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Small Batch Chocolate Cake Recipe

I’ve taken my moist chocolate layer cake and modified it to create the perfect small batch chocolate cake recipe. This recipe makes three, 6-inch cake layers that are the perfect height.

image of small 6 inch chocolate cake recipe

I initially modified my vanilla layer cake recipe to make a small batch vanilla cake recipe. You all were quite enthusiastic about it, and several of you asked me to do the same with my chocolate cake recipe.

So here we are, ready to make the perfect 6-inch chocolate cake.

image of moist, 6-inch dark chocolate cake layers that are cooling on a wire rack

What Does Small Batch Mean?

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

At first 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 this.

image of dark chocolate batter being poured into 3 8-inch pans
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In the end, it turned out that making 2/3 of a batch is the ideal amount of batter to make a 6-inch cake.

How Many Layers Does This Recipe Make?

Like I mentioned above, this small batch chocolate cake recipe bakes three, perfect little 6 inch 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 chocolate cake recipe so great though. With that in mind, you should end up with cake layers that are just a bit taller than 1 inch once they’re leveled.

image of sliced, 6 inch chocolate cake recipe

If you want to make a taller cake with four cake layers, I recommend following my standard sized chocolate cake recipe.

If this small batch recipe is used to make 4 cake layers, they will end up being a bit thinner, and should be baked for slightly less time (24-27 minutes).

How Many People Does This 6-Inch Layer Cake Feed?

My chocolate recipe is great but it makes a pretty big cake and can feed about 24 people.

This is great if you’re making a cake for a party or a large group of people. But sometimes you don’t need to make that big of a cake. This cake feeds about 16 people.

image of a small batch blackberry chocolate cake

Dressing Up This Small Batch Chocolate Cake Recipe

At its core, this is a classic chocolate cake recipe. It’s made with moist, rich chocolate cake layers and frosted with a decadent chocolate buttercream.

As I photographed this small batch chocolate cake recipe, I had a little fun decorating it!

I started by adding a chocolate drip. Blackberries and figs were in season, so I threw some of those onto the cake too!

I also added a bit of my blackberry freezer jam between the cake layers, to tie the garnish and the flavor of the cake together.

image of sliced blackberry chocolate cake

It might sound like an odd flavor combination, but I swear blackberries and chocolate are delicious together!

You can also keep things a bit more simple, and just focus on chocolate if you prefer. There is nothing wrong with a classic chocolate cake!!

Tips for Making The Best Small Batch Chocolate Cake

  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake to make it easier to stack and frost.
  • 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. This makes it easier to assemble and frost your cake.
  • do not recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, try my moist chocolate cupcake recipe. It makes the perfect amount of batter for a dozen cupcakes.
  • Use my regular chocolate cake recipe to make a 7- or 8-inch layer cake.
image of a moist chocolate cake layer that's been leveled with a serrated knife to make the cake easier to stack

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, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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.

Let Me Know What You Think!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this small batch chocolate cake recipe! Do you like making smaller cakes like this? Let me know by sharing a rating and comment below.

And don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets so that I can see your delicious creations!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 16

Small Batch Chocolate Cake Recipe

image of a small batch blackberry chocolate cake

This small batch chocolate cake recipe makes just enough batter for a perfect, 6-inch layer cake! It's moist, delicious, and frosted with decadent chocolate buttercream.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

6-Inch Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (167g)
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (266g)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (50g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (6g)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (6g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 2/3 cup warm water (160g)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or instant coffee (3g)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (160g)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (75g)
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg white, room temperature (85g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups (or 3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (339g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted (67g)
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (454 grams or a 1 lb. bag)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (76g)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled (170g)

Optional Filling and Decorations:

