upside down

Sometimes being topsy-turvy is a good thing. Take this mango and coconut cake - you bake it and it's an everyday cake; but flip it over and it's a beautifully decorated celebration cake. The downside of life can be like that sometimes, too...

Therapy caking
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