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. Loved it! This cake was so moist and fluffy, and my family loved it. It was my first time ever making a cake and it was successful. I was wondering how I would be able to alter the measurements to make a 9-inch 3 layer cake or 8-inch? I love this recipe and would like to recreate it on a bigger scale.

    1. Hiya I’ve just purchased wiltons 6 inch easy layer 5 pan set to create a rainbow layer cake for my daughters birthday next week – would this be a good quantity to fill each pan a good amount please? They’re designed to be thinner layers (I think each pan is around 1 inch deep). And if so how long would you recommend baking them? Thank you

      1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Danielle, this batter yields enough for 3, 6-inch layers. We’d recommend making two separate batches, so you can make five layers + have a little leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Or, you can make much thinner layers as you recommend — we’re not sure of the exact bake time, but it will be quicker. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Hope this helps!

  2. Amazing texture and flavor! Love it!

  3. This is probably a no brainer for the great bakers on this site but I have a beginner question. I want to make the 6 inch vanilla cake, but I only have 2 cake pans. Will the batter be ok if it’s held until I’ve baked the 2 layers?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dottie! Yes, the batter will be fine – let it sit at room temperature until the pan is ready to use. Happy baking!

  4. I simply love your cakes all of them plus my prayer group can testify… I have made them for their birthdays! However Covid is not a time to get together so I’m in a little pinch, please make a recipe for your Coconut cake & icing for a 6 inch cake pan. My husband is diabetic. So that size there won’t be any let over for our Valentines dessert! Thanking you in advance! Love Debbie

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie! 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.

    2. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to do this for our Valentines dessert!
      Your the best!!’

      Debbie

  5. Shoot I was going to try this tonight, but I realize I don’t have sour cream on hand. Can I substitute with buttermilk or leave it out??

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dee, If you use buttermilk, use it to replace both the sour cream and milk (1 cup total). Hope this helps!

      1. Hi! Can I use buttermilk powder and then turn it into liquid using the powder to liquid ratio? Thanks.

  6. Hello. Just read your website n I’m taken with the 6- in baking pan recipes! Although I will have to try them soon. Just have 2 fat dadios pans!!
    May I ask what is your recipe for just one 6- inch pan cake.
    Thank you much!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cecilia, we’d recommend our Small Chocolate Cake recipe — perfect for one 6-inch layer!

  7. Hi I have a 6×3 pan and I am making 3 layers, how many people will that feed

  8. Hi, Looks delicious! Can you please tell me if I should cut down the recipe ingredients to a third to make a single layer cake?

    Thank you!

    Swatilekha

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Swatilekha. We suggest following this one layer 6 inch cake recipe instead. You can halve this recipe for a sprinkle or vanilla cake version. Hope this helps!

  9. Help! I followed the chocolate cupcake recipe for the 6 inch cake and the layers have fallen. I don’t know what I did wrong, any guidance would be appreciated. Thank you

    1. Hi Felechia, the chocolate cupcake batter creates a very airy chocolate cake, that’s also pretty moist. The cakes may slightly sink in the center and that’s perfectly normal due to their crumb and moisture. However, it’s possible the cakes were under-baked. An extra minute or 2 could help for next time.

  10. Hi Sally, my hubby has suggested using 6” cakes as 8” is too much for a family of 4. For my daughter’s birthday, she requested for vanilla cake with strawberry bits, then frosted with strawberry icing.
    Do you think adding tiny bits (diced in small pieces) of fresh strawberries to the batter will work for this vanilla cake? She does not want strawberry cakes flavored with purée. I concerned they fresh strawberry bits will shrink in the bottom.

    Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Divina, If you dice the strawberries pretty small they should not sink in the batter. Let us know if you try it!

  11. Hi I had a questions about the sifting. I read your page on sifting but for this recipe, I just want to make sure that you do not sift.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauryn, No need to sift the flour here but do make sure you are using the spoon and level method to measure it!

  12. Not sure if this will help anyone, but I just want to share that when I only need one or two layers of this recipe for a smaller cake, I just go ahead and make the full recipe for three layers, then wrap and freeze the unused cake layers for another time. Easier than trying to modify the measurements, and I have cakes I can defrost and ice for an easy weeknight dessert or a last-minute cake for a special occasion. Sally even has a page on this site all about freezing cakes!

  13. Hello, Where did you get your cake stand from? Its so cute!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      It’s from Home Goods years ago!

  14. Hello!
    I don’t have whole milk on hand, is there a substitute that I could use??
    Thanks!!

    — Maddy

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maddy, a lower fat milk will work in a pinch. Happy baking!

  15. Hi Sally! For your recipes with buttermilk, can I use the buttermilk powder then make it into liquid using the powder to liquid ratio?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sabina, we haven’t tried powdered buttermilk but many readers have reported success using it in our recipes. Follow the directions on your powdered buttermilk packet to yield the amount needed in the recipe. Hope this helps!

  16. David Marshall says:

    I will be making my family a 3-layer 6″ chocolate red velvet cake for V-day using your batter recipe for chocolate red velvet cupcakes. I just have one question. Do I use the cupcake recipe exactly as written or do I need to substitute the all-purpose flour with cake flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi David, we recommend following the cupcake recipe as written. Happy baking!

  17. Hi, is the oven temp for a fan oven? or should i take off 20 degrees for fan oven?Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hannah! All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  18. This recipe is incredibly reliable and moist. I even added rainbow sprinkles for a fun-fetti effect! The small size makes it easy to decorate with fondant and try new designs. Thank you, Sally!

  19. Is it possible to bake this in just two layers if I increased the bake time? I only have two 6″ pans, Thanks in advance!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa! They layers would be quite thick, we don’t suggest it. You could make 3-4 cupcakes with the leftover batter instead!

  20. If I were to use a 4 or 5 inch pan, would I need to cut down the baking time? I am planning to use one 4 inch and one 5 inch pan and stack them on top of each other and just save the left over batter for later.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joy! Yes, baking time would be shorter. We’re unsure of the exact time, however, so keep an eye on them in the oven.

  21. helpful information, thank you.

  22. Can whole eggs be used for more of a yellow cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi John, for a 3 layer, 6-inch yellow cake, we’d recommend using our Yellow Cupcakes recipe instead.

  23. Hi, Sally! I’ve been wanting 6” pans for years am was just searching online to reassure myself that Fat Daddio was the best, but I have a question—what depth do you use? They’re offered in a range, and I’m trying to decide if 2” or 3” is better. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chaia, Our 6 inch pans are 2 inches high.

  24. Rashmi Bodhanwala says:

    Can you use greek yogurt instead of sour cream?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rashmi, absolutely. Swap plain greek yogurt 1:1 with the sour cream. Enjoy!

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