Recipe Review

I Tried Big Mama’s Secret Cinnamon Roll Cake and It Took Me Straight Back to My Childhood

published Oct 20, 2022
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Credit: Valen Sparks

My love of cooking began at home. I’d curiously watch my family add a pinch of this and a dash of that to steaming pots, my hunger growing as delicious aromas filled the kitchen. Most recipes were openly shared amongst family and friends, but I was always most interested in the secret ones passed down over the years, kept close to the chest by certain family members.

To be entrusted with this secret, ancestral wisdom felt miraculous. It meant that you’d been given the privilege of keeping a part of our family’s history alive for years to come. For this reason, I’ve come to love the Old_Recipes subreddit. It’s full of the exact sort of secret, old family gems that make my heart sing. For instance, this sweet, crumbly, and once-secret Cinnamon Roll Cake is an old-school recipe passed down from reddit user HumawormDoc’s Big Mama. Is there anything better than a recipe from Big Mama?

When I saw this decadent mash-up of cinnamon rolls and poke cake making the rounds in the subreddit, it instantly called my name. I wondered if this recipe would be able to satisfy my sweet tooth while managing to deliver a bit of childhood nostalgia. Here’s how it went!

How to Make Big Mama’s Secret Cinnamon Roll Cake

You begin by heating your oven to 350°F and greasing and flouring a 9×13-inch casserole dish. The cake batter recipe is very simple and straightforward. Cream the shortening and sugar, beat the eggs into the mixture, then add the self-rising flour, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat everything together for 1 to 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are incorporated and your cake batter is smooth. Prepare the cake filling by mixing the brown sugar and cinnamon together.

Spread half of your cake batter into the casserole dish, then evenly sprinkle the all of the filling on top of the batter. Spread the remaining batter over your filling and use a butter knife to swirl the batter and the filling together. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden-brown, but be sure to keep an eye on it to avoid burning the cinnamon around the edges.

To make the icing, heat butter, milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a small saucepan, whisking until smooth. Once your cake has cooled, use a fork to poke holes all over it before evenly pouring the icing over the cake.

Credit: Valen Sparks

My Honest Review of Big Mama’s Secret Cinnamon Roll Cake

Mission accomplished! This cake will satisfy your sweet tooth and transport you back to childhood. What I loved most was that I found this recipe to be really approachable, as it mostly leverages pantry staples that I always have on hand. It’s also so easy to whip up if you’re short on time or just craving something sweet in a pinch. This recipe is perfect for beginning bakers and it can be easily modified to include nuts, fruits, or chocolate.

Overall, this cake was a winner. I was incredibly satisfied with how moist and crumbly the cake was upon slicing it, and the cinnamon made my kitchen smell fantastic. The one issue I had with this recipe was the use of shortening. Although delicious, it gave the cake a slightly processed flavor — something that could have been avoided by using butter instead.

That being said, this cake reminded me of the coffee cake my Grandpa would bring whenever he’d visit our house. It feels nostalgic and comforting and I’d absolutely make this cake again — next time with a few modifications!

4 Tips for Big Mama’s Secret Cinnamon Roll Cake

  1. Use butter. Because this is an older recipe, I opted to use shortening because I wanted the cake to be as close to the original family recipe as possible. Using shortening does make the cake moist and tender, but I think butter would make the cake taste better and more enjoyable for friends and family.
  2. Feel free to cut down the sugar. This recipe calls for a lot of sugar and I found the cake to be a little sweet for my liking. Next time, I will significantly reduce the amount of sugar in both the batter and filling to balance the sweetness of the icing.
  3. Add some acid. The author of this recipe suggests using buttermilk (something I wish I’d tried). I think the tanginess of buttermilk would help cut through some of sweetness of the cake. I’d also consider adding lemon juice to the batter too.
  4. Make it yours. This recipe is so adaptable, and you can easily integrate various spice blends and fruits, making it a staple for any season. I would love try apple, citrus, or even chai versions of this cake in the future.