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Small Batch Vanilla Cake Recipe: 6 Inch Cake

I’ve shared my very favorite vanilla cake recipe, which has received rave reviews. It’s an amazing recipe but makes a pretty big cake and feeds 24 people. What if you wanted to make a 6-inch cake??

Maybe you don’t need to feed a ton of 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.

image of a white drip cake made with white chocolate ganache drips

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.

image of a cute small cake made with 3, 6-inch cake layers

What Does Small Batch Mean?

In this case, “small batch vanilla cake recipe” 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

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Cake Layers

This 6-inch vanilla cake recipe uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have all of them on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made in this cake recipe.

  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter in this recipe. Just be sure to omit the salt that this cake recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and also omit the salt)!
  • Egg whites – I use egg whites out of a carton to avoid wasting any yolks! You can also use 5 egg whites or 3 whole eggs if needed. Or if you have an egg allergy you can use flaxseed eggs or an egg replacer.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or even sunflower oil would work great!
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract. Feel free to use almond, lemon, or even coconut extract.
image of vanilla cake batter that's been poured into 6-inch cake pans and is ready to be baked

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place (and omit the salt)!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract. Feel free to use coconut extracthazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract.
  • Gel food coloring – If you want to color this frosting, I recommend using gel food coloring! It creates vibrant colors without throwing off the consistency of the buttercream.
image of vanilla buttercream frosting in a large bowl

Tips for Making this Small Batch Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it easier to stack and frost.
  • Mix your cake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cake layers are tender and fluffy.
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled, to make it easier to assemble and frost your cake.
  • I do NOT recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, I highly recommend trying my vanilla cupcake recipe (I like the texture better for cupcakes).
  • Use my regular vanilla cake recipe to make a 7-inch or 8-inch layer cake.
image of a 6-inch cake layer that's been leveled and trimmed using a serrated knife

Making These 6-inch Cake Layers in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image a slice of cake being cut from a 6-inch layer cake made using a small batch cake recipe

Let Me Know What You Think!

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

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!

image of a slice of a small, 6-inch vanilla cake that's decorated with white drips

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 16

Small Batch Vanilla Layer Cake Recipe

image of a 6-inch layer cake that's being frosted smoothly with vanilla buttercream frosting

This vanilla layer cake recipe makes the perfect 6-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 (270g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 2/3 cup or about 1 and 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (150g)
  • 2/3 cup egg whites or about 5 egg whites (155ml)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (240ml)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (14ml)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (4ml)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (452g)
  • 7 cups or a 2 lb. bag powdered sugar (907g)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (30ml)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (12ml)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)

Instructions

Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 6 inch pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix together 2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or hand mixer to mix on a low speed until combined.
  3. Mix in 2/3 cup (1 & 1/3 stick) unsalted butter slowly into the dry mix, on a medium-low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
  4. Pour in 2/3 cup or about 5 egg whites and mix on low until just incorporated and the batter looks wet.
  5. Mix in 1 cup of buttermilk on a low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  6. Add in 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix at a medium-low speed until fully incorporated.
  7. If desired, add in gel food coloring and stir by hand with a rubber spatula until the batter is evenly colored.
  8. 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.
  9. Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  10. 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.
  11. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers right before you plan to assemble your cake.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
  3. Slowly mix in 7 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed, 1 cup at a time. Halfway through, add in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream or milk to make it easier to mix.
  4. Scrape the sides and bottom of of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  5. Once the frosting is fully mixed and smooth, add in 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix on the lowest speed for a couple minutes to help make the frosting silky smooth.
  6. If the frosting seems 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). If you're unsure how thick your frosting should be, you can learn what consistency you're looking for in my frosting consistency post.
  7. 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. Spread an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake to fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!

Notes

Tips for Making the Best 6-inch Layer Cake

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don't level and torte your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might've gone awry.
  • Be sure to use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream to make the frosting! You need the high fat content to create the right consistency in this recipe. Milk cannot be used in place of the cream.

Making This Small-Batch Cake in Advance and Storage Tips

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze themIt breaks the process up and makes it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • Make this ganache drip recipe ahead of time or save leftovers! Once it's made, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap or cover the top of the plastic bottle and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
  • To use chilled ganache, heat the bottle or bowl in the microwave for 10 second intervals until it reaches the right consistency. Use leftover ganache to top cupcakes, cookies, or even ice cream!
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 621Total Fat 32gSaturated Fat 20gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 84mgSodium 243mgCarbohydrates 83gFiber 0gSugar 81gProtein 2g

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[…] of my most popular cake recipes. So far I’ve shared my small batch marble cake recipe, my small batch vanilla cake recipe, and my small batch WASC cake recipe. It was only a matter of time until I got around to making a […]

Dina

Friday 20th of May 2022

Hi, if I want it less sugary can I add only 5 cups of suger? If so, is it will be good for fondant cake. Thanks?

Madge

Sunday 24th of April 2022

Hi

How deep are your pans? And how much should we fill the pans up to?

Aubrey

Thursday 21st of April 2022

Have you ever tried making this with gluten free flour? If so what brand did you use? Thanks for this amazing recipe, I have been looking for a good cake recipe that isn't so spongey!

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