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Definitive Honey And Apple Cake

``You must have a zillion honey cakes in your files'' is something people often say to a professional baker. I do, but this one -- this is the one that breaks the mold. It makes even a Jewish great-grandmother concede: It doesn't get much better than this. Not too spicy, incredibly moist, and statuesque, it's a winner even among honey cake detractors. Apples and honey make this a crowning glory, but you can also leave out the apples for a pure-of-heart honey cake.

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup warm coffee
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup shredded, peeled apples, optional
1/2 cup flaked almonds
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch tube or angel food cake pan with cooking spray. You can also use three 8-inch-by-4-inch, or two 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, and orange juice.

Using a strong wire whisk, or an electric mixer on slow speed, combine ingredients thoroughly to make a thick but pourable batter; ensure that ingredients are well blended and not sitting at the bottom. Fold in shredded apples.

Spoon or pour batter into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle with almonds. Place cake pan(s) on baking sheet and bake until done, about 60 to 75 minutes for larger cake, 45 to 55 for a smaller loaf. Cake is done when it springs back when gently pressed with fingertips.

Cool 10 minutes before unmolding.

Serves 12 to 16.

By Marcy Goldman, Globe Correspondent

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