This single layer snickerdoodle cake features a soft vanilla cake with cinnamon brown sugar swirls throughout, topped with a cream cheese frosting for the distinctive tangy flavor of a snickerdoodle cookie! Made in an 8×8″ pan, this is a great small cinnamon swirl cake for a holiday brunch or dessert.
This post was originally sponsored by Domino® Sugar and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Katiebird Bakes possible!
Inspiration for the Recipe + Development
There are many holiday cookies out there to love, but the humble snickerdoodle cookie stands apart for me (and I’m sure, for many Midwesterners). There’s something about biting into that warm, slightly tangy, cinnamon-sugar-crusted classic cookie that just can’t be beat! Plus, there’s really no reason to limit this delight to the holiday season – cinnamon and sugar are always in style.
So when it hit me like a ton of bricks one day that one could likely incorporate that vanilla, cinnamon sugar, and je ne sais quoi tang combination of a snickerdoodle cookie into a single layer SNICKERDOODLE CAKE…well, the thought could not be banished.
I figured my standard single layer vanilla cake recipe would work well for this adaptation (which you’ve seen in various incarnations with my single layer lemon cake, rhubarb cake, and cranberry crumb cake), especially when swirled with a combination of brown sugar and cinnamon. And let me tell you, IT DOES.
I wondered at first if I could use cream of tartar (aka tartaric acid) instead of baking powder for the rise in the cake, as it’s the reason for the tangy flavor of snickerdoodles. After some research, however, I determined it might be too finicky and stuck with baking powder, instead deciding to recreate the slight sourness with CREAM CHEESE FROSTING.
As my husband Brian said today when polishing off the last slice of the snickerdoodle cake, “I would eat garbage if it had cream cheese frosting on it.”
Well, let’s hope the rest of us have slightly higher standards, but you get the point.
- One 8×8″ square cake pan (8″ or 9″ round cake pan would work too) – no fussing with multiple cake layers here!
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- Mixing bowls – at least one large bowl and one medium bowl
- Whisk (or fork) and rubber spatula
- Kitchen scale – I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for most accurate results, especially the flour! This is the primary way I bake these days as it is much more precise than using measuring cups (and there are less dishes to clean).
Only a few simple ingredients needed for this incredibly easy snickerdoodle cake with cream cheese frosting, and you can substitute or customize as noted below to make it your own! See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for full ingredient list and measurements.
For the snickerdoodle cake:
- All-purpose flour (or sub gluten-free all-purpose flour if needed)
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Unsalted butter
- Sugar (granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered/confectioner’s sugar are needed)
- Buttermilk (make your own buttermilk by combining 1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar with 1/2 cup of dairy or non-dairy milk, or you can use kefir, greek yogurt, or sour cream thinned with a little water instead of the buttermilk).
- Vanilla extract
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Cream cheese (full fat is best; can use vegan cream cheese if needed)
- Powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- Vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (the paste has lovely flecks of vanilla bean in it)
- Milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy both work)
How to make snickerdoodle cake with cream cheese frosting:
1. The Vanilla Cake.
As I mentioned, this is my standard small vanilla cake recipe, and I decided to bake it in an 8×8 inch square pan for that cute, plush sheet pan effect (and so the cake would be thicker so we could see the swirls). You could definitely make it in an 8 inch round cake pan or 9 inch round cake pan if you prefer – just watch the baking time as the cake will be thinner if you use a 9 inch round (more like 30-32 minutes).
The cake is made with the traditional method: in the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar (I used Domino® Granulated Sugar for moisture and sweetness) using the paddle attachment of your mixer on medium-high speed, add your eggs and vanilla on medium speed, then alternate adding your dry ingredients (a third of the flour mixture) with a third of the buttermilk to the rest of the wet ingredients on low speed until a smooth cake batter is formed.
Important: don’t overbeat the cake! Stop once it is smooth and combined, and fold any flour bits that may be on the bottom of the bowl in with a spatula. Overbeating cake batter makes for a tough cake, and no one wants that!
