This easy honey bun cake is sweet, tangy, and has a delicious brown sugar crumble center with a creamy glaze for the perfect finishing touch.
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Honey bun cake is essentially a doctored yellow cake (and you know we loved doctored cake mix around here!).
It reminds me of a cinnamon coffee cake that has been turned into a decadent dessert. It is moist, sweet, and really simple to make when you use a yellow cake mix. While it may technically be a cake, I actually do enjoy a slice of honey bun for breakfast. Sometimes you just need something sweet to start the day!
Easy Honey Bun Cake Recipe
The first honey bun cakes were made by Little Debbie Snacks. While the cakes never actually contained honey, they are pretty sticky-sweet, just like honey. I think my homemade honey bun cake is way better than the Little Debbie originals and I bet you will adore this recipe, too, even if it doesn’t really have honey as the name implies.
If there is no honey, then what is in a honey bun cake recipe? The cake is made with yellow cake mix, extra eggs, oil, and yogurt, which cuts through some of the sweetness. A brown sugar and cinnamon crumble filling bakes into the crust and a powdered sugar glaze is the perfect finishing touch.
Honey bun cakes are traditionally topped with pecans, but you can definitely skip the nuts. You could also add some honey-roasted peanuts to the top of the cake. These would add a little crunch and get some of the namesake honey into the recipe! No matter the topping, this honey bun cake is an easy, delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe.
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Yellow cake mix – Any brand of cake mix will work, but I love Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake. You can find it in most grocery stores and it is definitely flavorful and sweet.
- Vegetable oil – Vegetable oil or canola oil will work. You can even use melted coconut oil if you want to add a subtle tropical taste.
- Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than other types of yogurt.
- Dark brown sugar – Dark brown sugar is used to make the crumble center of the cake. Dark brown sugar has a richer flavor than light brown sugar.
- Ground cinnamon
- Powdered sugar
- Whole milk
- Vanilla extract
- Chopped pecans – Buy pre-chopped pecans to help save time in the kitchen. You can usually find small bags of pecans in the baking aisle that are also pre-measured!
- Replace the Greek yogurt with the same quantity of sour cream. This will give the honey bun an extra tangy taste that you may love.
- Use white cake mix to make a lighter-colored cake. The sweet flavor will still be there, but the cake will be a little less rich.
- Add ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg to the cinnamon crumble. This will make the cake a little spicier and perfect for the fall and winter.
How to Make Honey Bun Cake
- Prep your equipment: Preheat the oven to 325ºF and then grease a 9×13 cake pan. Set the pan aside while you make the cake batter.
- Make the cake batter: Whisk the cake mix, eggs, oil, and yogurt together in a large bowl until the batter is smooth. Spread half of the batter in the bottom of the greased cake pan.
- Make the crumble filling: Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the cake batter in the cake pan. Try to cover the entire cake with the cinnamon sprinkle.
- Spread the batter: Pour the rest of the batter into the cake pan and spread it over the cinnamon sugar, covering it completely. Use a butter knife to gently swirl the batter, making cinnamon swirls throughout the cake.
- Bake the cake: Bake the honey bun cake for about 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean once the cake is fully baked. Let the baked cake cool in the pan while you make the frosting.
- Make the frosting: Whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract together in a small bowl then spread the glaze over the top of the warm honey bun cake. Sprinkle with pecans, if using. Then, slice and serve!
Try baking this honey bun cake recipe into muffins. Line a muffin tin with paper cups and divide the batter between the paper liners. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar into the muffin cups and swirl it in with a knife. Bake the honey bun muffins for 20-25 minutes. Add the glaze to the warm muffins and then enjoy!
How to Store Honey Bun Cake
Wrap Honey Bun Cake in the pan or transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep at room temperature for about 3 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months. If you freeze it, let it thaw at room temperature before serving.
This honey bun cake icing is made of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. The three ingredients are whisked together and spread over the warm cake. The heat from the cake melts the frosting slightly and makes it have a slightly crisp texture.
A classic honey bun is a fried yeast pastry with a cinnamon swirl and icing glaze. Honey buns are not actually made with honey but simply sticky like honey.
Honey buns and sticky buns are essentially the same. Both are sweet, breakfast bread made with cinnamon and sugar. This cake recipe is a twist on the classic sticky bun and brings the popular breakfast food into the dessert category.
Honey Bun Cake
- 1 15 ounce box of yellow cake mix
- 4 eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9×13 cake pan with baking spray. Set the pan aside for now.
- Add the vanilla cake mix, eggs, oil and Greek yogurt to a large bowl and whisk everything together well, making a smooth, thick batter.
- Pour half of the cake batter into the greased cake pan and spread it across the bottom of the pan.
- In a separate small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this mix over the cake batter in the pan, covering the cake batter evenly.
- Gently spread the remaining cake batter in the pan, layering it on top of the cinnamon sugar sprinkle.
- Use a butter knife to gently swirl the cinnamon sugar crumble into the cake batter. You want to just run the knife through the batter once or twice, making a nice, simple swirl. You do not want to stir it too much.
- Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The center of the cake should spring back to the touch and the edges of the cake will be pulled away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the cake from the oven and keep it in the pan while you make the frosting.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, whole milk and vanilla extract. Pour the frosting over the hot cake and spread it across the whole surface of the cake.
- Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped pecans, if using, then slice and serve while the cake is nice and warm.