Snickerdoodle Cake

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: Use both– remember why? 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.

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: 12-14 servings
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


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.


  • 3 and 2/3 cups (420gcake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon 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


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  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.


  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 here for more information.

Keywords: snickerdoodle cookies, cake, cinnamon


  1. Hi Sally,
    Do you think this cake would work well, pinata style? Thinking of following your snickerdoodle recipe, only to make 4 layers out of it (I guess by increasing all ingredients by a third), cut 2 middle layers and stuff cake with candies…. Would you reckon that could work?

    1. Yes, I think that would work! You can follow my instructions for assembling a piñata style cake here:

  2. Do you only line the pan bottoms or the sides also?. Thx.

    1. Hi Brenda, just the bottom of the pan.

  3. This one was a huge hit! I already have requests to make it for the holidays.

    For anyone with only two cake pans – I didn’t put it together that the cinnamon swirl would be sitting out too while the first layers baked and was worried about it hardening, but it turned out just fine! However it probably would’ve been better to make that in two stages.

  4. Hi Sally

    If I wanted to make this in three 6-inch pans, would I make half the recipe?
    Thanks, it sounds delicious!

    1. Hi Ro, you can use my snickerdoodle cupcakes recipe for a 3 layer 6 inch cake or even use my vanilla cupcakes recipe. Halve the cinnamon swirl and frosting. Swirl the cinnamon layer into each cupcake.

  5. Hi Sally:
    I want to make this cake tomorrow, using three 6-inch rounds because I don’t need such a large cake. I’d prefer to adapt this recipe vs. using your snicker doodle cupcakes recipe, because the use of cake flour, buttermilk and additional egg whites in this recipe sounds like it would yield a better crumb for my cake. So, how can I adapt it to smaller? Cut in half? By a third? What about baking time? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Ro! See my reply to this question above using the vanilla cupcakes (egg whites, cake flour!) as suggested. 🙂

  6. Can’t wait to make this, I’m having a dinner party next week. My question is how to convert this to 8-inch pans. Should I cut it back & if so by how much?

    1. You can use three 8-inch pans without changing anything. Your layers will be slightly thicker but bake time will be about the same.

  7. Johanna Threm says:

    Hi Sally, My daughter picked this for her birthday last weekend, and I’ve never gotten so many over the top compliments! Everyone loved it!
    I do have one question, the icing was slightly gritty. I loved the brown sugar flavor, but I think that is what did it. Any suggestions for next time to avoid this?

    1. I’m thrilled that this cake was such a hit, Johanna! For the brown sugar to really be incorporated into the frosting you likely just need to beat it longer in your mixer. You can also try adding the brown sugar with the butter and mix that until smooth before adding the rest of the ingredients!

  8. I made this recipe as cupcakes for a work carry-in and received many compliments! I almost couldn’t believe how light and airy the batter was. The only issue I had was that the cinnamon swirl was quite thick, and sank to the middle of the cupcakes because it was heavier than the batter. It did not sink all the way to the bottom though, so it really wasn’t even an issue at all. Absolutely delicious, Sally!

    1. What a delicious dessert to bring to work- lucky coworkers!! Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  9. Angelina Baran says:

    Hi! I love this recipe, but is there any way I can make it vegan?

    1. Hi Angelina! I’m not the best one to ask about vegan baking– I have very little experience with substitutions. Sorry! I do have a category of vegan recipes- you can find them here:

    2. Paula Broadway says:

      I used Tofutti cream cheese to make the frosting and it turned out fabulous.
      Sally this cake is wonderful, everyone in my family loved it. But unfortunately, no leftovers for me.

  10. Made this over the weekend and it was fabulous….thanks for sharing with the world!

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, Stacey!

  11. This cake was awesome! Be sure to mix the swirl into the cake deep/well so when you level the cakes you don’t cut off most of the yummy swirl. My family loved it and my office loved the leftovers!

    1. I’m so happy this recipe was a hit! Thanks for your positive feedback, Sara 🙂

  12. I want to bake the layers for this 2 weeks ahead and freeze them for a party. Since it’s meant to be “light & airy” will the texture be the same if I freeze/thaw before frosting? Just concerned because I have several recipes that I often bake ahead/freeze layers (chocolate, banana) but those are dense textured cakes. Thanks for any advice – don’t want to lose that lovely light texture for this cake!!

    1. Hi Madeline! I’ve never had an issue with freezing/thawing these cake layers. See my How to Freeze Cakes for detailed instructions on how I freeze them. 🙂

      1. Thanks Sally! I will be baking my layers tomorrow night and freezing them! So excited to serve this cake at our Chanukah party. When I baked 4 types of cupcakes for my daughter’s graduation party, your Snickerdoodle cupcakes were everyone’s favorites! Will be baking several other treats as well, will post some pics on FB when I’m done!

  13. I made this recipe and it is easily now one of my favorite ever! The flavors are amazing and the cake is the perfect texture. So much goodness! And the icing is spectacular. Make this cake!

  14. Hi Sally! Can this recipe be made into a Bundt cake? I’m dying to try it and want to make it for Christmas but I’m not sure I’d have time to assemble a layer cake, so I’d love to make it in a bundt with a browned butter glaze/icing. What do you think?? Thanks!

