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Mini Vanilla Cake Recipe

I love making cakes, but it’s a lot harder to share them with my friends and family right now. To avoid waste while still getting my baking fix, I decided to work on a mini vanilla cake recipe.

This recipe is based on my vanilla layer cake recipe, but has a few modifications that allow you to make it by hand!

image of mini vanilla cake being decorated with rainbow sprinkles for a birthday

I wanted this recipe to be easy peasy, so that you have no excuse not to get busy in the kitchen if you’re bored!

How Much Batter Does this Recipe Make?

One batch of this mini cake recipe makes enough batter to make 3, 4-inch cake layers, or 2 6-inch cake layers.

I like to make cute little 4-inch cake layers, but I know that’s an odd pan size that not everyone has on hand.

image of 4 inch cake layers being stacked to make a mini smash layer cake

Decorating This Mini Vanilla Cake

I challenged myself to decorate this mini vanilla cake without a spinning cake stand! I wanted to see what styles and decorations are doable if you don’t have tons of baking tools on hand.

The easiest style was a textured look with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon.

image of small cake with textured frosting sides to create a rustic look

Or if you’re after a more classic look, you can smooth with a bench scraper and add some buttercream swirls.

I also topped my cake with some nonpareil sprinkles. I figured a mini cake should have some mini sprinkles. They give this cake a nice pop of color that makes it perfect to celebrate any occasion.

image of an adorable mini birthday cake decorated with sprinkles and buttercream frosting

Substitutions and Swaps – Mini Cake Layers

This mini birthday cake uses quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all 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)!
  • 1 Large Egg– If you have an egg allergy you can use a flaxseed egg 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!
image of flour being leveled in a measuring cup

Substitutions and Swaps – Vanilla Buttercream

  • 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.

Making This Mini Cake Gluten Free

You can swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend cup for cup in this recipe!

I personally prefer King Arthur’s gluten free flour blend, and find that 1 cup of GF flour weighs about 120 grams.

In addition to swapping the flour, there are two additional steps you need to take when making this mini cake gluten free.

Gluten Free Baking Tip #1: Over-mix Your Batter

The first step is to vigorously whisk your batter for a few minutes once it’s made. This helps give your cake layers structure.

I know this goes against everything you’ve ever heard about baking, but over mixing your batter is key when making anything gluten free.

It helps the cake layers rise better as they bake, and gives the cake a more tender crumb.

Gluten Free Baking Tip #2: Let Your Batter Rest

The second step I recommend is letting your batter rest for about 30 minutes before baking your cake layers.

Gluten free flour blends can have a hard time absorbing moisture and fats. Letting the batter sit before baking it gives the flour more time to absorb all that goodness.

This helps thicken the batter, and prevents your cake layers from having a gritty texture.

image of mini vanilla cake made for a 1st birthday

Tips for Making the Best Mini Vanilla Cake:

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes it so much easier to stack and frost.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, please check out my cake troubleshooting guide.
  • Use a serrated knife to level your cake layers once they’re fully cooled. It makes this mini cake so much easier to assemble and frost.
  • I do NOT recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, I highly recommend trying my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. I like the texture better for cupcakes!
image of a slice of a 4-inch mini cake layer on a plate

Making These 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. They can be frozen for up to 3 months, and as long as they’re wrapped right I promise they’ll taste just like they did the day you baked them.

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 of chelsweets celebrating with a mini vanilla cake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this mini vanilla layer cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you think of it! Please leave a rating and comment below.

Tag me @chelsweets and use the #chelsweets on social media so that I can see your amazing creations!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 8

Mini Vanilla Cake Recipe

image of mini vanilla cake being decorated with rainbow sprinkles for a birthday

This mini vanilla cake recipe is made in one bowl & is incredibly moist! One batch makes three, 4 inch cake layers that are perfect for a small celebration.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 8 minutes

Ingredients

Mini Vanilla Cake Recipe

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (125g)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (4g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (1g)
  • 1/4 cup or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted (56g)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil (56g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature (120g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (169g)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (1g)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (375g)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp heavy cream or whipping cream (20g)

Instructions

Mini Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Line three 4-inch or two 6-inch round pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. This recipe can be made by hand with a whisk or with a hand mixer. I prefer making it with a whisk.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup oil, and 1 egg into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. The batter will be thick.
  5. Then mix in 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla extract until combined. Whisk the batter together for any additional 30 seconds to make sure everything is properly combined. This will also help lighten up the texture of the cake layers.
  6. If desired, add in gel food coloring. Mix the color in by hand using a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl part way through.
  7. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  8. 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 an offset spatula around the perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  9. Place cake layers into the freezer for 20 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  10. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, then set aside. If you're making these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 3/4 cup butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with either a hand mixer or a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment.
  3. Mix in 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and 1/4 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Gradually mix in 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp of heavy cream.
  5. Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. If the frosting seems too thick, add in additional cream (1 tsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  7. If you want to color the buttercream, add in the gel food coloring once the frosting is fully made, and beat on low until it's evenly colored.

Assemble This Mini Vanilla Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a small plate or cake stand using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer in place.
  2. Add an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer with a large offset spatula.
  3. Add a thin coat of frosting around the cake, fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 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! I used a Wilton 1M frosting tip to pipe some fun swirls on top of the cake and added some nonpareil sprinkles.

Notes

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.

Nutrition Information

Yield

8

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 575Total Fat 27gSaturated Fat 15gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 89mgSodium 264mgCarbohydrates 81gFiber 1gSugar 68gProtein 4g

zarnab

Friday 10th of February 2023

how much batter should be in each pan? in grams?

Chelsweets

Sunday 12th of February 2023

Hi Zarnab,

One batch of batter is about 600g. It depends on the size of cake layers you're making, but if you make 2 cake layers add 300g, or if you make 3 cake layers add 200g per pan. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Tina

Wednesday 8th of February 2023

Hi! Might you have a suggestion of how to adjust the recipe to make it a strawberry cake?! Thanks! ?

Chelsweets

Monday 13th of February 2023

Hi Tina,

Great question! I'd suggest swapping out 1/4 cup of granulated sugar for 1/4 cup of freeze dried strawberry powder in the cake batter. To make strawberry buttercream, you can make a half batch of my strawberry buttercream recipe: https://chelsweets.com/strawberry-buttercream/

Hope that helps, happy baking!

6 Cake Topper Ideas To Make The Perfect Small Wedding Cake – Little Upside Down Cake

Tuesday 17th of January 2023

[…] it comes to your wedding day dessert, you have a plethora of options. A cake can be a mini cake for an intimate gathering or a multitiered cake for a large event, depending on how big your […]

Tina

Sunday 1st of January 2023

Hi there! I am looking to get cake boxes for these mini cakes. About how tall is the 3 layer 4” cake version?

Chelsweets

Sunday 8th of January 2023

Hi Tina,

Great question! It can vary a bit based on how much frosting you use between the layers and if you level the layers, but mine were about 4-inches tall. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Kim

Sunday 18th of December 2022

I've tried this recipe twice and both times it failed miserably... The first time it went bad, it wasn't cooked through enough I guess because the middle had sunken in and it was still sticky and dense. I looked at all the comments to see what I might've done wrong so I used all the tips that were mentioned and tried it again. Same result tho... I am very disappointed because this wasted so much of my time and money.. ps: both times I also used the toothpick method to see if it's done and both times the toothpick came out clean even at the sticky dense middle. So I'm not sure what's going on here but it's not working out. Also, both times, all my ingredients were at room temp and freshly bought and I certainly didn't overmix the batter.

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