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Small cakes are certainly convenient for small celebrations. This 1 layer 6 inch chocolate cake serves 4, so it’s perfect for date night, a Valentine’s Day dessert, a small family birthday celebration, or for whenever you need a scaled down cake. We love it with chocolate ganache on top. You can also use this chocolate cake batter to make a small batch of cupcakes. 

6 inch chocolate cake with chocolate ganache on top sitting on a pink cake stand

This is a 1 Layer 6 Inch Chocolate Cake

Over the past year, we’ve received many requests for smaller variations of normally large desserts. We’ve directed a lot of bakers to our 6 inch cakes blog post, where I teach you how to turn cupcake batter into a 6 inch layer cake. But what if you don’t need 3 layers?

Here’s our 1 layer 6 inch chocolate cake recipe. I worked on this recipe with Valentine’s Day on my mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a tiny cake without a ton of leftover slices? But even beyond Valentine’s Day dessert recipes, it’s massively convenient to have a dessert option for small gatherings, families, celebrations, as part of your Mother’s Day recipes, or just a casual at-home date night.

Small Chocolate Cake Details

  • Flavor: This cake is sweet with divine chocolate flavor, especially when you pair it with deep dark chocolate ganache (recipe included below). Wait for the cake to cool completely before digging in. I find its chocolate flavor develops after a few hours.
  • Texture: If it’s not over-baked, this cake is soft, rich, and indulgently moist. Have you ever made the sour cream version of my larger layered chocolate cake? The texture is pretty much identical. Any unfrosted edges become delicately crisp (not in a bad way!), which adds a little textural dimension to each slice.
  • Ease: Since the cake is so small and there’s no elaborate decorating required, this is a very manageable recipe for beginner bakers. The ingredient list is pretty straightforward and you don’t even need to use a mixer.
  • Time: Set aside a few hours to complete this cake recipe. The cake is pretty thick, so it takes close to 30 minutes to bake through. The longest stretch of time, however, is waiting for the cake to cool.
  • Equipment: Nothing special except for a 6 inch cake pan (affiliate link to the exact cake pans I use and love).
small chocolate cake on a pink cake stand

Overview of the Ingredients & Process

Though you can find the full printable recipe below, let me walk you through a couple steps and answer some possible questions that may arise.

The batter comes together in 2 mixing bowls. Whisk flour, unsweetened natural cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt together in one bowl. The espresso powder is optional, but definitely use it if you have it. Espresso powder accentuates and deepens the chocolate flavor. In another bowl, whisk oil, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and buttermilk. Buttermilk is our acidic ingredient and crucial for this cake’s rise. If you don’t have buttermilk, use the DIY version detailed in the notes below.

Expect a semi-thick cake batter. 

bowls of ingredients and a 6 inch cake pan

Like I recommend with all my 6 inch cakes, use a parchment paper round. Trace the bottom of your 6 inch cake pan on a large piece of parchment paper. Cut out the parchment circle. Very lightly grease the cake pan. Place the parchment round inside. Grease the parchment round too. Using butter or nonstick spray, I grease the pan AND the parchment. This promises an ultra non-stick environment for your small chocolate cake.

6 inch chocolate cake before and after baking

Though its diameter is small, this is a thick chocolate cake. It’s pretty moist, too. Because of its thickness and delicious moisture, the cake may sink a little in the very center. Don’t fret over that. (Cover it up with ganache!) As long as a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.

two side-by-side photos of chocolate ganache in a bowl then chocolate ganache spread on a small chocolate cake


You can top this small chocolate cake with chocolate ganache (recipe included below), buttercream, or whipped cream. For a thick layer of buttercream, I recommend halving this chocolate buttercream, this strawberry buttercream, this peanut butter frosting, or this vanilla buttercream. For a lightly sweetened whipped cream topping, you could halve the mocha whipped cream paired with my flourless chocolate cake or halve this vanilla whipped cream recipe.

