Small Batch Vanilla Cake Recipe: 6 Inch Cake

I’ve share my very favorite vanilla cake recipe, which has received rave reviews. It’s an amazing recipe, but makes a pretty big cake. What if you wanted to make a 6 inch cake??

One batch of batter makes a layer cake large enough to feed about 30 people. You can use it to make three, 8 inch cake layers. It can also be used to make four, 7 inch cake layers.

Stacked vanilla cake layers - this recipe is to die for, and can be made in one bowl!!

This is all great and dandy if you’re making a cake for a party, or a big group of people. But sometimes you don’t need to make that big of a cake. You might just want to make a cute little six-inch layer cake.

Maybe you simply don’t need to feed that many people. Or maybe you want to make a smaller cake to create a certain look.

More often, people don’t have bigger pans. A lot of people start off with 6 inch cake pans, which may be the only size they have on hand. If that’s you, then today is your lucky day.

How Many Cake Layers Does This Recipe Make?

This small batch of my vanilla layer cake recipe bakes three, perfect little 6 inch cake layers. It may seem like you’re filling your pans pretty full, but this batter doesn’t rise much as it bakes.

That’s part of what makes my vanilla cake recipe so great though. It bakes flat, so leveling your cake layers is optional. With that in mind, you should end up with cake layers that are just a bit taller than 1 inch.

small batch vanilla cake recipe

What Does Small Batch Mean?

In this case, it just means I’ve updated the amount of ingredients you use to make this batter, to make a smaller cake.

Initially I thought I could just cut the recipe in half, and make three cake layers. You can do this, but the cake layers turn out quite a bit thinner than I’m used to.

I wanted each cake layer to be at least an inch tall, so I knew I’d have to play around the with ratios.

In the end, it turned out that making 2/3 of a batch is the ideal amount of batter for 6 inch cake layers.

I used this small vanilla cake recipe to make my hand painted floral cake. I wanted to create this design on a smaller cake, because I needed a smaller surface area.

It takes hours to layer the “paint” (a mixture of gel food coloring and vodka) on a cake like this, and I didn’t want to spend days painting a larger cake. I was so happy with how the cake turned out, and with its size!

beautifully painted blue floral cake, made with 6 inch vanilla cake layers

Let Me Know What You Think!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this cake recipe! Do you like to make smaller cakes like this?

Nothing makes me happier than when I get emails or DMs with photos of your amazing cakes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your triumphs, or questions <3

If you try this small batch vanilla cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets. Also use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations!

Yield: 16 servings

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

This vanilla layer cake recipe makes the perfect six inch layer cake! It makes three, moist cake layers that are perfect for stacking.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

Vanilla Cake

  • 2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (276 grams)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (150 grams) - 1 and 1/3 sticks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • 2/3 cup egg whites (or about 5 egg whites) (155 grams)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (228 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (14 grams)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907 grams) - or a 2 lb bag
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (12 grams)

Instructions

Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6 inch pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
  3. Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
  4. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed.
  5. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. 
  6. If desired, add in gel food coloring. Mix the batter on a low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl part way through. Mix until the batter is evenly colored.
  7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my pans, and ensure they all have the same amount of batter. This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
  8. Bake for 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  9. Place cake layers into the freezer for 30 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers.
  10. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, and then frost as desired.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  3. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  5. If you plan to color the buttercream, add in the gel food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it reaches the desired color

To Assemble The Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer.
  3. Apply a thin coat of frosting around the the cake, to fully cover the cake layers. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (10 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!

Notes

One batch of cake batter makes about 1200 grams, so when I'm making a cake with three layer, I add 400 grams of batter into each pan.

Once the layers have fully cooled, I sometimes like to trim the caramelized bits from the sides of the layers using a serrated knife.

These cake layers can be made in advance!! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made, and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.

Since this frosting will be used to decorate a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on the lowest speed at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process.

You can also stir the frosting in a bowl with a rubber spatula, pushing it from side to side, to get rid of any air bubbles.This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 615 Total Fat 32g Saturated Fat 20g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 11g Cholesterol 84mg Sodium 243mg Carbohydrates 82g Fiber 0g Sugar 80g Protein 2g

107 thoughts on “Small Batch Vanilla Cake Recipe: 6 Inch Cake

  1. What a lovely site and tutorials. You have am amazing voice and fab recipes. Because I am making this cake next week for children, is there any way I can reduce the sugar or will it affect the bake. ? Many thanks . Maggie

    1. Thanks Maggie!! I’m so sorry for the delayed response.

      You can reduce the amount of sugar, but it will make the cake texture a bit more dense! Sometimes I use 2/3 the amount of sugar, and it bakes fine / for the same amount of time. I prefer the way the cake tastes and the texture of the cake when I use the full amount of sugar though <3 Hope that helps, happy baking!

