This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (2024)

Even as someone who low-key hates baking, I'd make (and eat) this cake on a weekly basis.

by Ross YoderBuzzFeed Staff

As a food writer, I've seen my fair share of food trends become genuinely divisive in their public reception. Not even a month ago, "butter boards" had the internet in an absolute war over whether they were actually cool or just "gross and wasteful trendy bullsh*t." Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a buzzy new recipe become anything but polarizing in the long run...until I came across this viral dessert on Reddit that everyone — and I do mean everyone — couldn't get enough of.

Behold: Big Mama's "secret" cinnamon roll cake in all her cinnamon-y glazed glory, even though it's...admittedly not so secret anymore.

u/HumawormDoc / Via reddit.com

The recipe was first posted to the Old Recipes subreddit by u/HumawormDoc a little over two months ago, and it's a slightly modified version of their grandmother's — aka "Big Mama's" — go-to dessert. A cake that promises all the warm, gooey goodness of homemade cinnamon rolls without having to make cinnamon rolls from scratch?! It's exactly what the world needs right now.

When I first stumbled upon the recipe months ago, I didn't think much of it. Why? Well, even though I cook and write about food for a living, I juuuuuust don't *love* baking. No judgment, please. It takes a lot for me to bust out ye olde hand mixer, but after closely following the barrage of love and glowing reviews for this cake in the months that followed, I thought it might finally be time to reconsider my stance. Like, we're talking a lot of people vouching for this recipe, folks.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (3)

u/FunboyFrags / u/ jessikadln / u/KassMasterB / Via reddit.com

If basically breaking an entire subreddit isn't a good enough sign that something is worth trying, IDK what is.

I reached into the furthest, darkest corner of my least-used cabinet, washed the inch-thick layer of dust off of my hand mixer, and decided that it was time to attempt Big Mama's cinnamon roll cake for myself — and I'm so incredibly glad that I did. Truth be told, it was one of the easiest desserts I've ever baked in my own kitchen, and it tasted like it required way more work than it actually did.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (4)

u/plotholierthanthou / Ross Yoder / Via reddit.com

Here's how it all went down.

And before we dive in: It's worth noting that some redditors have asked the original poster questions about some specific details and steps that were left out of the posted recipe, shown below. No shade to the OP, truly! I'm forever in their debt for spilling their Big Mama's secrets in the first place. But as a result, I'll do my best to flesh out the recipe a bit more so no one leaves with any confusion.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (5)

u/HumawormDoc / Via reddit.com

First, the ingredients. Thankfully, there aren't many of 'em. There are three components of this cake: the batter, the "filling," and the icing. For the batter, you'll need the following:

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (6)

Ross Yoder

Buttermilk imparts a lovely tang to the final results, but if you don't have any on hand or can't find it at your local grocery store, whole milk will work just as nicely — or a "mix of both," as the OP states in their recipe. (Also: Non-dairy milk would probably work, too.)

Self-rising flour is literally just all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt. If you can't find any, just use 2 cups of all-purpose flourand whisk in 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

For the cinnamon roll–inspired "filling," you'll just need 1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar and 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon.

Ross Yoder

The OP added an extra teaspoon of cinnamon when compared to her Big Mama's recipe, which called for only three, and I'm actually really glad she did. The cinnamon level here? Chef's kiss.

And for that classic icing, you'll only need three more ingredients in addition to that vanilla extract:

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (8)

Ross Yoder

STEP #1: Preheat your oven to 350ºF, then cream together the shortening and granulated sugar. Add both ingredients to a large mixing bowl and use a hand mixer to combine them until light and fluffy — which will take about two minutes.

Ross Yoder

In those two minutes, it'll go from separated to chunky to grainy to perfectly smooth and airy. Trust the process! You're doing great, sweetie.

STEP #2: Beat in all four eggs, one at a time. I know it's annoying, but I promise it's the best way to make sure everything gets perfectly incorporated. The mixture will go from stiff and white...

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (9)

Ross Yoder

...to airy and pale yellow by the time you incorporate the fourth egg. Keep the mixer going until the mixture starts to look as frothy as mine did below.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (10)

Ross Yoder

STEP #3: Beat in your remaining wet ingredients, aka 1 cup of buttermilk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Incorporate just until everything is combined — no need to go wild here.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (11)

Ross Yoder

STEP #4: Incorporate your self-rising flour (or your all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt) into the wet ingredients. If you're feeling extra, you can sift the flour in. I did not! And it came out just fine. Either way, only beat the ingredients together for about 30 seconds — just until they're totally combined, and no further.

Ross Yoder

Over-beating cake batter can sometimes yield tough results, so less truly is more in this scenario.

