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!

Print
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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

584 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I am planning on making this cake for my birthday, but I was hoping to substitute the American buttercream frosting for your Swiss meringue buttercream instead. Is the ratio of frosting from that recipe the same as the one for this cake recipe, or do I need to make adjustments?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Summer! You can certainly use our Swiss meringue buttercream recipe instead. It yields 5 cups of buttercream, but you can halve the recipe instead. See recipe notes there for more details!

  2. Hi I have used this recipe many times and I love it and the chocolate version.
    I wondered if I could use it in a 12x 8″ sheet pan (aluminium tin) would it still work ? Thank
    You

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Olivia, you can use our Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to help scale this recipe for different size pans. Hope this helps!

  3. Hello! First off, I love all your recipes! I just made the chocolate cupcakes batter into small cakes and the middles sank. What did I do wrong?

    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ashley, When the centers of cupcakes sink it’s usually because there is too much batter. Remember, chocolate cupcakes should only be half way full! Here are even more cupcake tips!

  4. Hi! I only have one 6 inch cake tin but it’s tall, could I bake this into one cake and cut after? Would I need to alter oven temperature and how long would I need to cook it please?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Steph, We don’t recommend it. Overfilling your pan will cause the cake to bake unevenly and because there would be so much batter it would be too heavy to rise properly. You can try dividing your batter into three parts and bake one at a time (keep the remainder loosely covered at room temperature until its ready to bake).

  5. How many cups does the frosting make as a finished product?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer! About 2.5 cups total.

  6. Natalie Chow says:

    Hi! I really want to make this but only have two 6-inch cake pans. What adjustments would you suggest?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Natalie, two options for you: you can fill your 2 pans half way, then use the leftover batter for a few cupcakes, OR, you can bake the first two layers, leave the batter for the third layer lightly covered at room temperature while the other two are baking, then make the third layer after the first two have cooled and been removed from their pans. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi Sally
    I just made your recipe as a 3 layer 6″ cake as indicated. I carefully followed all the mixing/beating instructions. My layers seem a bit thin after baking though. A little less than an inch. Is this the way it’s supposed to be? If not, any ideas why my cake didn’t rise enough. Thanks. PS Love your recipes.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hope! How was the texture the cake when you cut into it? If they were overly dense, its possible that the batter was over mixed (more on how to prevent dense cakes here). Also be sure that your baking powder and baking soda are fresh — we find they tend to lose their potency after three months. Our cake layers are about 1.25 to 1.5 inches high here, so not too high but they should rise a bit!

      1. Haven’t cut into it yet but I expect they will be a bit dense given height. I was pretty careful on the mixing part to do as directed but of course, the baking powder is always a possible culprit. Good to know what height they were supposed to be though. And thanks so much for your quick reply.

  8. Hi! Could I sub yogurt for the sour cream in a pinch?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely!

  9. hey sally
    how tall will this be?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shreya, each cake layer is about 1.25 to 1.5 inches high without frosting. The final height of the cake would depend on how thick you frost the cake, but will likely end up around 5-6 inches high.

      1. thank you very much Lexi

  10. Mary Reynolds says:

    Can almond or rice milk be substituted for whole milk? We have dairy allergies in my family.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! Either of those should work in a pinch, although the cake may not be as light and fluffy. Hope your family enjoys it!

  11. Hi, could I make a 6-inch funfetti cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ramya, absolutely, you can use the batter from our confetti cupcakes and then follow the baking time and temperature from this post.

  12. I just made the chocolate cupcakes recipe for a 6” 3 layer cake – I’m worried because there was only 2 1/2 cups batter. They’re going to be so thin?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Margo! How did your cakes bake up? As long as you didn’t make any changes to the recipe, they should rise in the oven to be a bit thicker. You can see in the photos that the layers aren’t super thick, but when stacked with buttercream they make a perfectly sized 6 inch cake.

  13. Hi Sally,
    I’m trying to use this recipe along with your conversation chart. How many cups of batter does this recipe make, please?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessika, this recipe yields about 3-4 cups of batter.

  14. Hi Sally,
    I’m wanting to make a cake in advance for the 4th of July. I’m planning to food color two of the layers red and blue. Then I’m planning to freeze them (using your freezing instructions). Then, finally I’m planning on frosting it with whipped cream. Do you have any idea for how to make the whipped cream sturdy enough to decorate with, or should I just do the frosting the recipe calls for?

    Sally, your blog truly rocks!! Searching your blog is like searching the vastness of google (there are so many recipes!), except with quality I know I can trust!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi PJ! Sounds like a great plan. While we haven’t tested it, you can try stabilizing it with gelatin. We don’t have a stabilized whipped cream recipe on my website, but if you look one up elsewhere– you will read how to prepare the gelatin prior to adding it. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes!

