6 Inch Birthday Cake with Easy Buttercream Flowers

This 6 inch birthday cake is complete with easy buttercream flowers and swirls. Follow this recipe and my video tutorial to recreate at home!

Easy decorated layer cake

It was my birthday last weekend and I used my birthday cake as an excuse to practice a new-to-me decorating technique: covering the whole cake in multicolor buttercream flowers and swirls. My assistant, Stephanie, came over one day to help and then we filmed a video tutorial to show you how it’s done. We had so much fun doing this!

This is a 6 inch birthday cake. I used my favorite vanilla cupcakes recipe as the cake batter and added lots of rainbow sprinkles. Cupcake recipes yielding around 12-15 cupcakes is the perfect amount of cake batter for 3 6-inch cake pans.

You can find more flavors on my 6 inch cake page. ūüôā

6 inch birthday cake

6 inch birthday cake slice

How to Make a 6 Inch Birthday Cake

Cake Batter: I have detailed explanations about why I use certain ingredients in the following recipe including the egg whites, sour cream, and cake flour. I won’t repeat all the information here, but you can read more about the recipe in the¬†vanilla cupcakes post. In short, this will be the fluffiest 6 inch birthday cake you ever try.¬†Trust me.

Don’t Use Nonpareil¬†Sprinkles: Like every sprinkle or confetti cupcakes recipe, avoid using sprinkles that will bleed their color. It’s impossible to tell before you add them if they’ll tie dye your batter, but I’ve found that pastel confetti quins never bleed. And you’re likely safe if you use any sprinkles besides nonpareils. Those little balls always bleed their color. The batter looks cool at first, but then turns brown. It’s the worst.

My Favorite 6 Inch Cake Pans: Grab three 6 inch cake pans. Many of you encouraged me to try Fat Daddio’s cake pans. I wish they nestled together; you have to stack them. No big issue at all, though. They’re pretty durable! (I have zero affiliation with this company.) No matter which brand of cake pan you use, I strongly encourage you to line the pans with parchment paper before pouring in the cake batter. The parchment guarantees easy release; I found it difficult and frustrating to remove the small 6 inch cakes without it.

6 inch birthday cake batter

6 inch cake with vanilla buttercream

Vanilla Buttercream

Once you bake and cool the cakes, begin preparing the vanilla buttercream. This is actually my vanilla buttercream with increased amounts of ingredients to yield enough frosting for the pretty floral design. If you prefer chocolate frosting with your 6 inch birthday cake, I recommend following the chocolate buttercream recipe/ratios I use for this marble cake. But if vanilla buttercream is your choice, let’s decorate your 6 inch cake with the most colorful buttercream flowers ever.

Piping tips for colorful buttercream flowers on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Easy Buttercream Flowers Cake Decoration

If I can decorate a cake like this, so can you. Over the years you’ve seen my talents as a cookie and cake decorator develop and I found this particular cake decorating technique both simple and straightforward, especially if you’re a beginner.

  1. After applying a thin coat of frosting around the assembled cake, called a crumb coat, divide the remaining frosting between 3-4 bowls. I tinted it my desired colors, which you can find in the recipe notes below.
  2. Fill piping bags with 1 or more colors, then begin applying swirls, roses, and hydrangea-looking flowers all over the cake. It’s best to begin at the bottom of the cake and work your way up. I think a “plain” section on top looks really pretty, but feel free to cover the entire cake.
  3. Use two Wilton 1M star piping tips (2D piping tip is similar) and one Ateco 844 star piping tip. Any star tip will have the same-ish look!

This design is so much easier than it looks and if you mess up, just cover it up with another rose/swirl/hydrangea! Have fun with it and know that you are your own worst critic. I thought the pictured cake had so many flaws and you know what? I’m the only one who cared. Present this cake to anyone and they’ll be incredibly impressed.

Buttercream roses and hydrangeas

Easy floral frosting decoration on cake

Looking for a birthday cupcake? Try my confetti cupcakes. And you can watch me decorate this cake in the video below. I hope the video gives you the confidence to try decorating this way. (The blue is darker in the video cake because I accidentally squeezed more gel food coloring out. Oops!)

Print
Buttercream roses and hydrangeas

6 Inch Birthday Cake with Easy Buttercream Flowers

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This 6 inch birthday cake is complete with easy buttercream flowers and swirls. Follow this recipe and my video tutorial to recreate at home!