    1. It would be great! I’m unsure of the exact bake time though. Make sure you use a large bundt pan with at least 10-12 cups capacity. The larger the better.

      1. I just made 2/3 the recipe in my bundt pan, full cinnamon swirl (more cinnamon wonderfulness) and 1/3 frosting to top it. I added about 1/2 if the batter and 1/2 cinnamon and then again to kinda get the cinnamon swirl throughout. It turned out great! Just make sure to grease and flour the pan really well.

  15. Hi Sally,

    I can’t wait to try this cake! I want to make it for Xmas dinner but the design that I am envisioning will require me to dye the frosting. Do you think this cake would taste okay with a vanilla buttercream?

    1. Hi Aubrey, Yes, this cake is still delicious with vanilla buttercream! Enjoy!

  16. Jessica Forsman says:

    Hi Sally.
    Cam this be made with gluten free all purpose flour?

    1. Hi Jessica, I haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let me know if you try!

  17. Hi! Does it matter if I use unbleached or bleached cake flour for this or is it all preference? Thank you!

    1. Hi Katina, While you likely won’t notice a difference in most baked goods, for the fluffiest cakes I reach for bleached flour.

  18. Hi Sally! Sorry if you already answered this (I looked through recipe and reviews but couldn’t find!) – I would like to make this a two layer cake instead of three using two 9 inch pans. Do you have suggestions about conversions of measurements and bake time? Thank you! Love all that you do and can’t wait to make this 🙂

    1. Hi Debrah, For a smaller 2 layer cake you can use my white cake batter and swirl in the cinnamon swirl.

      1. So I ended up buying a third cake pan so I could make this as is! WOW did it turn out perfect and delicious! Everyone was raving. I always feel so confident baking one of your cakes because I know whatever I am making will come out great! Thank you Sally!

  19. As soon as you published this recipe I knew I had to make it. I didn’t grow up with snickerdoodles but they’re my favorite cookie now, I absolutely love cinnamon in everything! I made this for my birthday cake and can honestly say, after baking many, many, many of your recipes that this is my FAVORITE cake ever! Moist & fluffy and full of brown sugar cinnamon deliciousness! I cannot get enough! And the frosting, OMG, i can eat it by the spoonful! Thanks Sally!

  20. Is there any way to half this recipe? I would like to make for a birthday party this weekend but 3 9” cakes will be too big.

    1. Hi Valerie, I have not tested it but you can certainly try. It might work in three 6-inch pans. Don’t fill the pans more than 2/3 full and if you have any extra batter you can always make a couple of extra cupcakes! Let me know if you try it!

  21. Made exactly as directed, using homemade cake flour. It was delicious and everyone loved it! Very tall cake!

  22. If I have a diary allergy can I sub buttermilk for any other milk and use dairy free butter?

    1. Hi Rebekah, I have not tested this cake with dairy free ingredients so I’m unsure how it would turn out. You can try to substitute vegan butter such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and make your own buttermilk with lemon juice or vinegar mixed with almond milk. Let me know if you try it!

  23. This cake turned out beautiful and the whole family loved it. I really like that the cake is not too sweet. I made half the cake and swirl batter and use (2) 8” cake pans for a two layer cake.

  24. Melissa Downie says:

    Wow! This cake was absolutely amazing! Like eating a cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting in a soft, moist, super flavourful cake!
    This may be the best cake I’ve ever had. My family was so impressed. I made it for my Birthday and so glad I did. I halved the recipe and made four six inch layers in my Wilton Bake Easy pans. Half the icing was just enough for the four layer six inch cake.
    Thanks so much Sally!

  25. Hi. I have 3 8-in cake pans, I saw above that it should work about the same as 9 inch, just thicker layers, however, my cake pans are really dark. Is there an adjustment guide somewhere on your site for baking with dark pans? (That’ll teach me to buy the Amazon special, I’ve had nothing but issues using these pans!)

    1. Hi Katie, Dark cake pans will bake your cakes faster than lighter colored pans since they absorb heat. King Arthur has a great article that I think you will find helpful:

      1. Thank you so much for that! I’ll give it a shot…or borrow light cake pans from a neighbor and sell the dark ones at a garage sale

  26. My whole family loved this cake!

  27. I made this recipe over Christmas, and it was a HUGE hit. My mom who never eats desserts took several bites. My aunt who doesn’t like cake (who doesn’t like cake!?) said this made her a convert. My uncle who doesn’t eat dairy for health reasons said it was worth it. (There were actual people at Christmas who tend to like dessert, I swear!) Anyway, the point is, this recipe IS THE BEST CAKE EVER!!! Snickerdoodle is so underated – it’s sweet but not too sweet, and SO simple… even making the mini snickerdoodles as topping was a snap. And this icing is perfection. If you’re hesitating to make this, MAKE IT. It will not disappoint!

  28. How can I replace the eggs in this recipe because of dietary restrictions.

  29. Do you think this could be done in a 9×13 pan?

  30. Bumped into your site looking for a special cake to make for my husband’s birthday today. We are a bit thin on supplies with the pandemic – So I used the frosting with a box mix cake with plans to come back to your cake when stores are better stocked. — The frosting was enough to know that I will be back! I wasn’t sure the boys in my house were going to let me actually frost the cake before they ate all the frosting – And I’m pretty sure there are teeth marks in my spreader : ). Thanks so much !!

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