6 Inch Birthday Cake with Easy Buttercream Flowers

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.

6 inch cake with floral piping decoration on a cake stand

To make this 6-inch birthday cake with easy buttercream flowers, we started with sprinkle confetti 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. We discovered that while testing this recipe! And we even have a page dedicated to 6 inch cakes explaining it in more detail. 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. 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.)

3 layer 6 inch sprinkle birthday cake with frosting on cake stand

6 inch birthday cake slices on white plates

Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.) 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

2 images of sprinkle cake batter in a glass mixing bowl and cake batter in 3 6 inch cake pans before baking

2 images of frosting in a glass bowl and 6 inch cake with vanilla buttercream on a cake stand

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!

piping bags filled with colorful frosting

Buttercream roses and hydrangeas on top of 6 inch cake

Easy floral frosting decoration on cake

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.)

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Buttercream roses and hydrangeas on top of 6 inch cake

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 the recipe and video tutorial to recreate at home!


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) 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
  • 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°F (177°C). Grease three 6-inch cake pans, line bottom 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 Bowls6-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 TipConfetti 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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101 Comments

  1. Andrea Runne says:

    Hi, can you tell me which Wilton tip is the same as or similar to the Ateco 844 tip that you used?
    (Beautiful design in the cake. Love it!)

    1. Any star tip would still work fine– even the Wilton 1M!

  2. M’kenna Sorensen says:

    I have 4, 8inch pans. Could I double the recipe? This sounds heavenly and perfect for my sons cake! We’re doing a dinosaur cake!

    1. Hi M’kenna! Happy to help. Doubling this recipe would be far too much batter for your 4 8-inch cake pans. You may want to 1.5x the recipe instead or check my Cake Pan Sizes & Conversions page.

  3. Valentina Hernandez says:

    Used this recipe today for Easter! Love it and it was a huge hit with the kiddos, gonna use it again for a birthday next month. Frosting was so good, I’ll never use another recipe for frosting, I found the perfect one here!

  4. Lauren Stirratt says:

    Hi Sally,
    Love all your recipes and tutorials. I have a question about the buttercream. When I make it using all butter the frosting becomes a melted mess. To combat that I use a solid shortening like Crisco which helps to stiffen it. The problem is though the consistency of the frosting is too stiff. Any ideas to help?

    1. Hi Lauren! Make sure your butter is at the proper room temperature. It should still be cool to the touch and not overly softened. I wrote an article about this if you’re interested and I really do think it will help: proper room temperature butter.

  5. Cathleen Evans says:

    Help! I just made this cake and when I took the cakes out of the oven, they were super flat. I did use 9×2 in cake pans instead of 6 in but each layer cake out about 1/2 inch thick so I think I did something wrong and it’s not the pan substitution.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Cathleen, there isn’t enough batter to yield 2 9-inch cakes. I recommend the full size white cake recipe. This recipe is best for 6 inch cakes.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Sally,
    If I wanted to use this recipe for 3 10×2 in pans how many times would I double the recipe?
    Thanks!!!!!!!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, Here is everything you need to know about Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions.

  7. Hi – can I substitute buttermilk for the sour cream in this recipe? If, yes how much buttermilk?

    1. Hi Bill, You can try substituting the 1/2 cup sour cream AND the 1/2 cup whole milk for 1 cup of buttermilk.

  8. Fun recipe! I needed a smaller cake for my daughter’s 8th birthday for just the family. It was just the three of us and on another day she was going to have a bigger cake with her friends. This 6 inch recipe was perfect. She loved the sprinkles in the cake (festive) and I used different color frostings to pipe decorations. Cake was mildly dense, but I live at 5000 feet altitude.

