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

453 Comments

  1. Hello I love your recipes. I have a strawberry cake recipe I love. Can I divide the batter up into 3 6 inch cake pans or do I have to use a specific recipe for 6 inch pans? Thank you

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Viv, If it’s not our strawberry cake recipe then I’m unsure how much batter your recipe yields. However most standard size cakes have too much batter for a 6 inch cake. You can still try using it and fill your pans 2/3 full and then use the leftover batter for some cupcakes. OR use this recipe for strawberry cupcakes which yields the perfect amount of batter for three 6 inch layers!

  2. I have a question about the small bundt pans.They say 6 cup size,but I think they look smaller. A large 12 cup recipe is sometimes too much for 2 people or small family. What do you suggest

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Charleen, Mini bundt pans vary greatly in size. One dozen cupcakes usually takes about 3-4 cups of cake batter, so if your pan says it holds 6 cups then most of these cupcake recipes should work in your pan.

  3. Michelle Leak says:

    Thank you Sally for the amazing cake recipe my best friend is going to love it.

  4. Hi Sally
    I’ve made this recipe twice and the taste of cake and frosting is amazing. However, both times my cakes have been dense. All of my ingredients were at room temp. I beat everything the recommended times as I thought I had overbeaten my butter on the first go around. I am using cake flour. So I am just not sure what is going wrong. I am pondering 1. Is my oven not hot enought (need to get an oven thermometer) or 2. My baking soda/powder are “old” even thought they seem to work fine in other baked goods. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Lisha, it could be a variety of things. What comes to mind first is accidentally over-measuring the flour. Make sure that you are spooning and leveling it, not scooping it. Scooping it packs it down into the measuring cup. Use real cake flour if you can. Make sure your butter isn’t too warm. I have a long list of other helpful tips to review if you’re interested. Here’s my post all about preventing dense cakes. I think it will really help here!

  5. Thank u Sally I truly appreciate you sharing im interested in getting into a cup cake business

  6. Am I reading it right? It’s just egg whites? No egg yolks or regular eggs? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laarni, Yes only egg whites for the vanilla cake! Using only the whites helps keep the cake texture light and fluffy.

  7. Hi will this buttercream crust? Looking for a crusting buttercream recipe for a smooth finish on cakes

  8. Sharvani Divekar says:

    Hi Sally !

    I want to adapt your strawberry cake recipe in a layer cake as mentioned above . However I do not have a big enough oven to bake all three layers at a time . Can I bake one cake at a time while keep the rest batter chilled in refrigerator till the time other cake is baking ?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharvani, You can bake two layers and leave the remaining batter loosely covered at room temperature until you are ready to bake the third. Enjoy!

  9. Hi. I am planning on making the 6 inch vanilla cake for my nephew’s 7th Birthday. His favorite cookie is chocolate chip, so I was wondering if it would be ok to add mini chocolate chips to the batter. If yes, any thoughts on how many and how to keep them from sinking to the bottom? Love your recipes!!!

    1. Hi Sandra! Absolutely. I recommend 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips. The batter should keep them suspended nicely, but you can always toss the chips in 2 teaspoons of flour before adding. Fold them into the finished batter before pouring into the cake pans.

  10. I have been searching for a go-to white cake recipe forever and this one is going to be it! Do you have a comparable full size cake recipe? Sorry if I missed it above.

    1. Hi Sharon! Yes, I do. Here is my favorite 9 inch white cake recipe. This 6 inch batter is adapted from the larger version.

      1. Thank you!

  11. Hello. I am planning on making a cake, however I only have one 6 inch cake pan. Is it possible to bake all batter in one cake pan and then cut it in 3 circles?

  12. Would it be possible to substitute buttermilk instead of the milk and sour cream? If so, how much?

  13. Hello Sally! Can I substitute buttermilk for sour cream. I usually DIY sour cream and buttermilk and the latter is much easier and needs shorter time to make. Thanks for your help. More power!

  14. Hi sally … I live all your recipes …. esp pistachio cupcakes….
    I was wondering how tall are these 6” cakes After frosting ?
    Amazing technique you have here for making 6” cakes form cupcake recipes

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shalini, 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.

  15. All I need is a recipe for 2 six inch cakes pans, 2 layer coconut cake ….why can’t I find that? Thank you.

  16. Hello Sally, I’m planning on making a 3 layer 6 inch cake and I noticed this recipe is slightly different then your 9 inch cake. What is the difference in flavor and texture between the two? Why do you use only egg whites in this one and add the sour cream? Is it better to just cut your other vanilla cake recipe in half?

    1. Hi Samantha, this recipe is my white cake recipe, but basically halved. It has a pristine white and very soft and fluffy crumb. The vanilla cake is a little denser, but still quite soft.

