A beautiful brown butter snickerdoodle cake might be the best snacking cake we’ve tried in a while. Full of nutty brown butter, sweet cinnamon sugar, tangy buttermilk, and perhaps the tastiest frosting yet, it’s going to knock your socks off.
What’s life without a cookie turned into a cake and stuffed with sugar, spices, and basically everything that is right with the world? This cake is all that you love about a snickerdoodle rolled into a super simple, anytime cake!—Rebecca Firth
☞ Table of Contents
Snickerdoodle Cake FAQs
Why is vinegar added to this frosting?
The vinegar in the frosting can help cut through the sweetness that American buttercreams have, but you won’t notice any vinegar flavor. Don’t overdo it though. The teaspoon called for is enough. You can even start with half that and taste, adding the rest if needed.
What can I use instead of buttermilk in a brown butter snickerdoodle cake?
If you don’t have buttermilk, you’ll need to replace it with something similar. The acidity of buttermilk helps to tenderize the gluten, making the crumb moist and soft. This recipe requires 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of buttermilk so you can substitute a mixture of 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Combine and let sit for a few minutes until thickened and curdled. You can also thin yogurt with half and half for a good replacement, too.
Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cake
For the brown sugar–cinnamon swirl
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the brown butter snickerdoodle cake
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter plus more for the pan
- 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup low- or full-fat buttermilk at room temperature and well-shaken
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the cinnamon spice frosting
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
- 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
- 3 tablespoons low- or full-fat buttermilk at room temperature and well-shaken
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon plus more for dusting, if desired
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
Make the brown sugar–cinnamon swirl
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Make the brown butter snickerdoodle cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Grease a 9-by-9 inch (23-by-23 cm) cake pan with butter and line with parchment paper, letting the excess fall over the sides.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, crank up the heat to medium-high. Continue stirring until small bronze bits begin to settle on the bottom of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes. Take the brown butter off the heat and pour into a medium heat-safe bowl to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Whisk the sugar and oil into the cooled brown butter until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk until thick and frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes more. (It’s okay if the mixture looks slightly curdled at this point.) Fold in the flour until just combined.
- Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top and sprinkle the brown sugar–cinnamon swirl mixture evenly over the batter. Cover with the remaining batter, smoothing the top once more.
- Bake the cake in the center of the oven until the top is puffed, lightly bronzed, and bounces back when gently pressed in the center, 40 to 60 minutes. Start looking for the visual cues early, and for extra insurance against a slumping middle, use a cake tester or toothpick. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
- Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan before using the parchment overhang to remove it from the pan. Place the cake on a rack to finish cooling.
Make the cinnamon spice frosting
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add the buttermilk, cinnamon, vinegar, and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth, light, and fluffy.
- Frost the cooled cake and if you’d like, dust some more cinnamon over the top of the cake. Cut into slices and devour, preferably with a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This brown butter snickerdoodle cake is another great snacking cake, made just a little fancier with a nice layer of brown sugar cinnamon and a swoon-worthy, silky cinnamon frosting. And it feels kind of autumnal!
If you keep buttermilk in your fridge 24/7, you can probably make this right now. My cake did have to spend 55 minutes in the oven, so I would keep an eye on it while it’s baking.
I knew this snickerdoodle cake was a Tester’s Choice when I licked the batter off the spoon. A sampling of the frosting confirmed my initial thoughts. The frosting is the true star of the recipe. I could have eaten the entire bowl without shame and been quite content.
The nutty buttery cake and the subtle frosting combination are possibly life-changing. This is the kind of cake you sneak into the kitchen past midnight for another nibble. It’s perfect for any kind of celebration or to make just because it is Tuesday and you need a boost.
Preparing this masterpiece is ridiculously easy. The ingredients are readily available, minimal mixing equipment is required, and the batter comes together quickly. After placing the cake in the oven, I rotated the pan after 20 minutes. I checked the cake at 45 minutes and the cake tester did not come out clean. The recipe instructions call for the cake to be lightly bronzed and spring back when the center is pressed. At 45 minutes, the cake was bronze color, however, the center did not spring back to the touch. I baked it for a total of 15 minutes more, checking the cake every five minutes. I would recommend using a cake tester and visual cues to determine when the cake is finished.
The frosting recipe is perfect as is and requires no modifications. I have no sound advice on how to avoid eating all the frosting before you finish frosting the cake.
This brown butter snickerdoodle cake tastes more like a cinnamon roll from that place at the mall or the airport than a snickerdoodle cookie. I take that back, the outer pieces of cake are reminiscent of a cookie with their crisp caramelized edges, but the center pieces (I cut 16 pieces rather than 9) are the squidgy middles of the aforementioned cinnamon rolls.
This cake is very sweet, super moist, and handshake-worthy on the day it is made, but it doesn’t hold up as well in the days after baking. The center falls in on itself and becomes a bit denser. The flavor is still sweet and cinnamony with a tangy edge, but the texture isn’t ideal.
Still worthy of Nigella-esque nighttime fridge raids, though. One more note: this frosting recipe is genius. It tastes like cream cheese frosting and the vinegar trick tempers the sweetness perfectly.
The cake goes really well with a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee.
Snickerdoodles are not really a favorite of mine, but my husband really likes them so I decided to try this brown butter snickerdoodle cake recipe. I do love cinnamon and this is a delicious cake with a somewhat “decadent” frosting and a lot of cinnamon flavor.
It is quick and easy to prepare with easily obtainable ingredients, most of which I had on hand. It is more than worth the effort. I would recommend checking it for doneness before 45 minutes as it was the tiniest bit dry. I think it would be delicious to sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar swirls on top. A good cup of coffee was perfect with it. My husband thought it was equally good the next morning for breakfast.
Originally published December 7, 2021