mandarin, polenta + macadamia cake + the power of ten


I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately, the one great equalizer, because every moment forward is a reminder that we’ll never be able to reclaim the hours. While I’m nowhere near my twilight years, I’ve been pensive in a way that people become when they’ve allowed themselves some quiet in which to think, and I look back and sometimes lament about how much time I’ve lost. Minutes are slippery, and as your eyes close and open again, you wake to find a year has passed and what have you done? Have you invested in yourself? Living the best life you can possibly live? Did you create and feel, really allow the bandaids to be ripped off, one by one? Or did you slouch through your days, sleep through your waking life, only to find yourself a year older with the scars of thousands of emails sent and barbs traded to mark time passing.

For four years I felt like I was a mass-market version of myself. I was everywhere, did everything, saw everyone, and nights I’d come home, depleted. Falling asleep on my couch was a natural occurrence and online food delivery was a constant. I wasn’t present in my life, rather I was what I was going after. I was that next meeting, those two hours spent with someone who drained the life right out of my body.

A year ago I decided to get surgical. I said no so many times I lost count. I only spent time with ten core people in my life, really focused on nurturing relationships I’d lost during the four years I spent underwater. I read book after book after book. I took classes. I visited museums. I boarded planes to countries unknown. I scheduled my workouts with the same amount of importance and regularity as new business meetings, and when asked recently if I’d never return to an agency — even if the money was great and the work was easy — I said that I don’t want to waste time doing the things I don’t love. I no longer want to feel uncomfortably comfortable. Money is no longer a marker of a successful life, an open heart. The discomfort I crave is in the uncertainty of what’s next, but I have time, wonderful, beautiful time, to have the clarity to figure it out.

Because time is more valuable than a $5,000 status bag that will invariably gather dust in my closet. I now only see the people I truly love and respect, people who are going to add richness from my life rather than eek it away. And if anything threatens my private time, the space in which I need to refuel and rejuvenate, I retreat further. I cancel plans and reschedule, because I’ve learned that my time is my own to squander.

And in those moments of solitude, I draw outlines, and bake warm, delicious things.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Australian Women’s Weekly
4 small mandarins (400g), unpeeled
2 cups (280g) macadamias
250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup (170g) polenta
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Cover whole mandarins in medium saucepan with cold water; bring to a boil. Drain then repeat process two more times. Cool mandarins to room temperature.

Preheat oven to moderately slow (170°C/325°F). Grease deep 22cm-round cake pan; line base with baking paper.

Blend or process nuts until mixture forms a coarse meal. Halve mandarins; discard seeds. Blend or process mandarins until pulpy.

Beat butter, extract and caster sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined between additions; transfer to large bowl. Stir in polenta, baking powder, nut meal and mandarin pulp.

Spread mixture into pan; bake about 1 hour. Stand cake 15 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool. Serve cake dusted with sifted icing sugar.

NOTE: Native to Australia, buttery, rich macadamia nuts have a high fat content and should be kept, covered, in the refrigerator to prevent them becoming rancid. You can blend or process the same weight of other roasted nuts, such as pecans, almonds or walnuts, if you prefer, to use in place of the macadamias. Similarly, you can substitute the same weight of other citrus fruit — grapefruits, blood oranges, tangelos, etc — for the mandarins.


11 thoughts on “mandarin, polenta + macadamia cake + the power of ten

  1. Felicia, thank you! I so appreciate posts like these that keep me thinking about what really matters. Now if only I could be as brave/self-aware/action-oriented as you so as to not sleep through my days…

    PS. This cake looks bonkers delicious!!!!! So moist! I ❤ citrus and nuts in almost any form.


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