Honey Bun Cake

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Homemade Honey Bun Cake is probably one of the quickest cakes you can whip up and among the most delicious. It’s made with classic yellow cake mix, a cinnamon swirl layer, pecans, and traditional white icing. Every slice is a little bundle of nostalgia.

We love recipes that mimic some of thos iconic lunchbox treats. From Ding Dong Cake and Twinkie Cake to our wonderful oatmeal cream pies!

Slice of honey bun cake on a stack of white plates.
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Why Honey Bun Cake Works 

I won’t eat a cake if it doesn’t have a decent texture. And, for a quick cake, this honey bun comes out perfectly moist.

Have you ever had a Little Debbie Honey bun? I loved them as a kid and wanted to recreate that delicious flavor. For breakfast!

With this recipe, I wanted to create a cake I could eat for breakfast with no shame. One that works well in any season. Similar to our classic sour cream coffee cake!

Move over cinnamon rolls, this cake takes the….well, cake!

Here are a few reasons why it works so well:

  • Cake in under an hour. Just like a honey bun, you don’t need to wait for the cake to completely cool before pouring the icing. That amounts to less waiting, and sooner this cake will be on the table.
  • No layering, icing, or leveling. This recipe skips several of the tedious steps that are required with most cakes. Just mix and bake. That’s it.
  • No frills. Depending on what you’re looking for, this could be a pro or con. Either way, this is not a fancy dessert with a bunch of frills. It’s simple and goes great with a cup of coffee. No special plates or place settings required.

Love copycat recipes? Be sure to try our rich and fudgy Hostess Cupcake recipe next! And don’t skimp on the chocolate ganache.

Ingredient Notes 

Ingredients needed to make homemade honey bun cake.
  • Light brown sugar – The molasses flavor of brown sugar paired with cinnamon gives the cake its signature flavor and texture. So don’t substitute it with white sugar.
  • Cinnamon 
  • Pecans – Use good-quality pecans, as they tend to go rancid very quickly. Look for a golden brown in color with no smell. Rancid pecans often taste bitter or unpleasant and have a foul smell. Toast the pecans for even nuttier flavor!
  • Yellow Cake Mix – It makes the base of the cake. I prefer using Betty Crocker, but Duncan Hines works too. Skipping the extra step of mixing the dry ingredients is a real time saver, and the boxed mix has a nostalgic value too.
  • Eggs – Use room-temperature eggs. They’ll work better to bind all the other ingredients together.
  • Vegetable Oil – Or any neutral-tasting oil will do. I find vegetable oil works better than butter, giving the cake a lighter crumb.
  • Sour Cream – It makes the cake incredibly moist. You can opt for a healthier option with greek yogurt or buttermilk substitute.
  • Powdered Sugar – It keeps the icing smooth and easy to spread.
  • Milk – used to reach desired consistency in the icing.
  • Honey – It adds a subtle sweetness and warm flavor to the cake.

Easy Instructions 

Make the batter. Combine the cake mix with eggs, vegetable oil, and sour cream. Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Step by step photos showing how to make honey bun cake batter.

Add Cinnamon Filling. Combine brown sugar mixture for the cinnamon swirl.

Sprinkle over the batter in the pan.

Step by step photos showing how to make cinnamon cake filling.

Swirl and Bake. Add second half of cake batter. Using a knife, gently swirl batter with filling.

Bake cake according to directions below.

Step by step photos showing how to swirl cake batter.

Make the icing. Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until desired consistency.

Pour the icing over the warm (not hot) cake and let it set.

Step by step photos showing how to make icing for honey bun cake.

Tips and Tricks 

  • Don’t overmix the batter. Beating the cake batter for too long will make the finished product dense and tough. Mix only until you stop seeing spots of dry flour.
  • Pour the icing over a warm cake. Pouring the icing over a warm cake helps it spread more easily. But don’t pour it over a piping hot cake, or the icing will become runny and drip off the edges.
  • Don’t follow the instruction on the cake box. The boxed mix is all you need. Follow my step-by-step recipe for the best honey bun cake.
  • Give the icing more flavor. You can amp up the flavor of the icing by switching the milk with citrus juice (lemon or orange) or make it tangy with buttermilk.
Slice of honey bun cake with a bite taken out.

Recipe FAQs 

How do I check if the cake is done?

It’s simple. Do the toothpick test. Insert a wooden toothpick in the center of your cake. The cake is done if the toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs stuck to it. If it is covered in batter or has too many crumbs stuck to it, then it needs more time in the oven. 

How do I store Honey Bun Cake?

You can store the cooled cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Can I freeze honey bun cake?

Yes. You can freeze the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

How do I serve honey bun cake?

Slice and serve the honey bun cake while it’s still warm. But if the cake has cooled down completely, try warming it in the microwave for a few seconds. Then serve the warm cake with a tall glass of milk.

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Honey Bun Cake

4.80 from 5 votes
By: Aimee
Homemade Honey Bun Cake is probably one of the quickest cakes you can whip up and among the most delicious. It’s made with classic yellow cake mix, a cinnamon swirl layer, pecans, and traditional white icing. Every slice is a little bundle of nostalgia.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 20 servings


For the Cake

  • 1 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 box yellow cake mix 15 ounce
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

For the Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
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  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13×9 baking dish with baking spray. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix with eggs, vegetable oil, and sour cream. Beat for 2 minutes until smooth.
  • Pour half of the cake batter into the baking dish. Top with the brown sugar mixture, sprinkling it over the cake batter. Then pour the remaining cake batter over the top. LIGHTLY swirl with a knife to combine.
  • Bake cake for 35 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool while making the icing.
  • For the icing, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and honey. Add additional milk if you want the icing to be thinner. Pour over warm cake. Allow to set about 30 minutes before serving.


  • Swirling with a knife creates the “divets” in the cake, not necessarily combining the filling.
  • Store cooled cake in airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze cake in airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • See blog post for more recipt tips and tricks and substitutions.


Serving: 1slice, Calories: 305kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 208mg, Potassium: 63mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 35g, Vitamin A: 123IU, Vitamin C: 0.1mg, Calcium: 85mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!
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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on August 31, 2023

Comments & Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I made this cake and it was absolutely delicious ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ +. The only question I have is, now that shrink flation is a real thing now. The cake boxes have less product, btw the cake mix I used was prior to the product reduction. How do I adjust the recipe. Thank you 😊

4.80 from 5 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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