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!

6 inch cake with floral piping decoration on a cake stand

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. 🙂

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

6 inch birthday cake slices on white plates

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.

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

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 bags filled with colorful frosting

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 on top of 6 inch cake

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
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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 this recipe and my video tutorial to recreate at home!


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (210g) 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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235 Comments

  1. Oh Sally this just looks so yummy! I wish i one day i will have the guts to make a cake like this, with all those cute frostings and pipings! Happy birthday! May you have many more to come : )

    1. Thank you, Emily! And seriously, you CAN do it! Just decide one day to pick up some frosting bags, a tip, and start practicing! You’ve git this!

  2. Such a beautiful cake! Love using 6″pans and I look forward to making this dreamy little cake. You are so helpful too, it is important to realize that these pans work best with parchment on the bottom. It just takes one instance with a cake sticking in a spot to appreciate such helpful hints and tips!

  3. Tamara Jones says:

    Hi. Comments aren’t showing for some reason, so apologies if this has already been asked and answered: Can I use this recipe to make two nine-inch layers, instead?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Tamara! I thought I answered this question already, so my apologies! Follow this vanilla cake recipe for a 9-inch 2 layer cake. You can add sprinkles to the batter.

      1. Hi!
        How can what conversions can I do to make my cake in an 8-in pan?

      2. Thank you so much for the info and recipe about the nine inch pans Sally. Happy Birthday, this is a beautiful cake, it inspires me to try piping roses and hydrangeas.

    2. Poune Bahrampour says:

      Good question Tamera.

  4. Sally, thank you for your awesome recipes and tips! Any chance you know of naturally dyed confetti that don’t bleed? My daughter cannot have dyes and she gets a little crazy when she has them. So we have to go the natural route which doesn’t yield as pretty colors, but everyone can eat it!

    1. Hi Amy! I love these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GP3AZQY/
      I just used them in my Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies I posted last week if you want to see what they look like in real life 🙂

  5. I can’t wait to make this cake!! I would like to make this cake in 9″ pans… Would you recommend just making the recipe a half time bigger?

    1. Hi Sharon! I recommend making this 2 layer vanilla cake and add sprinkles or this 3 layer funfetti cake.

  6. Hi Sally. Yesterday I made a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but I used your technique to ice it, and it looked absolutely beautiful. Not quite as pretty as your multicolours, but still beautiful and everyone at the party was very impressed. I watched your video and found it easy to do. Thank you Sally!

  7. I just made your cake today and it came out fantastic! One thing I did notice is in the print version of the recipe it doesn’t say when to add the sprinkles.

    1. Thank you for trying my recipe and reporting back, Tadria!

  8. Would this cake turn out well if you cut the recipe into a third? My baby girl turns 1 already July 11 (gasp!) and while my dad’s bakery will be doing her first birthday cake I really want to do her smash cake but I don’t have a recipe yet. If this won’t work, will you be posting anything similar soon so I’d have time to test the recipe? Thanks so much! 🙂 My other thought was doing a cupcake but I think I want her to have cake in traditional cake form lol, probably cheesy but so old-fashioned and what I’m after!

    1. Many of the measurement would be difficult to accurately measure one third of. I would recommend making the entire cake and freezing the two layers you aren’t using for a later time! And happy 1st birthday!!

      1. Ah I had not thought of that! Will it freeze well if I make in advance?

      2. Yes, see the make ahead tip at the end of the recipe 🙂

  9. Hi Sally,
    First of all, Happy Birthday!!
    I’m looking to make this cake for my sister’s birthday, Since I currently live in the UK, you can’t get cake flour here. Can I just use self-raising flour instead, or is there an alternative?
    This is such a beautiful cake and I’m really looking forward to baking it. I’m not a very experienced baker, so fingers crossed it will turn out okay!
    Thanks,
    Fayre 🙂

    1. Hi Fayre, see the first recipe note (directly beneath the recipe) for instructions on how to make a DIY cake flour. Enjoy!

  10. Hi Sally!! I’m a huge huge fan of SBA! I was wondering, how did you successfully transfer the cake from the pink stand to the cute rustic white stand? I don’t like to use cake boards because it’s too much of an eyesore! Thanks!

    1. Hi Nikki, the cake in the photos I decorated on the cake stand 🙂

  11. What type of cardboard do you use for the bottom of the cake? Is it a special kind or can I use some from a box?

    1. Hi Katie! They’re cardboard cake rounds. I purchase them from Amazon.

  12. Hi Sally! I made this cake last weekend and it was fabulous! Now I am looking for a six inch chocolate cake recipe – can you please share which of your recipes would work for a six inch chocolate cake? It’s a special request for our Father’s Day celebration! Thanks!

    1. Hi Joan! I suggest making this chocolate cake batter , filling the 6-inch cake pans halfway, then using any extra to make cupcakes. You can always freeze the cupcakes. 🙂

      https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/08/triple-chocolate-layer-cake

  13. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) says:

    ahhh so so so pretty!!!! Best birthday cake ever!

  14. Hi Sally! LOVE all of your recipes 🙂

    Would this recipe work as a two-layer cake in two 6-inch pans with a 3-inch depth? If so, what would your baking recommendations be?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it. I would be afraid the batter would be too thick and the tops and sides would bake before the middles. I would make three and either wrap and freeze the third layer for later or make some cupcakes with the extra batter!

