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This homemade honeybun cake recipe simulates the pastry: moist yellow cake with a brown sugar cinnamon swirl and honey-laced vanilla icing. It whips up with just 25 minutes of hands-on prep time with no cake mix needed!

spatula holding piece of honeybun cake

If you’re looking for a fun, unique birthday cake, a crowd-pleasing cake to bring to a potluck or party, or if just feel like doing a little baking, this is the cake.

Do you remember honey bun pastries from when you were a kid? (Who hasn’t gotten one from a vending machine back in the day, right?!) Soft and chewy pastry with a hint of cinnamon, a touch of honey, and a crackled vanilla glaze. Yup, this is the cake form. Who doesn’t love a nostalgic old-fashioned recipe?

top view of whole honey bun cake with icing in baking dish

Homemade honey bun cake has a soft, moist, and tender crumb and rich vanilla aroma. Gorgeous ribbons of cinnamon brown sugar run throughout, and a vanilla-scented glaze decorates the top.

Of course you can just doctor up a cake mix, but making it from scratch is easy to do and makes all the difference in the world!

slice of fluffy moist honeybun cake on serving plate

The Best Recipe For Honey Bun Cake From Scratch

In these sections I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

ingredients in honey bun cake

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl Ingredients

  • Light brown sugar – you can substitute with dark brown sugar for a richer molasses flavor; regular granulated white sugar will also work, but it will have a less complex flavor that’s lacking notes of caramel and molasses
  • Cinnamon – don’t skimp on the cinnamon, we want its flavor and aroma swirling through the whole cake

Honeybun Cake Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour – this is the base of our honeybun cake
  • Cornstarch – using a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch yields a softer flour that simulates cake flour; the resulting cake is more soft and tender with a finer crumb
  • Baking powder – the main leavening agent in this cake
  • Salt – salt is a natural flavor enhancer, and we even need it in sweet recipes for the best flavor
  • Baking soda – this is another leavening agent; in this cake recipe we use a little baking soda in addition to baking powder because we use an acidic ingredient (buttermilk)
  • Vegetable oil – using oil instead of butter helps make a moister cake that stays fresh-tasting longer
  • Granulated white sugar – this is the sweetener in our cake; it also helps the cake retain its moisture
  • Eggs – make sure they’re at room temperature
  • Buttermilk – use full-fat buttermilk for the best flavor and texture; this is one of the main ingredients that helps make this cake extremely moist with a balanced flavor profile
  • Vanilla – for flavor and aroma

Honeybun Cake Icing Ingredients

  • Powdered sugar – sift the powdered sugar so there are no lumps in your glaze
  • Unsalted butter – this adds rich flavor and helps the glaze set with a crackly texture
  • Milk – this helps make our glaze a pour-able consistency; I use whole milk, but any kind of milk you have in your fridge will work
  • Honey – for subtle sweet honey flavor
  • Vanilla – for flavor and aroma
  • Salt – to balance the flavor

How to Make a Honey Bun Cake

how to make honey bun cake from scratch
  1. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once, and beat with a handheld electric mixer to combine, being careful not to over-mix.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to spread half of the cake batter evenly in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch buttered and floured cake pan.
  5. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl evenly on top of the cake batter. Drizzle the remaining half of the cake batter on top of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl, and then use a rubber spatula to gently spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining half of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl evenly on top, and then use a rubber spatula to gently swirl the batter. Don’t over-swirl, there should be areas of plain cake and ribbons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  6. Bake until the cake is light golden along the outside and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes at 350F. Let the cake cool to room temperature, and then glaze.

Serving Tip

an edible mosaic stamp logo 1200 square

This cake might not be the prettiest, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor (and texture)! Make sure to let the glaze set before cutting and serving so you’ll get nice clean slices.

Variations

  • Add nuts – If you like nuts in coffee cake or banana bread, you’ll love them in honey bun cake! You can add up to 1 cup of your favorite chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc. to the brown sugar cinnamon mixture.
  • Flavor the icing – For flavor that’s reminiscent of morning buns, swap out the milk in the icing for orange juice.

Storage

Store this cake covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.

bite of honey bun cake on fork

Honeybun Cake Recipe FAQs

What’s the Difference Between a Honey Bun and Cinnamon Roll?

