Almond, Ricotta, and Polenta Cake (with Blood Oranges)

Above photo from Liz Prueitt / her Instagram
I thought I was pretty original when I decided to make and write about this recipe, which I found on Liz Prueitt's Instagram account. Turns out, I’m not! Smitten Kitchen made it weeks ago. In Prueitt’s description, she wrote that the cake "bakes up almost NY-style cheesecake-like." So really, I bet like 50% of the people who saw her post then immediately walked into their kitchens to see if they had some cornmeal and almond flour on hand.

I’ve been a fan of Liz Prueitt’s food for a long time now. At Heath Ceramics, we carried all of the Tartine cookbooks and I spent a good percentage of my time at work reading them.

But recently, after reading this Lucky Peach interview with her I became a fan of Liz Prueitt, the person. It was this section of the interview in particular that resonated with me:
I feel like I know exactly what Prueitt is talking about. I definitely didn’t see so many of motherhood’s life-changing aspects coming. At the same time, though, I feel like I’ve been lucky, being a writer and being able to write from home, save for a couple of months when things really did come to a screeching halt.
Two years ago, when Teddy was a newborn, I was finishing up my book and could justify paying for a nanny once or twice a week. And then a year ago, right before the book came out and Teddy was a sprinting one-year-old and I couldn’t get any work done at all, I could justify paying for daycare—which basically saved my life. With this second baby, things are pretty different. The short of is that we have no plans (read: funds) to hire a nanny. Not that I would at this point anyway. This time around, I know how fast these first months go and I’m not as stressed as a first-time parent. This time around, I’m reminded of how I actually adore the newborn stage. Not just because newborns are so helpless and needy, but also because they counteract this neediness by sleeping so much of the day (please note that I didn’t say night here) during which time I can accomplish a few things and actually feel like myself.
Me feeling like myself?
I have been working on a new book for a while now—basically my entire pregnancy. It’s a novel. I’ve got about 45k words. I haven’t let a single soul read even one sentence of it. But I really want to get a draft of it finished in the next couple of months / before Isaac starts showing signs of becoming the busy little boy that his big brother is. (Just this weekend, Teddy bounded into our room bleeding from his chin. Matt and I looked at each other, confused. What the heck did you just do, Teddy?)
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish this novel, or if when I do, I will want to share it with anyone, or if I do, if it’ll be any good. What I'm hoping for is to somehow stay at a gentle deceleration for the next couple of years / avoid coming to that screeching halt again. I don't know. It might be too tall of an order. I guess only time will tell!

In the mean time, at least there is cake?
Almond, Ricotta, and Polenta Cake (with Blood Oranges) via Liz Prueitt via The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook

scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1-2 blood oranges, thinly sliced
4 oz softened butter, plus more for pan
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup packed almond flour
3/4 cup ricotta
3 lemons, zest and juice (Pretty sure you could substitute with blood orange juice and zest and it would be great / make sense, but I had Meyer lemons on hand.)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment and butter the sides. In a saucepan over medium heat, turn the brown sugar and water into a thick syrup. Spread a very thin layer over the bottom of pan. Arrange the citrus slices.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Beat together the softened butter with the 2/3C sugar. Add the three yolks, and mix in the cornmeal and almond flour. Mix in the ricotta, zest and juice of the three lemons. 

Beat the three egg whites with the salt to soft peaks and fold in. It's a very thick batter. Pour it over the prepared citrus slices and level. Glaze with quince or apple jelly (if you have it!) after you turn out the cake. Bake for 30-40 minutes. 


Matthew said...

I want to read it! I also want more of this cake. PLS?

Yossy said...

LOL I was going to post about this cake tomorrow! Seriously though, I am a total Liz Prueitt fangirl.

Tim Mazurek said...

I made this, too. It is great. I also love Liz, though I wish she was a little less hetero-normativey in this interview. Also, it was interesting that Lucky Peach interviewed her about this issue shortly after describing her as "Chad Robertson's wife" (seriously, they did not NAME her.) Ugh. MEN.

Sara said...

I like what she's been doing on her instagram lately with quick recipes. Anyway, I'm in agreement with you here: the goal of not coming to a screeching halt and keeping the momentum going is so necessary--for writing, life, and cooking too. Congrats on the progress with your novel.

Amelia Morris said...

@Tim Mazurek -- where did they describe her as Chad Robertson's wife? that's SO BAD! re: the hetero-normativey-ness, Call me a fan girl, but I blame the interviewer! :) Like when he mentions, "maternity leave," he should really have said "family leave" or "parental leave." I'll have to check my math, but pretty sure Sweden is one of those countries that gives both parents like 6 months of time off. (When only one parent gets time off, it sets a precedent, etc, etc...)

Jenna said...