2. The Cinnamon Brown Sugar Swirl
The cake is swirled throughout with little rivers of cinnamon brown sugar, and you know I search out the piece with the most swirls. I used Domino® Light Brown Sugar for the cinnamon sugar swirls because of its nutty, caramel flavor, moistness, and subtle hint of molasses. You really don’t need butter or any additional moisture for the swirl because the brown sugar melts into glorious layers as the cake bakes.
So all you do is mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and you’re ready to swirl!
To get the best swirl effect, we first layer half of the cake batter in the prepared pan (line it with parchment paper to get it out easily later), then sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar mixture over top of the cake batter. Follow it with the remaining half of the cake batter, spreading it over as best you can, then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon brown sugar over top.
Now the fun part: take a butter knife and gently swirl up and down, then side to side. Just once through! Otherwise you’ll mix the cinnamon sugar in too much and you won’t have defined swirls.
Bake the cake at 350 degrees F for 35-37 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then invert the pan onto the rack to release the cake, remove the parchment from the bottom, and flip back right side up onto a cake plate. Let cake cool while you prepare the frosting.
3. The Cream Cheese Frosting
I mean, this is pretty much self-explanatory, right?
I actually used a different cream cheese frosting than my normal butter/cream cheese combination because I wanted this snickerdoodle cake to have more of a thick glaze than a frosting. So it’s actually more of a cream cheese icing, and much easier to make than frosting as no electric mixer is needed!
All you need to do is whisk softened cream cheese with powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, and enough milk (dairy or non-dairy, both are fine) to achieve a thick, pourable consistency.
Pour it over the cooled cake in whatever pattern you desire. It’s ok if it’s a little more rustic, like mine. Perfection is overrated!
Room temperature: The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours, but it’s best to refrigerate after that because of the cream cheese icing.
Refrigerated: You can refrigerate the cake in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature again before serving, or I like to microwave individual slices for 20-30 seconds on 50% power to reheat.
Frozen: Cake can be frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, for up to 3 months. Leave on the counter to thaw for at least 2-3 hours, or thaw in the fridge overnight before bringing to room temperature and serving.
Let’s recap: soft fluffy cake, rivers of cinnamon brown sugar swirls, and cream cheese frosting blanketing the top. Oh yeah. This is really, really good.
And if you’re wondering, YES I DID try a bite of this snickerdoodle cake next to a bite of a snickerdoodle cookie. Nailed it. You can (and should) test me on this. Flavor.On.Point.
More Holiday Cake Recipes
- Cranberry Crumb Coffee Cake
- Single Layer Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Parsnip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Snickerdoodle Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8×8 inch square pan
For the Cake:
- 1 ½ cups (187g) all-purpose flour (measured via spoon and level method if not by weight)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (149g)
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup (113g) buttermilk
For the Cinnamon Sugar Swirl:
- ⅓ cup (66g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces (113g) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (56g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 4 to 5 Tablespoons milk of choice
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch square cake pan. Trace the bottom of the cake pan on a piece of parchment paper and cut it to match. Line bottom of cake pan with the parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly to combine.
- Add a third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined, then add half the buttermilk and beat on low speed again. Repeat with remaining third of flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, and end with the last third of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until the batter is smooth, but do not overmix.
- Make the cinnamon swirl: In a separate small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon until combined.
- Scrape half the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth evenly with a spatula, then sprinkle half the cinnamon brown sugar mixture evenly over top. Spread the remainder of the batter over the cinnamon sugar mixture as evenly as you can – it won't be perfect, and that's ok. Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar evenly over top. Take a butter knife and swirl gently through the batter, up and down and then across.
- Bake for 35-37 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then invert the pan onto the rack to release the cake, remove the parchment from the bottom, and flip back right side up onto a cake plate. Let cake cool while you prepare the frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- In a large bowl using a mixer or a whisk, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla paste or extract, and beat or whisk until combined – it will be thick. Add milk, whisking in one tablespoon at a time, until just pourable (this may be more or less than what is called for depending on the temperature of your ingredients and your desired consistency).
- Drizzle cooled cake with cream cheese frosting in a diagonal pattern, or simply spread evenly over the cake. Serve!
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