Small Chocolate Cake (6 Inch)

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 that holiday, it’s massively convenient to have a dessert option for small gatherings, families, celebrations, 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 chocolate layer 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

Toppings

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.

Print
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small chocolate cake on a pink cake stand

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
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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 this chocolate cupcake batter in 2 6-inch cake pans. Start checking with a toothpick at 26 minutes.

Keywords: chocolate, cake, ganache

220 Comments

  1. If I want to make 2 of these cakes, can I double the recipe or should I make each cake individually? Thanks and Happy Valentine’s Day.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gina, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches so as to not over- or under-mix with the added volume. Hope you enjoy this recipe!

  2. Hi Sally ,

    I personally loved the sweetness in it and the after taste in my mouth. Not overpowering. I made it twice in two days. first day i baked it for 27 mins( 6in pan) and second day for 24 mins (6in pan). My wife thinks it needs to be more moist.it was little crumbly not like the flour less chocolate cake. Am i doing something wrong here. first day i used cooking oil second day i used butter to see if it turns out different. i did not get that little moist center but nonetheless awesome cake (personally).
    PS: i tried your banana cake and zucchini cake. love it.

  3. All the stores in my area only seem to sell low-fat buttermilk. I’m guessing that making my own buttermilk with whole milk using your DIY recipe is better than using low-fat buttermilk, is that correct?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leslie, correct — we’d recommend using the DIY version with whole milk. Lower-fat will work in a pinch, though. Hope this helps!

  4. I was extremely pleased with the results of this cake. Perfect cake for 2 – 4 people. I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao baking bar for the ganache and baked the cake exactly as written. The ganache was rich and luxurious without being overly sweet, and was the perfect topping for the cake. The cake did sink slightly in the center but you couldn’t tell once topped. Will definitely keep this in the special occasion dessert rotation.
    Thank you, Sally, for creating a small cake! Would love to see more of these small desserts.

  5. gayle i cappelluti says:

    You MADE our Valentines’ Day dessert. SErved with sliced straeberries, sprinkled chopped pecans across the top pf the cske….delicious!!

  6. Diana Lieskovsky says:

    Hello Sally. Thanks for the delicious recipe perfect small cake. I had to use my six inch Bundt pan. Worked fantastic then I topped with my frozen sour cherry sauce and topped with a dollop of whipping cream. Absolutely delicious. The cake is moist and tastes amazing. Thank you thank you .

  7. Hi Sally
    Recipe looks lovely. Planning to make for my annicersary.
    Don’t we need to add baking powder?
    Thanks
    Meghana

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meghana, This recipe uses baking soda as the leavener. Baking soda is a base ingredient, so it uses acidic ingredients like natural cocoa powder and buttermilk to react with. If you are interested you can read more about this in the post Baking Powder vs Baking Soda.

  8. This is a super easy, and fantastic small cake. It’s moist and with the espresso powder, very flavorful! I used dry buttermilk in place of fresh with no issue. Topped with the Chocolate & Red Wine Ganache for an elegant dessert for two.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for giving this recipe a try, Desiree!

  9. Hi Sally, to make a two-layer six-inch choc cake, can it simply be doubled or what changes should be made? Thanks.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dan, We 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. See the recipe notes for more details!

  10. Hi Sally, could I use sour cream as a substitute for buttermilk in this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alex! You should be able to use a mixture of 2 Tbs sour cream and 2 Tbs milk to replace the buttermilk. You can also make your own DIY buttermilk – see recipe notes for details!

  11. I thought this recipe made a tasty cake but I wasn’t expecting such a bitter/dark frosting. If you like that flavor profile, you will love this frosting! Personally, I will opt for something sweeter next time like a butter cream, but I have a sweet tooth:)

  12. So good and so easy. I had one of those weeks and « needed » cake. But, I live alone and with, work-from-home, I have fewer options for giving away baking.

    I did the ganache icing but it firmed up A LOT (my apartment is fairly cold – though I didn’t put in the fridge). Super tasty (like fudge) but made icing tricky. Next time, I may increase the amount of cream (or not be quite so lazy and whip it up as suggested).

    Definitely on my list to make again.

  13. Sophie Sally Sue says:

    I made these as cupcakes and they were great!! Definitely recommend adding raspberries or other fruit because the chocolate is a very rich flavor. I do think that some people might like a more sugary frosting because it is quite bitter. But the cake’s sweetness does balance it, just if you have a sweet tooth I would add some sugar to the frosting. But overall a great recipe and I love the idea of a small cake because a big cake takes up so much space in the kitchen and you feel you can only do it on occasions when a small cake is so easy to just have after dinner. Thank you so much for this recipe!!!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sophie, we’re glad you enjoyed this cake! You can definitely make it with a traditional buttercream for a sweeter topping — see the “Toppings” heading for some of our favorite buttercream recipes that pair wonderfully with chocolate cake.

      1. Sophie Sue Sally says:

        Thank you !!!! I will look at that!!!

    2. Made this for dessert but used Joy the Bakers chocolate buttercream frosting as I had extra from a previous baking project. The cake was moist and delicious and the perfect size for a family of 4.

  14. If I only have Dutch processed cocoa can I use that and add baking powder? Or would I sub baking powder for thr baking soda? Or just find another recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather, That would require some testing because baking soda is so much stronger than baking powder, so you’d need more baking powder. Natural cocoa powder is best for this recipe. Sorry we can’t help more!

  15. Hi Sally!
    does this 6″ chocolate cake have a Sour Cream Version like your Triple Chocolate Cake ?
    which i’ve made a bunch of times already…i love the cake crumb when sour cream is used!

    i’m making this 6″ cake tomorrow for my husband’s bday! we all LUV your chocolate cake so i wanted to try this smaller version 🙂

    thank you!

    1. Hi Joni! This cake has pretty much the same texture as the sour cream version of the triple chocolate cake. Did you end up trying it?

  16. I really like this little cake! I added 1/2 T. cocoa and reduced flour by 1/2T to increase chocolate flavour. I like really moist cakes so I added 1/4 cup warm water to the cocoa for about 5 minutes which hydrated the cocoa. Excellent!

  17. This cake was quite delicious and it made my son pretty happy, despite being in online school for the rest of the year. I let the cake cool in its pan for only ten minutes because I worried it might be over baked if it stayed in the pan. It turned out perfectly moist and delicious.

  18. Aireale Hobbs says:

    Just made my mama a two layer birthday cake using this recipe and it was delicious! Made the layers and mixed them separately to avoid any stress and it was a breeze! Will be using this recipe over and over!

  19. Great recipe! I’ve tried baking them last weekend as a dessert, it was really yummy. However, not sure why the centre of my cake turned out to rise higher. Any idea from your experience could share? Would it be due to the oven heat to high? I baked them at 175 c.

  20. 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. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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!

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

  22. 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. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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.

  23. Madhu Anvekar says:

    Hi Sally , Is it fine if i subtitute yogurt with the buttermilk ?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Madhu, we don’t recommend it. The batter needs liquid.

  24. 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?

  25. Hi, is this a 2″ thick 6″ cake pan? I don’t see that anywhere.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  26. 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!

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

  28. Milka Velez says:

    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?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Milka! Make sure you’re spoon and leveling your flour to prevent over-measuring. Here’s a helpful blog post about preventing dry cakes that may be helpful for next time as well!

  29. Milka Velez says:

    Thanks so much for your prompt reply. Greatly appreciated.

  30. 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!

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