The pictured heart sprinkles are from this sprinkle set. (Affiliate link.) And I bought this adorable pink cake stand from Home Goods 2 years ago.

overhead photo of chocolate ganache and pink heart sprinkles on a chocolate cake

small slice of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, mint, and a raspberry on top

Use This Batter for 6 Chocolate Cupcakes

So what if you want a smaller batch of chocolate cupcakes? Yes, you can absolutely use this recipe. This chocolate cake batter yields about 1 and 1/2 cups of batter total, which makes 6 standard size cupcakes. How does it weigh up against my standard chocolate cupcakes recipe? Well, this batter is a little thicker so the cupcakes aren’t quite as light, delicate, and spongy. They’re soft and moist, but have a slightly heavier crumb.

  • For a cupcake topping, use any of the topping options listed above.
  • For the pictured frosted cupcakes, I used the chocolate ganache recipe below. After the ganache cools completely, you can beat it with an electric mixer for about 3-4 minutes to make whipped ganache. Tastes like chocolate mousse! You can read more about it in the recipe below or in my chocolate ganache post.
6 chocolate cupcakes before and after baking

chocolate cupcake with whipped chocolate ganache and a raspberry on top

What About a Vanilla Version?

I don’t have a vanilla version of this recipe at this time. Though I haven’t tested it, I’m confident you could halve this homemade sprinkle cake recipe to yield a 1 layer 6 inch vanilla cake or 6 vanilla cupcakes. Feel free to skip the sprinkles.

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overhead photo of chocolate ganache and pink heart sprinkles on a chocolate cake

Small Chocolate Cake (6 Inch)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours (includes cake and ganache cooling)
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


This 1 layer 6 inch chocolate cake serves 4, so it’s perfect for any occasion requiring a scaled down cake. You can also use this chocolate cake batter to make a small batch of chocolate cupcakes. For best success, review the recipe notes before starting.


  • 1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Chocolate Ganache

  • one 4-ounce quality semi-sweet chocolate bar (113g), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • optional garnish: raspberries, mint, and/or sprinkles


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 6×2 inch cake pan, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the small cake seamlessly release from the pan. I usually grease it with nonstick spray.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and buttermilk together in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and whisk until smooth and combined.
  3. Pour the cake batter evenly into prepared cake pan.
  4. Bake for around 27-30 minutes or until the cake is baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Avoid over-baking. Cake is thick and moist, so the center may slightly sink. That’s normal. Allow cake to cool in the pan set on a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the chocolate ganache as the cake cools because the ganache must cool too: Place chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil– that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate, then let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. With a metal spoon or small rubber spatula, very slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Ganache will be thin, so let it cool and thicken for at least 30-60 minutes before using. Refrigerating speeds this up, but the ganache will not cool evenly. Stir it a few times as it sets in the refrigerator so it remains smooth. You can also let the ganache fully cool and thicken (takes about 2 hours). After 2 hours, you can whip the cooled ganache with a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until light in color and texture, about 3-4 minutes on medium-high speed. (Whipped ganache can be spread or piped. It is pictured on the cupcakes in the post above. I used Wilton 1M piping tip.)
  6. Spread ganache on cooled cake. If ganache has cooled and thickened enough (or if you whipped it), you could pipe it with a piping bag/tip. Decorate with optional garnishes, if desired. Slice and serve.
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Frosted or unfrosted cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months. If desired, see my How to Freeze Cakes post. Thaw cake overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. For make-ahead instructions for the chocolate ganache, see step 5 in my chocolate ganache post.
  2. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder, not dutch-process. (See dutch-process vs natural cocoa powder for more information.)
  3. Espresso Powder: Espresso powder will not make the cake taste like coffee. Instead, it deepens the chocolate flavor. It’s optional, but for best taste, I highly recommend it. You can use the same amount of instant coffee (the powder) instead of espresso powder if desired.
  4. Amount of Sugar: I tested this recipe with 6 Tablespoons of sugar and the cake wasn’t as sweet, of course, but it tasted pretty plain. I recommend sticking with 8 Tbsp (1/2 cup). Topping with chocolate ganache definitely balances out the sweetness.
  5. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/4 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  6. 6 Cupcakes: Preheat oven to  350°F (177°C). Line a standard 12-count muffin pan with 6 liners. Prepare the batter as directed in step 2 above. Pour or spoon the batter into the liners. Fill each 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides or sinking. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t over-bake, which will dry out the cupcakes. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Chocolate in Ganache: Ganache will only set if the correct chocolate is used. You can use high quality chocolate chips if needed (I prefer Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips), but I recommend using pure chocolate baking bars. You can find them right next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle. They are sold in 4 ounce bars. I like Bakers or Ghirardelli brands. You can use other varieties of chocolate too, such as milk chocolate (aka German Chocolate) or Dark Chocolate. If using white chocolate, reduce the cream to 1/3 cup (80ml). White chocolate is softer, so you need less cream.
  8. Dairy-Free Alternative for Heavy Cream in Ganache: Use 1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk. Shake it up before opening and measuring. Whisk on the stove as it heats and bring to a simmer.
  9. 8 Inch Pan or 2 Layer Cake: You can use this cake batter in an 8×2 inch cake pan. The cake will be thinner and the bake time is about 24-25 minutes, but use a toothpick to test for doneness just as instructed above. I don’t recommend doubling this recipe to make a 2 layer cake because it will be quite thick and taste heavy. Instead, divide the batter between two 6-inch cake pans (bake time would be shorter) or divide the batter from these chocolate cupcakes in 2 6-inch cake pans. Start checking with a toothpick at 26 minutes.

