This Cinnamon Roll Cake is packed with cinnamon flavor! A layer of cinnamon rolls sandwiched between two cinnamon swirl cake layers, covered in a cream cheese frosting.
Breakfast for dessert or dessert for breakfast? There is no wrong answer. This Cinnamon Roll Cake transforms my favorite overnight cinnamon roll recipe into a delicious layer cake!
I’m pretty sure Ryan has been asking for this cake for months (maybe years?). It’s been a long time coming. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to just do three cinnamon swirl layers or throw in a layer of actual cinnamon rolls. The former would convey the cinnamon roll flavor, but the latter would really throw it in your face. Guess which one I went with??
How to Make this Cinnamon Roll Cake
For the cinnamon swirl cake layers I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe and just swirled some cinnamon and brown sugar in there as I was putting the batter in the pans. This was fairly easy to do:
- Pour some cake batter into the cake pan
- Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar
- Top with more cake batter
- Swirl with a bamboo skewer (or butterknife, or whatever)
The only somewhat challenging part was trying to spread the upper layer of cake batter over the cinnamon sugar. I recommend not lifting your spatula when you do this as it will just lift the whole top layer of batter.
It’s kinda hard to explain but once you’re doing it you’ll know what I’m taking about. Just do your best to smooth it as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
For the cinnamon roll layer, I baked up my overnight cinnamon rolls in a 6″ cake pan. You’d probably want to do 1/3 of the full recipe, but since cinnamon rolls are a pain in the ass to make, I would just make the whole thing and bake up the extra to eat for breakfast or dessert or whenever! They also freeze really well.
What if I don’t want to make Cinnamon Rolls from scratch?
If you can’t be bothered to make cinnamon rolls from scratch — I can’t really blame you, I make them ONCE a year for Christmas morning. I’m not a yeast bread/rolling pin kinda baker. I pretty much never want to bust out the rolling pin for anything.
If you’re looking for an easier version of this cake I have a few options for you!
- Use store-bought cinnamon rolls and bake them at home.
- The Pilsbury ones are probably easiest to find (especially in Canada), but the if you have a Trader Joe’s near you theirs come highly recommended. If you have a favorite, let me know in the comments!
- Skip the cinnamon roll cake layer altogether and bake three cinnamon swirl cake layers instead. To do this use the following amounts (or change the Servings to 18 in the recipe card — don’t increase the frosting though unless you want a LOT of extra cream cheese frosting).
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup milk room temperature
- 6 Tbsp light brown sugar packed
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- If you do skip the cinnamon roll layer but still wan actual cinnamon rolls in there you can buy pre-made cinnamon rolls, chop them up, and sprinkle them on the frosting on each layer.
You really can’t go wrong with any option. Each one will be equally delicious in it’s own way.
Mini Cinnamon Rolls
I’m sorry to disappoint you (maybe?) but I didn’t make the mini cinnamon rolls that adorn this cake. You totally could make some, if you’re into that kind of torture, but I found these two-bite cinnamon rolls at my local grocery store.
I was actually looking for mini cinnamon roll type cookies (I swear I’ve seen them before), but came across these instead and I think they work even better.
I trimmed the tops off some of the the mini cinnamon rolls so they would be thin enough to place around the bottom. They didn’t come with a glaze, so I added that too, the same cinnamon sugar glaze I used as a drip for the top.
I recommend letting the glaze set on the cinnamon rolls before applying them to the cake. This should only take 10mins or so, but longer is better. The glaze will turn matte and be dry to the touch when set.
For the sides of the cake, I did a simple buttercream swirl to fit with the theme. I just used a small offset spatula to do this, but you could use a scalloped cake comb to get a similar effect.
Whether you like your rolls slathered in a cream cheese frosting, drizzled with a simple sugar glaze, or drowning in a brown sugar caramel (my preference), this Cinnamon Roll Cake ticks all the boxes! I hope you love it as much as we do.
But that does beg the question… how DO you like your cinnamon rolls??
Tips for making this Cinnamon Roll Cake Recipe
- Apr 14, 2022 – Cream Cheese Frosting recipe revised to make a more stable frosting.
- To make an 8″ cake, you can 1.5x the recipe (change the Servings to 18 to get the amounts).
- If you’d rather skip making the cinnamon bun layer but want three 6″ cinnamon swirl cake layers, 1.5x the cake recipe (not the frosting). See post for options and recipe amounts.
- The mini cinnamon rolls are from two-bite.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, check out my Flat Top Cakes post!
Cinnamon Roll Cake
Cinnamon Swirl Cake:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2/3 cup milk room temperature
- 4 Tbsp light brown sugar packed
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/3 recipe Cinnamon Rolls or store bought, baked in a 6" round pan
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup cream cheese 8 oz, block, full fat, chilled, cubed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- cornstarch or meringue powder optional
Cinnamon Sugar Glaze:
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- two-bite cinnamon rolls optional, trim tops off each roll
Cinnamon Swirl Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 6" cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Pour 1/4 of the cake batter (about 200g) into one of the cake pans, spread evenly. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar mixture (2 1/2 Tbsp). Dollop another 1/4 of the cake batter over the top and spread as best you can (try not to life your spatula too much). Swirl through with a bamboo skewer. Repeat with next cake pan.*
- Bake for 30-35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer beat butter until pale and creamy.
