This 6 inch birthday cake is complete with easy buttercream flowers and pretty piped swirls. Follow the recipe and the video tutorial to recreate this elegant cake that tastes as good as it looks.
To make this 6-inch birthday cake with easy buttercream flowers, I started with sprinkle cupcakes, a simple recipe originating from these reader-favorite vanilla cupcakes. The original cupcake recipe makes 12-15 cupcakes. Cupcake recipes that yield around 12-15 cupcakes make enough batter for 3 layer 6 inch cakes. I discovered that while testing this recipe! We even have a page dedicated to 6 inch cake recipes, explaining it in more detail with many other flavor ideas, including a 6 inch citrus cake. I love this size cake because it works for smaller celebrations.
Many of you will enjoy decorating this one. The cake is adorned with beautiful buttercream flowers and swirls in a palette of muted colors. It’s a terrific opportunity to hone your decorating skills—and to be honest, it’s super fun!
Tell Me About This 6-Inch Birthday Cake with Easy Buttercream Flowers
- Texture: This soft and fluffy cake has a delicate crumb that tastes wonderful with creamy buttercream frosting. The result? A stick-to-the-back-of-your-fork moist cake.
- Flavor: This 6-inch birthday cake is filled with confetti sprinkles and has the most unforgettable buttery vanilla flavor, much like my larger 9 inch confetti cake. The familiar birthday cake flavor and fun sprinkles take you back to childhood!
- Ease: The cake recipe is pretty standard, but the buttercream designs take some patience and time. If you’re new to frosting decorations, don’t fret! It may seem tricky at first, but it’s just a matter of building your confidence with practice. (You can find more instructions and a video below.)
Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t
- Cake Batter: We have detailed explanations about why we use certain ingredients in the following recipe, including the egg whites, sour cream, and cake flour. We 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 softest 6-inch birthday cake you ever try.
- Sprinkles: Anytime you’re using sprinkles in cake batter or cookie dough, it’s best to avoid using sprinkles that will bleed their color. When you add sprinkles, it’s impossible to tell if they’ll tie-dye your batter, but we’ve found that pastel confetti quins never bleed. In fact, your cake is likely safe if you use any sprinkles other than nonpareils. (The little balls.)
- 6 Inch Cake Pans: Grab three 6-inch cake pans. Many of you encouraged us to try Fat Daddio’s cake pans. While it’s not a big issue, we wished they were nestled together instead of stacked. Nonetheless, they’re pretty durable! (We have zero affiliation with this company.)
- Use Parchment Paper: And no matter which brand of cake pan you use, we recommend lining the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper before pouring in the cake batter. It can be difficult and frustrating to remove the small 6-inch cakes from the pans, and the parchment guarantees an easy release. See step 1 in the recipe below.
- Buttercream. The frosting below is a variation of this favorite vanilla buttercream, with increased amounts of ingredients to yield enough frosting for the pretty floral design. This recipe yields a lot of frosting, so if you’re not planning to decorate the cake with floral detail, use the ratios from this white cake for the buttercream. If you prefer chocolate frosting on your 6-inch birthday cake, we recommend following the chocolate buttercream recipe/ratios used for this chocolate cake.
How to Make Easy Buttercream Flowers Cake Decoration
If you’re a beginner, don’t get nervous—you can absolutely decorate a cake like this! This particular cake-decorating technique is relatively straightforward.
- Apply a thin coat of frosting around the assembled cake (this is called a crumb coat). Then, divide the remaining frosting between 3-4 bowls to tint with different colors. If you’d like to use the same colors as the pictured cake, follow the instructions in the recipe note.
- Fill the piping bags with 1 or more colors, then apply swirls, roses, and hydrangea-like flowers all over the cake. This is where the fun comes in. It’s best to begin at the bottom of the cake and work your way up. A “plain” section on top looks really pretty, but feel free to cover the entire cake.
Use 2 Wilton #1M star piping tips (piping tip #2D is similar) and 1 Ateco star piping tip #844. Any star tip will create a similar look!
This design is deceptively easy. If you mess up, just cover it up with another rose, swirl, or hydrangea. Enjoy the process and know that you are your own worst critic. This cake impresses everyone—that’s part of its beauty!
You can also watch me decorate the cake in the video below. We hope the instructions give you the confidence to try. (The blue is darker in the video cake because we used more blue food coloring.)
