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 (210g) 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

373 Comments

  1. About how much batter should go into each cake pan? And can I use the triple chocolate cake recipe instead of the super moist chocolate cupcakes? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! About 2 cups in each cake pan, give or take. The triple chocolate cake yields too much batter for one 6-inch layer cake. Though you could make 2 or 3 6-inch layer cakes instead if desired.

      1. Thank you so much!

  2. Hi Sally, super excited to give the 6 inch cake a try!! Would your ombré spiced cupcakes recipe work for making this cake?

    1. Hi Claire, Yes they sure would! Enjoy!

  3. hey sally, can i not add the sour cream? If so, do i need to double the amount of milk?

    1. Hi Natalie! I recommend sticking with the recipe. Too much thin milk will thin out the batter. You can, however, use buttermilk instead of the whole milk and sour cream combination.

  4. Can I make two 7 inch round instead of three 6 inch? If so, how long would I need to bake them for please?

    1. Hi Sarah! That should be fine, but I fear you still may have too much batter for two 7-inch cake pans. Fill them only halfway. Bake time will be about the same, maybe a couple minutes longer. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  5. Hi Sally! I am terrified of math so my baking has been limited. Since there is only 2 of us, should I use a recipe for less than 12 muffins if I only want 2 layers? Three is a bit much for us.
    Would halving a muffin recipe be good for a loaf pan? I hope you get a chance to answer!

    1. Hi Tara, you can always make this recipe as is and freeze the third layer (or use the extra batter to make a few cupcakes to freeze) to enjoy later.
      For muffins I have found that any muffin recipe yielding around 12 standard size muffins doubles as a quick bread recipe in a loaf pan!

  6. Hey Sally! How far in advance do you think you could make your 6-inch chocolate cake? I’m thinking about making it and frosting it three days before eating.

    1. Hi Alexa, You can wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature before you assemble and frost.

  7. Hi sally, loved your six inch recipe. If i want to make it into cupcakes, how much should be the oven temperature and time?

  8. Hi! I was looking at Vanilla Naked Cake recipe and came across this one after. I have a 6inch pan I guess this one works for me. But, I was wondering why this one uses egg whites only while the other one(9inch x3) uses 5 large eggs. It would be great if you can explain!

    Oh and since I have 2 x 6inch pan, will this one works better or the 9inch one? I’m thinking to pour more batter into each so I get 4 layers of 6 inch cake. What’s your suggestion?

    1. Hi Maggie! My 6 inch vanilla cake recipe is a light and fluffy cake, based off of my vanilla cupcakes recipe. My Vanilla Naked Cake is a more buttery, slightly more dense, and sturdy cake.

  9. Hi Sally
    I need to make a 6 inch carrot cake
    Can i use your cupcake recipe

    1. You can use my carrot cake cupcakes recipe, yes.

  10. Hi Sally!

    I’m excited to try your recipe! I need to make one 6” and one 10” cake. Would doubling the recipe be enough?

    1. Hi Tobie, For the 10 inch tier it depends on what flavor cake recipe you wish to use and how many layers you want each tier to be. I find this chart helpful when trying to determine how much batter to use for different pan sizes: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html

  11. This sounds delicious and I love the ingredients for this cake. Do you know if this recipe would work with a 9” spring form?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Shouldn’t be a problem in a 9 inch springform pan.

  12. Hi Sally,

    Love your recipes. I am going to try this for my daughters bday. Can I use 2, 9inch layers instead of 3 – 6inch layers? I am not finding anything 6inch at the moment.

    Thanks.

  13. Can I use all purpose flour instead of cake flour?

    1. Hi Kamryn, no I don’t recommend it. See recipe note to make a cake flour substitution with AP flour, though.

  14. Hi Sally. This is my first ever cake from scratch. The cake smells and looks delicious…will try frosting tomorrow. Thank you for the inspiration!

  15. My first time making a cake from scratch and making it for my dad’s birthday! Tastes like a sugar cookie made into cake and I can’t wait to frost it and add some strawberry jam.

  16. Hi Sally, can you recommend a recipe to convert to the 6″ layer cake version that’s on the less sweet side? I’ve tried a few and they’ve been a tad too sweet for me (didn’t grow up on sweets). Though the chocolate chip cookies are my absolute go-to and are just right (maybe because of the semi-sweet chips?) The cream cheese frostings are a def the right direction for my taste preferences! Any suggestions appreciated. THANK YOU!!!

    1. Hi, Can you tell me which cakes are too sweet and what flavor profile you are looking for – then I can narrow down some suggestions! Also if you don’t like things too sweet my first suggestion would be to change the frosting, not the actual cake! You can frost a cake “naked” style so you aren’t using as much and also adding an extra pinch of salt to most frostings to cut the sweetness.

      1. I just made the lemon cake with blackberry cream cheese frosting and it was perfection!!! I think I like the tang added by the lemon juice. And of course cream cheese frosting, can’t go wrong.

  17. Hi Sally, can i omit the sour cream? What else can i substitute it with?

    1. Hi Jessie! Yogurt would be the next best option.

  18. Hello Sally! My daughters first birthday is coming up. I’d like to make her like a strawberry vanilla cake or cupcakes. So I was thinking your confetti cake topped with strawberry frosting? Would the strawberry over power the vanilla cake? Both the cake/ frosting would be your recipes.

