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Blackberry Almond Skillet Cake, Leaning

One of the best things about having a blog is being able to throw something out into the ethosphere and encourage people to talk about it. The conversations I have here, with you, are some of my favorites. We both sit behind computer screens, but we’re still talking. Sometimes we talk about super touchy feely stuff, like not being able to breastfeed your baby, and sometimes we talk about fun stuff, like what we did on our trip to Sicily, or how to create a beautiful table setting. Sometimes we talk about ice cream and salads. Sometimes, we talk about cinnamon rolls. Today, I’d like to talk about something very important to me: female leadership in the workforce. We can discuss the topic over some cake. Cool?

As I was driving to work, as I do every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, this story came on NPR. You should really read/listen to it over on NPR’s website because I think it’s one of those things some of you might feel passionately about, too. The gist of the story is that women in emerging economies (commonly referred to as the ‘BRIC’ nations, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China) seem to be kicking ass. More ass that we women here in America are. Wait, I thought America was the land of opportunity? It’s why immigrants, including my parents, move here to send their kids to American schools and colleges, to pursue careers in competitive fields like engineering and science and medicine. To have more freedom in life and in work.

There’s been a lot of talk about why many women who are perfectly capable of being leaders ‘lean back,’ to use Sheryl Sandberg’s term. Many of us sit along the sidelines as our male counterparts pursue C-level jobs. Many of us drop out of the workforce entirely when we start having kids, and we find it difficult to dive back in after an extended break. But hold on. According to economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s research of women in these BRIC countries, it sounds like those women aren’t just leaning in (to use Sheryl Sandberg’s term again), they’re jumping in. And they’re not giving up having children. And they don’t seem to be apologizing for it (at least not that the article mentioned). There are a number of factors that seem to allow women in these countries seemingly more freedom to return to work (for example: nearby extended family that can help with childcare) but one of the most interesting takeaways from the article for me was this sentence:

Still, better child care alone will not close the gender gap in the United States. Hewlett says that what American women need most is a change in the narrative. “I remember very clearly going to a Wall Street Journal conference, and Andrea Jung, the then-CEO of Avon, was speaking. She’s an incredibly impressive person,” Hewlett says. And yet, instead of talking about the joys of her success, “she chose to talk about what she had given up.”

Now that I’m back at work full-time, I find myself wondering what I’m giving up: more time at home with my daughter. But what do I gain by being a part of the workforce? Quite a bit, not least of which is the satisfaction in knowing that I’m paving the way for my daughter to one day do the same. Like many women, I’m finding myself struggling to find the balance, but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by how nice it has been to return to a professional environment and to have a little help with Neko at home. For a while, I found myself apologizing for having these feelings; cushioning the fact that I was glad to be back to the grind with statements about how hard it was to be away from my daughter. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but it’s also not a reason (for me, at least) to step away from a fulfilling career, and to want to accomplish more for myself and, ultimately, for my daughter.

I’d love to know what you (both men and women) think about this topic! And as promised, I’ve whipped up an easy and delightful skillet cake for us to share.

Blackberry Almond Skillet Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup of almond meal
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
1/2 cup of low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon of freshly-squeezed Meyer lemon juice
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon for the skillet
2 containers of fresh blackberries (5.6 ounces each)

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, Meyer lemon juice, and melted butter.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and whisk to combine.
4. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to a 10-inch skillet (preferably cast-iron) and place it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Swirl the butter to coat the skillet, then pour in the batter (use a silicone spatula to evenly spread the batter over the surface of the pan).
5. Scatter blackerries on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
6. Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blackberry Almond Skillet Cake + Lô Borges e Milton Nascimento – Clube Da Esquina

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Posted by Kasey

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Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.randall.965 Sarah Randall

    I am *so glad* I found your blog, because posts like these are exactly what I want to read. A shallow comment, I know, in light of the topic you introduced, but my very true reaction. The cake looks delicious, I think women (including myself) hold back because we’re bombarded with information about glass ceilings and power struggles and unfair pay and gender expectations and give up before starting. I think that is changing, but not quickly. Man, wish we were neighbors.

