6-Inch Vanilla Cake
This 6-inch vanilla cake recipe is perfect for small gatherings, as a smash cake, or when you just don’t want a full-size layer cake in your kitchen. Mini cakes are super cute and incredibly easy to prepare!
Miniature foods taste better than their normal-sized counterparts, it’s a fact.
Case in point: this 6-inch vanilla cake. I have a classic vanilla cake recipe on my site that wows friends and family every time I make it, but there’s something about this mini version that makes my heart go pitter-patter in a way that regular layer cakes don’t.
This mini vanilla cake recipe would be perfect for small dinner parties or family gatherings, and it makes for a wonderful smash cake for first birthday parties too!
This 6-inch cake may be mini in size, but it still packs in maximum vanilla flavor. Here are the key ingredients you’ll need to make this small vanilla cake:
- Cake flour: Contains less protein than all-purpose flour, which results in a lighter and fluffier cake. If you don’t keep cake flour on hand, you can make your own substitute using regular flour and cornstarch.
- Buttermilk: Makes for a moist and tender cake. You can also make a buttermilk substitute using just milk and vinegar or lemon juice, if needed.
- Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. I wasn’t shy with the vanilla extract, so I highly recommend buying a good quality brand.
- Butter: I always use unsalted butter when baking because the amount of salt in salted butters varies widely between brands. Bring your butter to room temperature before starting the recipe.
- Eggs: Your eggs should also be brought to room temperature before mixing them into the batter. If you forget to get your eggs out of the fridge, place them in a bowl of warm tap water for about 10 minutes.
How to Make a 6-Inch Cake
This recipe is similar to my vanilla cake recipe, but it’s been scaled down to fit three 6-inch cake pans. The process of making a mini cake is the same as making a regular layer cake — the layers are just smaller in diameter!
First, you’ll need to prepare the vanilla cake layers:
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Combine the wet ingredients: Whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. I prefer doing this in a measuring cup, but you may use a bowl as well.
- Cream together the butter and sugar: You’ll first want to mix the butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Then, add the sugar and continue mixing until the mixture is light and fluffy. This step can take a few minutes, so be patient!
- Add the eggs to the butter mixture: I recommend adding the eggs one at a time to ensure they’re fully incorporated. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each one.
- Finish the cake batter: Mix in the half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk mixture, followed by the last half of the dry ingredients. Make sure to only mix in each addition until just combined. You want to avoid over mixing the cake batter, because it can lead to a denser cake.
- Bake the cake layers: Divide the cake batter between three 6-inch round cake pans that have been lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. You’ll know the cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let the cake layers cool: Let them cool in the pans for about 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire cooling rack.
While the cake layers cool, prepare the vanilla frosting:
- Beat the butter until smooth: A stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment makes quick work of this.
- Add the powdered sugar: I prefer adding just half of the sugar to begin with. Once it’s been fully mixed into the butter, I add the remaining sugar.
- Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt: Beat the frosting just until everything is combined. If needed, take a moment to stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl.
Once the cake layers have cooled, you can assemble your mini vanilla cake:
- Level the tops of each cake layer: You can use either a knife or a cake leveler to do this.
- Frost the first layer: Place the cake layer onto a cardboard cake round, cake stand, or large plate. Use an offset spatula to spread about 1/2 cup of frosting over the first layer.
- Frost the second cake layer: Place the second layer atop the first, then repeat the frosting process.
- Finish frosting the cake: Place the third layer on top of the second layer upside-down. Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of icing (this is your crumb coat). Chill the cake for about 20 minutes before decorating with the remaining frosting.
Recipe Variations to Try
After some recipe testing, I realized that my cupcake recipes are perfectly scaled down to create three-layer 6-inch cakes. The bake times should be pretty similar to the baking time for this small vanilla cake recipe as well!
If you want to make a different flavored 6-inch cake, here a few recipes you can try:
Note: You can use my layered cake recipes to make a 6-inch cake too, just be sure to halve the ingredients list.
If you prefer a different flavor of frosting, here are a few other delicious options to try:
How Many People Does a 6-Inch Cake Feed?
You’ll get six good-sized slices of cake from this recipe. Depending on your hunger levels, that will feed either six people or will give an even smaller group room for seconds!
Can the Cake Be Made in Advance?
Yes! The cake layers can be baked up to 24 hours before assembling the cake, and the frosting can be made up to three days in advance. Store the frosting in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
- If you don’t have any 6-inch cake pans, you can bake the batter in one 9-inch round or square pan for about 30 minutes.
- Because you’re using smaller cake pans, you’ll be baking the cake layers for less time than an 8- or 9-inch layer cake. Start testing your cake layers at the 22-minute mark to avoid over baking them.
- I decorated my 6-inch vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles, but you can also decorate it with mini chocolate chips, chocolate shavings, whole strawberries, slivered almonds — whatever you prefer!
More Small Batch Desserts:
- Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes for Two
- Chocolate Mug Cake
- Small Batch Brownies
- Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Small Batch Peanut Butter Cookies
6-Inch Vanilla Cake
- 1 ½ cups cake flour spooned & leveled (175 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk at room temperature (120 ml)
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (30 ml)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick; 115 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks; 230 grams)
- 3 cups powdered sugar (360 grams)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or milk (30 to 45 ml)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- To make the vanilla cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper (this will prevent the cake layers from sticking to the pans), and set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or measuring cup, stir the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, then slowly mix in the granulated sugar.
- Once all of the sugar is added, increase to medium speed and continue mixing for another 3 to 4 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl after each egg.
- Mix in half of the dry ingredients on low speed until just combined, then mix in the buttermilk mixture, then the remaining half of the dry ingredients. Make sure to mix in each addition until just combined and be careful not to over mix the batter. If needed, stop and scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure that everything is well combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and spread around evenly.
- Bake for 22 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes. Slide a knife around the outside of the cakes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the vanilla buttercream frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low speed at first, then increase to medium speed and continue mixing until well combined. Add the remaining half of the powdered sugar and mix until fully combined.
- Add the heavy cream (or milk), vanilla extract, and salt and continue mixing on low speed until everything is well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- To assemble the cake: Use a knife or a cake leveler to level the tops of each cake layer.
- Place the first cake layer on a cardboard cake round, large plate, or cake stand.
- Scoop ½ cup of frosting on top and use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it around into an even layer.
- Add the second cake layer upside down on top of the first one and repeat the same process with another ½ cup of frosting.
- Place the third cake layer upside down on top of the second layer. Apply a thin coat of icing to the outside of the cake to catch any crumbs. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes, if desired. Then use the rest of the frosting to decorate the top and sides of the cake.