- Reduce speed to low. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix on low until well blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla and salt and continue to beat on medium for 1 minute.
- Slowly add chilled cream cheese one cube at a time (about 1 tablespoon at a time). Beat well until blended and ensure no lumps of cream cheese remain.
- If needed, add cornstarch or meringue powder 1 tablespoon at a time to stiffen the frosting (I didn't but this is an option).
- Run mixer on low for a couple of minutes to remove any air bubbles.
Cinnamon Sugar Glaze:
- Place all ingredients into a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir until smooth. Add more milk or sugar as needed to get a very thick but pourable glaze. Place plastic wrap directly on top until ready to use.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream and spread evenly. Repeat with cinnamon roll layer** and place final layer of cake on top. Do a thin crumb coat all over the cake and chill for 20mins.
- Frost the top and sides of the cake and smooth with a bench scraper. Swirl the top and sides using an offset spatula. Chill to set frosting, at least 30mins.
- Place the trimmed tops of the two-bite cinnamon buns along the bottom if desired. Use extra buttercream to adhere them if needed.
- Using a teaspoon, place dollops of glaze around the top edges of the cooled cake, allowing some to drip down. Place a few whole two-bite cinnamon rolls on top if desired.
Hi, I made this Cinnamon Swirl cake for a birthday cake. The cake was delicious but I think the next time I would make it without the cinnamon buns layer. Mine were a little too dense. The cinnamon buns have to be soft and fluffy to fit in with the rest of the Cake. Thx for the recipe.
I have made quite a few of your cakes and my friends and family always enjoy them:) Have a great day!
Hi Karen! I am so happy you loved it! Thanks for your feedback 🙂
Thank you so much for this recipe…its amazing!!…made it to share with a few classmates and it was suuuper delicious!!….it was such a hit….very much recommend!!
Hi Cherry! I’m so happy you loved it. Thank you! 🙂
Amanda Reese says
This is my new favorite cake! I am totally in love! Thanks for sharing your creative talent with us!
Hi Amanda! I’m so happy you love it. Thank you!
Would I be able to substitute the milk for soy/almond/coconut, and the butter for vegan butter? I typically replace these things without issue, but I was wondering if you had any recommendations. Thanks!
Hi Tara! I haven’t tried it myself but for this particular recipe it should be ok.
I would love to make this today but I’m confused. If I do store bought rolls do I just open them into a 8 in cake pan and bake.
Hi Jada! You would place them into a 6″ cake pan (this recipe is for a 6″ cake). Don’t unroll them, just place them side by side in the pan.
Hi Olivia how much would I increase the servings to for 2 8inch layers?
Hi Thomas! For two 8″ layers 1.5x the recipe (change the Servings to 18 to get the amounts).
I have been eyeing all of your cakes for awhile and I’m finally going to make this one tomorrow for my boyfriend’s Birthday. He is OBSESSED with all things cinnamon sugar so I’m really excited to surprise him with it.
Quick question, what happens if use cake flour? Or is APF absolutely necessary?
Hi Nia! You can use cake flour if you prefer. It will make for a lighter cake. Let me know how you guys like it!
If I wanted to make this cake in 9 inch rounds while still having the cinnamon roll layer in the middle, how much would I change the recipe?
Hi Talya! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
I make a lot of cakes from this blog and I think this has been the most raved about so far! I used my own cinnamon roll recipe (america’s test kitchen) and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to but I went ahead and iced them too. After refrigerating them covered, in the pan, overnight, they came out of the pan nicely all in one layer. I also refrigerated the cake layers (wrapped in plastic wrap) and it made them easier to work with. I wanted a 3 layer 9 inch cake (including the cinnamon bun layer) so I doubled the cake recipe and it was perfect. You’ll only need to 1.5 the cinnamon sugar mixture and possibly the frosting too. I doubled the frosting and had a good 2-3 cups left over. My cinnamon roll layer stuck out quite a bit further on the sides than the cake layers so I frosted generously to hide it. The grooved design combined with the mini cinnamon roll decoration helped disguise any unevenness. If you don’t like a ton of frosting you might consider making the cinnamon roll layer the top one and just frosting the bottom. I needed about twice as much milk to get the glaze drip to the right consistency. If you want the cinnamon buns to have the glaze stripes like in the picture you need to glaze then individually before placing them on the sides and top. Definitely serve at room temp or the cinnamon buns will be very hard to cut through. I almost rated 4 stars but decided that adjustments aside, I’m so grateful this cake is in my life 😆
Hi Marie! I am so happy to hear that!! Thank you so much for your amazing tips and feedback.