  • http://twitter.com/heatherchristo Heather Christo

    This is a hard core topic. I am battling with this every day as I try to build a career for myself. The “Mothers Guilt” can be crippling sometimes. I try to remember that I too am trying to pave the way for my daughters and nieces to have great opportunities. Could talk to you AT LENGTH about this!

  • http://londonbakes.blogspot.com Kathryn

    It’s a tricky one isn’t it? I know it is a real issue where I work – we have hundreds of new joiners every year, roughly split 50:50 in terms of gender but when you look at the top levels of management, women are seriously under-represented. A lot of people are devoting a lot of time to trying to work out why that is and what can be done about it.

    As the daughter of a woman who worked full time, I never saw it as a ‘bad thing’. I was given the example of someone who was fulfilled in their work life and their home life and was able to balance those two, seemingly with ease. I think that was so valuable to me – I hope when I do have children that I’ll feel comfortable with whatever I decide to do and won’t feel guilty for wanting to have both a family and a career. After all, it’s what a lot of men do without pausing for thought.

    That said, there may well come a time when my boyfriend and I have to discuss whose career is more important. It would be difficult for us both to become leaders in our respective organisations and yet still have time for our relationships, family life, future children etc. And realistically, it’s likely to be me that has to make the sacrifice and I’m not sure yet how I fell about that.

    I think the whole thing about changing the narrative is really interesting too and I think points to a wider issue of how women and men discuss themselves and their performance in the workplace particularly in terms of the language they use (helping/contributing vs leading).

    Sorry, that was a fairly disjointed stream of thought. I have the utmost admiration for you for putting this issue out there and sharing your experience with us. Neko is so lucky to have you as a mother.

  • Guest

    Ahh, this topic certainly requires cake. Let me preface what I have to say with the admission that I haven’t read

  • http://twitter.com/impromptuCook Deanne Katz

    Ahh, this topic certainly requires cake. Let me preface what I have to say with the admission that I haven’t read Sandberg’s book.

    I’m not sure if the issue here is the struggle between working full time and working only part time or not at all after having children. It seems like Sandberg’s argument is more than women aren’t taking top level corporate positions similar to the one she holds at Facebook. And those jobs are so much more than “full time.” They really do require giving up a lot; more than just 9-5 five days a week. Being a corporate executive, which she encourages women to do, means nights and weekends and by her own admission she misses out on a fair amount of family time to make it work – plus, from her writings I don’t see any evidence that she is able to maintain much of a social life outside of work. Balancing family and work AND friends -with that last being almost as important as the first two, to my mind – sounds impossible given what she has described as her schedule. And even more importantly, I’m not sure it’s something to encourage people to want.

    Since this debate has begun I’ve been thinking about the idea that maybe instead of encouraging women with children to take those kinds of demanding work-all-the-time jobs, we discourage men with children from thinking that kind of work ethic is compatible with family. Perhaps that kind of “prestige” is not good for anyone. The debate over whether to work full time is still a big question, but I think the more interesting question is whether we should encourage any parent to become part of the corporate mindset that is seemingly demanded of high level executives.

  • Nicole

    I am so glad you bring up important topics like this and share interesting articles on this subject. I’ve noticed a lot of women around my mom’s age, including my mom, that sacrificed quite a lot to have a family and I now see many of them struggling to find their own identity, again. I admire what you’re doing, Kasey! You’re a wonderful role model for Neko and for all ladies :)

    The skillet cake sounds great! I recently made one with all-purpose flour that turned out rather gummy and I was thinking how much better it would be with almond flour and whole grains! Yours looks delicious!

  • southernsouffle

    Man does this post hit home.. I struggle with this daily as a mother of 2 and working full-time.. I travel often for work, so it takes me away and the guilt kills me at times. But then I think of what I am accomplishing and showing my daughter that you (as a woman) can be successful, and leader with a fulling career as well as a mom.. The theme song for this post should be Beyonce- “Girls, they run the world” :)

  • http://twitter.com/laura_mess Laura

    Oh gosh. I would love to hash this out with you in person (with cake!), but a rambling comment here will have to do (and I always love a ramble-engagement with you in this space, obviously).

