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 donโ€™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 (255 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)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar (907 grams)
  • 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 350ยฐF. 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.ย 
  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.ย 
  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

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

  1. Maybe a silly question, but do you think it would be possible to make this recipe (and also buttercream to decorate!) with just a hand mixer?

    1. Not a silly question at all Catherine! You can make both recipes with the hand mixer ๐Ÿ™‚ The buttercream will take a little longer to make, but it will turn out just as well as if you’d made it with a stand mixer!

  2. Thank you thank you thank you!!! Iโ€™ve tried to make 2/3 of your original recipe… but oh my gosh itโ€™s so hard to do that! Math and I are not friends. This cake is the BEST vanilla cake ever!

    1. Haha I know!!! Calculating and testing it was not fun ๐Ÿ˜› but it really is the right amount of batter!!! So happy it sounds like you’ll enjoy this recipe Kim ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This is my go to vanilla recipe. Is it possible that I can replace the vanilla with lemon to make it a lemon cake?

    1. so happy to hear that! And yes you can! I like to add in the zest of 1 large lemon, and 2 tsp of lemon extract!

  4. Just a quick question! Your recipe forward says the recipe is for 3 6 inch layers, but in the instructions it says grease 4 pans? Is it for 4 layers, or 3?
    Thanks so much!! Your recipes are always amazing:)

    1. haha that’s just brain fritzing out while blogging late at night!! Just updated it to say three layers. You can make 4 layers, but they will be thinner! Making three layers makes them the same thickness as my normal vanilla cake recipe, which I think is ideal ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hey Chelsea! I was wondering if you could clarify, the recipe says this cake batter will do three, six inch layers, but I see the options for three eight inch as well? I just wanted to make sure that was an option for this recipe. I have three, eight inch pans available! Thank you so much for all you do and share!

    1. Yup! I cut it into four sections, then cut four sliced from each. They will be thin slices, but the buttercream is pretty rich, so it should be a satisfying slice! However, if you like to cut larger slices, it may feed less <3

  6. Iโ€™m so happy to have this smaller recipe! Any chance you will do the same for your chocolate cake?

  7. hi Chelsea! i have followed you on IG for a while and as i’m making a cake today i came here searching for recipe. your decoration is always amazing but what really appeals to me is your layers!! they always look so uniform, flat, and not crumb-y!! i wondered if you ever work with yellow cakes using whole eggs? if not, why do you personally prefer a white cake? i hate wasting yolks but i guess i could save them for a nice fruit curd. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. great question!! I like baking with egg whites, because it makes lighter cake batter, which is easier to color! It also helps the flavor of the buttermilk shine through. I use egg whites from a carton, so I don’t have to worry about the yolks ๐Ÿ˜› However, this cake can be made with 3 whole eggs instead of egg whites, and still tastes great!

      I’ve been playing around with a yellow cake recipe for a while, but I still haven’t perfected it! I’ll be sure to share it once I do ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Hi Chelsea, your cakes are amazing! I sometimes donโ€™t have enough pans to make all the layers I need in one shot. How do I store the batter while the first layers are baking? Thank you

  9. Hi Chelsea
    I am also a self taugh baker starting out and have my 1st stacked cake. The bottom tier is chocolate but my chocolate recipe is a little moist and Iโ€™m scared it might collapse. Do you maybe have a recipe to share for chocolate cake to stack ?

  10. I wanted to make an 8inch cake with a 6inch tier for a friends birthday, would you recommend this recipe for that?

  11. Hello, Iโ€™ve been on the lookout for a go-to recipe and am so glad to have found this! Just a note though, I tried this recipe a couple of times using the metric measurement (I live in London) and the result came out off (batter was too little, tastes too sweet). But when I switched to measuring everything by cups it all works out. Perhaps you want to look at the cup to metric conversion, in case someone outside of north america decides to try this?

