6 Inch Cake Recipes

Learn how to make a deliciously soft and buttery 6 inch vanilla cake, plus a dozen other cake flavors for your smaller 6 inch cake pans. These are perfect for smaller gatherings and much easier to decorate, too!

6 inch vanilla cake with sprinkles on a teal cake stand

More and more over the past few years, I see questions about adapting large layer cake recipes to fit smaller 6 inch cake pans. 6 inch cakes are very popular and yet most traditional cake recipes don’t accommodate the smaller size.

But last year I discovered an easy solution when I made a 6 inch birthday cake. I no longer adapted cake recipes to fit the smaller cake pan size. Instead, I began using cake batter from my CUPCAKE recipes. (And most of my cupcake recipes are actually adapted from the larger cake variety, so the work is already done!)

I know it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it was a total lightbulb moment as I suddenly had dozens of 6 inch cake flavors to bake. I love the 6 inch size for children’s birthday cakes, small gatherings and celebrations, or bridal/baby showers where there’s a lot of other desserts. And when it comes to decorating, 6 inch is a very non-intimidating size cake!

6 inch chocolate cake on blue cake stand

Cupcake Batter = 3 Layer 6 Inch Cake

Cupcake batter that produces about 12-15 cupcakes is the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. One dozen cupcakes usually takes about 3-4 cups of cake batter, which divides perfectly between 3 6 inch cake layers. This means that you can essentially turn any batch of cupcakes into a small layer cake. I’ve tested this several times with many different flavors, but usually stick with vanilla cake and chocolate cake, which are made from my vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes respectively.

6 Inch Cake Flavors

Use the batter for the following recipes to make different flavor 6 inch cakes:

All 6 inch cake layers take about 18-21 minutes at 350°F (177°C). You need about 2.5-3 cups of frosting for a 3 layer 6 inch cake, which is usually the amount used for 1 dozen cupcakes. Any of the frosting recipes paired with the listed cupcakes would be perfect. 🙂

6 inch vanilla cake with sprinkles on teal cake stand

6 inch chocolate cake on a teal cake stand with a slice on a cake server

How to Prep Your 6 Inch Cake Pans

After you choose your 6 inch cake batter, it’s time to start prepping the cake pans. First, make sure you have quality 6 inch cake pans. I started using Fat Daddio’s 6 inch cake pans last year and loved them so much that I switched out my 9-inch and 8-inch cake pans for the Fat Daddio’s brand. From one baker to another– these pans are incredible quality for the price. Not working with this brand, just a genuine fan.

The smaller the cake, the more difficult it is to neatly release from the baking pan. Here’s my guaranteed solution so that your 6 inch cake layers glide right out:

  1. Make a parchment paper round. Trace the bottom of the cake pans on a large piece of parchment paper. Cut out the parchment circles.
  2. Very lightly grease the baking pans.
  3. Place the parchment round inside.
  4. Grease the parchment round too. Using butter or baker’s nonstick spray, I grease the pan AND the parchment. This promises an ultra non-stick environment for your cake. Never any sticking.

I usually keep a stack of parchment rounds on hand just in case I’m in a rush to get a cake in the oven. For cake emergencies, of course.

2 images of cut out parchment paper rounds and parchment paper rounds in cake pans

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake.

2 images of cake batter in 6 inch cake pans and baked cake layers in 6 inch cake pans

How to Frost & Decorate a 6 Inch Cake

You need about 2.5-3 cups of frosting to frost a 3 layer 6 inch cake. The frostings paired with the cupcake recipes listed above are plenty for your 6 inch cake, such as vanilla buttercream or chocolate buttercream. Assembling and decorating a 6 inch cake is just like putting together a larger cake, but the smaller size is definitely easier to work with.

