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. 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

254 Comments

  1. I only have one 6″ cake pan. Could I bake 1/3 of the batter at a time, keeping the remainder of the batter in the fridge while the rest cooks? It is a springform pan with high sides, so could I bake all of it together and then slice it into 3 layers?

    1. Sure can! Keep leftover batter covered at room temperature. If refrigerating, bring to room temperature before baking it. Do not bake this batter all at once in your pan.

  2. So disappointed. I have made this cake twice and both times my cake layers ended up very short. I bought and used everything in the recipe as my husband waited it with great anticipation. I have a tiny little cake like I will not give up! How can I have success next time? Any suggestions?an easy bake oven size. I will not give up! How can I have success next time? Any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Becky

    1. Hi Rebecca, this is supposed to be a small cake. But I recommend doubling checking your leaveners to ensure both are fresh. If the layers are too dense, the batter could have been over-mixed. Was the batter on the thinner side? You may find this post helpful: How to Prevent Dry & Dense Cakes.

  3. Can I use the chocolate and vanilla recipes together to make a marble cake or will this make too much batter? Or should I just use your marble cake recipe and half it? We are only a family of 4 and don’t need a full cake.

      1. Hi Sally,
        I have made some cakes from your website including this and the cakes were always wonderful.
        For this cake , I made two square cakes ( one smaller and the other which I shaped into ‘4’ for my son’s birthday) instead of the 3 layer cake.
        I prepared the same amount of quantity of frosting as specified, however I have a lot leftover. I make cakes with frosting only rarely. Do you have any other suggestions for using the frosting – biscuits, milkshakes or anything else?
        Thanks…

  4. Hi Sally…. I made this 6” cake for my granddaughters 8th birthday! It was delicious and just the right size for 6 people! Only one piece left and my daughter quickly claimed it to take for lunch the next day! Very concise directions, simple ingredients, helpful pictures…. excellent website you have! Looking forward to my next recipe to try! Thx you!

  5. Hi Sally,

    My oven only heats up in 5 degree increments, so 170 – 175 – 180 Celsius. Since the recipe requires 177, should I use 175 and maybe add 5 more minutes?
    Thank you!

  6. Let me start here: baking intimidates me. I had literally never made a baked good from scratch. But then… it was my daughter’s first birthday. I felt it was a rite of passage to make her cake. I stumbled on your recipe, bought the ingredients and tools, and followed it to a “t.” It was insanely good. The frosting? Unreal. The cake? Moist, flavorful and just-the-right-amount-of-sweet. Multiple guests said it was the best cake they had every had! I felt like the hostess with the mostess! THANK YOU!

  7. Just had to give you a HUGE thanks for your amazing efforts and tips! I made an explosion cake for my daughter and it was better than I could’ve hoped, thanks to you! I used your 6 inch cake recipes and made funfetti, tie dye and chocolate layers and then froze them using your directions. I used your buttercream frosting recipe too. It took a lot of planning but the result was amazing and so FUN! I had never made a layer cake before so I actually made a practice one. I always have confidence in your recipes, thanks again!

  8. Hi Sally, if I make this cake say the night before and ice it, will it still be quite moist and fresh for morning tea the next day? If so, how should I keep it? Should I use sugar syrup to keep it moist? Thanks .

    1. Hi Maria, You can make most cakes with buttercream the night before serving and as long as they are covered will stay fresh at room temperature.

  9. I was lucky enough to find that beautiful fluted cake plate. I can’t wait to make one of those small cakes. I would love to find a glass or even a really nice acrylic dome lid that would fit that cake stand. I have looked and looked. Thank You for the great recipes!
    If anyone knows of a cake dome that would work, please let me know. Thanks!

  10. I went on a layer-cake-baking kick a couple of years ago using a couple of amazing books I got here in the UK (by Peggy Porschen and Linda Lomelino, for those who are interested). A lot of the recipes were using 6 inch/15 cm pans so I invested in 3 and they made perfectly-sized cakes for bake sales and family eating. Your tip of adapting 12-cupcake recipes for 3-layer 6 inch cakes is a brilliant hack to give me even more suggestions. Well done!

