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Using my vanilla cake recipe as the base, you can create an absolutely mouthwatering snickerdoodle cake filled with buttery cinnamon swirls and topped with creamy brown sugar cinnamon buttercream frosting. This cinnamon cake goes down in history as one of my best cake masterpieces. Everyone raved about it!

snickerdoodle cake with a slice showing

Earlier this month, I asked the Sally’s Baking Addiction Facebook group community if they wanted a snickerdoodle cake recipe this fall season. The response was an overwhelming yes. In fact, the general response was HECK YES HECK YES HEEEEEEEECK YES.

Your wish is my cake command.

This Snickerdoodle Cake Is:

snickerdoodle layer cake on a marble cake stand

3 Parts to Snickerdoodle Cake

  • Buttery Vanilla Cake
  • Pockets of Cinnamon Swirls
  • Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

Snickerdoodle Cake Power Ingredients

The ingredient list below looks long. Thankfully, the ingredients are mostly repeated in each section. If you’ve made or read about my best vanilla cake recipe before, you know that I use a few “power ingredients” that promise the perfect cake texture:

  1. Butter: Use room temperature butter for the cake and frosting. Remember that room temperature butter is cooler than you think. Use melted butter for the cinnamon swirl.
  2. Cake Flour: If you want a soft bakery-style cake, cake flour is the secret. The cake will be heavy if you use all-purpose flour. If needed, you can use a cake flour substitute.
  3. Eggs & 2 additional egg whites: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy.
  4. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Remember the differences in baking powder vs baking soda and why it’s important to use both in some recipes? We’ll use enough baking powder to give the cake height without leaving a bitter aftertaste. Baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
  5. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and baking soda requires an acid to work. Plus, buttermilk yields an EXTRA moist cake crumb. See recipe note about an alternative.
  6. Brown Sugar: We’ll use brown sugar in the cinnamon swirl and again in the frosting. You can use light brown or dark brown sugar, but I recommend dark brown sugar for bolder flavor.
  7. Cinnamon: Cinnamon is the main flavor, so make sure you’re using a quality product. I adore McCormick and Penzeys brands. (Not sponsored, just a super fan!)
snickerdoodle cake slice on a white plate

How to Make Snickerdoodle Cake

  1. Make the cake batter: Use the basic creaming method. If desired, see my vanilla cake recipe for more detail. I reduced the sugar in the cake batter since we’re adding a cinnamon sugar swirl.
  2. Make the cinnamon swirl: Combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Gently mix in melted butter. Drop small spoonfuls over each unbaked cake layer, then swirl with a knife. The cinnamon swirl will slightly sink as the cake bakes, but that’s ok. When you eat the cake, the bits of cinnamon swirl are sticky, chewy, and massively flavorful.
  3. Bake & cool the cakes: Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, then cool completely before assembling and frosting.
  4. Make the brown sugar cinnamon frosting: More on that next!
  5. Decorate the cake: I love a semi-naked cake decoration for this snickerdoodle cake.
  6. Chill before serving: For beautiful slices, chill the decorated cake for at least 30-60 minutes prior to serving. This tightens up the layers, so slicing is much neater and easier.
2 images of cinnamon swirl cake batter in bowls

This cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans. Always line your round pans with parchment paper rounds before adding the batter.

2 images of cinnamon swirl cake batter in a cake pan

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

Simply put, this frosting is nothing short of a dream. Brown sugar isn’t a common ingredient in snickerdoodle cookies, but I really wanted to impart its flavor into the cake. Brown sugar weighed down the cake crumb, so I added some to the frosting. Thus, brown sugar cinnamon buttercream was born. (There’s no need for any other frosting flavor again, ever.)

You know what I love about snickerdoodle cookies? Their creamy texture and slightly tangy flavor– both make snickerdoodles uniquely delicious! Cream of tartar supplies those favorable components, but it didn’t really fit into this cake. So I compromised and added cream cheese to the buttercream frosting. Now we have a wonderfully tangy/sweet flavor, plus an ultra creamy texture.

