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

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

6 inch chocolate cake

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.

parchment paper rounds in cake pans

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake.

cakes 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.

6 inch 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

6 inch vanilla 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 (200g) 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 (230g) unsalted 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. 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

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

133 Comments

  1. Aloha Sally,
    I have been wanting a good recipe for a small cake. It’s just my husband and I, so I have not made a cake in years.
    Thank you so much for answering my prayers.
    Liova

  2. Sally, you’re a genius! I love 6 inch cakes because they allow me to practice my decorating skills, but I would have never thought to use a cupcake recipe! My only problem now is figuring out which one to bake first Thank you!!

  3. I need to go and buy some 6-inch cake pans right now!!! OK, maybe tomorrow because it’s 11:00PM. But I looooove all of your cupcake recipes and am sure they must be amazing as cakes! I mean, now I can make Chai Latte Cake and White Chocolate Strawberry Cake and White Chocolate Peppermint Cake and Coconut Carrot Cake and Cupid Cake (I’m thinking fill the cake with nutella and just either swirl together the frostings or do a watercolour effect…?). But I think the first thing I would make would be Confetti Cake because…sprinkles make the world go round 🙂

  4. Sally, instead of sour cream what can I substitute? Some of my family is lactose intolerant and I can’t use it.

  5. GENIUS Sally!!! I typically shy away from baking 3 layer cakes because the large size of a 9-inch one, as well as being slightly intimidating to bake, is a lot to eat! 6-inch cakes are definitely more manageable – and they look cuter, too! So many options now that I know I can use your cupcake recipes…. Definitely making the lemon one first! 😉

  6. Sally,
    While I do not have 6-in. cake pans, I do have a 6-in. springform. What would be the baking time? Thanks!

  7. Thank you so much for posting this Sally!! Ever since you posted a recipe from desserts for two (Christina Lane’s website) I have loved small batch baking, it’s perfect for my small family. I will be trying the vanilla first and I already have everything I need

  8. OMG! I would never have thought to turn a recipe for cupcakes into a 3 layer 6″ cake. This is great. Thanks Sally. I’m going to make personalized birthday cakes for my daughter and granddaughter.

  9. Ever since you mentioned using cupcake recipes for 6 inch cake I have searched through your cupcake recipes countless times trying to figure out which to make into 6 inch cake but this is so much easier and better! Thank you!

  10. Bless you, Sally! I have been waiting for 6 inch cake recipes. Not only are they easier to decorate but they are easier to slice and serve too. I would rather bake two 6 inch cakes than bake one 8 or 10 inch cake. Please keep your 6 inch cake recipes coming!

  11. I just made cakes using 3 in springform pans as a birthday cake for one person. They were adorable! So I am figuring 2 of the 3 in. springforms would make a cute double layer cake using your cupcake recipes. So happy to have found this information on 6 in. cakes. How full should the pans be? I filled the 3 in pans 1/2 way & it seemed ok. I have the pans [springform ones] and it will be perfect for the two of us here! Thank you!
    Kathy

      1. Yes, the 3 inch cakes were adorable & perfect for one person! The recipe called for a 9 x 13 pan & I got five 3inch pans + 12 cupcakes. I love the idea of 6 inch cakes! Thanks.

  12. Generally I find that taking a recipe for a three-layer 8″ cake and cutting it in half produces about the right amount of batter for three 6″ layers.

  13. Yea – so excited to see this post. I’ve been collecting as many recipes for 6″ cakes as I could find – which is not many! I frequently have a birthday dinner for a few of my grandchildren’s birthdays and they each get their own cake. Some months we have 3 birthdays to celebrate so 3 large cakes is just way too much. Bless you for this great tutorial!!

    1. I’m so happy you found this post helpful, Adele! What fortunate grandchildren you have 🙂 I hope they love their smaller birthday cakes!

  14. This is all I ever bake for my family of 4 birthdays! Everyone of your cake recipes work too! Just take a 9” cake and make 1/2 a recipe. I’ve done the calculation and it works perfectly. I made your lemon cake with lemon cream cheese buttercream icing for my 12 year olds birthday Saturday. It is delicious and we can’t stop eating it This is just another option to use every cake recipe.

  15. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am ordering some 6″ pans right away! I still have to buy the “Home Made Vanilla” bottles and beans but now I have several things to get this week. As soon as the heat wave breaks, I am getting busy.

  16. This is awesome! I love cake and ALWAYS want to bake one but it’s usually too much! This is perfect! going out NOW and buying 6 inch pans 🙂

  17. Hiya Sally!
    You have literally answered my prayers!
    I really couldn’t get the ratios right with 6” cakes!
    Do you know if these recipes will be good for tall 6” cakes?
    I usually do 6 layer cakes but can’t find any good recipes that will hold up!

    Thank you

    1. Hey Charlotte! You could slice the layers in half to make 6 thinner layers. OR find a cupcake recipe that yields about 18-20 cupcakes (these banana cupcakes perhaps?) and divide between 6 6-inch cake pans for a relatively tall cake. I wouldn’t double any of these cupcake recipes for 6 layers as that cake would be WAY too tall and likely topple over.

