Fancy a slice of cake while you’re working on that?

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With the advent of the new series of #GBBO (come on, where have you been? It’s ‘Great British Bake-Off’) it’s the ideal time to address the serious issue of cake at work. Although DEATH BY CHOCOLATE may seem an idle threat to the uninitiated, the whole issue to date has been somewhat sugar-coated and does have a serious and densely truffled mid-section. We’re here to lightly examine this, allowing you to pull apart, consume and digest the connotations. The question is, what’s YOUR relationship with cake? Is it friend or foe?

Cake binds us together at work

Yes – of course it does – but the issue of cake at work is a multi-layered one. On the one hand, cake brings people together, much like meetings, music festivals and funerals – but like many of life’s brightly coloured temptations, it also brandishes a darker and decidedly devilish side.

The home-baked cake is hugely favoured in the workplace. It says “Comrade, look, I have taken time to produce this work with mine own hands”. The act of handing it over says “I value you enough to gift you the dried fruits of my hard labour in order to bring you a brief moment of pleasure”. It also says “I think you will enjoy this, and your contentment and respect of my culinary prowess brings me joy” and, the cherry on the top for business owners everywhere is that (albeit short) sugar rush that produces a rush of productivity for sometimes up to an hour.

 

The birthday cake in the workplace

A big tradition in the workplace involves bringing cakes into work on birthdays. Rather curiously, you’ll often find it’s the birthday-ee who brings in the cakes – they may have even made it themselves. Traditionally the cake may be handed round the workplace, or alternatively left in the kitchen and a modest email memo sent around to “help yourself”. In this instance, note that a chocolate cake may induce a rush into the kitchen, a sponge cake usually won’t. If you want to make friends and influence people, make it a chocolate one.

In large organisations, this can mean that every day becomes a cake day. For some this is joyous cause for celebration, for others it’s a constant, niggling pressure on their self-control.

If it’s your birthday or you’re baking a cake for a colleague, you may have concerns if a) you’re on a health regime or b) you’re concerned about the health routines of others. In this case, why not try baking a healthy cake alternative, such as one containing courgette or butter beans instead of the usual dairy alternative. Just Google it and be prepared to be amazed at the plethora of healthy alternatives out there.

 

Should I eat cake at work?

The ramifications of eating cake at work differ wildly from one individual to the next. Many people hold a half-baked idea that ingestion of calories on a cake-scale is bad for the health. That’s nonsense. It’s not the cake that’s bad for the health, it’s the absence of a decent workout AFTER you’ve had the cake that not only piles on the pounds but can unleash a landslide of guilt and self-loathing.

Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution to combat a thriving cake culture at work. A run in the morning, a gym visit after work or an active lunchbreak will be enough to allow you to eat cake guilt-free. Enjoy – hundreds and thousands of others do – you can too.

 

The science behind sweet treats at work

What makes us want to rise to the occasion when someone smiles and hands us a wadge of cake as big as our head? Even the strongest-willed anti-cakist will walk on thin icing when handed this monolith of moist, crumbly midriff-bulging diabetes-coated lardcake to accompany their green tea or skinny skellatte (not a thing). What is this hold that cake has on us? What evil magic befell our unwilling ancestors?

The answer is of our own making. Cake says COMFORT. Most of us today grew up understanding cake to be a treat (birthdays, Christmas, Easter, afternoon tea, celebrations) and we are programmed to reach our hands out gratefully towards anything vaguely cake-shaped. We have steeped cake in tradition to the point that it now sits confidently in our genetic makeup.

Aside from our robotic acceptance of cake, many of us also crave the sugar it provides – and that can be a powerful urge. We have evolved to crave the instant high that sugar provides us with (see our earlier blog on sugar tests on rats). The sugar hit ramps up our serotonin making us instantly happier, more sociable, more chatty or more productive – witchcraft, in other words.

 

Am I weak if I eat cake at work even though I don’t want to?       

Accepting cake does not make you weak, it makes you human. Accepting that slice of fleeting happiness whilst slightly hating yourself for it doesn’t mean you’re hopeless or have no self-control – it’s just your body working with your brain telling you that you’re seeking an element of fulfilment. This could simply be hunger, but it could also be comfort, distraction, low energy or even feelings of anxiety. Cake and endorphins are firm friends, but they only hang out together in short-lived social parties so the energy is fleeting (making us constantly crave a new hit). If you really struggle with your relationship with cake in your life, it might be worth examining the reasons for it.

Cake is a human nemesis. We do well to train ourselves to live with it rather than fight it. Striving for balance is a good way to have your cake and eat it, so ideally, aim to enjoy your treat – and then aim to enjoy working it off (the reality is a double hit of endorphins). When it comes to letting cake into your life and being happy with yourself, you only get what you pudding.

PS. Note that carrot cake isn’t a healthy option. Sorry about that :)