A moist scratch mini 6 inch vanilla cake recipe you can make as a small layer cake for yourself, a small birthday party, a smash cake or even a dessert just for two. Sometimes you just don’t need a large cake.
You might just need a small smash cake or maybe there are only a few people in your household, then this two-layer, 6-inch mini cake is the perfect size.
This vanilla mini cake is not only cute, but it’s from scratch, it’s moist and it’s full of vanilla flavor. There are two layers of vanilla cake, then it’s all covered with a rich vanilla buttercream frosting.
You can decorate this mini layer cake any way you like, or you can just leave it plain for an easy dessert.
Hey there! Before you scroll, there’s lot’s of important stuff in the post!…including the FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!
Now let’s talk about just some of the ingredients that are in the cake and buttercream recipes. (The list of ALL ingredients are in the recipe card below.)
All-purpose flour: This recipe calls for plain all-purpose flour…no worrying about having to get cake flour or any special ingredients. Just make sure when you measure flour, that you spoon it into the measuring cup so that it doesn’t get packed into it. (See more about this in the FAQ section below.)
Unsalted butter: This will be used for both the cake and the buttercream. You’ll want to make sure to let it come to room temperature (don’t microwave it though) before using it.
Sour Cream: This is the star in this vanilla cake. Sour cream in cakes really helps give them a soft texture, makes them super moist and it enhances the taste as well.
Vanilla Extract: Make sure not to skip this as it’s what will give the vanilla cake a nice vanilla flavor. If you have access to vanilla bean paste, that’s even better.
How to make this cake:
Let’s talk about how to make this vanilla mini cake. (The detailed instructions are also in the recipe card below.)
First, you need to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then grease and flour (or spray) two, 6 inch round cake pans that are 2 inches deep.
Make sure that you also set the butter out to come to room temperature on its own. You can cut it into chunks and it will warm up faster.
Next, in a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and whisk together.
In another bowl, add the liquid ingredients (oil, eggs, sour cream, milk and vanilla) and whisk together until everything is smooth.
Now, the mixing method for this cake is called the reverse creaming method. You can get a really soft cake by using this and it’s used when there is a high ratio of sugar to flour. I actually find this method easier than the old creaming method.
So, to do this, you’ll add the chunks of butter to the dry mixture and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed while you add the butter in.
Mix until the mixture resembles a coarse, sand-like texture. You basically want the butter to coat the dry mixture.
Now add half the liquid to the dry mixture and mix on medium until well combined.
Next, add the second half of the liquid mixture and mix on medium until well combined.
Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix again just until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Be very careful not to over-mix at this point.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and make sure to smooth it level. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 40-45 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the buttercream.
For the buttercream, cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until it’s super smooth.
Add the confectioner’s, salt, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until combined, then on medium to medium-high until well mixed. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl then mix again.
Check the consistency and if it’s too thick add another tablespoon of milk and mix well. Cover well and set aside while the cake cools.
Once the cake layers have baked, cool on a wire rack, in the pans, for about 10-15 minutes.
Now turn the cakes out onto the racks and allow them to cool completely before covering them with buttercream.
The tops of these cake layers will flatten out a bit as they cool, but you can also level the tops with a knife to get them flat in order to decorate.
Add the buttercream to the cooled layered cake.
Pipe decorative borders and add sprinkles if desired.
Tips & FAQs:
Generally, you could probably classify any cake that’s smaller than an 8-inch cake, like a mini cake. This mini cake recipe is for a 6 inch, two-layer cake.
This cake will serve about 8 people. If you cut larger sizes, it will serve less and if you cut thin slices, you will get more servings.
Make sure not to pack the flour down into the measuring cup. Spoon the flour into the cup and level it off, but don’t scoop the flour. Packing too much flour into the measuring cup will end up adding too much flour to the cake batter and will make the cake dry and tough.
Unsalted is always best because you can estimate the proper amount of salt that will be added plus salted butter has a different water content than unsalted.
However, if you’re unable to get unsalted butter, you can use salted butter in the cake and the buttercream, but omit any additional salt that each recipe calls for.
It’s really important to make sure that the butter is at room temperature for both the cake and the buttercream.
Set it out an hour or two before you plan to make the cake. You don’t want to microwave the butter as that will heat it either too much or unevenly and can cause problems with the cake mixing method.
Sour cream is really best here as it makes for a softer texture and really helps give the cake moistness and a good flavor. If you can’t get it, you can substitute it with this plain yogurt.
Make sure and use full-fat yogurt though and not low fat. The fat helps make the cake moist.