  15. Thank you so much for your speedy reply!! I just found a recipe for stabilized whipped cream on sugargeekshow.com

  16. Hi Sally, do you have any recipe for one layer of vanilla cake (6 inch)?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Samantha, though we haven’t tested it, we’re confident you could halve this homemade sprinkle cake recipe to yield a 1 layer 6 inch vanilla cake or 6 vanilla cupcakes. Feel free to skip the sprinkles.

      1. Alright! Definitely will test it out.

      2. Could this be applied to all the recipes? I wanted to make a 6 inch 3 layer cake but with 3 different cake flavors.

      3. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi there, not necessarily. That specific recipe worked for halving because it was originally written for a one layer, 9 inch cake. For a single, 6 inch layer, you can take any of our cupcake recipes listed in this post and try 1/3 of the recipe for one layer. Hope this helps!

    2. Did cutting the recipe in half yield one layer? I wanted to make a 6in 3 layer cake, but with 3 different flavors. Wondering if this turned out as you were hoping 🙂

  17. Sally,
    I have made several of your recipes and they have all turned out wonderful! Thanks for sharing! I was asked to make a small cake for a wedding and am going to try your 6″ cake using your strawberry cupcake recipe. I have noticed that you always mention “spoon and level” your flour. I always use a scale for measuring my ingredients. Is there a big difference between the two? Also, any extra tips I may need when making the 6″ strawberry cake? I’m planning on using your strawberry buttercream frosting. Do you think that is a good choice for this cake? Thanks so much for all the information and tips. I truly appreciate it!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Molly! Measuring by weight is always the preferred and most accurate method of measuring ingredients. If a food scale isn’t available, spooning and leveling is the next best option. (We share more on that here if you’re interested). Have fun making your 6 inch strawberry cake — the strawberry buttercream will be a delicious compliment!

      1. Thank you for the reply, Lexi! Can this cake be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Molly, the cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. But, keep in mind that it will start to lose freshness. If possible, it’s best to assemble and serve on the same day. For longer storage options, see this post on how to freeze cake layers. Hope this helps!

  18. Hi Sally,
    If I’m making 4 x 6 inch cakes how much buttercream would I need, is it a case of just adding 100g to each measurement ?

    Thank you so much

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Charlotte! To add another layer, you’ll want to add an addition 1/3 of each ingredient (simply take the amount listed and add 1/3 of that measurement). It won’t necessarily be 100g for each measurement, as each ingredient has a different weight. Hope this helps!

      1. thank you so much. Very helpful 🙂

  19. Kaitlin Mcgrew says:

    Hi Sally. Can I use 5 inch cake pans?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kaitlin, sure can — fill half way, and use any remaining batter for a few cupcakes. Bake time will be just slightly less.

  20. Jayla Vazquez says:

    This cake look delicious but I was wondering if I could use buttermilk instead of sour cream , and if so do I need to make any changes to the amount

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jayla, you can use buttermilk to replace both the sour cream AND milk (1 cup total).

  21. Jennifer Florencia says:

    Hey sally always love reading your blog cause everything is always clearly addressed! could you blog about how to make a 4inch birthday cake? I was wondering it’s baking time and how much batter it needs!

  22. TAMMI CRAWFORD says:

    Hello, I would like my 6 inch cakes a little higher. The batter i’m using makes 7 1/2 cups. I was reviewing some of the cake charts and it seems that some of the 6 inch pans may possibly hold 3 to 4 cups of batter. I would like 2 layers instead of 3. Is it possible to just use 2 pans! The layers seems to be on the thin side when using 3 6 inch pans.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tammi! It depends on the recipe, but you should be able to use two pans instead of three. Keep in mind that thicker layers can lead to more uneven baking and possible collapse after baking if overfilled. Let us know if you give it a try!

  23. Siti Nazeerah says:

    Hello Sally. I really love your recipe. They are so good. But may I know what if I use a whole egg in stead of using just the white eggs. Does it effect the texture of the cake? Or just the colour?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Siti! Using only the whites helps keep the cake texture light and fluffy. For best results, we recommend sticking to just egg whites. For a 3 layer, 6-inch cake recipe that uses whole eggs, we’d recommend using our Yellow Cupcakes recipe instead.

  24. what cake pans do you use?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Seraphine, We use Nordic Ware, Calphalon, Wilton, Fat Daddio, and USA Pans in our kitchens and you can’t go wrong with any of those brands! For specific pans and links you can visit our post Stock Your Kitchen with These 8 Baking Pans.

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