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups¬†(200g) sifted cake flour
  • 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
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2¬†teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml)¬†whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to¬†room temperature
  • 6¬†cups (580g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream or whole milk
  • 2¬†teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350¬įF (177¬įC). Grease¬†three 6-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 or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, pour in the milk and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. Gently fold in the sprinkles. 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:¬†In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’¬†sugar if frosting is too thin, more cream¬†if frosting is too thick, or a pinch more of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  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 or, to replicate the decoration in the pictures and video, follow my directions in the recipe notes below. Refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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. 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. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Colorful Small Mixing Bowls | 6-inch Round Cake Pan | Pastel Americolor Gel Kit | Regular Americolor Gel Kit | Icing Spatula | Icing Bags | Wilton 1M Open Star Piping Tip | Ateco 844 Closed Star Piping Tip | Confetti Sprinkles
  3. Cake Flour: Sift cake flour before measuring.¬†If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this 2x, then remove 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  4. Milk: Whole milk and full-fat sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full-fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cake may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Why is Everything at Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  6. Sprinkles: Avoid using nonpareils (the little balls) as they bleed their color into the cake batter. I used these pastel confetti quins.
  7. Buttercream: This yields a lot of frosting, if looking to decorate the cake without the floral detail, follow these ratios for vanilla buttercream.
  8. To Decorate Exactly as Pictured: Once cake has been assembled with frosting between the layers, spread a thin layer of frosting, called a crumb coat, all over the top and sides. I recommend a bench scraper to smooth the sides and top. Divide the remaining frosting into 4 bowls. Tint frosting your desired colors. I used mauve and dusty pink from this gel food coloring kit and a very tiny drop of sky blue from this gel food coloring kit. I kept the rest of the frosting white. Grab 3 piping bags. Fit piping bags with star piping tips. I used two Wilton 1M star piping tips (2D piping tip is similar) and one Ateco 844 star piping tip. Add spoonfuls of two different colored frostings to each piping bag, alternating colors. Your piping bag will be marbled with different colors. (Note: I kept one piping bag only the mauve color.) Twist the open end of the piping bag shut and squeeze the frosting down to the tip. Squeeze some frosting onto a plate until you begin to see more than 1 color. Pipe swirls, roses, and hydrangea-looking flowers all over the cake, starting at the bottom and working your way up. You can watch me decorate my cake in the helpful video above.
  9. Looking For a Bigger Birthday Cake? I recommend making this 9-inch 2 layer vanilla cake and adding 2/3 cup sprinkles.

Keywords: white cake, vanilla cake

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168 Comments

    1. Hi Erin! Are you using an Ad Blocker on your device? You can temporarily pause it to watch. My video player system is blocked from ad blockers.

  1. Hi Sally,
    Oh my, I just baked your 6″ birthday cake in the Wilton 6″ heart rounds. There were 5 in the box. I used Wilton meringue powder according to recipe on container. Used 6 tsp of powder and 6 tbsp water which equalled 3 large egg whites. Don’t know what happened, my cakes rose a lot and then plummeted, they sank!!! Please help, what did I do wrong? I

  2. Hello, I would like to bake this cake for my daughter’s 1st birthday but I have only two 6″ round pans. Can I just split the batter in two and how long should I bake it for since it is a little more batter per pan? Thank you!! ūüôā

    1. Hi Agata! There is too much batter for 2 6-inch cake pans. I recommend baking the 2 cakes and keeping the unused batter covered at room temperature until a cake pan is ready to be used again.

      1. Hello….I just came across this recipe and only own two 6″ rounds and actually did spread the batter between the two pans and they baked absolutely perfectly. No uncooked parts or domed areas or bubble spots that imploded. Just a wonderfully delicious recipe which I will make again and again (tho I tweaked the frosting and added cocoa powder and coffee to it cuz it was waaaay too sweet for me). Thanks!

  3. Sally, this cake is gorgeous! It looks totally professional! Your beautiful decorating skills are constantly an inspiration to me in my own baking, as I love the presentation part of any dessert! I love anything that’s almost too pretty to eat! But, of course, a pretty appearance never stops me from eating in any dessert ūüėČ

  4. hi,,so glad i found a recipe for 6 inch pans,,,,made your vanilla cake recipe and it’s really moist and fluffy,,thank u so much

  5. I know you recommended a two layer cake above but it isn’t the exact same. Any suggestions for how to convert this cake to 3 9in layer cakes? It’s my absolute favorite but need to increase it for a larger party!

