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!

Print
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 (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

283 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! To replace the sour cream & whole milk for Buttermilk, what is the precise ML weight?

    1. Hi Sally, can I replace the soured cream & milk with buttermilk and would I use 240ml?

  2. Hi i would like to use your six inch cake recipes for 4 x2 inch cake pans how long do you think i should bake them? How many pans should i use ? I plan on making your vanilla confetti cake Thanks ! Cant wait to try your recipes !

    1. Hi Leah, it’s hard for me to say– I haven’t tested it. I would keep a close eye on them and begin checking for doneness early with a toothpick.

  3. Hi Sally

    Love your blog!
    We can’t possibly eat a slice of frosted cake everyday (I mean we can, but we know we shouldn’t ), so if I like this recipe and wish to just bake the cake without frosting it, can I put the batter into a 10cup Bundt cake pan?

    1. Hi Jenn! For a bundt cake, I recommend making my vanilla cake. See recipe note for bundt cake instructions. Happy baking!

  4. Serena Segura says:

    Can you replace sour cream for Greek yogurt?

    1. Yes, a 1:1 swap.

  5. I was so excited to make this beautiful cake for my husband’s birthday. Your instructions were clear however my cake turned out pretty dry. Do you have any idea what I did wrong, as I followed your instructions to a tee. Thank you!

    1. Hi Adriann, You can use my post How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake to help you troubleshoot!

  6. Hi Sally,

    I am planning to bake this cake. My grocery store carries Presto enriched self-rising cake flour. If I use this cake flour should I not include the baking powder in the recipe since the Presto cake flour is self rising?

    1. Hi Carly, I don’t recommend self-rising cake flour. It won’t have enough baking powder in this amount of cake flour to sufficiently life the batter. You can try adding more, but it would require some testing. For best results, use regular cake flour.

  7. Would this recipe work for (5) 6″in diameter by .75 inches high?

  8. Hi Sally, Would this recipe work for five cake pans that are 6″in diameter by .75 inches high?

    1. Definitely. The layers will be thin and require less time in the oven.

  9. Kathy Soury says:

    Hi Sally, I’m making three 6 inch cakes for 3 birthdays , due to pandemic. (Instead of one 9 inch layer cake). How would I do a two layer cake instead of 3 layer? Thank you.

    1. Hi Kathy, If they will all be the same flavor you can simply make this recipe twice for a total of 6 layers and then you will have three 2-layer cakes. If you are making different flavors you would either have to adjust the recipes to use only 2/3 of the batter or simply freeze the third layers (or use the batter to make cupcakes to freeze) for later.

      1. Kathy Soury says:

        Thank you. I realized that all I have to do is make the batter twice. Can’t wait until my new 6 inch pans arrive

  10. Looks so good, can i add colour to the batter? Like 3 different colours

    1. Sure can! Just divide the batter into three equal portions and color each one before baking. Enjoy!

  11. This looks like a delicious recipe and I can’t wait to try it (my 6-inch pans came in the mail yesterday)! I’d like to make a vanilla cream cheese frosting…do you have a recipe for that and would you still suggest this same cake or something else (I really like this cake recipe, but would go with your recommendation, if different).

    1. Hi Danielle! Yes, you can use cream cheese frosting for this cake. I love cream cheese frosting and vanilla cake together!

  12. Kathy Soury says:

    My 6 inch pans are delayed. How would I do an 8 inch square layer cake? Thank you

  13. Possible to do this with just two 6” pans? Or what conversions would be needed? Thx!!

  14. Hey sally, i love all your recipes ! i love the 6 inch cakes but i’m getting requests to make taller cakes .. would i double the recipe for 8×2 inch pans ? & should i use 2 8×2 pans or 3 8×2 pans ?

    1. Hi Katlyn, for an 8 inch cake, try my white cake recipe which is baked in 2-9 inch cake pans. If using 2 8-inch cake pans, the cakes will take significantly longer to bake. If using 3 8-inch cake pans, the bake time will be similar to the written recipe.

  15. Stephanie Duffy says:

    Easy & awesome cake recipe! I made this with my toddler and my friend’s toddler and we had a BLAST! The cake turned out delicious.

  16. I apologize if someone has already asked this but could I use liquid egg whites in place of fresh egg whites?

    1. They should work as long as they are 100% egg whites (and not a product like Egg Beaters).

  17. Sadly, this recipe only got me about 2, 6inch pans of cake batter. I was so disappointed but the cake did taste delicious!

  18. Hi sally,
    Can i use 6inch springform pan for this cake? Do i need to use parchmant paper on the side also with springform?