    1. So happy to hear this is now your go-to recipe, Erika!!

      That’s so strange, I usually bake by metric measurement! I reviewed the metric amount vs the original recipe (since this is exactly 2/3 of the original), and I did have about 20 grams of extra egg whites. I’ve updated that, but I don’t think that would change the sweetness or volume of the cake much! I’m not sure what else I could look into / change about the metric amounts :/ So sorry!

  12. Hi! I am gluten free, and I substituted the flour for King Arthur Gluten-Free flour. I used an exact cup-for-cup substitution, and it worked perfectly! This is the best cake I have ever had! My husband is coming back for seconds, and he doesnโ€™t like cake! Thank you for sharing your recipes!!!

    1. I am so happy to hear that Lauren! And that’s great to know ๐Ÿ™‚ I get asked all the time about gluten-free recipes, so this is fantastic ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. you definitely can for the filling, but I’m not sure how well whipped ganache would smooth on the sides of the cake! regular ganache might actually be easier to work with on the sides to get that semi-naked look!

      Hope that helps, happy baking Sharony!

  13. Hello there! Random question – but what state are you baking these in? I live in Colorado so I am always looking for a good high-altitude recipe! I live in Colorado Springs, which is at a little over 6,000 above sea level! Just wondering! Thanks!

    1. Hi Hannah! I’m in NYC. I’ve heard my cake recipes turn out ok at elevation, but I’m not sure how high up the people were who said that ๐Ÿ˜›

  14. Hey Chelsea! What would you suggest I do to make this recipe into an almond cake? I want this same denseness and texture, but almond instead of plain vanilla. Should I just add almond extract and leave everything else the same, or should I sub almond for vanilla?

    1. Hi Katie! I’d recommend adding about 2 tsp of almond extract in addition to the other ingredients ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Hi!! I am going to use three 8โ€ pans for my Fourth of July cake using this recipe! I was wondering if the recipe you gave makes just one cake and not more! Please let me know thanks!!

  16. I am so inspired to make this! I am a beginning and just getting started learning to bake multi-layer cakes. I was wondering why you chose all-purpose flour for this recipe as opposed to cake flour? What would happen if I substituted the all-purpose flour for cake flour here? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      The cake texture is just better with AP! if you want to use cake flour instead, you can substitute 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.

      Most of my cake recipes use AP, I prefer baking with it in general ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Hi Chelsea,
    I made your vanilla cake a couple days ago and it was delicious! Do you think cake flour can be substituted instead of ap flour? I have a couple boxes of cake flour that I need to use up.

    1. It will change the texture a bit, but you can sub cake flour for AP in this recipe! Just be sure to use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour. Hope that helps Cat! <3

  18. Hi there, I’m encouraged by all the positive reviews of your vanilla cake and am going to try it for an upcoming order. I’ve haven’t liked any vanilla cake recipe yet so I’m excited to try this! What I would like to know is how many cups of batter does the Best Vanilla Cake recipe make? And when you say it makes 3, 8″ cake layers are they 1″ layers or 2″? I’m looking to make an 8×8 square.
    Thanks!

    1. Hopefully you like this one!! The layers end up being about 1 inch tall, they don’t rise much and bake pretty flat (one of my favorite things about this recipe). But just to clarify, this recipe is my small batch version, which makes 3, 6-inch cake layers! In the post where I mention 3, 8-inch cake layers, I’m referring to my normal layer cake recipe, which can be found here: https://chelsweets.com/2016/09/05/best-vanilla-layer-cake-recipe/

  19. Hi! Do you prefer to use canola or vegetable oil for your cakes? I think I saw in one of your other posts that you used canola oil.

    1. Hi Marlene!

      I usually use canola oil, but vegetable oil works just as well in this recipe! Or any flavorless oil, for that matter! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Since your cakes bake fairly flat, I was wondering how deep your pans are. Do you use a 2 inch or 3 inch depth?
    Thanks for all the wonderful information and links. I am a cottage baker delving into the realm of cake!