    Thank you,
    Jacquelyn

    1. It would be a wonderful combination! I highly recommend the vanilla or confetti cupcakes/cake with the strawberry frosting.

  19. Hi Sally! How do you keep your cakes so flat? Mine always have huge domes.

    1. I always layer them off 🙂 Use a cake leveler or serrated knife.

  20. Hi Sally!

    Can the whole milk be replaced with buttermilk? Do i have to make any adjustments to the volume?

    1. Hi Jessie! You can replace the whole milk with buttermilk (1:1 substitution) with no other changes needed to the recipe.

  21. Hi I love this recipie very tasty! Looking to use three 7″ pans how much ingredients would I need for this ?

  22. CAROLYN WALDEN says:

    Good morning! Do you think it would be okay to make the chocolate cakes today (Saturday), refrigerate, make the frosting (vanilla) and frost tomorrow (Sunday), refrigerate and then serve on NYE (Tuesday)? Ideally I would like to wait a day but I have an appointment on Monday and am concerned I will run out of time. Thank you!

    1. Hi Carolyn, You can store the frosted in the refrigerator for a few days – just make sure it’s completely covered with frosting so that it does’t dry out. Bring back to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

  23. Hi Sally,
    I want to make a 6 inch carrot cake (looked at the cupcake recipe) but only have a single 6 inch springform pan. I thought I could bake a larger (deeper) 6 inch cake and then split into 2 layers. Is this possible and can you recommend a baking time to do that? One other question – I have cinnamon, nutmeg and a “pumpkin pie” spice blend containing ginger, clove, cardamon, etc. Can I use the blend in lieu of the clove and ginger in the recipe? Thanks so much! I love your recipes (and so does my husband)!

    1. Hi Shelly! Feel free to mix up the spices based on what you like. I recommend using the carrot cake cupcakes recipe to make the 6 inch cake. It won’t all fit into 1 6-inch springform pan though. I recommend filling the pan halfway and leaving the unused batter lightly covered at room temperature. You may get 3 layers.

  24. This is the best cake recipe we’ve ever used. We are so happy. However, the cake did turn out just a little dense, and we aren’t sure why. We’re thinking if we whip the egg whites into a meringue, that might help. What would you suggest?

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed it so much, Kaley! Make sure you are using cake flour, not all purpose, and that you are measuring it correctly. Also, when you add the dry ingredients it’s important not to over-mix which can lead to a dense cake.

  25. Hi! The Cake in the pictures look very fluffy. I’ve made this recipe twice and my cake seems dense – like angel food cake. Is that right? Or am I doing something wrong(I do my best to follow instructions to a T)? It’s very good but not quite what I want. Thanks!

  26. Hi Sally,
    I only have one 6 inch pan, is it possible to bake one after the other. I’m worried about leaving the rest of the batter unattended because of the leavening agent.

    1. I’d recommend loosely covering the batter bowl with a towel, plastic wrap or foil while waiting to bake. Hope this helps!

  27. Hi Sally,

    I would love to use this recipe to make my son’s birthday cake but I would like add colouring to each layer (to create a rainbow cake) and also create 6 layers. Do you think this recipe will work well with colouring and also be sturdy enough to cope with 6 layers (and decorated with butter icing along with some candies on the top)? Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie! Absolutely. Will you make this recipe twice for 6 layers? (I recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling for best taste and texture results.) Or will you slice each of the 3 layers in half to yield 6 layers? The cakes will be quite thin that way. And I suspect you wouldn’t do that if you want more than 3 colors. Either way, you can tint the cake batter with no problem and yes, this cake can hold up 6 layers.

      1. Brilliant, thanks for replying Sally. Yes, I plan on doubling the recipe to make 6 separate layers and I’ll take your advice and make up a separate batch. Thanks again!

  28. Hi Sally!
    I just invested in a good instant read thermometer. Do you have a recommendation for internal temp for 6 inch cake layers?

    1. Hi Joy! Cakes are usually done when an instant read thermometer reads 210°F (99°C).

  29. Hi Sally, I want to use this recipe to make a cake+cupcakes for my friend’s baby shower, but have had issues in the past with butter cakes becoming super dense after they’re refrigerated (since I’m making everything a day in advanced). Do you think this recipe will have the same issue? Would it be best to leave the frosted cake out at room temp. instead of refrigerating and any issues if I do keep it out?

    1. Hi Elle! If I’m making a cake the day ahead of time, I always leave it out at room temperature overnight (covered tightly). If it’s frosted, I store it in a cake carrier (you can find them at most craft stores or on Amazon). If it’s unfrosted, I wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap. However, I’ve stored this cake in the refrigerator overnight, then let it come to room temperature before serving and it’s still quite tasty!

  30. Hi, I noticed in two comments, substituting buttermilk. In one place you said it could be used instead of the milk and sour cream combo, and in another place you said it could be substituted 1:1 for the milk. If I’m substituting it for the milk and sour cream combo, do I use 1/2 cup buttermilk or 1 cup buttermilk as the total volume for milk and sour cream is 1 cup? Thank you!

    1. Hi Anne! You can do it either way– no difference in the finished cake either way. Replacing both the sour cream and milk with buttermilk is easiest– that would be 1 cup total buttermilk.

      1. Thank you!

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