  18. Love the idea of downsizing a recipe. Any baking recipe actually–but it never occurred to me to do a 6″ cake! Genuis.
    I bake TONS of quick breads and share with family/friends/neighbors. Usually, I’ll double a recipe and keep a bread for our house/maybe throw one in the freezer and share the extras with others.
    Most times, I print out and include the recipe when sharing a quick bread with friends and I throw in handwritten notes such as **when using two 8×4 glass loaf pans….use 3 cups batter each pan….etc. (I just threw those numbers out there..)
    I do it to save them the time/steps when they make the recipe themselves.

    My wheels are turning now…..!!! I’m thinking ooh, I can make my friend so and so a little 6″ cake!!
    Birthdays are coming up….
    I’ll do the vanilla first and move on from there.

    SO, my million dollar question of the day?
    When the recipe says “divide equally among 3 pans”…..can you give us an approximate measure?
    Whether it be by the cup (volume) or by ounce/grams (weight)……etc.
    Actually, I’m thinking weight would not work so well as measuring by volume since the weight of batters will vary recipe to recipe…..
    I think would be such a helpful/timesaving tip when dividing the batter.
    I would SO appreciate the info.

    1. Hey Brenda! So happy to help. Most of these cupcake batters are 3-4 cups, meaning you’ll use about 1.25 cups per cake pan. The vanilla batter, for example, yields 3.5 cups. So you’ll use a little over 1 cup per pan.

      1. Ahhh, Thank You Sally !!!
        I’m going to print this “go-to” time saver reference and post it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door for future reference!
        PS. I checked out the link for the 6″ pans you suggested and came across some educational info regarding “anodized aluminum”?
        I never use aluminum pans when a recipe calls for lemon juice or citrus……I will use glass bakeware because I find the lemon leaches aluminum flavor into my finished goods…..yuk.
        I never knew if using the pans you suggested, that are anodized…….these pans can be used with acidic ingredients.
        Learn something new every day Sally.
        Yah, I’ll be hitting up the Amazon site in the near future for some new pans.
        😉

  19. Hit a real winner with this post! Everyone including me thinks you wrote it because you were reading our minds! Thanks for listening to the trend of questions about 6 inch cakes and giving us a post. Can’t wait for it to cool off enough for me to spend some fun time in the kitchen.

  20. Sally, Do you have the 2 inch tall or 3 inch tall cake pans? These cakes are just amazing1
    Thank you,
    Linda

  21. How many people do you think this would serve? Trying to figure out if it would be enough for a birthday party. 🙂

  22. Sally! I cannot thank you enough for this!! I don’t make full sized cakes anymore, because they are frankly just too much cake. I wind up giving so much of it away. And that gets expensive. I have the cake pans already just waiting to go!! Can’t wait to give it a try!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this post! Thrilled you are excited about making smaller cakes- let me know how it goes 🙂

  23. Hey Sally, thanks so much for this!! Honestly I always just use a regular cake recipe, fill the three 6” tins then use the leftover batter to make a few cupcakes! But I absolutely love the idea of just using cupcake recipes 🙂
    Also, some people may not know that recipes for two 9” cake pans can also be used in three 8” cake pans which I prefer doing for larger gatherings because three layer cakes just look so much more fancy! Lol
    I can’t wait to try your chai latte cupcakes as a 6” cake! Maybe for my birthday in August 🙂

  24. Oh Sally!! I am so happy to see this adaptation for smaller cakes. With just my husband and I, it is quite rare that I make a cake, unless we are having guests over, as it would be wasted (and neither of us want/need to eat an entire cake!) Plus, living in Arizona, I really struggle with keeping baked goods from drying out so quickly and becoming stale. Do you think a recipe for German Chocolate cupcakes would work for a small cake also? Have a great week and hopefully, your weather is cooling off!

    1. Hi Patty! Yes, a german chocolate cupcake recipe should transfer wonderfully to three 6 inch cake pans, provided the recipe yields between 12-15 cupcakes. I don’t have a german chocolate cupcake recipe on my site at this time, but you can use my chocolate cupcakes recipe and reduced down filling/frosting from my german chocolate cake recipe!

  25. WOW!!! I know I’ll have to try this!! We can never finish a cake – it’s just two of us in the house, but a small one would definitely fit the bill!!

    In a wave of ridiculousness, I bought a set of mini pie pans that I hope to play with in the near future, too! I love small stuff!

    1. Mini pie pans are so adorable! There’s something so cute about small baked goods 🙂 Happy baking, Catherine!

  26. I love, love , love making 6″cakes. They are so dang cute and the perfect size for celebrating all kinds of occasions.
    I was planning on trying the recipe you posted a couple of weeks ago…the vanilla, reversed creaming method sheet pan cake…in a 6″ version for a small gathering this week. I saw a post on Food 52 recently that was a re-post of an Alice Medrick blog post about pan size and how to calculate substitutions. It is a great resource and works like a charm. A 9×13 ” pan is 117 ” and a 6″round is 29″. So, I will have a bit more batter than I need if I use that recipe but I interested in seeing how it works out. The recipe you posted looks so yummy and I am interested in trying the creaming method.
    Finally, the best thing ever is a 6″ ice cream cake….made in a springform pan. I made one last week…Oreo bottom,one pint chocolate chocolate chip, one pint white chocolate raspberry truffle and topped it off with half a pint of raspberry and lots of sprinkles.
    I have made others and have used 3 pints total but I have had to put a ring of foil around .
    the top of the pan because of the overflow. The possibilities are endless!
    Thanks so much for all your suggestions. You are such a wonderful resource and your recipes are consistently delicious

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