To avoid a gritty texture from the brown sugar, cream it with the butter and cream cheese until relatively smooth. (Once you add the remaining ingredients, you won’t be able to detect its texture anyway.) If you find the buttercream too sweet, add extra salt. If you crave more flavor, add more cinnamon and/or vanilla extract. This brown sugar cinnamon buttercream would be outstanding with banana layer cake or carrot cake, too.

2 images of brown sugar cinnamon buttercream in a bowl and spreading buttercream on cake

Look at all those cinnamon swirl specks on the bottom of a cake layer! ↑ ↑

2 images of brown sugar cinnamon buttercream on the cake

Semi-Naked Cake Style

Remember when I taught you how to make a vanilla naked cake? I recreated the look for this snickerdoodle cake. Perfect as a rustic chic autumn cake, no? If you need a visual for this semi-naked look (pretty much a crumb coat), see my naked cake video tutorial.

If you skip the piping detail, there’s enough frosting to cover the whole cake with a generous layer of frosting. 🙂

Need to freeze the cake layers? See how to freeze cakes for detailed instructions.

snickerdoodle cake on a marble cake stand
slice of snickerdoodle cake on a cake server

Love Cinnamon? More Recipes for You:

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snickerdoodle cake with a slice showing

Snickerdoodle Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1214 servings 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Using my vanilla cake recipe as the base, create an absolutely mouthwatering snickerdoodle cake filled with buttery cinnamon swirls and topped with creamy brown sugar cinnamon buttercream frosting. Review recipe notes before beginning.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 and 2/3 cups (433g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (330g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 additional egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*

Cinnamon Swirl

  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (41g) or cake flour (38g)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon*
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 60g) unsalted butter, melted

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks; 290g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat block cream cheese, room temperature and sliced into 4 pieces*
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon*
  • 5 and 1/2 cups (660g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • optional for garnish: snickerdoodle cookies

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the 3 eggs, 2 egg whites, and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. (Mixture will look curdled as a result of the egg liquid and solid butter combining.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. With the mixer still running on low speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk then mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. If desired, weigh them with a kitchen scale to ensure accuracy. Set aside for a few minutes as you make the cinnamon swirl.
  5. For the cinnamon swirl: With a fork, mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together until combined. Pour the melted butter on top and mix just until combined. Use immediately in the cake batter (next step) because the longer it sits out, the harder it will get as a result of the butter solidifying.
  6. Drop small spoonfuls of the cinnamon swirl on each of the unbaked cakes. Use a knife to gently swirl the spoonfuls into the batter. Some pieces will remain as chunks (that’s fine!) and some will swirl into the batter.
  7. Bake for around 23-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  8. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Switch the mixer up to medium-high speed and add the cream cheese one piece at a time, mixing until each has combined before adding the next. Once the cream cheese is combined, add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and add the cinnamon, confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and beat for 30 seconds, then turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat until completely combined and creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting seems too thin– I usually add another 1/4 cup (30g) of confectioners’ sugar. You can add more heavy cream if frosting seems too thick or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I usually add another pinch of salt.) If you crave extra flavor, add a little more cinnamon and/or vanilla extract.
  9. Level the cakes & add the crumb coat: Using a large serrated knife, slice the domes off the cooled cakes (a semi-thin layer) to create a flat surface. Discard domes (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly spread about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting on top. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly spread another 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting on top. Top with the third cake layer. I decorated my snickerdoodle cake with a crumb coat, which makes it a semi-naked style cake. To recreate this, spread a thin layer of frosting around the sides and top of the cake (save extra frosting for the top in the next step). An icing spatula and bench scraper are helpful for creating this look. (If you need a visual, see my Naked Cake video tutorial.) Chill the crumb coated cake uncovered in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes to help set the crumb coat.
  10. Spread a little extra frosting on top of the cake and use any leftover frosting to pipe detail around the edges, if desired. I used Wilton 8B piping tip. Garnish with snickerdoodles if desired.
  11. Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  12. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 20 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. See how to freeze cakes for detailed instructions.
  2. Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Egg Separator | 9-inch Cake Pans | Kitchen ScaleWilton 8B Piping Tip | Piping Bags (disposable or reusable) | Cake TurntableLarge Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper
  3. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter. Drop small spoonfuls of cinnamon swirl onto each, then gently swirl with a knife. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my snickerdoodle cupcakes recipe.
  4. 9×13 Inch Cake: This recipe yields too much batter for a 9×13 inch pan. Instead, you can use my white cake batter and swirl in the cinnamon swirl. (See those recipe notes for baking instructions for a quarter sheet pan.) I recommend cutting this frosting recipe in half so you don’t have too much leftover.
  5. Cake Flour: To prevent a dry-tasting cake, make sure you are spooning and leveling the flour or weighing it. For the best results, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a homemade cake flour substitute.
  6. Eggs: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination. Here are recipes using leftover egg yolks.
  7. Buttermilk: Buttermilk (an acid) is required for this cake recipe. If you don’t have any, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 1/2 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  8. Cinnamon: Yes, the cinnamon swirl and frosting both call for 1 Tablespoon (not teaspoon) of ground cinnamon. We need that flavor to stand out!
  9. Brown Sugar: You can use light brown or dark brown sugar, but I recommend dark brown sugar for bolder flavor.
  10. Cream Cheese: Use block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. Slice the block into four 2-ounce pieces. If desired, you can skip the cream cheese and add another 1/4 cup (1/2 stick; 60g) softened unsalted butter instead.
  11. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about the importance of room temperature ingredients

