Monday, January 21, 2013

Radicchio Almond Carrot Cake with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream + Life Lessons from Childbirth

Radicchio Carrot Cake

This weekend I was able to slip away for a couple of hours to take a spin class, my first real workout since Anne was born. As I settled into the bike seat and started pedaling, my brain started whining even louder than the deafening music in the studio. After about 20 minutes of "Ugh, this is terrible. It hurts. I forgot how uncomfortable these bike seats are. Ow, my legs! I hate this! It's only been TEN minutes? I'll never survive!" this thought finally occurred to me:

Lady, you had a BABY 10 weeks ago. Without drugs. This is NOTHING.

After that, I had a lot more fun.


A couple of months before Anne was due, we took a birth preparation class called Birthing From Within (I highly recommend it: if you're in the Chicago area, look up Holly. If not, the book is great, too!). Little did I know how much the lessons learned in that class, and from my own experience of birth, would come in so handy in other areas of my life.

Life Lesson #1: You can do anything for one minute (or one hour, or one day...).

Especially helpful during labor, when there are regularly spaced intervals of pain and rest, is the thought that each contraction will only last for 60-90 seconds, and that at the most, labor only lasts for one to two days. That's it! I have used this one so often, to help me when I had a difficult day of nursing, when I was completely exhausted, to get through 10 days away from home in December (not easy with a newborn!). When something is challenging or painful, the knowledge that it won't be that way forever is very freeing.

Life Lesson #2: Coping with pain through detached awareness + refocused energy.

Ow, it hurts! There's not much power in that, is there? What if you notice and try to describe it? Where is the center of the pain? Where are the edges? In our first week at home, I was exhausted, and it felt like I was on a never-ending hamster wheel of waking, sleeping, nursing, and changing diapers. When you can't count on a full night of sleep anymore, your day no longer starts at 6am and ends at 10pm. So where are the boundaries? It helped me so much to start thinking of my days as a 24-hour block that reset at 7am. That way, if it had been a rough night, we got to start over. And if it was a great night, I wasn't tempted to skip taking a nap while Anne did, because I was preparing for the unknown night ahead. It made a huge difference, and all I did was change how I thought about the day.

Life Lesson #3: A huge effort and a lot of pain yield great rewards.

This is not news, and needs no explaining, but I'll say it anyway: childbirth hurts. A lot. But after it's over you have a baby, and a crazy amount of happy hormones. Caring for a newborn is an immense effort, but you get to snuggle them (!), and after about 6 weeks, THEY SMILE AT YOU (!!). Breastfeeding can be a challenge, but it is an amazing, miraculous food for your baby, and helps you to lose baby weight! Spinning might be a little uncomfortable, but in taking care of my body, I get to provide an example to my baby of how to care for her body, and I stay healthy so that I'll be around for more of her life!

Life Lesson #4: When it's over, let it go. Savor moments of rest.

After each contraction, there is a rest. Time without pain, without work. During the rest, you can freak out ("I can't do this for much longer! That one hurt so much! What if the next one is worse?) or you can let it go. If you let it go, you take advantage of the rest, and you're better able to handle what comes next, whatever it is. If the last 10 weeks are any indicator, I'll probably never be able to predict what's next again, so I'm doing my best to just live in each moment fully. And this moment, right here? There's a lot to savor.

Radicchio Carrot Cake

Radicchio Almond Carrot Cake with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream
adapted from Dolci, by Francine Segan

Slightly bitter radicchio in a sweet cake; an apt metaphor for motherhood.

For the cake:

3 large eggs
1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour (sometimes called almond meal)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 small head radicchio, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

For the whipped cream:

8 ounces mascarpone
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour a 9-inch round pan. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until light yellow. Add flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, butter, carrots and radicchio and mix on low until well-combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and crackly, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, combine mascarpone, cream, sugar, and orange zest and juice, and whip until well-combined and fluffy. Serve alongside the cooled cake, or spread decoratively over the top.


  1. LOVE these insights- thank you for the reminders and the advice for day! ;)

  2. This is precious and wonderful. Congratulation on your little. She is beautiful!

  3. What a beautiful reminder! Coppertop Gal, you have the most uncanny way of seeing the sunshine in every situation. Thank you for blessing us with your recipes and your perspective.