Lightened Wheat Cinnamon Roll Cake

I recently joined Pinterest and have been searching for delicious breakfast breads and cakes to make for the hubby. I found this cinnamon roll cake on several pins from several baking blogs – they were all the same recipe but duplicated so many times! It must be a great recipe. The first version I found was from Divine Baking, who also links up to another site with the recipe.


This was definitely delicious looking, and the prospect of a cake that tasted like a cinnamon roll minus the work was tempting. However, for breakfast it sounded pretty heavy – 3 sticks of butter and no fiber. I decided to try to health-ify it. I started by replacing 2/3 of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I didn’t want to replace all of it to start because I didn’t know if the extra gluten would help with the gooeyness. Then I reduced the sugar in the cake because it had brown sugar swirled throughout and would be topped with a sugar glaze. Maybe I could have reduced it to 1/2 cup? It was still very sweet. I also replaced 2 sticks of butter with applesauce. I didn’t have dark brown sugar so I used 2 Tbsp of molasses – I figured since I was using whole wheat flour it could use more moisture since that needs more liquid than all-purpose flour.

With that said, I now share my attempt at a lightened version of the infamous cinnamon roll cake.

Lightened Wheat Cinnamon Roll Cake

Original recipe from Divine Baking

Yield:  one 9×13 inch cake


For the Cake

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups 2% milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

For the Topping

  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or you can use light brown sugar and add 2 Tbsp molasses)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

For the Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 – 5 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In an electric or stand mixer mix the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Once combined well, slowly stir in the applesauce.
  4. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the softened butter, sugars, flour, cinnamon, applesauce, and pecans (if using) until well combined. Drop evenly over cake batter by the tablespoon and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out nearly clean from center. You want to make sure it’s done.
  7. Place powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Random tip – if you need softened butter but didn’t think about this beforehand so you have rock hard, cold butter, stick it in a warm bowl of water. It will float so put the seam side-up. It probably needs about 5 minutes or so, depending on how warm the water is. It generally won’t melt, maybe a little on the edges, but it’s a good trick when you don’t prepare. I’ve done this for cookies, cakes, and tons of other baked goods and they always turn out fine. Don’t use hot water though – then you’ll get melted butter…that’s way different!


I didn’t follow directions too well. I used much bigger drops than tablespoons.


My brown sugar mixture probably looks a lot different than the original recipe because I used applesauce which is more liquidy. Theirs is maybe more of a crumble. Then you take a knife and swirl it around for a marbled look. I think I swirled mine too much because it didn’t look like Divine Baking’s.


Then it bakes and looks like this!


I debated adding the vanilla glaze, but there is no such thing as a cinnamon roll without the glaze. I would maybe make only have of the glaze recipe though since you pour it over a warm cake, it really just soaks in anyway…


Yum! Eat it up for a great morning!

This was definitely ooey, gooey, moist, and very cinnamon roll tasting. I did not noticed the absence of butter or the addition of whole wheat. I try to convince myself it’s completely healthy…


10 thoughts on “Lightened Wheat Cinnamon Roll Cake

  1. This is delicious and scrumptious. I am going to attempt it! At this time I don’t have a Pinterest and do want to find time to create one soon 🙂
    The last picture is making me salivate for cinnamon roll cake right now!

    • Great, let me know how it works for you! After having it all week, I will note that the cake should be eaten within 3 days. Otherwise without the butter it starts getting wet from the applesauce. Still keeps the flavor though!

    • Oh great, let me know how it goes. I think it would work as cupcakes. You could do small teaspoon drops of the filling in each one and swirl. Another way to make it look like a cupcake is to bake it as is in the 9×13″ pan and use a round biscuit cutter and cut out rounds. Then individually glaze them. Hope that helps!

  2. Hello lovely! Wow. This recipe looks absolutely gorgeous… I’ve never made cinnamon rolls but I eat them at every single opportunity. Your idea to ‘healthify’ the recipe is brilliant! I’ll definitely try this recipe once the weather cools down (Summer has just ended in Australia and it’s still pretty warm). Thanks for sharing!

    • Hello! I love cinnamon rolls too, this cake has all the same flavors, so I’m sure you’ll like it. Thanks for following my blog! I can’t wait to browse all of your delicious sounding recipes.

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