Cinnamon Donut Cake by Odette Williams

I’m not a huge baker, but that changes when the holidays come along…

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am a huge baked goods fan, I’m just more into cooking, a hobby that doesn’t require actual precision and punish you for omitting a single ingredient. (Looking at you, baking powder). That’s not the case this time of year, though, when a weekend morning just feels wrong if my house hasn’t been infused with the aroma of a spiced cake or gingerbread or holiday cookies baking in the oven. Next up is this Cinnamon Donut Cake from arguably my most favorite cookbook of 2019, Simple Cake, by Odette Williams. (Everything I’ve baked from it has been a triumph.) This cake promises to make the house smell like cider donuts, and seems like just the thing to have around while trimming a tree or lighting a menorah or opening gifts on Christmas morning.

Cinnamon Donut Cake by Odette Williams

Diced Cinnamon Donut Cake

From Odette: This recipe calls for spelt flour but you can use all-purpose flour, whole wheat, spelt or a combination of all three. (The spelt adds a lovely warmth that all-purpose can’t, and whole wheat can be a little full on by itself.) The cake is not overly spiced and keeps for days; in fact, I think it’s better on the second day when the flavors have had time to rest. It is deserving of a pair of slippers, a cardigan and a cup of tea. Makes one 13-by-9-inch rectangular cake; Preparation: 20 minutes.


2 1⁄4 cups (270g) organic whole-grain spelt flour (or all-purpose flour; see note above)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup (120ml) mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (240g) unsweetened applesauce
1⁄4 cup (85g) honey
1⁄2 cup (120ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 cup (190g) light brown sugar, lightly packed

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:

1/3 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch rectangular pan with butter, line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper, and grease the paper. (I’ll let you just grease, line the bottom of the pan, and lightly flour the sides if you’re feeling lazy.)

Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and sift.

In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, vanilla, applesauce, honey, milk, zest and brown sugar until smooth.

Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 28 to 30 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Invert the cake, peel off the parchment paper, and cool on a wire rack.

For topping: Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. With a large, sharp knife, cut the cake into cubes. Brush or spoon the melted butter on top of each cake square. Let it soak into the cake a little before sprinkling on the cinnamon-sugar mix. (If the cake is still warm, the sugar will dissolve.)

Simple Cake by Odette Williams

Thanks, Odette!

P.S. Nine cookbooks that earn their keep and a delicious olive oil cake.

(Cake photos by Nicole Franzen. Reprinted with permission from Simple Cake by Odette Williams, copyright © 2019.)