This small vanilla cake may be mini, but it still has all the flavor of a full blown vanilla cake recipe. Made with two layers of 6″ round cakes, the texture is incredibly moist with a tight but light crumb. It’s then smothered in sweet and soft vanilla buttercream and adorned with sprinkles! It’s the perfect cake to bake for any small celebration.
What makes this small vanilla cake recipe so good?
Just because this is a small batch cake recipe, that doesn’t mean it lacks in flavor or texture! This cake recipe is incredibly moist and tender with delicious vanilla flavor.
The secret is between these two key ingredients:
- Oil – Oil isn’t a typical ingredient in vanilla cakes, mainly because there isn’t a strong enough flavor in the cake to help mask the flavor of the oil. But oil makes cake INCREDIBLY moist, so I snuck in just enough to where it makes this cake moist without the vegetable oil flavor. When paired with butter, you can’t even tell it’s there!
- Vinegar – A teaspoon of vinegar is all it takes to make this cake incredibly tender. Vinegar is what makes red velvet cake so soft, so why not add some to vanilla as well? Vinegar helps inhibit the strong formation of gluten, making a cake that is super soft with a tight crumb.
These two together create a vanilla cake recipe that is soft, moist, and bakery-worthy!
How to make a small vanilla cake
This small vanilla cake recipe is essentially a regular recipe cut in half, so it’s made just like any good vanilla cake.
The only difference is the pans needed to bake the cake. It makes the perfect amount for two 6″ round cake pans where the cake bakes into two 1″ thick layers.
To make the cake batter, simply start by beating together the butter and sugar. This will whip tiny air pockets in the butter which helps give the cake an extra lift. This step requires an electric mixer, so a hand or stand mixer can be used in this recipe.
Once the mixture is light and fluffy, oil, eggs, and vanilla are added. Whole eggs are used in this recipe because the yolks make the cake extra rich.
When the wet ingredients are smooth and well combined, half of the dry ingredients are added. This is comprised of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. The vinegar in this recipe helps tenderize the cake, so cake flour is not needed.
Right before the flour is absorbed, the mixture of milk and vinegar is added. This helps thin out the batter to make it easier for the rest of the dry ingredients to mix in.
Stop mixing RIGHT when the rest of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Any further and the cake could turn tough or sink in the middle once baked.
Now the batter is ready to divvy up into the pans and bake!
Tips for baking moist vanilla cake
The batter itself is really easy to make, but here are a few tips to ensure yours turns out PERFECT:
- Flour – I say this in every post, and for good reason. It’s the number one reason why most recipes fail, especially for cakes. If there’s too much flour, the cake will turn out dry and tough. If you can, measure the flour with a food scale. Otherwise, to ensure you use the exact amount needed, gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level if off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour container, it packs it down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added flour.
- Eggs – Make sure to use large eggs! Extra large will add too much moisture to the cake which could prevent it from baking through.
- Cake Strips – These strips wrap around the cake pans before baking. But first they’re dampened with cool water. The cool strips prevent the oven heat from hitting the cake batter too fast. This slow progression of heat through the batter allows the cake to bake much more even. With the strips, the cakes bake with flat tops so there’s no need to level them off before assembling.
- Mixing – As mentioned before, be careful not to over mix! Especially when using an electric mixer. Over mixing can lead to a tough cake that bakes with a sunken center. Take the mixing process slow once the dry ingredients are incorporated. Right when they’re fully absorbed, stop mixing.
How to frost a small vanilla cake
The vanilla buttercream is really quick and easy to make! Just mix together butter, sugar, vanilla, and milk. It should be smooth enough to spread but thick enough to hold its shape between the two cake layers.
After the cakes have baked, allow them to cool completely. To speed up this process, remove the cakes from the pan after about 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and transfer to the refrigerator. From here, the cakes only need to chill for about 1 hour before assembling the cake.
Otherwise, If the cakes are too warm when frosting, the buttercream will melt.
First, assess the cake layers. If the tops aren’t flat, use a knife or a cake leveler to cut a flat surface.
Next, spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on the top of one cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top but upside down. The bottom of the cake has sharper edges than the top, so this will create a really flat surface to the cake.
Now spread a very thin layer of buttercream all over the cake. This is known as the crumb coat as it locks in any crumbs and prevents them from mixing in with the final layer of buttercream. Chill the cake for about 20 minutes before proceding.
Once the buttercream has firmed up, spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake. For my decoration, I ended with a hefting scoop of buttercream on top. Using an offset spatula, I created deep swirls and then ran a cake scraper all around the side of the cake to smooth everything out.
Top with sprinkles, fruit, shaved chocolate, flowers, or candles for a birthday!
Can I halve this recipe?
Yes! All of the ingredients in this recipe are even numbers, so it’s easy to split the batter in half. This will then make just one single 6″ cake layer which will serve 4 people. Also make sure to cut the buttercream recipe in half.
Can this cake be made gluten free?
I haven’t tested it, but I assume a good gluten free baking flour will work here. The vinegar in the batter will help reinforce the leaveners, which should help create an equally fluffy cake with gluten free flour.
Simply swap the flour in this recipe with a good 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill).
How to store vanilla cake
Keep the cake in the refrigerator but remove it about an hour before serving.
The cake can be placed in the refrigerator uncovered for about a day, as long as it hasn’t been sliced into. If it’s been sliced, store in a cake container in the refrigerator.
Alternatively, the individual cake slices can be stored in a container in the refrigerator as well.
The cake will keep chilled for about 5 days.
For more cake recipes, check out my:
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make this Small Vanilla Cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print