Keywords: chocolate, cake, ganache

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hello! Have you tried replacing the vegetable oil with coconut oil? Do you think the cake would behave the same? I didn’t read through every single comment, so forgive me if this was already answered.

    1. Hi Kristen, we haven’t personally tried it, but some readers have reported success doing so. The flavor will slightly change. Let us know if you give it a try!

  2. I made this cake yesterday for my husband’s birthday-it was absolutely delicious especially the ganache -thank you

  3. hi Sally,
    is buttermilk same as home made curd mixed with water?
    If yes, then what will be the proportion of curd and water?

    1. Hi Shuchi! Buttermilk isn’t the same as diluted milk curd. We suggest sticking with buttermilk – see recipe notes to make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed.

  4. Hello! I’ve tried the triple chocolate cake and it’s been delicious each time. I’m planning to bake this little cake today and I wanted to check if I should add hot water or brewed coffee ( like the other recipe) . And if yes, how much would you recommend?

    1. Hi Lee, a 2 inch thick (6 inch wide) cake pan will work well for this recipe. Enjoy!

  5. Hi Sally and Team,
    I just wanted to report back in case no one else has tried it yet that I successfully made a 6” vanilla cake by halving the recipe for your homemade sprinkle cake as mentioned above. I did omit the sprinkles so it was just vanilla and it turned out great – perfect for my husband and I to have desserts for a few nights. The baking time was obviously reduced, I think around the 16-18 minute mark is when I started to test it as I was also watching to see whether I would need to cover with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning. I highly recommend that recipe if you’re looking for vanilla…after having the chocolate one of course.
    Thanks so much!

  6. Hi i’m a little bit confuse about the quantity of the buttermilk. Can I get an exact quantity for the 6 inch cake.

  7. I think I am missing something.. I have done this cake twice and it comes out a little dry. What do you think it could be?

  8. I wanted to try a simple chocolate cake and this came out perfectly. I had it with some whipped cream on top and it was delicious, thanks for the great recipe!

  9. Would you recommend this recipe if I want to add crushed oreo’s to the batter? I need a small batch of cupcakes. Thanks

    1. Hi Gina, we haven’t tried it ourselves but we can’t see why that wouldn’t work. This is a very small amount of batter so you shouldn’t need much — start off with just 1/4 cup or so of crushed Oreos. Let us know how it goes!

  10. Hi Sally, all your recipes are wonderful. I have just started watching and reading them. Can u tell me your cup measurement
    Is it 1 cup = 250 ml??