    1. You can bake this in three 6-inch spring form pans if you wish. I only use parchment paper on the bottom but do spray the sides with non-stick spray.

  19. Hi Sally,
    I’d like to thank you for inspiring me and making baking so easy for with your step by step guides and tips. My family are in awe by my treats. I literally started baking after I discovered your website during lockdown and I’m hooked!lol I just have one question and that is..I cannot find all purpose flour in our local stores. I only use cake flour for all your recipes. Should I adjust my ratio for each recipe? Just wondering if this will improve the overall texture. I find the outer later of my cakes quite most at times. Thanks so much again. Salma (South Africa)

    1. I’m so happy you discovered and have been enjoying the site, Salma! A lot of my cake recipes do call for cake flour so no ajustments needed for them. However, some recipes simply can’t withstand fine cake flour. Chocolate cake, for example, already has cocoa powder— which is a VERY fine dry ingredient. The combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. Additionally, carrot cake and banana cake contain additional wet ingredients (the fruits or veggies), so cake flour isn’t really ideal. You need a stronger flour like all-purpose flour for those.

      1. Thanks for your response Sally. Strangely enough I’ve made your banana bread twice and that baked beautifully, also made your carrot cake and your chocolate 6 inch cake. The carrot and chocolate cake was a winner but I still found it quite moist. I thought perhaps it was the cake flour I used or is that the texture one should expect? When you say “flimsy” do you mean that the cake won’t rise as well as it should?Thank you once again. Regards Salma

  20. WOW!!! This chocolate cake is, no exaggeration, the best I have ever had. I now refer to it as “desert island cake” because it is the one I would choose if I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life. We also love putting it in the refrigerator for a while and letting it get cold. The texture is great and the frosting gets fudgy. Thank you, Sally!

  21. Hi Sally,
    Could I add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the vanilla cake batter to keep it moist? I usually keep leftover cake in the fridge but want it to still be moist when taken out right away instead of having it come to room temperature.

    1. I usually don’t, but you can certainly try it!

  22. Hi Sally!
    I love your site! Makes me feel like a legitimate baker 🙂
    Can I use this recipe using two 6×3 inch round pans? Instead of three 6×2? Thank you

    1. Hi Sarah! I fear you’ll have too much batter and those extra thick 6 inch cakes won’t bake properly. I still recommend dividing the batter between 3 6 inch pans, even if they are 3 inches deep. If you only have 2 6 inch pans, you can bake the last layer after the 1st two layers are done. Keep unused cake batter covered lightly at room temperature.

  23. Lauren Pliwischkies says:

    Hi sally,

    Could I double this recipe and put more batter into 4-5 seven inch pans so it comes out a bit thicker? Or should I use your vanilla cake recipe instead for that?

    1. Hi Lauren, I’ve never tested 7 inch pans but you can use my post Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions to help figure out how much batter you will need.

  24. For those needing a cake stand to fit smaller 6″ cakes, it’s a simple thing to make one using an 8″ salad or luncheon plate and a 2″-to-4″ tall glass candle stick (the kind for taper candles).
    A strong adhesive, such as E-6000, joins bottom of plate to top of candlestick and voila!… cake stand perfectly sized for 6″ cakes.
    Yard sales, thrift shops, flea markets, even dollar stores are great places to find the parts you need.

  25. Do you have a yellow cake recipe that can be adapted for a 6 inch pan?

    1. Hi Mia! Use my yellow cupcakes recipe to make a 3 layer 6-inch cake. Follow the directions in the above 6 inch cake recipes post for bake time!

  26. I am a baker and have been baking for years. This cake was dry. I used high quality ingredients and I did not over mix or over bake. I was disappointed with the results.

  27. Hi Sally, will baking your recipes all together in a bigger size pan and cut them horizontally work too?

    1. No, overfilling your pan will result in a dense cake that doesn’t bake properly and spills over the pan. A good rule of thumb is to never fill your cake pan more than 2/3 full.

  28. If I want to use a 9″ pan for the chocolate cake only. Would your chocolate cupcake recipe work?

    1. Hi Kathy, For a 9 inch cake use my recipe for Triple Chocolate Cake!

  29. Hi Sally…i don’t see your coconut cake recipe for this 6 inch cake. Any way of making your coconut cake into the 6 inch pls.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Taaz, You can use the coconut cupcakes batter for three 6 inch cake pans. (Skip the caramel filling and chocolate frosting.) You can halve the frosting for the coconut cake recipe instead.

1 3 4 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×