Kristen Stuart says
Hi! I have a quick question. Is the frosting you used on the outside/inside of the cake the cream cheese frosting? You mentioned buttercream several times so I’m curious what you actually used!
Hi Kristen! Yes, I used the CC frosting. I refer to everything as a buttercream 😀
I’ve been wanting to try this cake for a while but have not had the time. Now that we are staying at home for the indefinite future I gave it a shot and it was delicious! I was not able to get the mini cinnamon rolls for decoration but will add them next time. The only thing I think would improve it is if I try your homemade cinnamon rolls for the middle layer. I used Pillsbury rolls which were ok, but I think the real thing would take it up another level. Thanks for posting these recipes and giving us something to do during this difficult time!
Hi Lauren! So happy you loved this one. The homemade rolls do make a difference but they are a decent amount more work. I do hope you try it though 🙂 Thanks for the awesome feedback!
Flavor was delicious. I opted for three layers of cake since I don’t like the texture of cold cinnamon rolls. My only complaint was how dry the cake was once finished. Not over baked, just dry. I might try some coconut oil next time or a simple syrup.
Hi Sharon! The cake should not have come out dry. The only things I know to cause dry cakes are: too much flour, refrigeration, and overbaking. Is it possible something was off when you scaled the recipe up? Otherwise I recommend spooning and leveling your flour into the measuring cup rather than scooping. That being said, simple syrup is a lifesaver to dried out cakes!
Hello I tried the cake following the recipe but when I got it out of the mold it was all crumbled and fell a part
Hi Talia! That should not be happening. How long did you cool the cakes in the pans? And did you grease & flour and line the bottoms with parchment?
What are your thoughts on doubling the recipe and using two 8” pans for the cake and cinnamon rolls?
Hi Brandi! To make an 8″ cake, you can 1.5x the recipe (change the Servings to 18 to get the amounts).
Thank you so much! Can’t wait to see how it turns out! Every cake I make from you is amazing and always a crowd pleaser 🙂
Aww thank you! Definitely let me know how you like it 🙂
I liked the cake layers but the frosting was a real mess unfortunately… Especially as it was supposed to be my birthday cake. It had a very liquid consistency, no chance to use a piping bag with it. I don’t know what went wrong as I followed the recipe precisely… =(
Hi Aqua! Sorry to hear you had trouble with the frosting. It sounds like maybe the butter and cream cheese were too warm/soft and/or the buttercream was overmixed. You could add more powdered sugar to try and stiffen it up.
Hi Liv! I love this cake. Could I use your almost from scratch cake recipe as the base? Thanks!
Hi Pea! I think that would work fine! That recipe would make three 6″ pans though (and it might even be a bit too much batter for those).
Wow. Looks yummy. But I am a bit confused by how you did the actual cinnamon roll layer. Did you make regular sized ones then stack on their sides when assembling that layer of the cake? Maybe I just missed those instructions in the blog and recipe.
Hi Diana! I just baked them in a 6″ pan instead of a 9×13″ one. They are placed side by side cut side down (you can see step-by-step photos of the general process here: https://livforcake.com/easy-overnight-cinnamon-rolls/). It’s about 5-6 rolls that fit in the 6″ pan.
I think what she is referring to is the assembly of the cinnamon roll layer. The rolls appear to be on their sides and covering approximately half of the layer. Probably just confirming that you should arrange them on their sides.
Hi CJ! The rolls are placed exactly like this (https://livforcake.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/IMG_4156.jpg) but in a round 6″ pan. They are not stacked on each other. What you see in the pics is a cross section of one of the rolls. I hope that makes more sense!
Hmm, I’m also confused about the cinnamon roll layer because ther picture makes it seem like the cinnamon rolls are put on their sides in between top cake layer and bottom cake layer. But you’re basically saying the cinnamon rolls were made in a 6″ round pan and transferred from that pan and stacked on first cake layer? 🙂
Sorry for the repeat question!
I would love to make this!!
Hi Maria! See I knew not taking progress pictures would come to bite me in the butt! I didn’t think this would be so hard to understand. I’m buying canned cinnamon rolls this weekend and taking pics to upload into the post so I can show the process! But if you check these images here, this is exactly what I did: http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/04/15/how-to-make-cinnamon-rolls-anadama-bread-recipe/
Got it, thanks! The cinnamon roll layer is simply a layer of cinnamon rolls baked into a round cake pan.
I made the cake, including your homemade rolls, and it is so good! Yummy! Thank you for sharing your passion for baking with us!
Yay!! So happy to hear that. I’m glad you loved it (and made the rolls!!) <3
This cake looks amazing! I LOVE cinnamon rolls, and this cake looks equally as good as the real thing! Also, for the mini cinnamon rolls around the outside, I was wondering if these cookies would work instead? https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cinnamon-roll-cookies/
Hi Erin! Yes! Those are super cute and would totally work well 🙂