      1. Thank you so much, can’t wait to try!

  17. I followed the recipe exactly and the result was so dense and over sweet. We couldn’t even eat our slices. I’m disappointed.

    1. Mine was light but it was incredibly sweet also. Way too sweet. Totally disappointed

  18. LISA TEICHMANN says:

    Is it possible to make this recipe in just two 6″ pans for two layers instead of three?
    Thank you, I can’t wait to try it!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lisa, we recommend filling the pans no more than 2/3 full, so you could do that and then use the leftover batter for a few cupcakes. I hope this helps!

    2. Debora Diggins says:

      I made this recipe in two 6″ pans instead of three. It worked out fine. They didn’t seem to be more than 2/3 full. You have to increase the baking time to about 25-28 minutes. Keep checking for doneness.

  19. Another delicious perfect cake recipe! Very light & not too sweet! I frosted mine with Italian Meringue Buttercream & it was perfection! Thank you Sally!!

  20. Can this be used to build a rainbow cake? Want to make sure the bottom layer can withstand having 5 more layers on top

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Harry! Absolutely- this cake can hold up 6 layers and you can tint the cake batter with no problem. If doubling the recipe, we recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling for best taste and texture results. Happy baking!

  21. Geline R. Domalanta says:

    Hi Sally! Can I use buttermilk powder as a substitute for sour cream?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Geline, If you use buttermilk (the powder mixed with water is fine!), use it to replace both the sour cream and milk. (1 cup total.)

  22. Hi, can I replace 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature
    1/2 cup and (120ml) whole milk at room temperature with 360 ml buttermilk? It’s really difficult to find sour cream over here! Thank you !!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle, absolutely — you can swap the sour cream and whole milk with buttermilk (for one cup total buttermilk). Happy baking!

  23. Hello,
    Can you German chocolate cake be made into a 6inch mini cake?

    Thanks!
    Candace

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Candace, You can use our chocolate cupcakes and chocolate buttercream recipes. That batter fits perfectly into 3 6 inch pans. Follow that chocolate cupcake batter recipe and our instructions here.
      You can use the German Chocolate Cake filling between layers — you’ll have a bit leftover. Happy baking!

      1. Yay!!! Thank you! Now to order some 6inch pans!!!

      2. One more question ‍♀️ how long do you let the cakes cool in the pan before popping them out? Thank you so much for all the wonderful information

  24. Sarah Jackson says:

    Could I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream? I live on an island and the weather has delayed the import of sour cream.

  25. Sally, any suggestions if you want to make a 4 layer 6 inch cake? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah! You would need to make 1 1/3 of this batter. Or simply make 1.5 times the batter, fill your pans 2/3 full and then use any left over batter to make a few cupcakes on the side.

  26. If I wanted to make a yellow cake how would I go about that? Not sure what the difference is between the flavor and the color or do I just do a vanilla cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elizabeth, we’d recommend using our Yellow Birthday Cupcakes to make a 3 layer, 6 inch cake following the baking time and temperature in this post. Would love to know if you give it a try!

  27. Hi there! I made this an loved it!! Was wondering if this cake would still work if I threw in some blueberries coated lightly with flour to make a blueberry vanilla cake 🙂 thank you!! Looking forward to making more of your recipes!

  28. Thanks for this recipe! I made the vanilla cake and frosted it with your coconut cake cream cheese buttercream icing (I didn’t use all of the icing) using twice the salt called for in the icing recipe to cut sweetness and then covered the cake in shredded coconut. It was exceptional. My husband loved it for his pandemic birthday celebration!

  29. Jasmine Kohli says:

    Hi Sally,

    I want to try this recipe but we have less sweet tooth. How much sugar can I reduce in this cake to make it less sweet but at the same time not altering the texture?

    Also, in one of the comments you suggested to use buttermilk instead of sour cream + milk. What do you think is better?

    Thanks a lot for such an informative recipe post.
    Jasmine

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jasmine, Sugar is used for moisture and texture in baked goods as well as taste. You can certainly try reducing the sugar, but the resulting texture will be different than intended. We like the sour cream + milk combo in this recipe, but buttermilk works just as well as a substitute. Hope this is helpful!

  30. Hi sally,
    I’ll be baking a cake tomorrow and I can’t find the perfect 7inch recipe.
    Can I use 3 7inch pans instead of 3 6inch pans?
    If so how could I make the recipe fit 3 7inch pans?
    Thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hollie, that should be fine to use any of our cupcake recipes with your 7 inch pans. The layers will be slightly thinner, so they will need a little less bake time. Or, you can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions guide to scale your favorite recipe for your pans. Happy baking!

      1. Thank you

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