    I love that you used the term “land of opportunity” because I think the sheer existence of/baggage that comes with that term says a lot here. Opportunity and success are highly expected for all individuals in North America. For the most part and from a very young age, you know, as a woman AND as a man, that you have all of the tools to succeed. If you work hard, as your family did, you can make an amazing life here.

    From my own exposure to economic trends + gender/human politics in emerging nations, that notion of career opportunity is less ingrained, not as much of a default train of thought throughout one’s existence, and much less so in the case of women. It’s something to hold on to with all of your might once you have it. So naturally these women aren’t discussing their juggle of career success and child-raising in terms of loss. I think there’s maybe a better perspective on “having it all” in these environments. Anyway, I’m going to listen to that story while I make breakfast now.

    xo!

  • Katie

    Great piece (and gorgeous recipe). I’ve been in both positions — home full time with my kids and working full time — I’d like to get to a place and time when either choice is respected and honored and considered “paving the way” for our daughters. Thanks for the thoughtful writing. Cake always helps with tough topics.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Katie,

    Thanks for making a great point. The choice to work or stay at home is very personal, and you are so right – both choices should be respected and honored. I also think this isn’t just a woman’s issue, even though it so often is framed that way. For me, work (be it my day job or this venture) is a very valuable part of who I am, and I think it’s important to never apologize for the things that make you happy. I found it to be most interesting than women in emerging economies seem to have more freedom to make these choices and stand in them. Thank you for the comment!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Laura,
    What great observations! The fact that there isn’t a historical path to success for women in many of these nations suggests that there are more ways to succeed…it’s kind of like working for a small company vs. working for a big company. In a small company, you’re much more likely to take chances, carve out your role, and make big things happen. At least that’s how I see it :) I wish we could chat over cake, too!! xo

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Love it! I have so much respect for women who have multiple children (working or not!). You are kicking butt and don’t ever apologize for everything you’re doing for your little people, your family, and yourself.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thank you, Nicole! Sometimes, having a public space on the Internet demands throwing out important topics. :) I think the almond flour really does add that nice, tender crumb to this cake.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Let’s be honest: I haven’t either. I’m actually not trying to make any arguments for or against Lean In, but rather just sharing my personal experience :) I thought I should make that clear. That said, I completely agree with you – the types of high-level positions that Sandberg refers to are certainly not 9-5. Truth be told, in my field, even the youngest and most inexperienced person on the team is working much more than 9-5. When you factor in a family, and for many of us, a commute, it’s hard to lean into. I also definitely agree with you that this isn’t just a ‘women’s issue.’

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    So many good points here, Kathryn. When you factor in two successful people, you often have to make the choice as to whose career will take the lead. Sometimes, you can take turns, sometimes you can put both careers first and family second. But no matter what, you’re dealing with tough choices both as a woman and as a man (provided you support the philosophy that we’re all created equal and should strive to live the lives we want to live). The narrative is I think what’s most interesting, too. The language we use as men and women needs to change.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Go on with your bad self, girl! I hate the concept of ‘Mothers Guilt’ because I imagine it will never leave my system but is so unfortunate because we do so much for our children, often by sacrificing ourselves. As the woman on the show said, much of what needs to be done is changing the narrative…

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thank you, Sarah! That means a lot to me. I think sometimes we all want to take the easier route, and some of us don’t actually want to work an 80 hour/week job. But for those of us who are living a dream, and doing what we love, no apologies should be necessary.

  • Molly

    Our daughters are just about the same age, and it sounds like we went back to work — for me, full time — roughly around the same time. Every time someone would ask me during my pregnancy if I was going to go back at all, or just part-time, I would always be surprised. I love working, and the first lesson I’d like to teach my daughter is that just because I’m a mother doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try as hard. It helps that I have a partner who gives as much as I do. I know my daughter is safe and happy at daycare, and we still find special time together. Mornings are our special time together, and my husband gives her a bath while I work on dinner. I’m not saying it’s easy, but by working full-time, we’ll be able to pay for her education. And I really do think this is the best example I can set for her.

  • WithStyleGrace

    love love love. thank you for sharing and writing about something that I’m faced with this very moment. xo

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