I remember you talking about a novel at your reading at Skylight Books. Is this the same one that's been percolating for years or something completely new? Either way, I'm looking forward to reading it someday!

The Kale Project said...

I remember reading that interview and that paragraph resonated with me so so so much. So exciting about a new book! I can't wait to read it when the day comes :) Hang in there - all of us fellow moms are cheering for you!

Tim Mazurek said...

Fan girl! It was when her pastries were on the cover of the Lucky Peach last year. In the editor's letter Meehan (is that his name?) said they were made by "Chad's wife" or something like that. He apologized on Twitter after a bunch of us freaked out, but WTF is wrong with people?

cmg said...

Thank you! I still feel so much guilt/unhappiness about how things came "screeching to a halt" for me and it's good to hear other women speaking about their experiences.

mliss said...

In the scheme of things, kids only really need our undivided attention for a short time.
Hope you & Matt can make it happen. It's such a shame that family time is not important to our country & most employers.

SarahCatherine said...

I recently read that Sandra Cisneros never had children because she could not afford to as a writer who never married. She said that even if she could afford to financially, she could not afford the time commitment because again, she was single and would have no help when she would need to write. So she made a choice, which is not a choice all of us have to make, but I still think it's important for her to say. (She writes about this in her new book "A House of my Own", which I LOVED, although I also highly recommend basically all of her books).

I guess I say this just because I'm glad that on top of everything else you do, you have found time to write a novel (regardless if said novel makes its way to us readers). And I'm also glad that you write about childcare here, because it's strange how I read so many bloggers who write about motherhood but then never speak to this.

Thanks for another post. And another cake. :)

Sarah said...

First off, this cake is so good. It took me a lot longer than 30-40 minutes to bake (I saw Smitten Kitchen mentioned readers reporting lots of different bake times) in my oven, but it was totally fine. Also, big encouragement on your second novel! I really enjoyed your first one; it touched me at so many points and brought a whole new level of appreciation for your day-to-day blog writing.

I relate to what Liz says. Sometimes I think, "I was raised to be independent, a go-getter. I got an amazing education and made it this far, but I have to take time out of my life in a way that men do not. This is so unfair, and no one told me about this in college. I didn't ask for this biological assignment!" And then I feel terrible for having those thoughts! Part of the reason I quit biglaw last fall was because I knew I wanted to have kids relatively soon, and I wanted to have some time to myself before that happened. My goal was to hit the ground running and be productive, but instead I found my body saying, "No. You need to recover first, emotionally, physically, spiritually." So right now, it's all a big "who knows."

A former female mentor of mine is a partner, wealthy, successful husband, young children, live-at-home nanny. I recently heard she is on the verge of a divorce. It isn't a big surprise to me; she told me once that I needed to make sure I committed time to my marriage. She told me she always put work first, kids second, husband last, and maybe that wasn't the right order. Pretty sober words. Sure, her decision to prioritize work was a personal choice. But was it? The workplace was the kind where, whether you liked it or not, you had to devote 110% of your time and constantly prove that you were committed. Having served on the women's committee and heard from numerous associates and partners, I know for a fact that proving commitment was harder for the mothers and for females generally than for the men. Things like canceling babies' doctors appointments when a partner calls you into a last-minute meeting; not putting pictures of your children on your desk; not pumping milk because you literally cannot find 20 minutes in the day and then advising younger females that "formula is safe and fine"; never mentioning family commitments at work lest partners think you're anything less than committed. I also saw it from the other end, (female!) partners hinting that young mothers need to just "make it work," which is code for, "your family should never conflict with your demanding job."

Anywayyyyy that's a long digression.

The very fact that you wrote one book, started a second, and are continuing to blog is so inspiring to me. I am not sure how you feel you are doing, but to me, I feel you already are "doing the thing." And if things do ever come to a halt, I hope it is temporary and that no matter what, the desire lives on.

This is the naive non-mother talking, but why isn't there some type of community childcare that doesn't cost $$$$$ and operates on a sort of "we care for each other's children" basis? Sort of like a formal support network.

HAILEY said...

Your writing is so fantastic! I loved this post. And although I actually don't know who Liz Prueitt is yet (gasp!), I did see this cake on Smitten Kitchen already but am glad you made it because that just seals the deal! I need to make it too!

Amelia Morris said...

1. Once again, I love my readers!

2. @Jenna Thank you for coming to Skylight! (One year ago today, coincidentally.) The novel I spoke about was my first novel, which I started during grad school in 2007 and tried to get published in 2010. Last year, I briefly considered trying to fix it up and see if someone might publish it, but then gave up on that idea. :/ This one I'm working on now is a new story.

3. @cmg You're welcome!

4. @thekaleproject Thank YOU!

5. @mliss WORD. The U.S. has it wrong when it comes to taking care of its young families.

6. @SarahCatherine Thank you for this. I remember seeing that book when it came out and now I want to read it for sure!