  2. I love your vanilla cake recipe! I would like to use this to make a smash cake. Only doing 4” round and the inch tall, 3 layers. Can I make this in a half sheet pan? and then cut circles out to the 4 inch round, you think? Kind of like you done with your banana cake recipe for your smash cakes.
    Thanks for your help.

  3. Hi Chelsea I love your vanilla cake, it’s the best. My daughter wants a vanilla cake for her 21st but wants a nine inch cake. What would the measurements be for a cake that size? ?

  4. Heyyy.. I loved the texture of the cake and look delicious. Can you please tell me the substitute for eggs??
    And also i have never tried macarons, can you tell me the easiest macaron recepie without eggs.

    1. A good substitute for eggs is 1/4 cup of applesauce for each egg. Sadly macarons really need egg whites to turn out properly, so I don’t have a macaron recipe that doesn’t use eggs. So sorry!!

  5. Hi, I want to make the vanilla 3 layer 6 inch cake for my grand niece’s first birthday, Can I use cake flour instead of all purpose flour? Do you have to make any adjustments in the quantity. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Karen,

      You sure can! for each cup of all purpose flour that this recipe calls for, use 1 cup + 2 Tbsp of cake flour. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  6. Hi ! I need to make a lactose free cake and was wondering if you know how I can do that with this recipe? Thank you very much!

  7. I did this exact same thing today! Used 2 6″ pans on purpose, because I like taller cakes and a bit thicker layers. Each of my layers were almost 1 1/2″ tall each. And they did bake a few minutes longer. I am not a fan of torting, so if I want a tall cake,, or a 3-4 layer cake, I would double this recipe and use all layers or use 3 and freeze 1.

  8. Hi there, I am wanting to make a tiered cake. A 7” 3 layer cake and a 5” 3 layer cake. Would I just make two batches of this recipe or what would be the best way? Thanks!

    1. Hi Ashley! It depends how thick you want your cake layers to be. You probably don’t need 2 full batches, 1 1/2 or 1 2/3 should be enough for a cake that size <3

  9. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! You have saved me. My friend asked me to make a little cake for her daughter’s 7th birthday and she didn’t want anything too large as the cake is just for the family party. I couldn’t find any recipes specific to my 6 inch pans so I was so nervous that I would totally botch the job. AHHHHH!!! That was until I found your website. I can’t wait to make it this weekend. Thank you, Chelsey!!! 🙂

    1. Hi Emily,

      You are too sweet 🙂 So happy you found this recipe, I hope the cake turned out well, and that it was a big hit at the party!

  10. Hi!
    I am a self taught baker and i am going to try making a 2 tier cake for the first time. I would like to know if i am baking this 6 inch 3 layer cake and a 4 layer 8 inch chocolate cake for the bottom (both your recipes) , will it feed 40 ppl? I am planning to frost with swiss meringue buttercream. Do you think its the ideal frosting for tier cakes?
    By the way i tried your small chocolate cake recipe with ganache frosting and it turned out amazing. everyone loved it! Thank you!

    1. Hi Afshan,

      I think that making a tiered cake with 8 inch and 6 inch tiers should def feed 40 people (based on standard party sized cake slices!). The frosting type you use really comes down to taste. I prefer American buttercream, so that’s what I use on all my cakes (including tiered cakes), but others work great too! I’d recommend using the frosting you and your guest like best 🙂

      So happy to hear you loved how my ganache frosting turned out! I hope your cake turns out wonderfully! Happy baking!

  11. Hello,
    Thank you for your reply. Can I bake a 4 layer 6 inch cake with your 8 inch vanilla cake recipe? I will be making your vanilla cake (top tier) and chocolate cake(bottom tier) with the strawberry buttercream and chocolate buttercream filling respectively. I would love to share a picture with you once its finished. !?

  12. On another one of your blogs, in answer to a comment, you mentioned that the recipe for 3 – 6″ layers needs to bake for 25-30 minutes, but on this post you say its 32-35 minutes. In either case, is the temperature going to stay at 350 degrees?

    1. Hi Bonnie,

      I think the 25-30 minutes you’re referring to was about baking a half batch of my original vanilla cake batter, which makes thinner cake layers than this small batch recipe. This small batch cake recipe is 2/3 of a batch of my vanilla recipe, so it makes thicker cake layers that need to be baked a bit longer. Both of those are with a temp of 350 degrees F. I hope that helps, happy baking!

  13. I made this for my friend’s birthday and it turned out beautifully. I even added 1/2 tsp. of cardamom to the cake batter and they loved it ! Thanks for the recipe !

Let me know what you think!