Keywords: snickerdoodle cookies, cake, cinnamon

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally! Do you think it would be alright to use the swirl in other cake recipes as well? Thanks so much 😀

    1. Hi Reagan, can’t see why not! Keep in mind that the swirls do sink a bit as they bake, so they may sink more in cakes with thinner batters. Let us know which combinations you try!

  2. I made this for my mother-in-law’s birthday celebration, and it was a huge hit! My father-in-law told me it was one of the best cakes he had eaten in his life. Thanks for creating such great recipes. I will add this to my list of repeats from this website!

      1. See recipe notes for our recommended Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions!

  3. This recipe is incredible! My family loved it. Do you think I could add cubed apples to the cake recipe?

    1. Hi Debbie, so glad you enjoyed this one! Apples release a lot of moisture into baked goods, so it would take a bit of recipe testing to successfully add them to this recipe. You might enjoy our apple cake recipe instead!

  4. Would you recommend still doing the swirl if we wanted to add crushed snickerdoodles as a filling between layers?

    1. Hi Bria, yes, you can still do the cinnamon swirl even if using crushed snickerdoodles between the layers.

      1. Thanks!! I ended up using the full recipe, half filled three 6inch tins and popped the leftover into another tin (which made my kids very happy!!!). Turned out perfect for my daughters 5th birthday cake!

  5. This cake is delicious The frosting Tastes like the cinnamon sugar cream cheese spread you get for bagels. The cake is an extremely moist vanilla cake with cinnamon swirls that taste like cinnamon rolls make sure you get good quality ingredients because the main ingredient is cinnamon. I made this for my 28th birthday and everyone raved about how delicious and said it was my best cake yet!

  6. The cake was interesting and very rich. The only negative was it was too sweet. This came from my sugar craving husband and son. Also, I found the swirl mixture too thick to blend into the cake batter.
    Next time will decrease the brown sugar of the swirl mixture and mix it into some batter to get a consistency to swirl into the cake batter. Definitely freezing thin slices of cake for the sweet cravings in this house!