Both honey buns and cinnamon rolls are sweet yeasted pastries swirled with cinnamon and topped with a vanilla glaze.

However, they differ in the fact that cinnamon rolls are fluffier and more bready and honey buns are flatter and chewier.

What is Honey Bun Cake Made Of?

Honeybun cake features a moist yellow cake swirled with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, and topped with vanilla icing.

homemade honey bun cake slice on plate

Is This a Doctored Cake Mix Recipe?

I’ve seen a lot of honey bun cakes that doctor a yellow cake mix. They start with a super moist cake mix, swirl in some cinnamon sugar, bake the cake, and then glaze the top. Talk about transforming something ordinary into a thing of beauty!

And yes, you can definitely use a standard yellow cake mix here instead of making your own cake batter.

However, if you want to make an even better honey bun cake from scratch, I have you covered with this recipe. This homemade cake blows the cake mix version out of the water in terms of flavor and texture.

And it’s still really easy to make; making the cake from scratch only takes a couple minutes longer than using a box mix!

top view of honey bun cake cooling on rack

Should I Use a Glass, Ceramic, or Metal Pan to Make This Cake?

You can use a glass, ceramic, or metal pan to bake this cake, just make sure that the pan is 9 by 13-inches.

However, it’s important to note that because of the difference in conductivity, cakes baked in different types of pans will have differing cook times.

My personal preference is to use a metal pan when possible. This is because metal is a good conductor of heat, which leads to more even browning and rising. And because a metal pan heats up quicker, it also cools down quicker!

If you use a ceramic or glass pan instead of a metal pan, your cake will likely have to bake a little longer. This can sometimes lead to issues with the outside of a cake (or brownies, for that matter) being fully cooked while the center is still under-cooked with raw batter.

close up top view of honeybun cake

More From Scratch Cake Recipes to Make

the best homemade honey bun cake recipe

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Honey Bun Cake Recipe

Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Other Time30 minutes
Yields: 15 servings
This homemade honeybun cake recipe simulates the pastry: moist yellow cake with a brown sugar cinnamon swirl and honey-laced vanilla icing. It whips up with just 25 minutes of hands-on prep time with no cake mix needed!

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Ingredients
 

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl:

Honey Bun Cake:

Honey Bun Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar sifted
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk plus more if needed to achieve the right consistency
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Other:

  • Butter for the pan
  • Flour for the pan

Instructions
 

For the Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl:

  • Add the brown sugar and cinnamon to a small bowl and stir to combine.

For the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
  • Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once, and beat with a handheld electric mixer to combine, being careful not to over-mix.
  • Use a rubber spatula to spread half of the cake batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl evenly on top of the cake batter. Drizzle the remaining half of the cake batter on top of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl, and then use a rubber spatula to gently spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining half of the brown sugar cinnamon swirl evenly on top, and then use a rubber spatula to gently swirl the batter. Don’t over-swirl, there should be areas of plain cake and ribbons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  • Bake until the cake is light golden along the outside and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Let the cake cool to room temperature.

For the Glaze:

  • Once the cake is completely cool, make the glaze.
  • Whisk together all ingredients for the glaze in a medium bowl until smooth. You can add a little splash more milk if necessary to achieve the right consistency.
  • Drizzle the glaze on top of the cake, and then gently spread it around. It doesn’t have to be perfectly even, this cake is a little rustic!
  • Let the glaze set before cutting and serving.

Notes

  • Storage: Store this cake covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 150mg | Potassium: 135mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 43g | Vitamin A: 148IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easy Honey Bun Cake, Homemade Honey Bun Cake, Honey Bun Cake, Honey Bun Cake From Scratch, Honey Bun Cake Recipe, Honeybun Cake, Honeybun Cake Recipe, How to Make a Honey Bun Cake

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Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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2 Comments

  1. Neetu Surana says:

    can we make it eggless? if yes what are the substitute options?

    1. Neetu, To make this cake eggless, you can use any of the following substitutions: 1) 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 2) 3/4 cup milk, 3) 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal mixed with 9 tablespoons water, or 4) 3/4 cup unflavored carbonated water.

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