This 6 inch birthday cake is complete with easy buttercream flowers and swirls. Follow this recipe and my video tutorial to recreate at home!
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 12-14 cupcakes is the perfect amount of cake batter for 3 6-inch cake pans.
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 any sprinkles cake or cupcake 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 Daddios 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.
Once the cakes are baked and cooled, begin preparing the vanilla buttercream. 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Watch me decorate 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!)
PS: here is the pictured cake stand. I have the 8-inch (large) size.
6 Inch Birthday Cake with 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! My recommended decorating tools are listed in the recipe notes.
- 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
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). 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.
- 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 tip: 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: 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
- Cake Flour: Sift cake flour before measuring. If you can't get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup (125g) of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons (16g). Mix in 2 Tablespoons (15g) of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. 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 here for more information.
- 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 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 different size birthday cake? I recommend making this 9-inch 2 layer vanilla cake and adding 2/3 cup sprinkles.
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