6 Inch Cake Recipes

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Learn how to make a two or three layer 6 inch cake from any of your favorite cupcake or 8 inch cake recipes, including this 6 inch vanilla bean cake recipe. This size cake is perfect for small gatherings and smash cakes for 1st birthdays.

side view of a three layer 6 inch cake with a slice taken out of it

Depending on how long you’ve been a reader here, you may or may not know that I got started with baking when I owned and operated my own cake and cupcake decorating business (you can read all about how that happened on my meet Lynn page).

I made a lot of cakes for birthday parties, baby and bridal showers, and even weddings, but I also made a lot of small cake recipes for smash cakes at first birthday parties and, believe it or not, a lot of 6 inch cakes for the tops of cupcake towers.

slice of vanilla cake on a plate

It was always quite simple to convert my standard 8 or 9 inch cake recipes to a 6 inch cake (or even sometimes a 4 inch cake!), and since I get a lot of questions about exactly how to make a cake 6 inch instead of 8 or 9 inch, it felt high time to put it all here for you (with a giant surprise at the bottom– a Skillshare course!).

While the recipe at the bottom of this tutorial is a vanilla cake recipe (specifically a vanilla bean cake!), I have included lots of links to various cake and cupcake recipes that will help you navigate this 6 inch cake conversion easily and well-equip you to choose the best recipe for a small cake of your desired flavor.

Let’s get started!

using a spatula to loosen a baked cake from a cake pan


Standard cupcake recipes that yield anywhere from 12 to 15 cupcakes are the perfect amount of batter (3 to 4 cups) for 6 inch cakes, whether they’re two or three layers.

Of course, if you use the same amount of batter for two pans split into three pans, your three layers will be a little thinner than what the two layers would be. This is all about personal preference and desired aesthetic.

Here are two sets of pans filled with cake batter. On the left, my chocolate cake batter (recipe from my simple chocolate cupcakes). On the right, my vanilla bean cake batter (recipe below, from my vanilla bean cupcakes).



There are about 6 to 8 cups of cake batter in a standard 8 (or 9) inch cake recipe, which, if cut in half, translates well to that 3 to 4 cups of batter we talked about in cupcake batter that yields about 12 to 15 cupcakes.

This means that you can take any of your favorite 8 inch cake recipes and turn them into a 6 inch cake recipe by simply halving the cake batter recipe.

a small chocolate cake on an aqua cake stand

I do not recommend halving the frosting recipe, as you probably won’t have enough to completely cover your cake. If you want to reduce it at all, I would only reduce by ¼ of the recipe (so you’d be making ¾ of the suggested frosting recipe).


Bake times for 6 inch cake layers are typically about the same across the board.

Two layers will take about 20-22 minutes and three layers will take about 18-20 minutes, baked at 350ºF (177ºC). Of course, this can vary by a few minutes based on the specific batter you use, but in general, this is a good rule of thumb and a good place to start.


I haven’t always been a parchment paper round user, but once I realized that smaller 6 inch cakes (and 4 inch cakes!) were much harder to get out of the pans, I started using parchment paper rounds on them. I will, on occasion, use them for my 8 inch cakes, but not always.

For 6 inch cakes, I highly recommend this method combined with my homemade cake release.

First, start by making parchment rounds, if you don’t already have them.

Trace your pan on a sheet of parchment paper, then cut out the circles, scraping them against the side of a table to flatten them out (parchment tends to curl, so scraping it on the side of a table like you would a crinkly dollar bill is incredibly helpful).

Next, lightly grease the bottom of your cake pan, then press a parchment round into the bottom of the pan.

Grease and flour the rest of the pan, including the parchment paper, or use my homemade cake release. Now you’re ready for some batter and beautiful baked cake layer removal later on!

cake pans prepped for batter


You will need about 3 cups of frosting to frost a three layer 6 inch cake with basic borders (if you want to include those). As a rule of thumb, any frosting recipe that uses 1 cup of butter and about 4 to 5 cups of powdered sugar will provide enough frosting for your 6 inch cake + simple decorations.

a small vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles on a white cake stand


Now that you have your cake layers, you can choose to simply stack them, or you can choose to fill them. Let’s start with stacking your cake without a filling.


This is as simple as being sure your cake layers are level, then stacking them by frosting surfaces between cake layers.

Keep the frosting even across the layers to keep your cake level.


When adding filling between cake layers, you want to create a well of frosting.