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Instructions

Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 175 C. Line and grease three, six-inch cake pans.
  2. Combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/2 cup baking cocoa, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp of salt in a large bowl. Whisk together until combined.
  3. In a separate, large bowl, add 2/3 cup of hot water and 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Add in 2/3 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup oil, 1 egg + 1 egg white, and 1 tsp vanilla extract into the instant espresso mixture. Give the mixture a quick stir to combine the ingredients.
  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix by hand until fully incorporated. The batter will be on the thin side, but that’s the consistency you're after!
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for about 23-26 minutes. I like to use a kitchen scale to weigh the pans. It ensures each pan has the exact same amount of batter and helps the cake layers bake up to be the same height.
  7. Remove the cake layers from the oven and let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them, then flip them onto wire racks to finish cooling.
  8. Once cooled, use a serrated knife to level the top of each cake layer. If you make these in advance, wrap and freeze them at this point.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 1 1/2 cups of butter and 1/2 tsp of fine salt on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth. 
  3. Add in 2/3 cup of sifted cocoa powder and mix on low until the cocoa is fully incorporated and no clumps remain.
  4. Slowly mix in 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar on a low speed. Halfway through, pour in 1/3 cup of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. Then mix in 1 cup of melted and cooled chocolate.
  6. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully combined and the desired consistency is reached.
  7. If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  8. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth. This frosting will crust if it sits out, so cover it with plastic wrap until you're ready to use it.

Assembling This 6-Inch Chocolate 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 chocolate buttercream on top of the cake layer. Repeat with the second cake layer, then place the third cake layer upside down to make it easier to frost.
  3. Spread 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 (10 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

Recipe Variations

This recipe can also be used to make a sheet cake! One batch will make one, 9 x 13-inch cake that's about 1-inch tall.

Tips for Making the Best Small Batch Chocolate Cake

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level). Or better yet, use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Use a scale to weigh your cake pans as you fill them. It will make your cake layers bake to the same height and bake more evenly.
  • Level your room temperature or thawed cake layers with a serrated knife to make them easier to stack.
  • 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 them!
  • do not recommend using this recipe to make cupcakes! Instead, try my moist chocolate cupcake recipe. It makes the perfect amount of batter for a dozen cupcakes.
  • Use my regular chocolate cake recipe to make a 7- or 8-inch layer cake.

Making This 6-Inch Chocolate Layer Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

I highly recommend making the cake layers in advance and freezing them. It breaks the process up and makes it more approachable. It also makes decorating the cake more fun!

You can also make the frosting ahead of time 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 it in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 451Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 31mgSodium 346mgCarbohydrates 77gFiber 4gSugar 60gProtein 4g

Kathee

Saturday 18th of May 2024

Made this cake and it was incredible! Moist, rich and delicious,. Thank you for sharing such deliciousness.

Chelsweets

Sunday 19th of May 2024

I am so happy to hear that Kathee!! Thank you for sharing :)

Jay

Monday 6th of May 2024

Hi, if using brewed coffee, do you still add water? Thanks

Chelsweets

Monday 13th of May 2024

Hi Jay,

Great question! You can swap 2/3 cup of brewed coffee in place of the water and instant espresso in this recipe. Hope that helps, happy baking!

Bre

Monday 15th of January 2024

Quick question! If I wanted to make an additional layer how much would I need to add to the recipe so the layers wouldn’t have to be thinner?

Chelsweets

Saturday 20th of January 2024

Hi Bre,

I would recommend making 1 1/3 batches of this recipe if you want to make 4, 6-inch cake layers! However, it might just be easier to make a regular-sized batch of this recipe (the calculation is basically the same!), which can be found here: https://chelsweets.com/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe/

Hope that helps, happy baking!

Diana

Wednesday 29th of November 2023

Honestly? This is probably one of the best chocolate cake and frosting recipes I've ever made. I gave half to my neighbors, who raved about it. My husband, who isn't a big chocolate guy, ate a quarter of it. It is outstanding. Definitely a keeper. Thanks!

Chelsweets

Tuesday 5th of December 2023

Your comment put the biggest smile on my face Diana!!!! Thank you so much for sharing :)

Rachael

Friday 4th of August 2023

Hi! I was looking at this recipe AND your full chocolate layer cake recipe and I noticed this recipe omits butter from the cake but the full recipe has it. Wondering the difference why this one cuts out the butter? (I saw your comment as to why the espresso powder was missing, so I won't ask about that one). Thanks for your help!

Rachael

Friday 4th of August 2023

Looking at it more closely, I see this recipe adds oil. Sorry - missed that the first time I was comparing them.

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