  9. Hi Sally. I want to try making this cake for my sisters birthday this week, but I want to do a chocolate version. Is there a recipe I can find on your site where I can produce the same 6 inch cake but in a chocolate version? Additionally is there somewhere I can find chocolate flavour buttercream recipe instead of vanilla? Thank you xxx

    1. Yes! See my post on 6 Inch Cakes for many flavor ideas including chocolate 🙂

  10. Do you put parchment paper on just the bottom or up the sides too?

    1. Just the bottoms! I trace the pan and cut out a circle and just place the circle on the bottom of the pan.

  11. Karen Basallote says:

    Hi Sally,

    Why do you only use egg whites in this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, Egg whites not only give this cake its structure and keeps it pristine white, it also ensures a light texture (not weighed down by the yolks). Since we are losing a little fat from the missing egg yolks, we can add that back in via sour cream and whole milk.

  12. Hi, the cake looks amazing. I was wondering if I could bake the cake and do the buttercream swirls the precious day and refrigerate the whole cake ? Thank you.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ann, Yes this cake should be fine refrigerated for one day before serving. If you have a cake carrier to place it in, that is a good way to keep it covered without damaging the piped frosting.

  13. Vasundhara G says:

    Hello. I just love your recipies. I am a home baker myself and gave used your website multiple times. Over the past year.. I just wanted to know – how do I avoid condensation on my buttercream frosted cake? I had this problem today and it ruined the decoration as colors started to run. Please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vasundhara, At what point are you getting condensation? If your cake is frozen and you wish to thaw it, it’s best to thaw overnight in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. A quick change in temperature can lead to condensation.

  14. I only have one 6 inch pan. Will the batter be OK if I keep it and bake in 3 batches. Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, You can bake one layer and keep the unused batter covered at room temperature until your cake pan is ready to be used again.

  15. Hi Sally!
    I want to make this cake for my younger sister’s birthday, but the deal is, she only eats chocolate cakes. Any changes that I can make to make this a chocolate cake?

    Thanks!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ash, The batter for these chocolate cupcakes fits perfectly into three 6 inch pans. See our post on 6 inch cakes for details!

  16. Hello, I wanted to try your vanilla buttercream recipe. But whenever i try American buttercream it comes out gritty no matter how much I beat the butter and add powder sugar one spoon at a time. I am a big fan of your baking and have tried your Swiss buttercream it works great. I am scared to try this because American buttercream end up gritty.. Can you tell me if adding all sugar , cream and vanilla extract will do any different. Also can i dissolve sugar in cream and cool it and add this mix to the butter???
    Much Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zuman, It could simply be the brand of confectioners sugar you are using. Try sifting it before using which should help.

  17. Can’t wait to try this! I bought the pans you suggested but I only bought two and I know you’re generally supposed to bake one pan at a time in the over so do you any suggestions on how to go about making the batter? Should I split the ingredients by 3 or should I make all of it together then somehow store 2/3 while each is baking? I also don’t have a scale or an electric mixer, do you think it is still doable? Sorry I’m a little nervous, I’ve never baked a cake and have always been nervous about making something I can’t try before giving someone so any tips would be much appreciated! I love your website

  18. I LOVE your recipes and your fabulous tutorials! I’m a hobby baker who makes special cakes for family birthdays and treats for friends and neighbors. My grandkids LOVE their Nana’s special birthday cakes! Like you I often see flaws in my cakes, but you’re right, no one else ever notices! I love the encouragement you offer to non-professional bakers. Thank you! 🙂

  19. Watching you decorate this cake, just as watching you make any baked goods, is such a delight! Thank you – I’ve learned so much from your website.

  20. I made this for my 60th birthday I was doing a fun photo shoot and this was the most perfect recipe!
    Thank you for adding the grams because I really do think that’s important. I have to admit I was a little concerned when I put all those rainbow sprinkles into the batter but it was the perfect amount.
    and hindsight I made just all roses for the most part so I should have made a little more frosting. Fortunately I had a can of (gasp) vanilla frosting so I could finish.
    I wish I could post a photo!

  21. Hi! Love your cakes!

    I am wondering if I could use an alternative instead of cake flour – I’m in the UK and can’t find this anywhere…or cornstarch!