Cake batter = done.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (12)

Ross Yoder

STEP #5: Make your cinnamon roll "filling" by whisking together 1/2 cup of brown sugar and your 4 teaspoons of cinnamon.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (13)

Ross Yoder

STEP #6: Assemble your layers. This is the fun part! Start with a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and make sure it's well-greased — I used shortening since I already had it out. Since the cake will be served directly from the baking dish, I don't think you need to take the extra step of flouring it, too. Add in half of your cake batter and smooth it across the bottom of the dish with a spatula. Then, sprinkle all of the cinnamon and brown sugar mixture evenly across the top.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (14)

Ross Yoder

Finish the assembly by pouring the last of your cake batter over the brown sugar mixture and smooth it out to the edges of the baking dish.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (15)

Ross Yoder

And for the most strangely satisfying hit of serotonin: Use a chopstick or butter knife to swirl the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture throughout the cake batter.

Ross Yoder

That's all! Time to bake.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (16)

Ross Yoder

STEP #7: Add the cake to the middle rack of a 350ºF oven. Bake it for 25–30 minutes, or until the cake has puffed throughout, the edges are golden brown, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (17)

Ross Yoder

FYI: Your entire house will smell like cinnamon rolls for hours, which in my opinion just makes baking this cake even more worthwhile.

Or, if you're as nervous a baker as I am, you can always just wait until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the cake registers at 200ºF. When you can't trust yourself, trust a kitchen robot.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (18)

Ross Yoder

STEP #8: While the cake cools slightly, prepare your icing. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and combine with 1/4 cup of warm milk — 30 seconds in the microwave should be plenty. Add in your remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, then whisk the warm mixture into 2 cups of powdered sugar until smooth, glossy, and contains no lumps.

Ross Yoder

THE FINAL STEP: It's glazin' time. First, use a chopstick or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake...

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (19)

Ross Yoder

...then evenly pour that sugary glaze all over.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (20)

Ross Yoder

Most of the glaze should soak in in about 10 minutes, but if you notice it pooling at the edges, which you probably will, you can tilt the baking dish around to redistribute the glaze.

Ross Yoder

(Don't forget the oven mitts and burn your fingers like I did.)

After your cake has cooled a little bit — it by no means needs to cool down completely, and TBH, it's better warm — you can finally dig in.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (21)

Ross Yoder

The verdict? Y'all...

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (22)

Ross Yoder

...this cake is easily one of my new favorite desserts. I'm not just saying that to be hyperbolic. I really, truly mean it. Big Mama's cinnamon roll cake, as the name and many redditors have suggested, tastes *just* like a homemade cinnamon roll — without all the hours of work.

Ross Yoder

My obsession with this cake boils down to three specific points. First, the flavor of the cake itself is everything.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (23)

Ross Yoder

Don't get me wrong: I LOVE a canned cinnamon roll. They basically defined my childhood and I still crave them (and eat them) to this day. But this cake is able to almost exactly emulate the flavors of a homemade cinnamon roll, and I found that everything tasted a lot fresher and more distinct as a result. The cinnamon and brown sugar filling was, to put it mildly, pure magic.

And don't sleep on the buttermilk, either! Using buttermilk instead of whole milk added the slightest bit of tang to the end results and it lifted up the entire flavor profile.

Second, the crumb was utter perfection.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (24)

Ross Yoder

Thanks to the addition of shortening in lieu of butter, this cake stays perfectly moist in the oven. Basically, every piece tastes like the soft and doughy cinnamon roll from the middle of the pan — cinnamon roll fans know what I'm talkin' about — and I am here for it. Generously drizzling that sugary glaze over top just keeps everything even softer, which means you can enjoy it days later without it turning into a dry, crumbly catastrophe.

The OP actually mentionedthat the cake base was her Big Mama's blanket recipe for "all of her homemade poke cakes," so I for one am dying to switch out the fillings and try it with a different flavor combo. (Maybe even some blueberry jam and lemon zest for a blueberry muffin–adjacent cake? I'm thinking about it.)

Finally, it was just so darn easy. Since I don't really like baking (remember?), this might actually be the best part of all.

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (25)

Ross Yoder

All in all, this cake took me about 45 minutes to make— and that's including 30 minutes of waiting around for the cake to finish baking. For something that only took about 15 minutes of active time, I was kind of astonished. It tastes like something that took muchlonger to bake. IDK about you, but I'll probably bake this cake for every occasion that calls for one. And, you know, just for myself too.

If you feel inspired to make Big Mama's cinnamon roll cake, let me know what you think of it in the comments below. Or if you have any "secret" family recipes you'd be willing to share with us, feel free to tell me about them! 👇

This "Secret" Cake Recipe Has Taken Over An Entire Corner Of The Internet, And I Totally Understand Why (2024)
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