Be very careful not to mix the batter for a long time. Scratch cakes should not be mixed for minutes at a time, or they will become dense. Stop mixing once the ingredients are well incorporated.
This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake layers cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil and place in the freezer for up to a month or two.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake layers on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted add buttercream.
This cake can be stored, covered well, at room temperature for 2-3 days. After that, to prolong freshness, it can be stored in the refrigerator, well covered, for another 2-3 days.
That would take some calculating, but there is an 8-inch vanilla layer cake recipe already on the blog if you want to check that out here: Favorite Vanilla Bean Cake
This recipe should work ok for cupcakes, but since it’s a smaller batch, it won’t make a full two dozen. If you’d like a recipe that will make a full batch of vanilla cupcakes, you’ll want to check out this post: Favorite Vanilla Bean Cake (The instructions for making it into cupcakes are in the recipe card on that post.)
This cake is best served at room temperature. If cold, pop a slice in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds.
***I write recipes using volume (cups) measurements because here in the U.S., this is what people are used to seeing and using. For weight in metric measurements, click the ‘metric’ button under the ingredients in the recipe card. The weights are converted by a program, not me, and it’s a best guess. Please note that because I develop recipes using ‘cups’ I can’t guarantee that weighing the ingredients will produce the exact same results.
Mini 6 Inch Vanilla Cake Recipe
For the vanilla cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (measured correctly and not packed down into the measuring cup)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure your baking powder is in date and not opened more than 6 months ago)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 ½ sticks)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or canola oil)
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
For the vanilla buttercream:
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature (3 sticks)
- 4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk (may add in another tablespoon if needed)
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (or spray) two, 6 inch round cake pans that are 2 inches deep. (Make sure you are using the correct sized pans as this is important. See the notes section below.)
- Set the butter out, cut it into chunks and allow it to come to room temperature. Do not microwave it, it needs to come to room temperature on its own.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and whisk together.
- In another bowl, add the liquid ingredients (oil, eggs, sour cream, milk and vanilla) and whisk together until smooth.
- Add the chunks of butter to the dry mixture slowly and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed as you add the butter. Mix until the mixture resembles a coarse, sand-like texture. (To see the texture, watch the video within this post.)
- Add half the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and mix on medium until well combined, only about 30-45 seconds.
- Add the second half of the liquid mixture and mix on medium until well combined, only about 20-30 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix again just until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Be very careful not to over-mix. Do not mix over 20 seconds here. If scratch cake batter is mixed for too long it will cause a dense cake or one that falls in the middle.
- Add the batter to the prepared pans and smooth level. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 40-45 minutes (ovens vary). The batter will rise all the way to the top. Make sure you're using the proper sized pans. The cake layers are baked when they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it, or clean, but not raw batter.
- Cool on a wire rack, in the pans, for about 10-15 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the racks and allow them to cool completely before covering with buttercream.The tops of these cake layers will flatten out as they cool, but the tops can be leveled with a knife if needed in order to decorate.
For the buttercream:
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the confectioner’s, salt, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk and mix on low until combined, then on medium to medium-high until well mixed.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
- Check the consistency. If it’s too thick add another tablespoon of milk and mix well.
- Spread buttercream onto completely cooled cake and decorate as desired.
- This is a mini cake made in two, 6 inch round cake pans that are two inches deep. If your pans are smaller than 6 inch round pans or are more shallow than 2 inches deep, the batter will overflow. This recipe is specifically for two, 6 inch round pans that are 2 inches deep as stated in the instructions. The batter will rise all the way to the top of the pans, so if the pans are smaller or more shallow, there will be too much batter. Make sure that you’re not using 4 inch pans for this recipe. If you want a vanilla cake recipe for 8 or 9 inch round pans, you can find that recipe at this link: Vanilla Bean Cake Recipe
- Do not mix scratch cake batter for very long. That will cause a dense cake and one that may fall in the center. Once you add the liquid ingredients, only mix until everything is well combined. That’s usually around 20-30 seconds or even less.
- Make sure not to pack the flour down into the measuring cup as that will inadvertently add too much flour and the cake will turn out dry and dense. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off.
- Make sure that your baking powder is still in date. If it’s older than 6 months, it may not work properly and the cake won’t rise.
- If you’re baking at a high altitude, you will need to make temperature and ingredient adjustments. This isn’t something I can do for you though as I do not live at a high altitude and have no way to test recipes at high altitude.
- Do not open and close the oven door multiple times when a cake is baking…and definitely don’t slam the oven door shut. The cake will fall and come out dense.
- If you need more tips or help, make sure to watch the video and read the FAQ section within this post.
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