An Abundance of Nouns (Lemon & Apple Almond Cake)

As a writer, I know the difference between adjectives and nouns. This is something basic you learn in, say, first grade when you read easy sentences like “The big dog ran.” Big is an adjective and dog is a noun (and just to really show off here, ran is a verb — see, Mom? I’m good at this. It could still make me money someday.) This is a very useful set of skills in general life for the purposes of communication, etc.

So I’ve got a good handle on this, but I have started to lose it when it comes to recipes and recipe titles–because nouns become adjectives in recipe titles. And it becomes confusing when you slam a whole bunch of delicious ingredients into one cake recipe. Cake is the noun, and everything that’s yummy in there (like lemons, apples, almonds, and cardamom) become mere descriptors. And there’s four of them and it’s wordy and which ones do you leave out? There’s also maple syrup and butter in there, so is it now Apple Almond Lemon Maple Cardamom Butter Cake? And it’s round and grain-free, so have we achieved ultra-long recipe status with a Grain-Free Refined-Sugar-Free Round Apple Lemon Maple Cardamom Almond Butter Cake?

If I go the route of Robert Burns, the latter is perfectly acceptable given the man titled a poem “The Auld Farmer’s New-Year-Morning Salutation to his Auld Mare, Maggie, on giving her the Accustomed Ripp of Corn to Hansel in the New-Year.” Lest you think only old-school poets went that route, Billy Collins has a good challenger: “Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I pause to Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles.”

My published poems, on the other hand, include “Jars,” “Sourdough,” and “Drought.” It would appear I’m more on the minimalist side of things. My apologies, Bobby and Billy.

I’ve been debating this for days and I don’t know the right answer when it comes to food, but I’ve settled in my minimalist comfort zone with this Lemon & Apple Almond Cake.


As you all might remember, my mother tends to endow me with items, edible or otherwise, nearly every time I see her. I am currently girding my loins for another of these encounters, as we’re traveling to visit them next week and during my last conversation with her a few days ago, she mentioned “all the stuff” I left in my childhood closet, which to my recollection is filled with my sister’s old clothes and boxes of family photos.

When we were in Kansas over Christmas, my mother hauled out a 10-lb bag of almond flour from Costco for me to take. Since it was something edible and useful and would take up all-important room in the car, meaning I would simply have to decline transporting back a beverage dispenser (not mine, as the one I own is in my house) or a very old fondue pot which was not mine, but the family’s, and which I have instructed them to donate a mere dozen times, I took the almond flour and ran.

A few days ago I noticed we had apples languishing in the fruit bowl, and the almond flour snagged my attention in the pantry, and before you know it Bryce and I were scarfing this delicious cake. Actually, to be fair, was scarfing it while trying to convince Bryce it was really gross and he didn’t want any, but I would sacrifice my own poor taste buds and stomach so as not to waste food.

It is crumbly, as you would expect a cake made from almond flour to be, but it’s also lovely and moist with a subtle sweetness and nice zing from the lemon.


Lemon & Apple Almond Cake

2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2 apples, diced (I used Pink Lady, but I think Fuji or Honeycrisp would be great too. Mine weighed in at 250 grams, or yielded about 2 cups diced) + 1 apple thinly sliced for decoration
juice + zest from one lemon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (if using pods, this was about 6 of them ground for me)
For sugar syrup glaze (optional)
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 Tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

Zest and juice the lemon. If needed, strain the lemon juice to capture any seeds. Set juice aside in a bowl. Peel, core, and dice two of the apples. Add diced apples to lemon juice and toss slightly to coat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk almond flour, lemon zest, salt, baking soda, and cardamom. Whisk in melted butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract. Fold in the apples.

Pour into the prepared cake pan. If desired, top with sliced apples. I quartered an unpeeled apple and then used a mandolin slicer.

Bake approximately 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely and turn out onto a plate or cake stand, removing the parchment circle. If desired, brush a simple sugar syrup over the top for a glossy look. Combine 1 tablespoon white sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Cook in microwave for about 1 minute. Let cool and set – it should have the consistency of syrup – and then use a pastry brush to brush over the top and sides of the cake.


Tater was not given any cake and so went outside and pouted.