Category Archives: holidays and mental health



When you’re depressed, “Luscious” is probably very low on your list of vocabulary words. But that’s what happened to me today!

Lemme ‘splain.

I was able to find freedom from my depression “just for today” by following the urge to do something, instead of just thinking about the effort it would take to do it.

Last night I started thinking about making one of my specialty cakes, and this morning I decided to do it! But there was a lot more to it than baking. For one thing, I had to go out in public and buy the ingredients! But, I was motivated! Because on occasion I give in to some sage advice that I’ve heard along the way:
“Life is uncertain – eat dessert first!

Needless to say, that means that Yes! I like cake! Are you kidding??

As I said in my previous post today, I have a habit of avoiding the holidays. But with the urge to bake something, I thought, it can’t hurt, and it might help! Not to mention, YUM!

A long time ago, one of our long-standing family recipes went missing, but lo and behold, apparently it was stolen by several cooks on the internet, and slightly varied so as to disguise it. But I am smart. Very smart to figure it out. And so, without further ado, I bring you — Hawaiian Dream Cake!

This recipe is almost guaranteed to earn you some ooh’s and ah’s! You will need:

  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 1 -20oz can of crushed pineapple, drained (Make sure that you reserve the juice and put it aside!)
  • 1 -8 oz package of cream cheese
  • 1 -3 oz package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup of cold milk
  • 1 -9 oz. container of whipped topping
  • nuts (optional)
  • coconut (optional)

Preparation (the basics)

  1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, using the reserved pineapple juice. Add water, if necessary, to equal the amount of liquid called for in the directions. Bake as directed on the box (I use a 13×9 pan). Cool in pan (about 1.5 hours), set aside.
  2. Once it is cool, in a large bowl blend together softened cream cheese, pudding mix, and the milk until smooth. Fold in the well-drained pineapple, and spread the mixture over the top of the cake. Cover with whipped topping (unfrozen!), and sprinkle with nuts and coconut. Refrigerate.

Preparation (therapeutic style)

I noticed that while I was draining the pineapple I felt like a little kid “playing in the water.” There are several D.B.T. (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skills that this involves. And so, “playing in the water” becomes a very adult thing to do. Well, let’s just say that it does. The neat thing about it is, no one is going to yell at you while you’re playing!

I know it sounds silly, but trust me, you can have fun while you bake! Just forget yourself and play!

So – cake all mixed up and poured into the pan, baking, and soon smelling dee-vine! Mm mm mm! Notice the sensations you are having – smell, sight, texture, and soooon – taste!

Once it’s cooled for 10 minutes, you have the option of taking the cake out of the pan to be frosted, or you can leave it in the pan, because it is quite messy to serve, and it also stands pretty high once it’s all dressed up.

One of the things I decided to do with the cake was divvy it up into portions for a couple of friends of mine. You know those plastic serving containers with lids you can buy at the supermarket? I bought some smaller square ones, and I used them upside down so that the lid became the platter, and the bottom became the cover.

But you can choose whatever size suits the occasion – individual sizes, or pot-luck-supper sizes. Don’t forget to write your name in permanent marker on both parts of your container if you don’t want to, ahem, “lose” them afterward.

O-tay! After the cake has cooled for about an hour, I’ve brought the cool whip and the cream cheese out of the fridge to defrost and soften. Once they have, and the cake has cooled enough, I mixed the “frosting,” which consists of the drained pineapple, cream cheese, milk, and pudding mix. Can you think of different DBT skills you can use while you are mixing the frosting? Me neither. I’m too busy salivating.

Supposedly there is a chocolate version of this cake that you can make. Now, I love chocolate. I can see using chocolate cake, and a frosting of cream cheese with chocolate pudding and milk. Maybe? You could use the whipped topping on top, or you could double how much of the chocolate frosting you make so you could … wait, I’m getting ahead of myself (wipes mouth on sleeve).

So, back to our original. After the frosting, add a generous layer of the whipped topping. Hopefully after mixing up the “frosting,” I’ll have made a gooey mess of the spoons and bowls and mixers so I can, um, take care of them (yum). Again, this is therapeutic only, using certain of the DBT skills you may have learned in class. If not, I’ve given you a free lesson in self-soothing, distraction, grounding, and whatever else skill you want to use. I think you could probably use all of the skills in the book, if you had enough frosting. Then again, you could remedy the not-enough situation quite easily if you wanted needed to.

Finally, we add the washed and dried berries and dress the top of the cake. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make it like an American flag (after all, that is the point of the whole thing), but by this point I’ve pretty much run out of steam, so I will randomly throw the berries on to the cake. I suppose you could also add a sparkler or two.

You can make this cake for many holidays and occasions, using colored sugar, candies, pretzels (yes, I used pretzels for Easter one year, making a cross on the cake), or whatever you like. You can color the coconut …

OH! I almost forgot the coconut!

And you can use nuts…just be careful if you are going to a group activity because many people seem to have developed allergies to nuts. Maybe you could put them on the side in a little container.

One year I used red and green colored sugar for Christmas, and added maraschino cherries (make sure you’ve dried them well!). In this photo you can’t see the red sugar very well, but it’s there. Sorry it’s kind of messy. I must have been in a hurry.

One Christmas, on one side of the cake I put nuts and coconut, and on the other side no nuts or coconut, so that my guests could choose their preference. Again, I used a pretzel – one of those big giant ones – to separate the two sides.

Pretzels actually taste GOOD with “frosting” etc. Sweet and salty. It’s not so odd. You take care of two cravings at once. One of my sister-in-laws serves cake and ice cream with chips. Now it is almost “normal” for me to have them all together.

Do you get the idea? This is what I mean by playing.  🙂 Use your imagination! You can even use food coloring in the whipped topping if you want!

Et Voilà! Ze cake, ze cake!

I kind of ran out of steam here, so the berries are scattered, and I messed up on portioning pieces of cake first. But – whatever. It





The bottom line here, friends, is this  … This is not just about baking, or eating, or my voracious appetite because of my stupid meds. If you get an urge to do something, there is a possibility it will get you out of that brown funk (never mind the blues!). When you’re depressed and you don’t want to do anything … do SOMEthing! It will make you feel better, and if you share the results, it will bless others! A win, win, win, and we aren’t talking Charlie Sheen!

Why did I say win 3 times? 1. You are less depressed, 2. You get to bless others, and 3. The best win? You get to eat cake! 🙂