Take a break from work by procrastibaking

Take a break from work by procrastibaking

If you're going to put off a task, why not procrastinate efficiently by baking something?

lemon, cake
Slice of lemon cake Image Credit: Stock image/Pixabay

When it’s time to fold laundry, wash the dishes, pay overdue bills and reply to work emails, there’s only one thing you can do. Bake!

It’s called procrastibaking – putting off your chores and work to bake something completely unnecessary.

I began doing this unknowingly when I became a mum of two last year. Time became the most valuable commodity in our household, with every minute dedicated to either a routine chore, a productive activity or a pending task.

The problem is, those moments would add up and take over my entire day, leaving me a little more jaded than the day before.

Then, one glorious afternoon, I saw a picture of a lemon loaf cake on Instagram. It was bright yellow, had delicate white icing and decorative lemon slices on top. I could practically taste it and had to have it – now. And since my searches on food delivery apps didn’t turn up anything close to that image, I decided to make it myself.

That first bake led me down the procrastibaking rabbit hole, and I’ve never looked back since.

lemon, cake
My first attempt at a lemon loaf cake Image Credit: Sanya Nayeem/Gulf News

Even though my daily schedule seems full, I often take a few minutes to bung together the ingredients for a simple cake, pop it in the oven and then go about with my routine – all the while having something to look forward to.

The fact that you can procrastibake while doing other, more important things, is one of the key reasons for its appeal. Another important aspect is not having to go out of your way to get ingredients for your baked dish – everything you need should ideally be available at home, so that it doesn’t seem like the process is interrupting your actual work.

Over the past year, I’ve managed to replicate recipes for coffee cake, coconut cake, sticky toffee pudding, and a whole list of other desserts that I never thought I could bake. I even attempted lasagne, shepherd’s pie, chicken parmesan and other savoury treats in quantities that had to be stored and eaten over several days.

chocolate chip cookies
Brown butter chocolate chip cookies with sea salt Image Credit: Sanya Nayeem/Gulf News

Not all of my dishes were picture-perfect or even edible, but the process brought me joy and made me feel productive at the same time.

It’s a similar experience for Shreya Bhatia, a 25-year-old Dubai resident and mandala artist, who said putting off tasks is not a new habit for her, but procrastibaking is.

She said: “I procrastinate all the time. I think it is because sitting down and actually doing a task feels very daunting at first. I have to mentally make peace with the fact that there is a task, and it will take time, but it needs to be done.”

shreya bhatia
Shreya Bhatia decorating her cinnamon vanilla cake Image Credit: Supplied

Her reasoning is rooted in the science of procrastination, which is basically a tug-of-war between the brain’s limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. While the newer, less developed prefrontal cortex tries to plan complex behaviours and take decisions, our much stronger limbic system tells the body to flee from unpleasant situations - like wrangling with a tedious chore. The result? Procrastination.

But baking while procrastinating became a gamechanger for Bhatia, who learned to test her skills in the kitchen during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she made a blueberry cake “at least four times in one month” to combat the anxiety that comes with dealing with a long list of chores. “I feel like this [procrastibaking] is not a negative thing. Many times, delaying work helps me achieve smaller tasks first, and allows me not to do everything at once. It also leaves me more time for bigger tasks.”

The stress relief procrastibaking provides is also the main reason why Amal Naseem, a 25-year-old Abu Dhabi resident, likes to bake – even when she has ‘real work’ to do. She said: “It’s a great distraction… I love the whole process. It’s therapeutic.”

fudge, brownies
Naseem sent us this photograph of her latest bake - fudge brownies Image Credit: Supplied

Naseem recently completed her master’s degree and admits procrastibaking is slowing down her job search. But she can’t help but bake, when she sees pictures of food trends on Instagram – many of which use the #procrastibaking hashtag. The hashtag has accumulated close to 50,000 posts from home bakers putting off their tasks to bake things like chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes and pies.

Naseem said: “My entire family absolutely loves desserts. I try out new recipes and stay up to date with today’s trends, and in the end, I get to enjoy the fruits of my labour! So why not procrastibake?”

The fact that you can procrastibake while doing other, more important things, is one of the key reasons for its appeal. Another important aspect is not having to go out of your way to get ingredients for your baked dish – everything you need should ideally be available at home, so that it doesn’t seem like the process is interrupting your actual work.

- Sanya Nayeem, Games Editor

If you want to hop on to the #procrastibaking bandwagon, try this recipe for lemon loaf cake.

Recipe: Lemon Loaf Cake

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Makes 6 servings


½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

For the lemon icing:

2 cups powdered or icing sugar

1 tbsp milk

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray or butter, and line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar for approximately 3–4 minutes with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, and beat to incorporate.

In a bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: sour cream, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients to the batter, about one-third at a time. Beat between each addition until just combined.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan, about one hour.

Make the lemon icing: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and milk and whisk until smooth.

Wait for the cake to cool before pouring the icing evenly over the top of the cake, spreading to reach the edges of the pan. Let the glaze set completely, about 30 minutes.

Optional: Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.

Transfer to a serving plate, slice, and serve.

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