    Thanks 🙂

  22. Cindy Johnston says:

    Hi there,
    I have 2 questions:

    1. is it OK to use reduced fat sour cream and 2% milk instead of full fat?
    2. I only have 2 six-inch pans. Can you tell me what the proportions would be making the recipe at 2/3 or do I need to make it at 100% and use the excess for cupcakes?

    THX! All of your work is so wonderful.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cindy! You can use the reduced fat sour cream and milk, but the cake will not be as rich and light. You can also 2/3 the recipe for only 2 pans, but it would be best (and easiest!) to simply use the leftover batter for a few cupcakes as you mention. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

  23. Hi Sally,

    Would you recommend SMBC vs. the traditional buttercream for this decorating technique? I’m looking for a less sweet frosting option. Thank you so much for all your research and explanations behind all your recipes! Your room temperature article was my Oprah aha! epiphany as to why my cakes always end up so dense.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Helen, Swiss meringue buttercream works wonderfully for piping and would be a good choice here. Thank you for your kind feedback, we really appreciate it!

    2. Hi! How do I get thick layers like in the photos? When I divide my batter between three pans it seems like they will be so small.

  24. Carol J Petersen says:

    Love baking cakes and have “developed” a few recipes which are office favorites! However, I just learned that I am gluten-sensitive. Ugh!! Do you have any great gluten-free cake recipes?
    Really enjoy your videos! I can ‘waste’ a whole afternoon just watching them!! Thank you so much!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carol! Our flourless chocolate cake is our favorite gluten-free cake option. Otherwise, we aren’t trained in gluten-free baking so we have not experimented with making gluten-free versions of our other cakes. However, we do have a growing section of gluten-free recipes on our site — hope you can find some to enjoy!

  25. Hi Sally. Can I bake this with two 8 inch pans ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Swathi! For two 8 inch pans, we would follow this white cake recipe instead (8 inch pans are fine instead of 9 inch in that recipe). You can fold in 1/2 -2/3 cup of sprinkles (jimmies, not nonpareils) to that batter for a sprinkle cake.

  26. Hi! What Wilton tip is similar to the 844 closed star you mentioned? I have the 1m tip and some other Wilton tips but not the other brand!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melisa! A Wilton #30 or any other closed star tip should create a similar look. Happy decorating!

  27. Hi Sally, you are my go to for every recipe and without fail they always turn out perfect. I want to try this one for my daughter’s birthday but I have a question…she has requested a rainbow cake. The lazy side of me wants to say the sprinkles are enough…but I really think it should be either rainbow batter or rainbow icing…any suggestion on what would take the food colouring better? I’ve found in the past that food colouring can make the icing too runny while tryining to get a vibrant colour (she’s turning 4, would rather bright than pastel). My last attempt at colouring icing made it way too runny, it barely stayed in the cake, nevermind solid enough to make flowers. I ended up throwing it away and starting again and left it white. And other times the food colouring doesn’t get the batter quite the right colour. Any suggestions?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Autumn! It really depends — but regardless of whether you decide to color the cake layers or the frosting, we recommend using gel food coloring for best results. This should help with the “runny” issue you mention when coloring the frosting. Typically, it is easier to control the color with frosting, because you can start small and add more color as needed, and play with the consistency by adding more confectioners’ sugar and / or heavy cream as needed. Cake layers can be trickier, as they may look one color it the batter state, but bake up differently. Hope this was helpful to you!

  28. Hi Sally,
    I am going to bake this later this week, but like Cindy said I only want 2 layers. I thought I will just make cupcakes with the left over batter instead of 2/3 the recipe. How long should I bake the cupcakes for?
    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maddie, you can bake the extra cupcakes for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

  29. Will this cake recipe come out well if you just delete the half a cup of sprinkles?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Missy, You can definitely skip the sprinkles with no other adjustments. Enjoy!

  30. sally
    my frosting is too grainy
    i grinded up some caster sugar to make it more finer instead of icing sugar
    what do i do do?
    i need to make this quick
    please reply soon
    thank you

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shreeya! Confectioner’s sugar is imperative to a smooth frosting. You can try sifting your sugar to get any larger grains out.

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