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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 and continue to get 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 made for a 1st 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

This small batch cake recipe can also be used to make cupcakes! One batch makes enough batter to make about 8-10 cupcakes.

Bake the cupcake versions of these in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 18-19 minutes.

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 mini vanilla cake being decorated with rainbow sprinkles for a birthday

Ingredient Swaps / Variations

While I love making this mini vanilla cake recipe exactly like the recipe calls for below, I know that some of you might want to make substitutions or not have all these ingredients on hand.

Buttermilk

You can use full fat yogurt or sour cream in place of the buttermilk in this recipe.

Or if you want to make your own buttermilk, you can use whole milk plus a bit of vinegar or lemon juice! Add 1 1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice into a 1/2 cup measure then fill the rest up with whole milk.

Vegetable Oil

If you don’t have vegetable oil on hand, you can use any flavorless oil in its place! Canola or grapeseed oil would work great. You could even use olive oil if that’s all you have on hand.

Butter can also be used in place of the oil, but the texture of the cake will be less fluffy! It will still taste great though.

Unsalted Butter

The reason why most recipes including this one call for unsalted butter is that different brands of butter use different amounts of salt.

There’s no way to know how much salt is added to a recipe unless you use unsalted butter, then add in salt separately.

To ensure your frosting tastes just right, it’s best to use unsalted butter!

However, if you only have salted butter on hand you can use it. The frosting will taste a tiny bit saltier, but it will still taste great. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for.

image of ingredients laid out to make a 4 inch vanillla cake

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: Overmix 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.

Tips for Making the Best Mini Vanilla Cake:

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make 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 (unless you’re making a GF version!)
  • 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

Making This Cake in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and make 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 of chelsweets celebrating with a mini vanilla cake

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try my mini vanilla cake recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment 🙂

Also please 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 (130 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (4 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1 grams)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (56 grams) - 1/2 stick
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil (56 grams)
  • 1 egg (56 grams)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature (115 grams)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • gel food coloring (if desired)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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

Instructions

Mini Vanilla Cake Layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 4-inch or two 6" round pan with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) with a whisk until fully combined.
  3. Pour the melted butter, oil, and egg into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. The batter will be thick.
  4. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, and mix until just combined (the key is to mix until the ingredients are JUST incorporated, so that the batter isn't over mixed). 
  5. 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.
  6. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake for 30-33 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  5. Continue to mix on low speed for a few minutes, until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. If the frosting is 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 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 small plate or cake stand 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 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!

Notes

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make 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
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Susan

Wednesday 7th of April 2021

This was a terrific cake! Perfect texture, very moist. I will definitely make this again.

Many thanks for such a good recipe.

SaucyGossy

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Made this last weekend. The baked cake turned out heavy as heck, like a brick. Are you able to confirm the grams measurements? For example, you give 1/2 tsp of baking soda as 4 gm, but my (Kitchenaid set) level 1/2 tsp was 7 gm. Would not make the cake recipe again, totally disappointing. Decorating a 4-inch cake was waaaay more difficult than I thought, and I gave up on attempting any piping. The cake ended up looking like the leaning tower of Pisa.

Gaby

Friday 2nd of April 2021

Hi, how tall is your mini cake 4”?

Daniel

Tuesday 30th of March 2021

i made these cakes on a whim today and they fell apart the second they came out of the tin. i’ve since made cake pops out of the crumbs, but they didn’t hold together as cakes, which was what i was hoping for.

Kaylie

Tuesday 30th of March 2021

I would like to make a larger version of this cake to feed adults. Can you convert the measurements to make a larger cake?