The cake is infinitely adaptable. In addition to or instead of the two layers of cinnamon sugar, you can use any kind of soft fruit, such as blueberries. Jam would be lovely, too. So would chocolate chips, says Levin, even though his family calls it the Gideon Cake in honor of his brother, who does not eat chocolate. A streusel topping is another natural addition. Depending on your guests’ diets, you can swap coconut oil in for the butter, and nondairy milks or even orange juice for the milk.
A note on pans: We preferred the moister, slightly denser result when I baked this in a metal pan. Subsequent bakes in a Pyrex proved loftier but somewhat drier, so if you go with glass, which is a more effective insulator than metal, try reducing the oven temperature by 25 degrees and checking on doneness a few minutes earlier. Ditto if your metal pan is dark, which absorbs more heat.
Levin’s recipe originally called for baking the cake in a Bundt pan, which makes for a particularly attractive appearance. But I decided to adapt the recipe to the more common and versatile 9-by-13 pan, which is impressive looking in itself with a vast sea of cake covered in a crackly cinnamon sugar crust.
The change in pan required no adjustment to the ingredients, so here’s today’s lesson: Pay attention to pan volume, not area. Consulting this handy chart on JoyofBaking.com, I realized the difference in volume between the Bundt (12 cups) and 9-by-13 (14 cups) was minimal. And the change was in my favor, too, as I was giving the batter more, not less, room. All I had to tweak was the baking time — it ended up being a few minutes less than the Bundt, as the batter was now shallower. As long as you think things through and adjust as needed, you can adapt a lot of cake recipes to fit whatever size pan you have.
Levin likes to serve this cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream and macerated fruit, such as berries mixed with lemon juice and sugar.
Make Ahead: The baked cake can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container for up to three days at room temperature. Freeze for up to several months.
- 2 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at soft room temperature
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup milk (see Overview)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13 baking dish with cooking oil spray and line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired, spraying it as well.
Use a fork to stir together 1/2 cup of the sugar and all the cinnamon in a medium bowl, until well blended.
Combine the butter, the remaining 2 cups of sugar and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium for 4 to 5 minutes. Because there is much more sugar than butter, the mixture will not fluff up very much, but it should be fully incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then add the vanilla extract. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
Add half the flour and half the baking powder; beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Add half the milk and beat (medium speed) until well blended. Repeat with the remaining flour and baking powder, and then add the remaining milk, beating to form a thick, smooth batter.
Spread half of the batter (total batter weight is about 3 pounds if you prefer to be precise) evenly in the pan, smoothing the surface. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar on the surface. Repeat with the remaining batter and cinnamon sugar.
Bake (middle rack) for 35 to 40 minutes, until light brown and firm to the touch; a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool completely (in the pan).
Run a round-edged knife around the sides to loosen the cake before serving.
Adapted from Levin, executive pastry chef of Schlow Restaurant Group.
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The nutritional analysis below is based on 20 servings, using low-fat milk.
Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.
Calories: 220; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 40 mg; Sodium: 70 mg; Carbohydrates: 40 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 26 g; Protein: 3 g.