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 (420g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted 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*
- 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
- 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.
- Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Egg Separator | 9-inch Cake Pans | Kitchen Scale | Wilton 8B Piping Tip | Piping Bags (disposable or reusable) | Cake Turntable | Large Icing Spatula | Bench Scraper
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cinnamon: Yes, the cinnamon swirl and frosting both call for 1 Tablespoon (not teaspoon) of ground cinnamon. We need that flavor to stand out!
- Brown Sugar: You can use light brown or dark brown sugar, but I recommend dark brown sugar for bolder flavor.
- 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.
- 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