  6. Sally, thank you so much for making this daunting-looking technique so approachable! I made this last week for a friend’s engagement party, and it turned out beautifully (and you’re right, even the parts I thought were messed up weren’t even noticable – just put another flower in there!). Your website is my go-to, you explain everything well and it always works. Thanks for the helpful tips and the confidence boost I needed!

  7. What percent is whole milk? I used whipping cream instead of whole milk for cake. My cake didn’t bake from middle right away, I had to put it back in the oven three times. Is it because I divided the batter into 2 6-inch pans instead of 3 pans? Also, did you put all three pans in the oven at the same time or did you cook the cake one by one? Regardless the cake looked and tasted awesome!! It was a little dry when I cut it. I’m not sure if it is something I messed up or was supposed to be like that in texture.

    1. Whole milk is only about 3.5% fat where whipping cream is over 30%.
      If you used all of the batter for 2 pans instead of 3 that would explain why it didn’t bake in the center. If the pans are overfilled then the outside will dry out before the center is fully baked!

  8. Can you do more 6-inch cake recipes? It’s nice to have a small cake recipe to make when it’s just you…and your fork! I would love to see a chocolate or strawberry cake variation. Thank you!

    (Okay, maybe I’ll let my boyfriend have a bite!)

    1. Hi Kimberly! No, I don’t. Feel free to use this recipe for 2 6-inch cake pans, then use leftover batter for a few cupcakes on the side.

  9. Hi! I really want to try this recipe but I’m hoping to translate it into 8 inch pans. 2 or 3 layers. How would I translate the recipe for that?

  10. Happy to say that I made this cake for my birthday last year and I am doing a variation this year! I’ll tag you on instagram if it comes out great

  11. Hi Sally,
    Do you perhaps know a measurement of batter for each of the 3 pans???
    This is what I’ve been having the most trouble with. Apologies if i missed it.
    Karla

    1. Hi Karla! I don’t know the exact amount of batter this recipe yields. You can measure it out in cups and divide between 3 that way or if you have a kitchen scale, use that instead.

      1. Thank you for the info!
        I made this to celebrate a special occasion and it was well received. Thanks for your site!!

  12. I have a 1M Wilton tip but I don’t have Ateco. You’re instructions say to have both, but they are pretty similar? Or is there a wilton replacement for the Ateco 844? Thank you!!

  13. Hi Sally,

    In the middle of baking this recipe!

    Inquiring minds….what butter do you use? Please don’t say any butter will do, I want to know what YOU use! I always use KerryGold because it’s my favorite butter and what I always have at home- but not sure if I can get away with a cheaper butter.

    And does it depend on what type of cake or frosting you are making?

    Thanks!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Natalie! I’m truly not brand loyal to any particular butters at this point. I usually use my grocery store’s store brand butter. (I usually shop at Wegmans.) I like to use KerryGold for cooking or spreading onto food, but I don’t bake with it. I don’t find a flavor or textural difference when using a fancier butter in baking.

  14. I would like to try this recipe with 2 of my Wilton 6″x3″ pans. Will it work if I double the recipe?

    1. Hi Teresa! You can use this recipe, as written, for 2 6×3 inch cake pans. No need to double it. The bake time will be a little longer because the cakes will be thicker.

    1. Hi Jennifer! I love the chocolate chip and raspberry combination in cake. You can use this 6 inch cake recipe and use chocolate chips and raspberries instead of sprinkles. Let me know how it turns out!

  15. Hi Sally,
    Loved this cake!

    What is the height of this cake? I got only 2 layers with this, not 3.

    Also while adding milk, I added part flour, part milk, part flour, part milk and final flour. When I added the second half of the milk, I saw some curdled bits? Why would that be? Could it be because the milk was probably not at room temp?

    I used all purpose flour, and had no baking soda or cornstarch, hence used 2 tsp of baking powder instead.

    Also can one substitute granulated sugar with golden caster sugar?

    Many Thanks!!

    1. Hi Nats, Keeping all of your ingredients at room temperature is vital for them to mix together properly. If the milk was too cold then that for sure could have caused a problem. Also, without testing any of those substitutions I’m unsure of the end result!

  16. Sally, I made this and your chocolate mousse. They were great. I took pictures . Will put both in my blog.

    1. Hi Kay! It’s right above the recipe. Make sure you’re viewing it in an internet browser and not clicking over from social media, which affects how the video displays. Pause any ad blockers in place. It will show right up! It’s also on my Facebook and Youtube as well!

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