One of my most beloved cake recipes is for this Snickerdoodle Cake. This is a buttermilk cake with butter and cream cheese in the batter, for a rich, moist and dense cake that’s somewhere between a cake and a cookie. It’s frosted with cinnamon vanilla bean buttercream and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and has become a favorite cake with everyone who tastes it. This cake deserves to be made again and again, especially in the fall.
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The Flavor of Snickerdoodles
So before we get into making this Snickerdoodle Cake, let’s talk about snickerdoodle cookies. Snickerdoodles are soft, chewy, sweet and spicy cookies that are coated in cinnamon and sugar. They taste like butter, cinnamon and vanilla. They’re also tangy, from the addition of the leavening agent, cream of tartar. That tanginess is what sets them apart from every other cookie, giving them their own unique flavor.
Snickerdoodles have been around since the 1800s, and their name is half the fun (the other half being how fun and delicious they are to eat). They are likely Dutch or German in origin, and their name may have come from the German word Schneckennudeln, which roughly translates as “crinkly cookies”. Or maybe it was just a fun and silly word that someone made up!
Making Snickerdoodle Cake
To emulate that tangy essence of snickerdoodle cookies, I knew that my recipe for Snickerdoodle Cake needed to be made with buttermilk. Buttermilk is acidic and tangy, and it’s the perfect ingredient to both flavor the cake and give it a beautiful texture and soft crumb.
I make this high altitude cake using the standard creaming method. First, I cream together softened butter and cream cheese (which also adds more snickerdoodle flavor) with granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Then, I add in the eggs and vanilla.
For the dry ingredients, I sift cake flour together with baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Then I add the dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the buttermilk.
Because this is essentially a pound cake, you can expect your cake layers to be tender, rich, moist, with a velvety crumb that’s a little dense. And while it may not seem like enough batter for three 8-inch pans, trust me that it’s enough.
Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Buttercream
The buttercream on this cake is spiced with quite a bit of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and salt, and real vanilla bean, although you can use vanilla bean paste also. It’s fluffy and creamy, cinnamony and sweet, and complements the cake perfectly.
An extra sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar on top of the cake adds that cookie essence, since snickerdoodles are always coated in cinnamon-sugar before they’re baked.
My Original Snickerdoodle Cake Design
When I first made this cake, I placed Pirouette Cookies all around the sides of the cake, piped buttercream roses on top with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar, and wrapped the whole thing up with a ribbon. People loved this design. I’ve seen so many re-creations over the years with the Pirouettes and the ribbon and rosettes. People have told me how they made this cake for weddings and birthdays and Mother’s Days, and it’s a cake that has become beloved by so many of their friends and family. I love that my cake has been a part of so many special celebrations.
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Snickerdoodle Cake with Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Buttercream
- Stand Mixer
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz), softened to room temperature
- 3 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 ¼ cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
- ¾ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup whole buttermilk
- 2 cups unsalted butter (1 lb), softened to room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- 2-4 tbsp milk or cream, if needed
- cinnamon & sugar, for sprinkling on top (1 tbsp granulated sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
- Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare three 8-inch round pans by spraying the bottoms only with non-stick spray. (Note that for the cake pictured in this post with the gold sugar pearl polkadots, I wanted a very tall cake to decorate, so I baked the batter in three 6-inch pans, and split each cake for a total of 6 layers.)
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugars for 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Scrape the bowl down and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour; mix just until combined.
- Divide the batter between the pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out with moist crumbs but not batter. Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with clean kitchen towels, and cool completely before frosting. (The cake can also be made one day ahead of time; keep fresh and moist by cooling in the pans for one hour, then turning out the warm cakes onto pieces of plastic wrap. Wrap each cake individually in plastic wrap and assemble/frost/decorate the following day, or freeze for several months.)
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and vanilla bean seeds/paste for one minute.
- In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, then with the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls to the butter until mostly combined.
- Add the milk or cream and whip on medium high, scraping the bowl down occasionally, for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
- Stack the cakes, filling them with a ¼ inch thick layer of buttercream between each. Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream, then chill for 15 minutes before frosting all over with a final layer of buttercream.
- If decorating with sugar pearls like the cake pictured, press the sugar pearls into the buttercream immediately after frosting the cake, before the buttercream crusts over.
- Sprinkle the top of the cake with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
- For best results, read all the instructions and ingredients lists before getting started. This cake is moist, dense and rich, since it’s intended to be like a snickerdoodle cookie but in cake form.
- In addition to letting your butter and cream cheese soften to room temperature so that you can easily cream them with the sugar, you should let all your dairy ingredients (including eggs and buttermilk) warm up to room temperature, which makes for a better cake batter.
- You can (and I have) make this cake using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, however, the cake flour makes a much lighter and more tender cake that is just heavenly.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, then add whole milk up to the 1 cup line. Warm in the microwave on high for one minute to curdle the milk. You don’t need to let it cool, and can add it to your batter while it’s warm.
- Note that I live at high altitude (5,000 feet), so my recipes are created for high altitude. Don’t let that deter you from trying them if you live at sea level! Please be sure to review my baking tips and FAQs before baking your cake.