If you’re looking for more piping inspiration, here’s my Cookie Monster Cake, Elmo Cake, and Sunflower Cupcakes. And my Piping Tips Tutorial is always helpful too!Print
6 Inch Birthday Cake with Easy Buttercream Flowers
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: serves 8
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
This 6 inch birthday cake is complete with easy buttercream flowers and swirls. Follow the recipe and video tutorial to recreate at home!
- 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spooned & 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
- 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
- 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 6 cups (720g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy cream or whole milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
- Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 6-inch Round Cake Pans | Glass Mixing Bowl | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Cake Turntable | Pastel Americolor Gel Kit | Regular Americolor Gel Kit | Bench Scraper | Icing Spatula | Piping Bags (Reusable or Disposable) | Wilton 1M Open Star Piping Tip | Ateco 844 Closed Star Piping Tip | Confetti Quin Sprinkles | Cake Carrier (for storage)
- 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.
- 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.
- Why is Everything at Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about the importance of room temperature ingredients.
- Sprinkles: Avoid using nonpareils (the little balls) as they bleed their color into the cake batter. I used these pastel confetti quins.
- Buttercream: This yields a lot of frosting. If looking to decorate the cake without the floral detail, follow these white cake ratios for vanilla buttercream.
- 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.
- 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
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi Sally & team!
Could I make this cake 2 or 3 days in advance and leave the layers in the fridge until ready to frost?
Hi Rachel, if covered tightly, that should work just fine. Or you can learn all about how to freeze cake layers here. Enjoy!
Where did you get those sprinkles?! They’re so pretty!
Hi Kim! See recipe notes for a link to our favorite confetti quinns.
If subbing whole milk Greek yogurt, am I replacing just sour cream or sour cream and milk?
Hi Katherine, you can use plain full-fat yogurt to replace the sour cream (same amount with no other changes). Or, you can use buttermilk to replace both the sour cream and milk (1 cup total).
Love this recipe! I was working on this recipe the same time as Favorite Vanilla Buttercream for cupcakes next to the cake & noticed that the confectioners sugar has different weights/cup on the two recipes.
Thanks for always providing delicious and easy to follow recipes!!
Thank you for letting us know, Brittany! I’m glad you enjoy this cake.
I would like to make this for my daughter’s fourth birthday. I see the recipe says it serves 8. Is that adult or child servings? Thank you!
Hi Fiona, the cake will yield 8 generously sized pieces of cake. Feel free to cut them smaller or larger for your needs. Hope it’s a hit!
I’m planning on baking this for my upcoming birthday next weekend. If I swapped out the American Buttercream for the Swiss Meringue Buttercream would it still work for decorating with the beautiful flowers? Thank you.
Hi Jennifer, yes, Swiss meringue buttercream pipes beautifully. Happy birthday to you!
Hi Sally, I followed this recipe to the T (you are my regular go-to, love your work!) and I’m a fairly handy amateur baker. It’s been years since I’ve had a cake fall, but all three of these did! It was my first time using this particular variety of cake flour, but otherwise I used previously used ingredients in a familiar kitchen. Obviously it was user error, but I’m wondering if you had any thoughts as to what is a likely suspect for this cake? Happily this was my trial run for the real event – I’d be so grateful for your thoughts for the next go.
Hi Julia, it’s possible the cakes were under-baked. An extra minute or 2 could help for next time.
Love the cake! I am not a big fan of buttercream frosting. Will cream cheese frosting work well with this design?
Hi Kat! Cream cheese frosting won’t hold the intricate details of these buttercream flowers. You could always use a cream cheese frosting between the cake layers (and on the outside) and make a batch of buttercream to pipe the roses with. Let us know if you give it a try!
Thank you! I think I will try your Swiss meringue buttercream recipe!
Another question, can I add 2 whole eggs instead of 3 egg whites in the cake recipe?
Hi Kat, using egg whites only keeps this cake light and fluffy. We recommend sticking with the recipe for best results!
I’m planning to use the recipe for your Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Guinness Buttercream to make a 6 inch cake for my friend’s wedding, and would love to try decorating it with these buttercream flowers. Will the instructions for the flowers work with the mocha Guinness buttercream, or will it be too dark? If it would work, will it need to be doubled? If not, do you have any recommendations for how to make the flowers work (flavour-wise) with the Guinness cake?
Hi C, The mocha Guinness buttercream is a little too dark to be able to use food coloring to make these colors. We suggest using it between your layers and for your crumb coat. Then make a separate batch of vanilla buttercream to tint colors and use for the flowers.