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Honey Bun Cake

Loads of brown sugar and cinnamon in every bite make this honey bun cake the perfect treat for cinnamon lovers. The sweet vanilla glaze will remind you of your favorite cinnamon roll in sliceable cake form!

Overhead view of honey bun cake slices on platter

Honey bun cake is an irresistible dessert that combines the flavors of brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a moist cake with a supremely tender crumb. Basically, think cinnamon roll, but without all the effort! The top of the cake is finished with a sweet vanilla glaze, making it even more indulgent.

Why You’ll Love This Honey Bun Cake Recipe

  • Made from scratch. Unlike most honey bun cake recipes, which rely on cake mix, this one is made completely from scratch. This means you’ll get a superior tasting cake—and if, like me, you love to bake, it’s a lot more satisfying to make!
  • Easy to make. Despite being made from scratch, this recipe is simple and straightforward. No layering, complicated custard fillings, or piping on icing!
  • Perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re looking for a special treat for a potluck or simply want to enjoy a cozy night in with some homemade cake, this honey bun cake fits the bill.
Overhead view of ingredients for honey bun cake

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.

Filling:

Cake:

  • All-purpose flour – Be sure you know how to measure flour for baking for best results.
  • Baking powder and soda
  • Salt
  • Granulated sugar
  • Unsalted butter – Learn more: Unsalted or Salted Butter: Which is Better for Baking?
  • Eggs – Although it’s not critical, letting the eggs sit on the counter a bit will allow them to hold more air when beaten, yielding a fluffier cake texture.
  • Vanilla extract – Use homemade vanilla extract or store-bought.
  • Buttermilk – You can use a buttermilk substitute, reconstituted buttermilk powder, or buy a bottle of buttermilk at the grocery store. It will react with the baking soda to give your cake lift.

Glaze:

  • Confectioners’ sugar – Also known as powdered sugar.
  • Milk – Use any variety you have on hand.
  • Vanilla extract

How to Make Honey Bun Cake

  • Make the filling. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. 
  • Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9- x 13- x 2-inch baking pan. For easy removal, you can also line the pan with parchment paper.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to cream the butter and granulated sugar until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  • Finish the batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of the buttermilk. 
  • Assemble the cake. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle two-thirds of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over this. Spread the remaining batter on top, followed by the remaining filling. If desired, swirl the top two layers with a knife.
  • Bake. Bake the honey bun cake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.
  • Make the glaze. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla until smooth. Add more milk a little at a time until the glaze reaches your desired consistency.
  • Finish. Pour the glaze over the warm cake and spread it evenly. Allow the glaze to set before serving.
Honey bun cake on plates

Tips for Success

  • Soften the butter. This is key for an evenly mixed cake batter with the perfect light texture. Learn more: How to Soften Butter
  • Don’t over-mix. Over-mixing the batter can result in a tough or dense cake. Mix just until all the ingredients are combined.
  • Line your pan with parchment paper. While this step is optional, it makes removing the cake from the pan and clean up much easier.
  • Don’t over-bake. Keep an eye on your cake towards the end of baking to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If your oven runs hot, check on the cake a few minutes early.
  • Know the basics of baking. Read over my Baking Tips for Beginners.
Two plates with slices of honey bun cake

Variations

  • Add nuts. Chopped pecans or walnuts make a delicious addition to the buttery cake filling. Or, you can add them over the glaze.
  • Use different spices. While cinnamon is the classic spice used in honey bun cake, you can experiment with other flavors. A pinch of nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom would add another layer of warmth.
  • Switch up the glaze. Instead of a traditional vanilla glaze, you can top your honey bun cake with cream cheese glaze or frosting.

How to Store

Honey bun cake is best served the day it’s made, but if you have leftovers, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Slice of honey bun cake on plate with remaining cake in background

Can I Freeze This Recipe?

Yes, honey bun cake freezes well. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil or place the wrapped cake in an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

More Reader Favorite Cake Recipes

Slice of honey bun cake on plate with fork

Honey Bun Cake

Yield 18 to 24 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

With cinnamon brown sugar swirls and vanilla glaze, this honey bun cake tastes like a giant cinnamon roll. Super moist and made from scratch!

Squares of honey bun cake on platter

Ingredients

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup (200g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the Cake:

  • 2 & 1/4 cups (270g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk

For the Glaze:

  • 2 cups (220g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9- x 13- x 2-inch baking pan. If you like, first line the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of the buttermilk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Spread half of the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture over the batter.
  6. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the top. Try to cover all of the filling, but it's fine if you can't.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining filling mixture over the top of the batter. Leave the topping as is, or use a thin knife to swirl it into just the top layer of batter.
  8. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Set the pan on a wire rack, and allow the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes.

To make the glaze:

  1. Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and vanilla until smooth. Add more milk, a small amount at a time, until the glaze is thick but pourable.
  2. Pour the glaze over the warm cake and spread evenly.
  3. Allow the glaze to set before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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