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 brunch or dessert.
This post is sponsored by Domino® Sugar and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Katiebird Bakes possible!
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 a warm, slightly tangy, cinnamon-sugar-crusted cookie that just can’t be beat! Plus, there’s really no reason to limit this delight to the holidays – 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 SNICKERDOODLE CAKE…well, the thought could not be banished.
I figured my standard smaller vanilla cake recipe (which you’ve seen in various incarnations with my single layer lemon cake, rhubarb cake, and most recently cranberry crumb cake) would work well for this adaptation 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.
Elements of Snickerdoodle Cake
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 or 9 inch round 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 using a mixer: cream butter and sugar (I used Domino® Granulated Sugar for moisture and sweetness), add your eggs and vanilla, then alternate adding your dry ingredients with buttermilk (or sour cream or greek yogurt) 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 this cinnamon sugar swirl 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 Domino® Light 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, then sprinkle half the cinnamon brown sugar mixture over top. 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 it in too much and you won’t have defined swirls.
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 much easier than traditional cream cheese frosting!
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.
I used Domino® Confectioners Sugar for this icing as it has a very fine, exceptionally smooth texture which is perfect for frostings, glazes, and icings! It also contains cornstarch to prevent caking, giving us that ultra-smooth cream cheese icing perfect for drizzling over the cake.
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!
Let’s recap: soft vanilla 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.
- 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)
Domino® Granulated Sugar
- 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)
Domino® Light Brown Sugar(packed)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces (113g) cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (56g)
Domino® Confectioners Sugar
- 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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