Food

A Perfect Snacking Cake

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.

Cake:

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.)

  1. I love anything with cinnamon sugar! Too bad I saw this recipe after the holidays, but I’m sure I’ll find a chance to make it soon :)

  2. Boerumama says...

    So if the topping proportions were off, have they been fixed in the recipe or do I still need to adjust?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Adjusted! Xo

  3. Monica Olsson says...

    I made these last night with my wife, and we enjoyed a few squares this morning with a cup of coffee. The recipe was super easy to follow and not time consuming for a Sunday evening baking project.

  4. MJ says...

    Words of advice: if you mis-measure the flour, use maple syrup instead of honey and completely forget to add milk, this cake still tastes delicious and your guests will marvel at it and have seconds and thirds.

  5. Mrs D says...

    SOS! Desperate to make this but can’t buy unsweetened applesauce in Australia (and also is full of other garbage) – any ideas what I can sub with? I would prefer not to make my own this busy time of the year… Eh… Thank you!

    • Danielle says...

      Finely grate an apple! I do this all the time because I don’t keep applesauce. Works just the same.

    • Hello My Fellow Aussie! I hear you. Who wants to be making their own apple sauce at this time of year. Try using the sweetened apple sauce and just reduce the amount of brown sugar a little. Happy Holidays ! Odette

    • Mrs D says...

      Thank you Danielle and Odette. Mind is actually blown at the grated apple tip, I would have never, ever thought of that! I’m going to bake this up Saturday.

  6. Judit says...

    I would love to try this cake or any from this book, however my toddler being allergic to egg and milk protein makes baking fun cakes difficult. Do you think this recipe could work with almond milk and chia or flax eggs? Does anyone have a trusted milk and egg free cake recipe?

    • Katieanne says...

      I just came here to report that I made this dairy and egg free, and it worked very well! I used oat milk (I’m sure almond milk would be fine too!) and flax eggs for the egg replacement, and earth balance for the topping (although I cut way back in the amount of topping).

      Good luck! My son is allergic to eggs and I pretty consistently find that flax subs really well in most baked goods. And I find most plant based milks sub well for dairy, as long as it isn’t too much of a dairy-focused item. Have you searched for vegan cakes? I’d imagine there are many recipes online.

    • Hello! This cake is pretty earthy and robust, so I think it would work with these substitutes. You should check out my dear friend Amy Chaplin’s cookbooks. She has some wonderful dairy, gluten, and refined sugar baked recipes. Enjoy !

    • Jen says...

      We bake vegan at our house and I’ve found that about 3 large tablespoons of applesauce equal one egg, and any other type of non-dairy milk works really well ( I usually use soy – I find it has a more robust flavour – but any type is great!)

  7. Nicole says...

    I also made this tonight with a mix of millet, brown rice, sorghum and potato starch flours – turned out great! Thank you!

    • Katieanne says...

      Sorry if this is a duplicate comment, but came to report that “flax eggs,” full fat oat milk, and earth balance in the topping to make this egg- and dairy-free worked great!

  8. Lauren says...

    I made this cake last night. I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour (as opposed to the All-Purpose GF Flour), almond milk instead of whole milk, and coconut sugar in place of all sugar in the recipe. This is literally a perfect “snack” … or a perfect breakfast…. lunch… dinner… dessert. Basically I want to only eat this cake for the rest of my days.

    • Faith says...

      Funny, I have almost the same in my oven right now! I used a light coconut milk though. I also used a little extra cinnamon in the batter and butter vanilla instead of just plain vanilla. Hoping it tastes great!

  9. Jenny says...

    Thank you for putting grams (UK reader) I shall be making this this weekend!!

  10. Cheryl says...

    My go-to gluten free flour (to replace regular flour) in any baking recipe is Cup 4 Cup brand. It was developed by chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame. Can be hard to find and pricey (around $15 a bag, yikes) but gives results as close to regular flour as I’ve ever found. Also, generally speaking, the more eggs and/or oil a recipe has, the better it works in a gluten free version. For example, recipes for dense, moist baked goods (such as brownies) usually convert well to gluten free.

    • Jen says...

      I have this flour too! I bought after having amazing GF fried chicken at his restaurant in Yountville, Ad Hoc. I’ve baked with it a few times, but I love the note about the more eggs a recipe, the better GF convert it will be :)

  11. Stephanie says...

    Just made this tonight on a whim after reading this post this morning. It is delicious and I’ll be making it again for the holidays! My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially like the hint of orange. One thing to note, the amount of butter and sugar for the topping is way too much. I only used a quarter of what the recipe stated for the topping and it was still plenty sugary/sweet. I also used half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour.

    • Carol Hinz says...

