This boxed cake mix hack transforms a simple yellow cake mix into the most delicious honey bun cake, complete with swirls of honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar. You’ll love this easy breakfast cake recipe!

Removing a square of honey bun cake from the pan

Your New Favorite Breakfast Cake

There are many ways to upgrade store-bought cake mix, but not nearly as many ideas for doctoring boxed cake mix and turning it into a proper coffee cake that you can serve for breakfast. That’s where this honey bun cake recipe comes in.

Start with a box of yellow cake mix, follow the recipe below, and you’ll be rewarded with a moist, cinnamon-scented cake sweetened with honey and topped with a sticky vanilla glaze. If you love my Cinnamon Roll Casserole or Cinnamon Swirl Bread, you’ll enjoy this cake, too!

What is Honey Bun Cake?

Honey bun cake is made by upgrading a box of yellow cake mix to turn it into a cozy cinnamon breakfast cake. It’s swirled with brown sugar and cinnamon, making it reminiscent of a traditional coffee cake, and it has a moist, tender crumb thanks to the addition of sour cream.

If you’ve ever had a Little Debbie Honey Bun, the flavor of this cake is meant to mimic that iconic pastry. But even if you’re not a fan of the Little Debbie snack cakes, you’ll love this recipe. It’s easy enough for a casual weekend breakfast, but delicious enough to serve at your next formal brunch.

The Ingredients

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

For the cake:

  • Yellow cake mix – You can use any brand you like. Gluten-free cake mix works in this recipe, too!
  • Sour cream – For a tender crumb, be sure to use full-fat sour cream, not reduced-fat or fat-free.
  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs – Set them on the counter to come to room temperature before you start the recipe. Room temperature eggs hold more air when beaten, resulting in a lighter, fluffier cake.
  • Honey
  • Brown sugar – I recommend light brown sugar because it has a milder flavor that won’t compete with the honey.
  • Cinnamon

For the glaze:

  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • Vanilla extract
Unbaked honey bun cake on left, baked honey bun cake being drizzled with glaze on right

How to Make Honey Bun Cake

Since this is a boxed cake mix hack, you’ll save some time because you won’t need to measure a bunch of dry ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350º F and coat a 9×13 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, and eggs. Use an electric mixer to beat the batter for 1 minute, or until all the ingredients are incorporated. 

Assemble. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan, then smooth it with a spatula. Drizzle the honey over the cake batter. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle this over the cake. Use a butter knife to swirl the cinnamon sugar mixture into the batter.

Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 36 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan.

Make the glaze. While the cake cools, combine the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

Glaze the cake. Pour the glaze over the cake while it’s still warm, or let the cake cool completely before glazing it.

Tips for Success

Honey bun cake is simple as can be, but these hints and tips will make it that much easier!

  • Honey measuring hack. Spray the 1/2 cup with non-stick cooking spray before measuring the honey and it will pour right out. No sticking to the measuring cup!
  • Measuring brown sugar accurately. This recipe calls for packed brown sugar, so use a spoon or your fingers to compress the sugar into your measuring cup, then level it with a butter knife.
  • No hand mixer? Not a problem! Just whisk the batter until it’s smooth instead.
Square of honey bun cake on white plate with fork, with bite taken from corner

Toppings & Variations

Here are some ideas for making this honey bun cake recipe your own.

  • Add some crunch. Toasted pecans or walnuts add a delightful texture to this recipe! They can be finely chopped and added to the cinnamon sugar mixture, or roughly chopped and sprinkled over the icing at the end of the recipe.
  • Make it fruity. Fold diced apples or pears into the cake batter after mixing.
  • Switch up the glaze. Instead of vanilla extract, try almond extract, or swap the milk for orange juice or buttermilk. Cream cheese frosting can be used instead of the glaze, too.

Serving Suggestions

The beauty of this cake is its versatility! Pair it with a cup of coffee and some fresh fruit to serve it for breakfast, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and canned apple pie filling for a crowd-pleasing dessert. Honey bun cake can be served either warm or at room temperature.

How to Store Extras

You can store this cake covered in the baking pan for up to 3 days at room temperature. Honey bun cake can be eaten at room temperature, or you can warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds.

Can I Freeze This?

If you’d like to freeze honey bun cake, you can either wrap individual pieces with plastic wrap, or wrap it in the pan. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer; when you’re ready to serve it, let it thaw at room temperature. (Individual pieces can be microwaved, too.)

Honey bun cake on white plate, garnished with cinnamon sticks

More Easy Coffee Cake Recipes

Square of honey bun cake topped with two cinnamon sticks

Honey Bun Cake

4.86 from 7 ratings
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 36 mins
Total Time: 51 mins
Yield: 20 servings
This honey bun cake recipe turns a box of cake mix into the best breakfast cake you've ever had!

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 box yellow cake mix, 18.25 oz (can use a gluten free mix!)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tbsp cinnamon

Glaze

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, sour cream, vegetable oil and eggs, beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute or until combined. Pour the cake mixture into the 9×13 inch pan, smooth with a spatula.
  • Drizzle the honey all over the cake.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, mix with a spoon to combine. Sprinkle this mixture all over the cake. Use a butter knife or spatula to swirl this mixture into the cake batter.
  • Bake for 36-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool while you make the glaze.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Use a whisk to stir the mixture until it’s smooth.
  • YOUR CHOICE: pour the glaze over the warm cake or let the cake cool completely then add the glaze. Serve right away or cover the cake pan with a lid and store on the counter until serving!

Notes

Pro tip: spray the 1/2 cup measure with non-stick cooking spray before measuring the honey.
How to store: Store covered in the baking pan for up to 3 days at room temperature. To freeze, you can either wrap individual pieces with plastic wrap, or wrap it in the pan. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer; when you’re ready to serve, let it thaw at room temperature. (Individual pieces can be microwaved, too.)
Cuisine: American
Course: Breakfast
Author: Beth
Calories: 254kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 44mg, Sodium: 217mg, Potassium: 65mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 42g, Vitamin A: 137IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 91mg, Iron: 1mg
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