Cinnamon Cake Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

Something I enjoy doing as an author of historical novels is searching through old recipe books for the time period that I’m writing. I include those dishes in my novels. “Spies of the Civil War” is my series that released in 2022. Cinnamon cake is one of the staples baked by our talented baker hero in Byway to Danger, Book 3. Our heroine works as his assistant. 😊

A basic recipe for cinnamon cake in an 1877 cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping is courtesy of Miss M.E. Wilcox, Selma, Alabama.

Mis Wilcox didn’t provide any measurements for ingredients, which is common for cooks in the 1800s. I’m sharing what I used to make her cinnamon cake. My pre-school granddaughter helped me.

Start with making sponge.

Mix together 4 cups of flour and 2¼ cups of scalded milk that cooled to lukewarm.

Dissolve a packet of yeast in ¼ cup warm water and let it stand for about 5 minutes before adding it to the dough. Knead this into the dough. It will feel soft and elastic.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm place and allow it to rise until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Knead the dough again and then roll it on a floured surface until about ¾ inch thick.

Prepare your baking pan with shortening and flour or use cooking spray. (I used a 13 x 9 pan.) Arrange the dough in the prepared pan, gently pressing it to even the layer.

Miss Wilcox used slices of butter, sprinkles of cinnamon, and then sugar but didn’t provide measurements.

I took a little artistic license on this part and melted 4 tablespoons of butter and spread it over the top of the dough.

My granddaughter mixed 2½ teaspoons of cinnamon with 1 cup of sugar. We sprinkled it over the top. I think we could have used about ¼ cup less, but she got on a bit of a roll with the cinnamon sugar—a sweet one! 😊

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

My family enjoyed the delicious cinnamon flavor. If you like cakes very sweet, then 1 cup of sugar is the right amount. If not, ¾ cup of sugar should be plenty.

The cake itself has the sponginess of a bread, which isn’t surprising since that’s how the dough is made.

Also, it’s easier to eat this cake holding it in your hand.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe.


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.