      Stephanie, I had the same thought! I thoroughly saturated the cake with butter and still had 3-4 Tbsp. remaining. And I have probably a couple Tbsp. of the cinnamon/sugar mix remaining, though I’ll save it to sprinkle on toast.

      That said, the cake was a hit at the annual holiday potluck at work!

    • MJ says...

      Likewise I found the topping to be overly generous. I couldn’t use all of either the butter or cinnamon-sugar and we thoroughly saturated and sprinkled the cake. That said, the topping is delcious one just needs to scale back imho.

    • Hi Fellow Bakers!
      Just wanted to let you know I’ve just spotted why the topping was too much. My bad. The amount of topping was for when you double the recipe and bake a 15 x 11-inch sheet cake. If you did have extra, just pop it into an airtight jar, and save it for the next time you bake this cake. Thank so much for drawing it to my attention. x

  12. Robyn says...

    Hi! This looks fantastic. Has anyone tried it with a milk substitute? I am dairy and soy free right now because my baby has an intolerance, and am dying for some delicious holiday baked goods. If no one has tried it, I guess I’ll do some experimenting this weekend!

    • Hi Robyn! I think Oat Milk could add a really lovely flavor. Hope this helps!

    • Nicole says...

      I used oat milk, worked fine!

    • Robyn says...

      Thank you everyone! I’ll try oat milk! I’m really excited. Can you tell by all the exclamation marks I’m using?!!

  13. Cyn says...

    Sold! Making this for Christmas morning ❤️

  14. Lynn says...

    Looks wonderful but i’m left wondering—why is “Diced” part of the name of this cake?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Because it’s sliced into those perfect little cubes!

  15. jeannie says...

    Sounds great. I will definitely try it during the holidays!

  16. Mel says...

    I just added this to my ‘when my morning sickness passes and i’m able to eat real food’ list of things to eat. I’m praying by Christmas to be there and if so this is breakfast.

    • Rachel Stevens says...

      yeah, I was SO morning sick for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and now at 27 weeks (as one who never had a sweet-tooth) I’m eating cookies for breakfast and ice cream for dessert and 100% bringing “snacking cake” into my daily repertoire.

      excited for you to get out of Nausealand!

  17. Emily says...

    Spelt makes great muffins!! Excited to try it again with this recipe

  18. Michaela Carroll says...

    This looks so lovely! I have a question about the cake on the cover of the book (which I’ve just called my local bookstore for!!)- what kind of pan makes a cake that tall? Also, where are those beautiful plates from??

  19. Meredith says...

    If making this a day in advance, would you top right away or wait until ready to serve? Sounds delicious!

    • Hi Meredith!
      I’d wait. Wrap it up in Saran so it stays lovely and moist, then go to town on the topping just before serving.

  20. Sarah says...

    Seconding the question about using gluten free flour for this cake. Thanks!

    • Daniela says...

      I highly recommend using 2:1 white rice flour to almond flour. Works fantastic for all my gluten free baking goods!

    • Lea says...

      Daniela, thanks for the suggestion. Do you add xantham gum to that mix?

    • Hi Sarah!

      I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. It works great in this cake!

  21. Erzsi says...

    Yummm! This is very similar to a Hungarian cake that’s on regular rotation in my house. In the Hungarian version, you nestle halved stone fruit (cherries are my favorite, though plums, peaches, and apricots are also wonderful) cut side down on top of the batter before baking. I like to place the fruit evenly so every square of cake can be neatly cut around one piece of fruit. You also sprinkle the cinnamon sugar topping over the whole thing before baking so it becomes a lovely shatter-y crust over the cake when it’s finished. As we say in Hungary: nagyon finom (very delicious)!

    • Kathy says...

      I am Hungarian and would love to make this case Erzsi! So would you pour half batter into pan, put fruit and then the rest of the batter? Unsure what you mean by “cut side down on top of the batter before baking” and could you use frozen cherries? xoxo

    • Erzsi says...

      Wonderful, Kathy! I pour all of the batter into the pan first and then arrange the fruit halves on top of the batter. I press the fruit halves in a tiny bit but they definitely appear to sit on top of the batter. The cake then puffs up around them as it bakes. And yes, I would think frozen cherries would work well (although I’ve never tried it). Enjoy!

    • Kathy says...

      Thank you Erzsi! Happy Holidays!

  22. Jessica says...

    Adding “snacking cake” to my 2020 vocabulary

    • Annie K says...

      I had the same thought. It’s almost as brilliant as last year’s “snacking chocolate”

    • Suchi says...

      Is there any alternative to the eggs? I’m not supposed to eat eggs. All suggestions are welcome.

