Honey Bun Cake

Honey bun cake in a cake pan.

Our all-time favorite coffee cake. The boys prefer this Honey Bun Cake without the pecans, but I love the texture of the nuts as part of the filling. Either way, it’s a wonderful, moist and luscious cake that your family will constantly beg you to make. 

The Best Coffee Cake in the History of Ever:  Honey Bun Cake

Up close photo of a pan of honey bun cake where a piece has been lifted out.

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What’s so GREAT About Honey Bun Cake??

Honey Bun Cake is lusciously moist cake, swirled with cinnamon, sugar, and pecans then smothered with a powdered-sugar glaze…..it tastes like a honey bun, but in the form of cake.

Honey Bun Cake transforms a yellow cake into a magnificent experience. A few basic ingredients and a brown sugar pecan-spice center makes this cake anything but ordinary. When I make this coffee cake for my family on Saturday or Sunday morning, I’m lucky if it lasts past noon!

What’s the Secret to Delicious Honey Bun Cake? Just ONE little thing!

Making sure to cover your cake with foil right after you smother it in icing, then letting it cool with the foil in place will ensure your cake is UBER moist.  The foil forces all the heat and condensation down into your cake – a trick my Grandma Lucille taught me.

The 5 Easy Steps to Making This Moist Coffee Cake:

  1.  In a large mixing bowl, prepare the batter. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the glaze ingredients. stirring until smooth. In a small mixing bowl, combine your topping ingredients.
  2. Pour the prepared batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish, then sprinkle with the prepared topping mix. Use a butter knife to swirl the topping down into the cake batter.
  3. Place the cake into the preheated oven, baking until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, approx. 30-35 minutes.
  4. As soon as the cake is fully baked, pour the prepared icing over the top of the hot cake, then immediately cover the cake with foil, letting it cool covered in the foil.
  5. When the cake has fully cooled, cut into 12 pieces and serve at once!

What Ingredients Will I Need for Making This Honey Bun Cake?

Standard Yellow Cake Mix

I typically use Duncan Hines cake mixes, but any brand will actually work just fine in the recipe since you are including so many added ingredients to make it really yummy.  I usually stock up on cake mixes when they are on sale, throwing the overflow (that won’t fit in my pantryi) into my downstairs freezer for use later.  I love it when I can hit a $.99 cake mix sale!! Also, I really like the cake mixes that are sold at Aldi’s, too.

Eggs, Water, Oil, Sour Cream

Here’s where you added yummy-ness for this cake comes in.  These ingredients come to make this classic coffee cake so very moist.

Dark Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Chopped Pecans

These ingredients comprise the coffee cake filling.  I love the deep molasses flavors of dark brown sugar, especially when you add in the cinnamon and the chopped pecans for this filling.

Powdered Sugar, Melted Butter, Vanilla, Salt, Milk

Every good coffee cake needs a sweet, thick glaze drizzled over the top, right? That’s what you’re gonna get when you combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, a bit of salt, and just enough milk to make the frosting pour-able.

A pan of coffee cake with a plate in the fore ground that has a slice of cake on it. There's also a glass of milk included.

Easy and Helpful Tips for Making This Classic Coffee Cake Recipe

I don’t have a glass 9×13 baking pan.  Can I use a metal 9×13 pan instead when baking this coffee cake?

  • You can use whichever 9 x 13 pan that you have on hand! I think I just use a glass one because my Grandmas did, but any stainless steel or aluminum pan will work just as well.  No worries.

Why do the recipe directions say to reduce the baking temperature to 325 degrees F. if using a glass baking pan?

  • Glass is a super great conductor of heat, causing things to cook quicker on the exterior, but often leaving the interior under-baked.  Reducing the temperature from 350 degrees F. to 325 degrees F. when using a glass 9 x 13 pan lets the cake baked clear to the very interior, without the outside of the cake getting too browned in the process.

If I don’t have a yellow cake mix on hand, can I use a white cake minx instead?

