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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. I am going to try this for my husband’s birthday–just the two of us. How long should I wait after it is baked to remove it from the pan? I usually do ten minutes, but there is no indication of timing here.

    1. Hi Kathryn, we typically wait until the cake has fully cooled to remove it from the pan. Hope the cake is a hit for your husband’s birthday!

  2. Hi, just realized I’m out of eggs! Is there an egg substitute I can use for this recipe?

    1. Hi PJ, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg substitutions but would love to hear if you do!

  3. Do you have a recipe for a 8 inch one layer chocolate cake?

  4. Hi, ive been following you since the start of the pandemic. I learn a lot from you since i am learning baking. I’d like to ask if i can use evaporated milk+vinegar as substitute to buttermilk. Thanks.

    1. Hi Maryanne, thank you so much! In a pinch, evaporated milk can be used with vinegar for the buttermilk substitution in this particular recipe.

  5. Hello! Iam a chocolate cake lover & I want to try your chocolate recipe it looks delicious & moist. Please help me what can i substitute to heavy cream or whipping cream? Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Evangeline, you can use 1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk in place of the heavy cream / heavy whipping cream in the ganache. Shake it up before opening and measuring. Whisk on the stove as it heats and bring to a simmer.

  6. Hi Sally. I would like to make this for someone who is allergic to eggs. What do you suggest for replacing the egg? Also can I add hot coffee instead of the powder and how much?

    1. Hi Jasu, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg substitutes, so we can’t give you a confident answer on any replacements. We don’t recommend using hot coffee — simply skip the powder or use instant coffee instead. Hope you enjoy this one!

  7. This is just what I was looking for! I also tried your other triple chocolate cake and that was so good, but I think a smaller birthday cake is ok this year.

    I want to put whipped cream and raspberries on this version instead of the ganache. I will let everyone know how it goes.

  8. U mentioned you can divide this recipe in 2 6 inch cake pans or use another chocolate cake recipe, what’s the difference between both? And i don’t know what kind of cocoa powder I should buy, when I go to the stores, I see 3 types, black cocoa powder (10-12%), superior red cocoa powder (22-24%) and natural cocoa powder (10-12%), which one should I get?

    1. Hi Veronica, using the cupcake batter would yield thicker cakes than diving this cake between two pans. Both would be delicious! Both recipes use unsweetened natural cocoa powder, so the third one you mentioned would be the correct option. Happy baking!

  9. This cake is absolutely delicious!!! And I also substituted the vegetable oil with coconut oil and the milk with coconut milk and it was good, Thank you.

  10. This is the third recipe I’ve tried from this site (found you on YouTube). I’m really disappointed with the results.

    1. Hi Sean, so sorry to hear that this recipe didn’t turn out for you. What seems to be the issue? We’re happy to help troubleshoot!

  11. Hi Sally, I use your measurements to fill each pan. And I love it thank you! It makes it so much easier. One question, for chocolate batter would it be different measurements to fill the pan?
    How many cups would it be into a 6×2 pan?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Anna, We don’t recommend ever completely filling a pan with batter. For a 6 inch round cake you wouldn’t want to use more batter than this recipe. If you add too much batter the cake won’t have any room to rise and will spill over – also using too much batter may weigh the cake down and it will be too heavy to rise properly creating an overly dense cake. We have many tips for this size cake in our post on 6 Inch Cakes. I hope this helps!

  12. I made this recipe last week and it was super moist and my friends loves it. I like to make it again but with nuts , do I have to adjust my dry ingredients measurements.

    1. We don’t see why adding nuts would be an issue – yum!

  13. Hi Sally,
    Which recipe would you recommend for a dense one layer 9-in cake? Could I double this one!
    I love your recipes! Thanks.

    1. Hi Anita! We don’t recommend doubling this recipe as the batter would be quite thick and taste heavy. You could make a much thinner cake in an 8 inch pan (see recipe notes for details), or you might like our flourless chocolate cake instead. Or, you can halve our triple chocolate cake for one, 9 inch layer. Enjoy!

  14. Hey Sally, this is mind blowing recipe I baked it and it turned out wow. Can u suggest me replacement for egg?

  15. Hi Sally,

    Hi Sally,

    I am making this cake for my husband’s birthday.
    Having trouble finding powered espresso. Could I use some grounds from a Esspreso Keurig Pod and use something to ground them a bit more? Also could I add a bit of orange extract to the Ganache? Or will that taste qorng?