  23. A. N. says...

    ok, i have been doing intermittent fasting (the 16/8 one) for about 5 weeks now, and i’m about 30 mins away from eating when i opened this post and literal drool came out of my mouth. literal. drool. cinnamon flavored desserts are by far the most superior!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha yes i agree, this looks SO good.

    • celeste says...

      Have you lost weight? So curious if this may work for me. I’d have trouble delaying breakfast but I have no trouble avoiding cinnamon treats.

    • A.N. says...

      Celeste – i’ll be honest, i have no “need” to lose weight (i work out often and eat quite healthy 80% of the time…unless i’m eating my kid’s leftovers, haha), so i haven’t stepped on a scale in over a year. that means i obviously can’t tell you if I’ve actually lost weight or not, BUT, i didn’t start doing it for weight loss – i’m doing it for the immense health benefits! what i can tell you, though, is that i have more energy and am sleeping waaay better. but, my husband is also doing it and HE has definitely lost weight. it’s been so, so much easier than i anticipated. easier to do at work than at home, so i usually don’t do it on the 3 days i’m home with my kids, only on my 4 working days.

  24. Allegra LaViola says...

    This looks delish! Joanna/Jenny: would you consider a feature on baking with small children? I would love to get my son (2) into simple cooking and I imagine Jenny has a treasure trove of recipes that kids could help with at various ages…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! chocolate chip cookies are so good for this because it’s all measuring and mixing (and tasting;) we often just make the recipes from the back of the chocolate chips bag.

    • shelley says...

      My son (also 2) loves to be in his kitchen helper! We make just about any food. He loves being a “taster” especially for spaghetti sauce and we also love making chocolate chip cookies.

    • Lisa says...

      Seconded! My kids (3.75 and 2) are very keen on baking but I don’t always know what’s good, and ideally would like to be making recipes that don’t have too much sugar.

      What I have learnt though (for baking with very small kids) is that you get everything ready because the bit they are mostly interested in is mixing the batter for two seconds and then eating the results

    • Bébhinn says...

      Aileen Cox has some excellent books on family cooking which include child friendly baking recipes with low refined sugar and healthy ingredients – would highly recommend checking it out if it’s something you’re interested in! Here’s a link to her page to give you an idea: https://www.babyledfeeding.com/recipe-categories/natural-treats/

  25. Awads says...

    I have asked my tweener son to gift me Odette’s book for Hanukkah. I’ve baked that chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting twice and it’s such a keeper! A cookbook full of cakes is a win for the whole family, amirite?

    • Kellie P says...

      I was going to ask if this could be made dairy free easily! What kind of milk do you guys sub for whole milk? Thank you!

  26. Elise says...

    This looks delicious! I’m delighted to see a recipe for a baked good that doesn’t use a lot of dairy (/is easily substituted with non-dairy items) or refined sugar! Can’t wait to try this.

    • Kelli says...

      Same! My husband is anaphylactic to dairy. It is hard to get a recipe to turn out properly when subbing non-dairy milk if the recipe calls for a large quantity. Excited to try this one.

  27. Ali says...

    One of my absolute favorite cookbooks, so reliable! I’m not the best cook or baker but everything I’ve made has been perfect! I also really appreciate that the cakes are really simple, no intimidating decorations, just the perfect treats to have on the counter for tea or after dinner. I’m now working my way through Midwest Made by Shauna Sever and feeling the same way about it. Great stuff! Also, Jenny’s chicken pot pie with sweet potatoes is an almost weekly dinner right now, it’s so good!

  28. Barbara Jane says...

    I rarely feel a strong desire to cook or bake anything, but I think I might try this! Looks so yummy and simple!

  29. Sara says...

    Do you think a 1:1 gluten free flour (like King Arthur’s) would work well here? This would be a great cake for a work party and I have lots of gluten free coworkers.

    • Dana says...

      I am no expert, but I’d think you would need a good binding agent like xanthum gum if you wanted to make this gluten free. Otherwise it will be too crumbly. My two cents! Please let us know if you try it!

    • caitlin says...

      Just a quick note to say the 1:1 flours all have xantham gum in them! :)

    • Sara says...

      My flour comes with xantham gum! While the 1:1 flour is great for a lot of things, some recipes just don’t translate into gluten free as well. I have a feeling this one will though and I’ll test it out. ;)

    • Hi Sara! 100% I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. I’ll have to try King Arthurs!

  30. Lauren E. says...

    I didn’t NEED another excuse to eat cake for breakfast, but thanks for giving me one anyway :) This looks delicious.

  31. Eli says...

    This sounds/looks delicious! I know what I’ll be trying out this weekend with my mom visiting. Just need the flour. And so nice to not see refined white sugar in a recipe. :)
    And looks like a great breakfast option as well – because cake for breakfast is the best part of being an adult.