  15. Sally, where did you get those “Eat dessert first” forks? They’re great!

    1. A super cute etsy shop. I love all her stuff and she does custom printed sayings too! https://www.etsy.com/shop/MilkandHoneyLuxuries

  16. Will these designs hold up for other frostings? Like a cream cheese frosting? I don’t want to try and then have the droop or melt. This will be my first attempt at cake decorating so I have no answers to even basics questions. Thanks!

    1. It really depends on the frosting! With cream cheese frosting it must be very cold to hold the shape. Buttercream usually works best for me but you can certainly experiment with other types!

  17. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally!
    I wanted to thank you once again for this wonderful blog. I’ve become quite the baker thanks to you & often get asked when am I opening my own bakery. Lately I’ve made your sugar cookies a lot, as wedding cakes & hearts for a friend’s daughters wedding, as graduation caps & stars for my cousins high school graduation, & most recently as chickens & eggs for my friends hen gathering party. For that same hen gathering I also made this cake (sort of). I needed a bigger cake so I made your coconut lemon cake sans lemon & a cream cheese frosting, 4 layers to make it a piñata cake, & used this method to decorate. By far the prettiest cake I have ever made!!! But not only pretty, so so yummy too!! Thank you so so much for teaching us all the things!!

    1. You have been baking up a storm – I love it! I bet the cake was beautiful and I’d love to see the chicken and egg cookies so be sure to tag me if you post them on social media!

      1. Austria Azaceta says:

        I definitely did on instagram. I always tag you when I use your recipes (which is almost always). 🙂

  18. Monica De Leon says:

    Hi Sally!

    I just made this cake and it was amazing! Thank you for sharing so much information and steps with us readers. I especially love that you cover grams in your recipe since that is how I am learning to accurately measure. I do have a question.

    After the cake cooled, I was ready to cut the tops of the cakes to make them flat but i found that the cake is very soft and I was worried that I would just drag the cake along and ruin it.

    Do you have a blog post or tips that work for you when you level your cakes?

    Any help would be appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Monica

    1. Hi Monica! Thank you so much for the kind words!! I’m so happy to help. I don’t have any tricks up my sleeve for leveling cakes. I wait for the cakes to completely cool and simply use a SHARP serrated knife. Stick the cakes in the fridge for 30 minutes next time. If they’re a little cooler, they’re much easier to level off.

  19. Hi Sally! This cake looks amazing and I am looking forward to making it. However, I am going to be making it for a 1-year-old’s birthday and was hoping to reduce the sugar. I plan to use a cream cheese/whip cream frosting rather than buttercream so that I can limit the sugar (and maybe lean toward a more ‘naked’ cake with limited flowers), but I also want to cut the sugar in the cake itself a bit. Can I simply reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe or do you have a recommended substitute?

    1. Hi Dawn! You can reduce the sugar in this cake to your liking, but the taste and texture will change. I have only made the cake as written. Let me know how it goes!

  20. Success! This was indeed a beautiful cake! Making this cake took me out of my baking slump! And piping is NOTHING to fear! Thanks girl!

    But I don’t think I really knew how small a 6inch cake was until today

    1. I’m so glad you made this, Cherise! Be sure to tag a photo of it so that I can see 🙂

  21. Yes, definitely!

  22. Hi, Sally!! I love your blog and recipes. Questions: If I don’t have any cake flour can I use all purpose flour? Or is Presto good to use (it already has baking powder, soda and salt added)?

    1. Hi Kiara! I’m unfamiliar with Presto brand. For swapping AP flour for cake flour in this recipe, my recommendation is in the recipe notes. 🙂

  23. Hi Sally – Beautiful Cake! Would you be willing to share the colors you used in your Icing?

    1. Hi Jan! Thank you so much! See recipe note titled “To decorate exactly as pictured” for details on tips and colors.

  24. Hi Sally, do you think I could make this using two 8″ pans? Thank you

    1. Hi Champs! I fear there wouldn’t be enough batter but I actually haven’t tried it. Let me know if you do! If you have 2 9-inch pans, you can make the cake like I did here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/01/02/new-favorite-white-layer-cake/

      1. Thanks sally for taking time to reply. I have actually made favourite white layer cake. I love your recipes. My favourite is Triple chocolate layer cake. It’s a perfection!!

  25. Finally made this cake today and I am so happy with the result! Thanks again for your detailed instructions, piping hasn’t always come naturally to me but this was a great test to shake out those concerns. Can’t wait to cut into it tomorow at work 🙂

  26. Hi Sally! for the batter, is it okay to use heavy cream instead of whole milk because I only have 1% milk lol

    1. Hi Justine! The 1% milk would be a better option. Cream is way too heavy for cake batter.

  27. Hi Sally, I was wondering if this recipe would work in a 6X3 pan, and then I level and layer it after it’s cooled off?

    1. I can’t see why not!

  28. Hi Sally, would it be alright to ommit the sprinkles?

    1. Absolutely! Just leave them out.

  29. Sally, I am going to make this cake today I have the Wilton 1M tip even the 2D tip but I do not have the Ateco 844 tip do you happen to know which Wilton tip could be used instead??? I can’t wait to try this!!!! Thank you for sharing this!!!

    1. Hi Mary! The Wilton 1M tip can actually produce the same look! And open star tip would be great.

  30. Hi, Sally! I love your recipes! I was just wondering if you just like the bottoms of your pans or the sides too? Thanks!

    1. I only line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, but I spray both the sides and bottoms!

    2. Hi Sally,

      Thank you for posting this recipe. I want to use this recipe in the “cupake” cake pan. How many cups of batter does this recipe make?

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