  11. I made it and it turned out great! I actually left the yolks in because I like the yellow color. I also find that the type of vanilla you use is very important. I use the Costco brand. It is 100% vanilla extract, is delicious, and is very economical. Thanks for your recipe and your website!

  12. Hi, can we use full eggs or is the cake more moist without the yolks? Just wondering! Can we also just use plain flour instead of cake flour? Thanks

  13. Your cake requires buttermilk but the cupcakes require sour cream. I want to make the 6 inch two layer vanilla cake but wanted to check if I could use buttermilk vs sour cream and if it’s possible to just bake in two layers then cut layers in half or will it not bake correctly?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Catherine! This is the cupcake/small cake version of my white cake. If you want to use buttermilk instead, you can swap it for both the sour cream and regular milk. (1 cup total)

  14. Hi, I tried again and it still looks like my cake is too short. Can you tell me about how tall your six-inch cake is without icing between the layers? It does taste like cake this time but still looks tiny. I’d appreciate your help once again! By the way, I read and followed all of your tips.

    Thank you so much. Becky

    1. Becky, how was the texture the cake when you cut into it? If it wasn’t overly dense then I don’t think you are doing anything wrong! My cake layers are about 1.25 to 1.5 inches high, you can see in my photos that I’m using 2-inch tall pans and my cakes don’t rise all the way up to the top.

      1. Thanks so much for responding! I haven’t cut into it yet just flattened the top and tasted that and it was tasty. As far as I can tell I think the texture is good. I measured my layers after and trimming off the the dome and they came to 1 inch which means if true for trimming it would’ve been about an inch and a quarter. Anyway maybe that’s OK! Thanks Sally!

      1. I’m trying to make a 5 layer cake with 6×2 cake pans, and each of my cake pans holds 3 cups of batter (at most). so how much of this recipe should i make? Since you said the recipe makes 4 cups of batter, should I multiply it by 3 or 4 to make 12 or 16 cups of batter to fill all five of my cake pans? would this work?

  15. Hi Sally,

    I tried this cake recipe exactly per the instructions for my daughter’s second birthday and it turned out great. I also followed your vanilla buttercream frosting which was yummy too. My family enjoyed the cake so much!!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe on your site.

    Regards,
    Shantala

  16. Hi Sally!
    I’m just curious as to where you got your 6 inch cake stand that you show in your 6 inch vanilla cake recipe. If you remember and don’t mind sharing, I’d appreciate it greatly. It’s so cute!

    Thanks much.

  17. Thanks much! Can’t wait to bake this beautiful cake of yours. I feel like how you display it is half the fun! 🙂

  18. Hello!
    If I wanted to make a butter pecan inspired cake, do you think I can add pecans to this recipe? If so, how much would you recommend? Also, for frosting, would you recommend a brown butter frosting or the salted caramel frosting?

    Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Veina! You can add pecans to the cake if you’d like. I’d start with about 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup chopped pecans in the batter. I love brown butter frosting. You can use the brown butter cream cheese frosting from my banana layer cake, but I recommend halving it so you don’t have too much extra.

  19. Hi, If I only have x1 of the 6″ pans, how long do I keep it in the oven? I’ll be doing this in three different oven stages 🙂

    1. Hi Amber. The bake time is about the same if you’re only baking 1 pan at a time. You can let the unused batter sit at room temperature, covered, until the cake pan is ready to use again. Baking right away would be ideal for the cake’s texture, but this is the only way if you only have 1 pan.

  20. Hi sally, I found the baking times for the 6 inch pan to be too short, and had to cook upwards of 35-40 minutes, when following your recipe for carrot cupcakes/cake.

    However delicious?

  21. I made the vanilla cake in two layers (since I only have one 6″ pan) and it was delicious! I don’t know who needs this much frosting though, I made half the frosting recipe and could generously ice the cake with some left over 😉

  22. Hi Sally
    Does this taste the same as your ” The Best Vanilla Cake I’ve Ever Had” and does it have the same texture?

  23. I made this with lemon filling and topped with heavy whipping cream! Delicious!

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