Serving up warm squares of this easy Honey Bun Cake is sure to make your family happy! It is made with a thick ribbon of cinnamon sugar swirled through a moist yellow cake mix, then glazed with a sweet and simple icing to mimic those classic lunch snack cakes.

There is just something about recipes that feature cinnamon and brown sugar that is always so comforting! If you enjoy this cake recipe, be sure to also check out our Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Cinnamon Roll Waffles, and Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread next!

My husband, Paul, LOVES coffee cake. It's one of his all-time favorite treats, so it's unsuprising that he went crazy for this honey bun cake. In fact, he just walked into the room and saw a picture of this one my screen and immediately started lauding it as one of his favorite things I have made in a while.

I mean, what's not to love? It's a dense, gooey, slice of cake that is very cinnamon roll-esque without the trouble of actually making a batch of cinnamon rolls. It's impossible to go wrong.

Why this recipe is so awesome

  • It's ridiculously easy. While I typically make most things from scratch, there are a handful of recipes on here that start with a cake mix and in this case, we are adding some sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract to really enhance the flavor without much extra effort.
  • It's ready in under an hour. Actually making the cake takes all of 10 to maybe 15 minutes and it bakes in about 40. Which means you can have slices of gooey, warm cake on the table for dessert in a little under an hour. Perfect for unexpected guests or when you have a craving for something sweet!
  • While we typically think of it as a dessert, you could honestly get away with eating this for breakfast. It's no worse than many of the muffins and quick breads that are typical breakfast foods. Serve it with some scrambled eggs and crispy bacon and you've got a perfectly delicious morning ahead of you!

Recipe Ingredients

  • Sour cream: I recommend using full-fat sour cream for best results. It adds richness to the cake and makes it have a slightly denser, more homemade richness and texture. But if you need a substitution, Greek yogurt works great. And you could even use buttermilk in this recipe instead of the sour cream and that would work too.
  • Brown sugar: I like using light brown sugar, but dark brown will also work and have more of a molasses flavor.
  • Cake mix: You can use any yellow cake mix you like. And if you prefer to make the entire cake from scratch, I fully support that notion and recommend you use my yellow cake recipe, which is the best and just the right size for a 9x13-inch pan.

How to Make Honey Bun Cake

  1. Make the cake batter: This is as simple as adding cake mix, oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract to a bowl and whisking it together. You don't even need to get out your hand mixer.
  1. Make cinnamon swirl: In a separate bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon until combined.
  1. Layer, swirl, and bake: Pour ½ of the cake batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Add the remaining cake batter, then use a knife to swirl the cake. Bake for 40 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs clinging to it.
  1. Glaze: Make the glaze by whisking powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a bowl, then pour that over the cake while it is still warm. You might need a knife to nudge it around just a little bit, but it should cover the top of the cake. Let the cake set for 15 minutes, then slice and serve warm with a glass of cold milk, or maybe even with a scoop of ice cream!

Recipe FAQ's

What is a honey bun?

Honey buns are little snack cakes made by Little Debbie that are kind of like fried cinnamon rolls that are glazed on the outside. You might have enjoyed them in lunches growing up or grabbed one from a vending machine before. They are tasty little treats!

Do I follow the instructions on the back of the box of cake mix?

Nope! In this recipe, you just use the dry mix and add the oil, eggs, and other ingredients mentioned in the recipe card. Just ignore what the back of the box says.

How long does this cake last?

The short answer is not long! If you do have leftovers, they will stay nice and moist in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. You can even freeze the cake, although the glaze doesn't do quite as well after thawing and kind of melts into the cake a bit. It still tastes good though!

Recipe Tips

  • Don't overbake. When people claim that cake recipes come out too dry, the most common issue is that they are baking the cake too long. I actually look for a few crumbs still sticking to a toothpick when I'm checking my cake to know that it is done, rather than a toothpick that comes out bone-dry.
  • From-scratch version: If you wish to make the cake entirely from scratch, just use my yellow cake recipe for the cake part and add the cinnamon sugar swirl and glaze.
  • Variation: You could add a touch of maple flavor to the glaze by using ½ teaspoon of maple extract in place of the vanilla. You could also add chocolate chips, nuts, or blueberries to the batter to change up the flavor even more and that would also be delicious.

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Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Honey Bun Cake

5 from 9 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 15 servings
Serving up warm squares of this easy Honey Bun Cake is sure to make your family happy! It is made with a thick ribbon of cinnamon sugar swirled through a moist yellow cake mix, then glazed with a sweet and simple icing to mimic those classic lunch snack cakes.

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

Cinnamon Swirl

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with baking spray.
  • In a large bowl, whisk or beat together the yellow cake mix, oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract until combined. Set aside
  • In a separate bowl, stir the brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans, if using, together.
  • Pour about ½ of the cake batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour the remaining cake batter on top, then use a knife to gently swirl the cinnamon sugar mixture through batter.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs.

Icing

  • While the cake bakes, prepare the icing by whisking the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract together in a bowl to form a nice, pourable icing.
  • When the cake is done, pour the icing over the cake while it is still hot. Slice into squares and serve warm, room temperature, or even chilled from the fridge.

Notes

  • Storage: This cake will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container on the counter.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the cake for up to 2 months. Although for best results, if you plan to freeze the entire cake I recommend making the icing and freezing it separately in a plastic bag and freezing the cake without it on top. Then when you plan to serve, thaw the cake and warm in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, then glaze with the thawed icing.
  • Substitutions: If you don't have sour cream, greek yogurt makes an excellent substitution. For this cake, you could even substitute an equal amount of buttermilk in place of the sour cream.
  • From-scratch version: If you wish to make the cake entirely from scratch, just use my yellow cake recipe for the cake part and add the cinnamon sugar swirl and glaze.

Nutrition

Calories: 415kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 286mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 167IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I couldn't wait to try this honeybun cake! Even though the photos had me drooling, the flavor has me going back for seconds!

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve never tried a homemade honey bun, so this homemade honey bun cake was AMAZING!! Needless to say there were no leftovers!

  3. 5 stars
    I'm actually a big fan of cake mixes doctored up, there's never an issue with rise. A little sweet for my taste, but kids loved. Great breakfast to serve for a crowd with some fruit on side.