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
Small Vanilla Cake
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 2 hours cooling
- Yield: 8 servings
This small vanilla cake is perfect for any intimate celebration! The recipe makes a two layer 6 inch cake with moist vanilla cake and sweet vanilla buttercream.
- 1 1/2 cups (195g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1/4 cup (55g) unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, room temp
- 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2–3 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line the bottoms of two 6″ round cake pans. If you have cake strips, I highly recommend using these here.
- In a measuring glass, stir together the milk and vinegar. Set aside and allow to curdle while we make the rest of the batter.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
- Mix in the oil until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and mix again.
- Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
- Dump in half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed. Just before it’s fully absorbed, mix in the milk.
- Scrape down the bowl and mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.
- Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 20 minutes. Then gently turn them out onto a cooling rack and continue to cool completely before frosting.
- In a large bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth.
- Mix in the sugar one cup at a time, adding a tablespoon of milk between each cup. Only use two tablespoons of milk to start and assess if the third tablespoon is needed once all the sugar is mixed in. Mix in the vanilla at the end.
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, assemble the cake. If the cakes baked with a domed surface (which is likely to happen if cake strips are not used), level off the tops and spread a layer of buttercream between the two cakes.
- Spread a thin crumb coat over the entire cake and chill for about 20 minutes.
- Once the buttercream has firmed up, cover the cake with the remaining buttercream. Top with sprinkles and enjoy!
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: vanilla cake, small vanilla cake, mini vanilla cake, small vanilla cake recipe, 6 inch vanilla cake
Bruce Baldwin says
Small cake recipe looks great, but – where can you obtain small cake pans?! I live in New Orleans and have never seen small cake rounds in a cook store here (admittedly the selection is nothing like Los Angeles)?!
6″ pans are pretty common. I linked the ones I used on the recipe card which you can easily get online if you can’t find them in store.
I got my 6” pans from Walmart in the cake baking/decorating section.
Hi Jenna! I have made several batches of your best choc chip cookies and now I want to make all of your recipes 🙂 I have a question about this beautiful cake! I don’t make cakes very often and I was wondering if it matters what kind of milk is used for the batter and frosting. Would any type of milk work? Thank you!
Aw yay! For this cake any milk will work. I usually use whole milk when baking, but I don’t find there to be a huge difference in texture or consistency if I use a different type of milk.
Since you are adding vinegar to the milk, can I just use buttermilk instrwsd?
Yes that should be OK. I just prefer to control the exact amount of vinegar that goes into the batter.
I asked for this, so thankful for your blog! 💕
If I make the larger cakes what size pans can I use?
I’m not sure I understand the question…but this can also be made in two 8″ cake pans. The layers will just be thinner and may not need to bake as long.
I just made this for my daughters birthday party tomorrow. I had to slice off the tops to make them flat and I’ve been eating those pieces with little bits of the icing to try it out – it’s soooooo yummy! I’m putting this cake on a large tray and am going to surround it with other goodies like chocolate covered strawberries. So excited I know she is going to love this cake! Thanks
can I put the entire recipe in a 9 or 10 inch pan
Hmmm it might work in a 10″, but it will take longer to bake. Also make sure the batter doesn’t fill up more than 1/3 of the pan.
Elizabeth Reyes says
The cake looks amazing, I read that layers will be about 1″ tall, so cake will only be about 2″ tall? thank you!
They’re closer to 1.5″ so once you add the frosting I’d say it’s about 5″ tall!
Absolute PERFECTION!!! Thank you Jenna for all your amazing magic
Can I use the vanilla bean paste instead of extract?
My son requested a vanilla cake for his birthday & chose this recipe since he wanted to bake one. It turned out delicious and we were so pleased with how it rose! I used avocado oil in place of veg & it definitely made the cake moist and held together so well. This recipe is a keeper!!
This cake is super quick to make and it tastes amazing! I will keep this recipe handy to use again and again!
Kat I. says
Planning on making this for my mom’s birthday but was curious what type of vinegar is best/you prefer in this case?
Thanks in advance! 🙂
apple cider vinegar! but white distilled vinegar will work too
Hi Jenna! I️ love Your mini pumpkin pies and excited to try this! I️ only have one 6” inch pan, would it be best to cut recipe in half and bake twice, or can I️ refrigerate 1/2 the batter and bake 2nd part after the first?
Alise Milligan says
Hi there , I am curious as I’m baking for a party, will the cake be OK sitting outside for possibly hours? I’m asking because of the milk in the frosting, I’m not entirely sure with the science behind it if it will spoil sitting outside ?
It should be ok for a few hours!
I made your cupcake version and it’s my go to! Just wondering though, is this cake recipe sturdy enough for stacking? I want to make a double barrel cake for my son’s birthday.
I tried the recipe and froze the layers before stacking and it turned out amazing!!
Hi Jenna! I use all of your recipes!! im looking to make a classic vanilla cake for my sister’s birthday and I used your Small Vanilla Cake recipe before and it was such a hit! I want to make a bigger version because i have to be able to have for 12 people! if I double or triple the recipe what size cake pan can I use? I am just a home baker so Im learning as I go lol! Would love to know what you recommend! Thanks!
I suggest my funfetti cake instead! Feel free to leave out the sprinkles for a classic vanilla cake.
Can you tell me what the difference would be in the cake if using cake flour vs. AP? I’ve pretty much always used cake flour in my vanilla cakes and it’s delicious but I feel they do get dry after a couple days. Would using AP flour make a difference in this?
Hi! The type of flour shouldn’t make a different in the moistness of a cake, that really depends on the ratio of fats to flour in the batter or what type of fat is used. I suggest sticking to AP flour for this recipe! Just make sure to spoon and level it when measuring.
Hi there! I want to make this for my partner’s birthday and wondered if gluten free one-to-one flour could be subbed in. Please let me know if this will work! Thank you 🙂
I suggest my gluten free vanilla cake recipe instead! Just cut the recipe in half 🙂
Hi Jenna! I wanted to make this cake for a friend but was wondering if it would still hold well if adding a strawberry puree in between layers
Spread a thin layer of frosting and then pipe a border of frosting around the edge. Spread the puree in the center (as long as it’s a thick consistency it should work) and then lay the other cake layer on top 🙂
I made this cake for my partner’s 21st birthday and it was perfect!! The only change I made was subbing in all-purpose gluten-free flour; it wasn’t dry at all and rose very nicely. Thanks for such easy (and adaptable!) recipes 😊
Also, Jenna, I didn’t see your comment until just now so I guess I will have to make the funfetti cake later just to test it out (for research purposes of course) 😉
Good to know! Thank you!
Very moist cake, tasted amazing! I replaced the vanilla extract with half the amount in lemon extract and it was so tasty. I totally recommend this recipe.