    1. My pans are 2 inches deep! I like that height because it makes them easier to store.

      And of course, thanks for visiting my blog and putting my recipes to good use Brigid ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Vianney! You can also butter and flour the cake pans, to help the cake layers pop out more easily!! If you just use spray, you might be ok, but there is a chance you’ll have trouble getting the cake layers out of the pans!

  21. I made the cake and frosting as a trial run for my nieceโ€™s wedding cake!! It was delicious!! Moist, flavorful, and required very little trimming.

    Quick question regarding the frosting. Can half the butter amount be substituted for shortening to give it more of a pure white look? The original recipe was more of a beige color.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that BettySue! You definitely can! It will make it taste slightly different though! You can also try using a paler butter (I love the whole foods generic brand) or you can add a TINY bit of purple gel food coloring to offset the yellow! It sounds strange, but purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel. Hope that helps!!

  22. Can I double this recipe for 3 9 inch layers? The other full recipe seems a bit short. Iโ€™m bad at math so I figure just doubling this recipe might be the right amount.

    1. Hi Lisa! If you don’t want to use the oil, I’d recommend simply omitting it from the recipe. I like adding it because I think it lightens up the texture a tiny bit, but it still turns out fine without it!

  23. I purchased some Land O Lake European style butter today and I was wondering would it be okay to use it? I definitely donโ€™t want to alter the end result because it looks like it will taste amazing!!!

    1. Yup, that should be fine to use!! I’m sure it will make the cake taste great ๐Ÿ™‚ You may need to add a tiny bit of extra cream to the frosting though. I’ve found high quality butters are sometimes a bit stiffer than the regular store brand <3

  24. Hi Chelsey, I would like to fold oreo cookie into this batter, would I need to make any changes to the recipe? Thanks!

    1. That sounds like an awesome idea Stacy! You can totally fold chopped Oreos into this cake batter! No changes need to be made ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Hey,
    This looks like a great recipe but I have a question regarding the buttermilk?
    Iโ€™m in the uk and generally prefer the American idea of putting buttermilk in cake and has become my go to for baking but my little girl is allergic to dairy and soya and Iโ€™ve been looking for a smaller batch cake for her 1st birthday next week, can the butter milk be substituted in any way?
    Iโ€™m hoping so as this looks like the perfect recipe otherwise!
    Thank you so much

    1. Usually I recommend substituting with whole milk or almond milk :/ Maybe you could try coconut milk?? That’s the only thing I Can thing of at the moment!!

    1. Hi Mary Ann! You definitely can make this recipe in 2 6-inch pans. The layers will be a bit thicker, but it should bake up just fine! They may need to bake slightly longer though!!

  26. Tried this recipe today and it was really good. The taste reminds me of a sugar cookie. Defiantly will make again and try your other recipes,,,

  27. My son and I also have issues with the lactose in milk. We are able to drink the lactaid brand of milk (we drink the whole milk) I just used a cup of the lactaid milk and put a little bit of lemon juice in it to make it โ€œsourโ€ like buttermilk and it turned out the same. Very delicious

  28. Hi Chelsea,
    Iโ€™m making this recipe for a gender reveal cake for my friend in a few days – I was so excited to see you had a recipe for 3 6 inch cake layers!
    I want to get the same amount of batter in each pan so each layer is exactly the same height, and I see you recommend using a digital scale to measure 400 grams worth into each pan. The problem is, I donโ€™t have a digital scale yet, and I only have 1 6 inch cake pan. Could you tell me approximately how many cups of batter iโ€™d need per pan (rather than grams)? I know itโ€™s not as accurate a measurement, but itโ€™s what iโ€™ve got for now. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Alana! I’m so sorry for the delay on this. I finally photographed this cake recipe, believe it or not! I promise it’s coming!!! <3

  29. 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.

Let me know what you think!