    1. Hi Alexis! No, ground espresso (what is in those pods) is very different than espresso powder (instant espresso). You can use the same amount of instant coffee (the powder) instead of espresso powder if desired or leave it out if you don’t have either. You should be able to add a few drops of extract to the ganache without any issues if you would like. Happy baking!

      1. HI

        I have the same cake pa recommended in the recipe except that mine is 3 inch not 2 inch. How will that affect the results of the cake

      2. Hi Alexis, not a problem, the cake should come out just the same as long as it’s still 6 inch width. Enjoy!

  16. This recipe is a gift! We hosted my brother-in-law for his birthday, and this was exactly the right amount of cake (he even got to take a piece home.) My ganache wasn’t as shiny as the photos, but it tasted great. This was even better the next day, so I might make it the night before next time.

  17. Hi Sally
    Can i replace the chocolate powder with couverture chocolate? If yes, what is the ratio?

  18. Hi cake is successfully in the oven! Final question. once everything is cool do I take the cake out of the pan before frosting it? Also how much orange extract would you recommend for Ganache?


    1. Hi Alexis, it’s best to remove the cake from the pan before decorating (this makes it easier to decorate and slice). For the extract, you’ll just want a few drops — too much could alter the consistency of the ganache.

  19. Thanks Sally for Making this Awesome recipe . Our cake turned out well again thanks

    1. Hi Su, You can use the same amount of melted butter instead but the cake won’t taste as moist. We recommend sticking with vegetable oil.

  20. I baked this in a springform pan to make a thin cake base for an ice cream cake. Turned out great!

  21. I tried it, cake turned out to be deliciously soft, spongy, moist and glossy… Just loved it… Thanks for the recipe… Perfect recipe for 6″ moist sponge cake…

    Just a little tip, I also added 1/4 teaspoon baking powder,helps with the rising of the cake.

  22. Great cake, tasted dense like a brownie. Not sure why but my cake really collapsed in the middle after taking it out of the oven. Covered the divot up using berries

    1. Hi Chris, a sinking center usually means the cake was finished baking though. An extra minute or two in the oven should help for next time. Thanks for giving this recipe a try!

  23. I tried the red velvet cake and it was a huge success. Thank you for that.

    Want to try this recipe. I want to make around 8” tall cake this time. If I double the recipe and bake in 3 6” pans will that be too much?. How can I achieve a taller cake using this recipe. Please help. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Dinu, this cake is very dense and not ideal for a layer cake. For a 3 layer, 6 inch chocolate cake, we recommend using the batter from these chocolate cupcakes and then following the baking directions from our 6 inch cakes post. Hope you enjoy it!

  24. Couldn’t wait to make this one again. Every bit as good the second time! Winner!!

  25. I made this cake and to the batter at the end I added some mini chocolate chips (a little less than 1/4 cup – I didn’t measure because ive heard you measure CCs with your heart ;)) – topped with your Tuxedo cake chocolate silky frosting. So divine!! Delicious and was just what I needed – a quick cake to whip up. Thanks Sally!

  26. Hey , i have baked this cake for many times but since last three times my cake is super dense Nd falls so much so that it feels wet not moist and i am using microwave on convection at 180 c and it took already 45 mins .. i dont know whats gng wrong

    1. Hi Divya, did you happen to make any ingredient changes? The microwave + convection combination might be the culprit. All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.

  27. I live alone but sometimes need cake. Even giving some to friends, a “normal” sized cake is a lot to deal with. I love this and make it often. I usually use the chocolate buttercream recipe (halving it) rather than the ganache (just my preference)

    I shared the recipe with a friend and now regularly get texts saying “I just made Sally’s cake” 🙂 She makes hers in a loaf pan (not sure of the size – I just know the shape from pictures and, clearly, that works well.

    Though my cake generally domes rather than sinks (I think it is my oven – I use an oven thermometer, but the oven isn’t great at keeping a constant temperature so I think it runs hot during some parts of the bake). Just means I get to eat the scraps after leveling it!

  28. Hi Sally,
    Can I use yogurt instead of buttermilk? If yes, will the amounts be the same.
    Please let me know.

    Thanks in advance,

      1. Hi Trina,
        Thanks so much for your prompt reply. Will it help if I mix milk or water with yogurt.
        Let me know.


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