Tools I find helpful:

  1. Cake Turntable: This size is great for larger 9 inch cakes as well. A cake turntable makes it easy to frost the sides of a cake with a bench scraper.
  2. Bench Scraper: I like to run a bench scraper around the sides of the cake to smooth out the frosting. This works for any size cake. If you’ve never used one before to decorate a cake, you can watch me use it in my vanilla cake video. They’re very handy!
  3. Small Offset Icing Spatula: Use this for spreading the frosting between the layers and on top of the cake. The small size is great for frosting cupcakes too.

2 images of spreading frosting on a 6 inch cake and cake on cake turner

Since this is a small cake, it’s easy to pick up with a couple flat spatulas and carefully transfer to a cake stand or serving plate. You can also use cake boards, which are cardboard cut-outs that provide a sturdy foundation for your cake if you need to move it to another surface.

6 inch vanilla cake on blue cake stand

2 images of 6 inch vanilla cake and chocolate cake slices

Small cakes are taking over! Which flavor will you try first?

PS: I bought the pictured teal cake stand from Home Goods and unfortunately can’t find a link to it for you! Make sure you find a cake stand that’s about 8 inches in diameter to comfortably fit the 6 inch cake. I love this one from Anthropologie too!

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6 inch vanilla cake on blue cake stand

6 Inch Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Learn how to make a deliciously soft and buttery 6 inch vanilla cake, plus a dozen other cake flavors for your smaller 6 inch cake pans. 6 inch cakes are perfect for smaller gatherings and much easier to decorate, too!


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 – 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or whole milk
  • 2 teaspoonpure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 6×2 inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the small cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not over-mix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 18-21 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling
  5. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to medium-high speed and beat for 2 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.)
  6. Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 3/4 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 3/4 cup of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. A bench scraper and small offset spatula are handy for decorating. Decorate with sprinkles if desired.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions for any flavor: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. If the frosting is still too stiff, beat it on medium speed with an electric mixer until it’s soft and spreadable again. Add a splash of milk or cream to thin out if needed. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. See How to Freeze Cakes. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
  2. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute.
  3. 6 Inch Chocolate Cake: Skip steps 2 & 3 and instead, use the chocolate cake batter from my chocolate cupcakes. Frost with chocolate buttercream.
  4. More Flavors: See post above for links to more cake flavors using my cupcake batters. Skip steps 2 & 3 above, swapping out the vanilla batter for your chosen flavor.

Keywords: cake, vanilla cake

490 Comments

  1. Hi Sally!

    Love your EVERYTHING! I am really excited to try this 6 inch vanilla cake & vanilla buttercream (with lots of sprinkles of course!) for my son’s upcoming 2nd birthday, just wondering if using Americolor gel paste food coloring to make each of the three pans of batter a different color would alter the taste?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mayyadah, The gel food color doesn’t have any taste – and we love using it because you don’t need to use very much for bright colors! Happy 2nd birthday to your son!

  2. Hi Sally,

    I want to make your lemon cupcake recipe you have linked on this page, except as a 3 layer 6 inch cake. This may be a beginner’s question, but do I need to switch out the AP flour mentioned in the cupcake recipe and instead use cake flour if I want to make a layer cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie! You can follow the cupcake recipe as written for your 3 layer cake. Happy baking!

  3. Hope you can help me Sally. I have a recipe for a coconut vegan cake. I am making 2 9” cakes but also need to make a 6 inch but not sure if converting is as easy as filling the pans 2/3 full and shortening the baking time. Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carly! Yes, generally that will work. You can reference our Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions guide to find out exactly how much batter you’ll need!

  4. Should I bake the cake in fan assisted oven or traditional ? Thank you for all your amazing recipes xx

  5. hi! would i be able to bake this all in 1 6 inch cake pan and cut the cake into three after it’s done baking? thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi there, this would be too much batter for only 1, 6 inch cake layer. For 1 layer, see our Small Chocolate Cake Recipe (within that blog post, see “What about a vanilla version?“). You can certainly try slicing it into three layers, but you may find it easier to bake three separate, very thin layers. Hope this helps!