    1. Hi Mani! This blog post includes a helpful measurement chart of common weights – we measure 1 cup as 240ml.

  11. Thank you so much. I use 1 cup =250 ml. Would that make a difference in baking cakes cookies while following your recipes? Do reply

    1. Hi Mani! We recommend sticking with the measurements listed in our recipes for best results.

    1. Hi A, we don’t recommend it here. Best to stick with all-purpose!

  12. Thank you for this recipe for “the perfect chocolate cake”! It’s heavenly! Love chocolate ganache. Would take that over buttercream frosting any day! But to each their own! This will be a repeat in our house!

  13. I baked your Small Chocolate Cake this morning to take to a friend who recently had surgery. I won’t get to taste it, but I KNOW it will be delicious! I was impressed how quick and easy it was to make. With the whipped chocolate ganache and a pretty cake plate, the cake makes a beautiful presentation. Thank you for all your amazing recipes. So many of them have become my “go to” dessert recipes. I have always been a pie person, but your recipes have made me a cake person, too!

  14. Hi Sally! I tried your recipe for our Eidul Fitr celebration. I’m diabetic, so I replaced the sugar with stevia blend and made my own buttermilk. I doubled the recipe to make a 2-layer cake and I used another recipe for chocolate ganache that uses milk or non-dairy milk. It’s a huge success! The texture of the cake is just right! Thanks for the recipe!

  15. Hi Sally!
    I would like to make this cake in an 8×8 square pan. Would I need to double the recipe for that?

      1. According to the conversion guide, it looks like an 8 inch square pan is twice the volume of the 6 inch round pan. So I should double the recipe.

  16. I’ve made this cake numerous times and today when I began making it I realized I was out of vanilla. I found some pure orange extract and thought “why the heck not?”. Made cupcakes instead and they turned out great with just a hint of orange flavor.

  17. Hi Sally! I don’t bake much, only if my mother and I are craving sweets, so we don’t use the ingredients that much or often especially cocoa powder which only a little is used in recipes. I only have dutch-process cocoa powder in stock, are there any adjustments I can make to the recipe when using dutch-process cocoa powder?

    1. Hi Claire, using dutch-process cocoa would require some testing — natural cocoa powder is really best for this recipe. Sorry we can’t help more!

    2. This is a bit late to be helpful for you, but if using dutch-processed cocoa, use 1/8 tsp tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp baking powder. I just used these amounts successfully. This is assuming you are still using buttermilk.

    1. Hi Jennifer, you can try brown sugar, but the cake may taste a little heavy from the extra moisture. We’re unsure of the results for using coconut sugar. For best results, we recommend sticking with regular granulated sugar here.

  18. It came out really well. Loved the ganache. Thank you!

  19. I had a craving for chocolate and decided to try this recipe. Its perfect!! Very easy and fast to make, not too sweet and even better with vanilla ice cream. Thank you for this recipe, Sally!

  20. DANGER!! This was waaaay too easy to pull together to be good for my future waistline. Adjustments I made based on what I had on hand: used a regular loaf pan (bake time was little longer), skipped the espresso and subbed milk for buttermilk. Also skipped the ganache because I was just craving cake. This yummy recipe fit the bill perfectly and I will definitely be making it again when the craving hits. Thank you!

  21. Hi Sally, would you be able to add peppermint extract to make this a mint chocolate cake? I have done this recipe before and it worked well, so thinking of trying it again as a friend wants a mint chocolate birthday cake.

    1. Hi Farah! We find that mint tastes BEST for a mint chocolate cake in the frosting or topping. We would add just a few drops to the chocolate ganache (or buttercream if you choose to frost this cake with buttercream.) You can also use this mint chip frosting as well. Let us know what you try!

    1. Hi Alex! Cake flour is too light for this, especially since it is paired with cocoa powder. All-purpose is best.

  22. Hi there, can I use heavy cream instead of buttermilk? I do not have buttermilk on hand. If yes, is it in the same measurement?

    1. Hi Samantha, heavy cream is too heavy — buttermilk is really ideal. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. See recipe notes for details.

      1. Okay. Can I use low fat buttermilk? Will it work as well?

    1. Hi Angela, we tested this recipe as written and also with olive oil and melted coconut oil. We know either of those substitutions work.

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