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. 🙂

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 (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 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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211 Comments

  1. I have never made a cake in my life, but want to make the smash cake for my daughter’s first birthday so I know exactly what ingredients are in it. I found your recipe and did a trial run tonight – full disclosure I did try a different icing, but the cake was AMAZING! I don’t make cake, I don’t even like to eat cake, but this was delicious and easy. And I SO appreciated your step-by-step instructions, and the link about the room-temperature ingredients convinced me to plan ahead enough to let things sit out for an hour. I accidentally used two 6 inch cake pans instead of three, and just had to cook it a little longer but it still came out wonderfully. Thank you for sharing this!!!

  2. I practiced the frosting and piping techniques today on a six inch cake and it came out almost like yours. I am so pleased. I’ll be making a 4 inch version for my granddaughter’s smash cake, and now I know I can do it! Thank you so much for detailed instructions and the video. The video is SO HELPFUL!!

  3. Jennifer Bene says:

    What tip did you use for the big flowers you “swirled”?

    1. Wilton 1M

      1. Jennifer Bene says:

        Thank you! I can’t wait to do these!

  4. 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!

  5. I’ve been scrolling up and down, but can’t seem to find the video tutorial. I was hoping to make this for a 2-year-old little girl’s birthday cake next Monday.

    1. Hi Cate, It is immediately above the recipe.
      Give the video right below this text a few seconds to load. It’s a faded horizontal image of the a piece of tiramisu. Click on the play button in the center to play it. Make sure any ad blockers are temporarily paused on your browser.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. Hi Sally, this will be my next baking challenge for my daughter’s birthday cake. Decorating! Will this work on a different frosting? I’m thinking cream cheese frosting (red velvet) or browned butter cream cheese frosting. Thank you!

    1. Hi Liz! Cream cheese frosting doesn’t pipe as nicely, but refrigerating it before piping helps. I really do recommend a buttercream here.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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 🙂

      1. Amazing you are a star thanks 🙂

  15. Hi would the consistency of the cake be the same if I just leave out the sprinkles?

    1. Yes, feel free to leave out the sprinkles without making any other changes.

  16. 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.

  17. Your cake is so beautiful! You are an inspiration! Where did you find your lovely cake stand? I’m having a hard time finding a pretty 8” one. Thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes and techniques!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, thank you so much for your kind words. This cake stand is from Magnolia’s Target collection- I don’t see it available anymore but they do have some other cute options 🙂

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