  6. Hi Sally, I just bought 4 Fat Daddio’s 6 inch cake pans. How would I adjust the recipe to fit 4 layers instead of 3?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erica, You would need to make 1 1/3 of this batter. Or simply make 1.5 times the batter, fill your pans 2/3 full and then use any left over batter to make a few cupcakes on the side.

      1. I bought a Fat Daddio 7×3″ pan. My first attempt at baking a cake in this pan was a disaster. I baked a yellow cake, filled the pan 2/3 full as Fat Daddio adviced, reduced the temperature from 350 to about 335 as Fat Daddio adviced. My cake turned out like a brick. Absolutely horrid. Don’t know if it was the recipe or the pan. Ideas? But for the record, it looked gorgeous decorated with 7 minute icing and coconut, with a lemon filling (lol).

  7. Hi Sally, could I skip adding the sour cream? Would the recipe be alright? Else what would be a good substitute. Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hermes! We don’t recommend leaving it out entirely — it’s necessary for moisture. You can use plain full-fat yogurt to replace the sour cream. Or, you can use buttermilk to replace both the sour cream and milk (1 cup total).

  8. I have successfully tried some of your other recipes, so I really don’t know what happened here. I was very precise in measuring and having the ingredients at the correct temperature. The cake layers baked beautifully and the cake itself was light and moist, BUT, it tasted like flour. It had none of the delicious vanilla cake flavor I was expecting. What could I have done wrong?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathy, Thank you for trying this recipe. The most likely culprit is that there was simply too much flour in your cake. Be sure you are using cake flour (not all purpose) and use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup because you could end up with 50% more than you need. Rather, using a spoon, scoop the flour into the measuring cup. Do not pack the flour down and do not tap the measuring cup as both cause the flour to settle in the cup. After you’ve spooned the flour into the measuring cup, use the back of a knife to level off the top of the measuring cup.

  9. Hi Sally,

    I love your recipes and you have become my go to for almost all my baking lately. I made your carrot cake and your hot cross buns for Easter and they were both a huge hit, particularly the carrot cake!

    I do have a question when it comes to measuring this batter out when using two pans. I know you mentioned you recommended not putting it all into 2 pans and instead using the left over to make cupcakes which I think is great, but do you have a recommendation on how much batter is actually going into each pan? Is there a particular weight I should be looking for or should I aim for 1 to 1.5 cups per pan?

    Also, I am planning on making your chocolate cupcake recipe (but as a 6 inch cake!). I was considering adding coffee or espresso powder. What would your recommendation on this be?

    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andrea! Thanks so much for your kind note and for making and trusting our recipes. This recipe yields 4 cups total of batter, so you’ll want about 1 1/3 cup per layer. For the chocolate cupcake recipe, you can add 1 tsp espresso powder without making any other changes to the recipe. If you wish to use liquid coffee you can try swapping some in for some of the the buttermilk. Let us know what you try!

  10. First of all, thanks for the work you put into this. I am so excited to make 6 inch cake. I just received one from a bakery for my birthday and the size was the CUTEST!

    Question – I just purchased (2) 6×2 cake pans. As for your cupcake recipe making (3) 6 inch cakes DO you think I could use the recipe to make (2) 6 inch cakes? I know it would be more batter in each pan and I wondering if it would cook all the way through. I hope so. I think it would be really cute too. Thanks so much.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Traci! This would be too much batter for 2 pans, they could overflow and wouldn’t bake evenly. You could wait to bake the third layer until the other two are done – let the batter rest at room temperature while they bake. Or you could try to reduce the recipe by 1/3. Hope you love your 6 inch cakes!

      1. Thank you for your quick reply. Your explanation makes perfect sense. I am excited to bake in my new pans. I also appreciate your suggestion of baking the 3rd layer after the other two are finished or reducing by 1/3.

  11. Can this recipe be altered to make an 8” three layer cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marie, for a 3 layer, 8 inch cake, we’d recommend following this vanilla cake recipe instead. You can use 8 inch round pans for slightly thicker layers with no changes to the recipe. You may need an extra minute or two of bake time since they layers will be thicker – use a toothpick to test for doneness.

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