  • You sure can.  I’ve done this lots of times and it will work just fine – no one will even notice except you.  Your cake will be a bit lighter in color, but still super yummy.

Can I serve this coffee cake warm from the oven?

  • You sure can, though it’s better in the long run to let the cake fully cool once it’s been frosted and covered with aluminum foil. However, if your family is anything like mine, you likely won’t get away with that.  My gang is always hungry and as soon as they smell this cake baking, they are clamoring for a piece…..as soon as it’s out of the oven! Just know that when you serve this coffee cake warm, it’s a bit more crumbly than when you slice it after it has completely cooled.

Why does the cake need to covered with foil as soon as it comes out of the oven and has been frosted?

  • This step is important for nearly any cake you bake.  Always cover the cake with foil right after you remove it from the oven so all the heat is contained beneath the foil, forcing the warm condensation right down in the cake, making it very, very moist and luscious.
  • My Grandma Lucille shared this tip with me when she was teaching me to bake when I was in elementary school and I’ve used this trick for years and years!  I also do the same thing with baked quick breads like Lemon Poppy Seed Bread and Banana Bread.

Can I substitute chopped walnuts if I don’t have chopped pecans on hand?

  • Yes, and I’ve done this often.  The nuts give the filling a really good texture so be sure to include them, whether they are pecans or walnuts, either one.

Why does this recipe instruct to glaze the cake right after it comes out of the oven?

  • Frosting the cake while it’s hot from the oven allows the glaze to seep down into the cake and all around the edges, too. I think the frosting helps seal in the moisture of the cake, too, but I have no scientific proof of that. 🙂

Other Baked Treats to Enjoy –

Moist and Tender Honey Bun cake is the best coffee cake.

More Favorite Cake Recipes to Enjoy –

Printable Directions for Making and Baking Honey Bun Cake

Honey bun cake in a cake pan.

Honey Bun Cake

Our all-time favorite coffee cake. The boys prefer it without the pecans, but I love the texture of the nuts as part of the filling. Either way, it's a wonderful, moist and luscious cake.
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 564kcal
Author: Chef Alli

Ingredients

Coffee Cake

  • 1 standard yellow cake mix, 18 oz.
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • milk, as needed

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (325 degrees F. if using a glass baking pan).
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix ingredients using an electric mixer to beat the ingredients for 1 minute, scraping the bowl half way through. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the topping ingredients and reserve.
  • Pour the prepared cake batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle the prepared filling mixture over the batter, then use a butter knife to swirl the topping down into the batter a bit.
  • Bake the cake, uncovered, on the center rack of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • While the cake is baking, combine the icing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.
  • When the cake is removed from the oven, immediately pour the prepared icing over the hot cake, then cover the cake pan tightly with foil, letting the cake cool completely while covered.
  • To serve, cut the cooled cake into 12 pieces and serve. Cake can be reheated in the microwave if you'd prefer to eat it warm.

Notes

  • If you are using a glass baking dish to make this recipe, reduce the heat from 350 degrees F. to 325 degree F. 
  • Covering the cake with foil after it’s removed from the oven and frosting  will ensure that the cooled cake turns out very very moist. In this case, the frosting also seals in heat and make the cake moist, too.  
  • If you don’t have chopped pecans on hand, you may substitute walnuts.  Sometimes I leave out the nuts entirely (when I have picky sons bugging me) but this cake is definitely better with the nuts included. 
 
Course: Breakfast/Brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Coffee Cake

Nutrition

Calories: 564kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 357mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 52g | Vitamin A: 435IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 148mg | Iron: 1mg

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Let’s Get You Cookin’,
Chef Alli

Chef Alli

Chef Alli is a home-grown Kansas girl on a mission to strengthen families through enabling kitchen confidence, educating the family cook, and encouraging better food relationships. She believes with her whole heart that time spent with our loved ones and our overall quality of life is greatly enhanced by nutritious food made at home with simple, wholesome ingredients. She loves being able to connect and share this passion with others through her website, her social media presence, and her coveted speaking engagements.

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