7. @Sarah "No one told me about this in college." hahahaha funny but SO true. Thank you so much for sharing all these thoughts. I love hearing them. And so glad you are out of Biglaw and taking time for yourself. xoxx

8. @HAILEY Thank you! And as an intro to Liz Prueitt, you should probably start following her in IG. :) :)

Unknown said...

That cake looks good! I look forward to hearing more of your musings on motherhood and career. I feel lucky to have an employer that's pretty family friendly (read: lets me work at home, have a fairly flexible schedule, and still have a 'real' career.) Our family is almost 8 years into trying to figure out how to balance goals/dreams for two full-time working parents and for two kids who have their own agendas and we still don't have all the answers.

Mary Anne said...

I want to chime in here, but I am completely physically and mentally spent after my first week back at work after parental leave. I feel like I spent all my time between classes today pumping breastmilk, taking the milk to the department fridge, walking to the restroom to wash the breast pump stuff (while students washed their hands in the sinks next to me)... and then three hours later doing the whole damn thing again. I had no time to prep for my classes the way I wanted to. These are the interruptions Virginia Wolfe warned us about in "A Room of One's Own", aren't they? The interruptions that make it so much harder for women to create than it is for men. I felt resentful all week that it feels like I have to choose between professional focus/productivity and providing for my child in the way my body is meant to. Incidentally, I just got an R and R (revise and resubmit) on an article I submitted to a good journal, and my revised ms is due May 2. So I have my work cut out for me and I can't come to that screeching halt!

Luisa said...

I am just beyond impressed that you were/are able to write so much with two little ones. When Hugo was at home for the first 12 months, I was so spent from taking care of him that being creative was an impossibility! And I loved those first 12 months. (The next twelve, yeeeks, thank goodness for daycare.) You have two, so you're in a different boat of course, but what I can say from the perspective of having a slightly older child is that there will come a time when things settle in such a way that suddenly you have far more time than you thought. You get really good at making things happen in short periods of time, plus the kids become much more independent. For us, it happened around when Hugo turned 3. I feel like work has become really possible and really fulfilling again, which is thrilling. It's a little sad to say goodbye to the baby phase, but it's also great to see this little boy develop and to see my own life come into focus again. Keep writing! Your blog entries are a bright spot in my week. xoxo

kaitlyn sage said...

I just adore your writing and hope that I get the treat of buying your novel someday. I think this question of family and writing time is so insanely interesting. I'm a writer as well, and I can't imagine having little humans who need my help running around when I'm really entrenched in the writing. I seriously admire your commitment and dedication. <3

Kate said...

So great, all of it! I want to read your novel, your writing is just real and smart. Parenthood's a bitch, but one I think (most days) will be worth it. It's absolutely true, however, that it has to be a people issue, not just a women's issue to make it make sense for anyone anymore.

karey bakker said...

Oh Amelia, as always your posts make me take a deep breath and let out a long sigh of relief that I am not alone with the things I think or feel on a day to day. I love your phrase 'a gentle deceleration" LOVE IT. Congratulations on working on your next book - with all you have going on with two little ones and a blog! All the best from Brooklyn - <3

Amelia Morris said...

@Mary Walsh good for you and your employer! I feel like it makes so much more sense to give your employees this kind of freedom / to understand that people can be dedicated to their jobs (and perhaps even more so) without being tethered there from 9 to 6 (or much later!) Mon-Friday.

@Mary Anne so much to respond to...Quickly though, I'll say this: always HATED washing my breast pump stuff in public bathroom sinks. (And I only had to do it a handful of times.) Congrats though and best of luck on the R&R!

@The Wednesday Chef Thank you so much for the encouragement! I definitely found with Teddy and his first year that in order to be creative I needed space to myself. I believe this is also referred to as "a room of one's own." :) (See Mary Anne's comment.) #fullcircle

@Kaitlyn, @Kate, @karey THANK YOU, GUYS!!!

Booby and the Beast said...

Bravo to you for finding any time at all to write! Parenthood is a lot of work and I'm impressed you're able to find as much time as you do. Also, I'd love to read pretty much anything you write!

Caley said...

Was so excited to give this a whirl but was kind of weirded out at the texture in the end. We ended up with a really mealy mouthfeel that I wasn't into at all. I suspect my thrifty cornmeal was to blame but am curious to know how yours turned out.

Amelia Morris said...

@Caley hmmm a mealy mouthfeel? Sorry! That doesn't sound great. For me, it was a lot like promised--very cheesecake-like though with a crunch from the cornmeal. Does that help?

Caley said...

@Amelia, I'm thinking my ingredients failed me ...is that a poor craftswoman blaming tools type of excuse maybe? I definitely want to try again before the blood oranges disappear! The flavour was definitely there just not that crunchy or cheesecakey-ness you describe.