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. 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

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

119 Comments

  1. WOO HOO!!!! Sally, I’ve been praying you’d do something on six-inch cakes and it looks many others were, too. As someone else noted, there aren’t many recipes for them out there. I read some of the so-called “formulas” for converting various recipes but they looked like an accident waiting to happen – at least in my kitchen! A million thanks for all your efforts.

  2. I love this post ! What an excellent idea to be making smaller cakes 🙂 They look so cute too. Will 100% be giving it a try!

    xo

      1. I love that you so often include other flavor/add-in options in your posts, that’s so cool and helpful for us readers.

  3. Hi Sally. I stumbled upon your site several weeks ago, and you are marvelous. I consider myself a good baker, but I enjoy reading about your ‘experiments’ and seeing your wonderful creations.

    In the past, for less formal presentations, I have made one 9-inch layer, cut that in half right down the middle, and decorated the half-cake, something like you see half-pies in the supermarket. That is perfect for a few people to enjoy a slice of cake, and not have much (or any) left over.

    But a smaller WHOLE cake is so much cuter! I have three SEVEN inch pans, and I really don’t want to buy three SIX inch pans. Do you have a formula that you would share for a 7-inch 3-layer cake? Thanks!

    1. Hi Janet! I love half cakes! I haven’t made one in quite some time, so thank you for sharing. You can use the cupcake batter recipes for your 7 inch cake pans. That’s no problem at all. The cakes will be slightly thinner, but not much.

      1. Thanks so much, I will give this a try, probably in Sept for my MILs 92 birthday! It will be cute for her to take home and enjoy, I would make a larger cake for the whole familiy.

  4. Sally – Have you ever made this recipe in one tall (side) pan, and then slice to two or three layers? If not, how do you think it would work? I realize that three separate pans give the cake more stability. Thanks!

    1. Hi DJ! I don’t recommend it for any of these batters. The cake would be very very tall and likely wouldn’t bake evenly. It’s simply too much height and would likely collapse.

  5. Hi Sally, i want to do this recipe but instead of using sour cream, what can i use? Maybe yogurt? Please help me!

  6. Planning on making your 6” cake. Do you refrigerate the 3 stacked layers with frosting in between before frosting outside of the cake?

  7. Thank you so much for the 6 inch recipes and ideas! I recently bought 6 inch pans because really who needs a huge cake that often? I had been figuring on cutting your blueberry lemon cake recipe in half would be just about right for 6 inch pans, based on volume. A 9 x 2 pan is 8 cups vs 4 cups for a 6 x2 pan. Now I have so many recipes to try.

  8. I am so, so happy to have found this! I want to make an explosion cake for my daughter’s birthday and it is can be several 6 inch layers. Will this vanilla cake tinted well if I want to color the batter?

  9. Sally, I’ve made your super moist chocolate cupcakes, twice in the last month, and they are delicious and easy !
    I was wondering if I used this recipe for a small 6-7″ heart shaped Bundt type pan, do you think it would work & how long should I bake it? Love all your recipes!!

    1. Hi Nancy, I’m so happy you enjoy that recipe! I would guess that this recipe would work in that size pan but without testing that particular shape I”m unsure of the bake time. Let me know how it turns out!

  10. This was my first time baking and I followed the recipe exactly and it came out great! The texture of my cake did come out more like a sponge cake. Is that the correct consistency? If not, any idea why it came out that way? Was delish!

    1. YAY for your first time baking, Brooke!!! The cake flour and egg whites keep this cake super light and fluffy – which could be a similar texture to sponge cake 🙂

  11. Dear Sally,

    We don’t have sour cream here in Portugal, can you please recommend good replacements?

    thank you very much!
    Cami

  12. I made your pistachio cupcakes with strawberry frosting as a six inch cake! It’s amazing!! My best cake yet. I used cake strips so I didn’t have to trim the top of each cake. Now I’m wondering, would this work with your chai latte cupcakes? I think it should but since you didn’t list them I thought I’d ask just to be sure 🙂

  13. Hi Sally!

    Would your champagne cupcake or margarita cupcake recipes work as a 6 inch cake? I’m crossing my fingers that you say yes because that’s what I want for my birthday cake!!

    Thanks!

  14. This cake looks easy to make and tall. If I were to make this a rectangle cake and tall what size pan would you suggest to use? I like to try making cakes different shapes.

  15. I made this cake and frosting exactly as written, even in these baking pans for my grandaughtes 12th birthday last night. I must say this is the best cake I’ve ever made! It was comparable to a bakery cake.
    I also added the requested chocolate drip edge, that also turned out deeelish!! Thank you Sally, I will be making this cake again and again.

  16. Hi,
    I bought [ a while a go] 2- 6″ pans…but…they have removable bottoms, made by Magic Line. Why I bought then, I don’t remember. I want to use them for your 6″ cake recipe. I figured I’d use parchment in the bottom to insure no leakage.
    My question is: How full do you fill the pans with the batter & do you think this will work?
    Thanks for all your great tips & recipes. Nancy Visconti

  17. Made the chocolate cupcakes into 6 inch layers. It was perfect thickness! Made your vanilla cream cheese frosting but added cocoa and it had a nice flavor too. This is a great size for our 3 adult family. Looking forward to trying some of the other flavors.

  18. Used this advice to make a 3 layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting and it worked perfectly! Next up is a 3 layer pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting!!

  19. I just found your site and I think I’m in love. Haha. I bake to relax and release stress, and baking in small quantities is something I’ve been looking for, for ages. I was wondering is it possible to make your confetti cupcakes and only use one deep 6 inch pan or does it have to be divided into thee ?
    Thanks so much for creating this website/ blog,

    1. Hi Nicky, Welcome to the blog!! I’m so glad you are enjoying it so far! This would be too much batter for one deeper layer. When you try to make very thick cake layers it’s almost impossible for them to bake evenly (the outside will over bake before the center is done).

  20. Made white cake today. Love it Sally. I made the white butter cream and it is . A bit too sweet for me. Should have done chocolate but delighted Southlake. Thank you.

  21. Hi Sally! I made this cake today and whilst it tasted delicious it came out a bit dense. What could I have done wrong? I followed the directions exactly. Thanks!

      1. Thanks Sally. I can definitely put it down to my butter then. Was definitely on the softer than necessary side! Oops!!

  22. Hi Sally. Thank you for all your great recipes. I really appreciate that you always answer and help with our questions. Now, I have a 6″ bundt pan can I use that? How long should I bake it?

    1. Hi Maria, I use a full size bunt pan or a mini bundt pan – but I haven’t tested a 6 inch size! Unfortunately I’m unsure of the exact bake time you will need.

    1. Hi Jocelyn, I’m afraid if you made your layers with too much batter they would be too thick to bake evenly. 3 layers is the ideal size for these.

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