  7. Hi Sally! I’m looking to make a roll cake. Am I able to use this cake recipe in a sheet pan? Thanks!

    1. Hi Theresa, You’ll want to use a lighter sponge that won’t break when rolled. We haven’t tested it, but you can start with the vanilla sponge from this strawberries and cream cake roll and add the cinnamon swirl to the batter (you’ll need less than we use here) and use the frosting as the filling. Let us know if you try anything!

    1. Hi Kim, that should work, although the layers will be pretty thin. We’re unsure of the exact bake time but keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  8. Hi, could I use three 8×2-inch pans for this cake? If so, what temperature and how long should I bake it for? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lin, you can use your 8 inch pans. The layers will be slightly thicker and take a bit longer to bake so keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness!

  9. This recipe was wonderful. I had a friend request a snickerdoodle birthday cake so I used your recipe and decorated it with mini homemade snickerdoodle cookies and cookie crumbs turned out wonderful. Then I had another person request a “cinnamony” cake so I used this same recipe. Made it heart shaped and decorated it fancy for a birthday.

  10. I made this cake for a birthday party, and my family loved it! My dad especially. I didn’t have enough frosting for piping, but I think I just used too much in the middle (Is there even such a thing as too much?) I was able too reduce the powdered sugar in the frosting by two cups, since I saw someone thought it was too sweet, and it was perfect! I’ve never baked with cake flour before, but everything went well! This is my new favorite cake from you! I’m enjoying all your recipes! I’ll be baking your caramel apple cheesecake pie for Thanksgiving. 🙂

  11. Hi Sally! I have a few things to say. First of all, even though I made this cake and the frosting a little less than a week ago, I still dream about it! I could literally eat the frosting out of the bowl with a spoon, it’s that good. You’re awesome at making killer frosting recipes. The next thing I’d like to say is a question. Would this frosting go well on your pumpkin cake? I thought of this on Wednesday and I thought it sounded good. And if it does go well, would I have to double the frosting recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kim, thank you so much! It’s fun to play around with new frosting flavors and recipes. This frosting recipe, as written, would be fabulous on the pumpkin cake. And it would be plenty!

  12. I’m a snickerdoodle cookie fan from my Martha’s Vineyards vacations. I have an excellent cookie recipe but I now want the cake version. I think I want a cinnamon sugar donut turned into a cold Oven Pound Cake recipe but every recipe I see has icing/frosting. Due to my lactose intolerance I am afraid to take on this recipe that uses buttermilk. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Cynthia, we haven’t tested a completely dairy-free version of this recipe, so we’re unsure of the best substitutes. Any substitutions you try will, of course, change the final outcome of the cake. Let us know if you do any experimenting!

  13. Hi Sally,

    I used the spoon scoop method for measuring out the cake flour, but it seems 3 2/3 comes out to be more than 433 g. I got 433 g from about 3 1/3 cups. Should I go with the grams & just use the 3 1/3 cup? I also accounted for the weight of the bowl.

    Thanks!

  14. Hi, Sally! I’m making the frosting for your pumpkin cake this weekend. I have a question. Every time I add salt to a frosting recipe, there’s always a salty, bitter aftertaste, so I don’t add salt to frosting. Do you have any idea as to why this happens?

    1. Hi Kim, perhaps it is the brand of salt you are using? Or you could just need a very small pinch. We typically use just a very small amount to help cut the sweetness, but you can certainly leave it out if you prefer. Hope you enjoy this frosting with the pumpkin cake!

  15. I made the pumpkin cake and frosted it with this frosting and it was addicting. I love this frosting! I did end up using nuefchatel instead of regular cream cheese and as a result the frosting was a bit runny, but I just chilled it in the fridge for 15 minutes and it frosted and piped quite well. So I found out that nuefchatel works in a pinch. Still the same taste, just a slightly different texture. This recipe does not disappoint!

  16. I want to thank you for posting this recipe. I made it for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit! Absolutely delicious. I wish I could post a picture to show you how great your instructions worked.

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