A “filling” is really anything that isn’t the same frosting that’s going on the outside of the cake. You can see here with my black velvet layer cake exactly what a well is and looks like.

filling cake layers with a well of frosting to contain the filling

Creating a well seals in the filling and also prevents any of the filling from mixing with the outside frosting.


What is a crumb coat, you ask? This is a thin layer of frosting used to seal cake layers together and lock in crumbs. If you’re interested in really learning all about this crumb coat…

a crumb coated cake


As I mentioned, a 6 inch cake is a great option for a small gathering, and you can get 8 decent slices out of this size of a cake. This can, of course, depend on how big or small your slices are, but this is a general guideline and serves a Goldilocks size slice of cake, even for kids.

a slice of chocolate cake on a plate

I hope that this post (and perhaps my course) have left you well-prepared to make your next small birthday cake, smash cake for your kid or another kiddo you love, or simply understand how to easily adapt your favorite cake recipe into a simple recipe for 6 inch cake for whatever reason you have to eat cake (you don’t actually need one at all, really).

And remember… There are ways to use up leftover cake scraps and frosting! My birthday cake ice cream or cake pops are a great place to start (and, BONUS, you can freeze cake and frosting to save for making these goodies at another time).

I look forward to seeing you inside my Skillshare course, but if that’s not your thing, I still hope to see your beautiful 6 inchers on Insta and Facebook!

image for the home baker's bundle which has a cake and cupcake e-course, workbooks, and a frosting recipe e-book

6 Inch Vanilla Bean Cake

Learn how to make a two or three layer 6 inch cake from any of your favorite cupcake or 8 inch cake recipes, including this 6 inch vanilla bean cake recipe. This size cake is perfect for small gatherings and smash cakes for 1st birthdays.
Prep Time20 mins
Bake Time22 mins
Total Time3 hrs
Recipe Author Lynn April
Servings: 8 slices



  • ¾ cup (180g) whole milk or cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 1 and ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter melted and allowed to cool
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg room temperature1
  • ¼ cup (61g) full fat yogurt or sour cream room temperature1,2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 4 to 5 cups (480-600g) powdered sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup (60-80g) milk or cream
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon salt



  • Pour the cream into a small saucepan. If using a vanilla bean: using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds, and put everything into the saucepan with your cream. If using vanilla paste, simply pour into the cream and stir to combine.
  • Heat the cream over low heat until it just starts to steam. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, remove the pods with a fork or tongs. Cream is now ready to use. If you used vanilla paste, it is ready to use after the 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Grease two or three 6 inch cake pans (here are single 6 inch pans or a bundle of four pans), line with parchment paper3, then grease and flour the parchment paper (or use homemade cake release). Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter, sugar, egg, yogurt, infused cream, and vanilla extract on medium to high speed until completely smooth.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined. Then, fold gently by hand with a large spatula and press out any large lumps of flour that remain by scraping them against the side of the bowl. Small lumps are ok.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two or three pans, then bake 18-20 minutes for three layers or 20-22 minutes for two layers until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pans before removing and assembling.


  • In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk or cream. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. If frosting is too stiff, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Add salt to taste.
  • For more buttercream troubleshooting tips, see my book, The Home Baker's Guide to Basic Buttercream.


  • Using a large serrated knife or a cake leveler, level the cake layers4 to create flat surfaces.
  • Place one cake layer cut side up on your cake turntable, serving platter, or cake stand. Using a small offset spatula, spread frosting over the cut surface, spreading it out evenly.
  • Place the second layer cut side down, and repeat step 2 with more frosting. If you have a third layer, place that one on top of the frosted second layer, again, cut side down.
  • To make a crumb coat: this is not a required step, but I always like to include one. After your cake is stacked, smooth out the frosting on the sides of the cake peeking out from the layers, then refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes. When your cake is chilled, spread a thin layer of frosting all over the top and sides of the cake to lock in the crumbs. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before adding the final coat of frosting.
  • Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake, then use a bench scraper, if desired, to smooth out the top and sides. Decorate as desired.
  • To add filling to any of the layers: use a piping bag to create a well of frosting around the edges of your cake layer, then spread your filling evenly into the space you created with your well, being careful not to fill higher than the line you created. See photos in the text above for a visual.
  • Refrigerate cake for at least 30 minutes before slicing to help the cake hold its shape. Store leftover cake covered tightly at room temperature up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


  1. Room temperature ingredients: these are always a good idea when using room temperature butter as it makes for easier incorporation into the batter. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Full fat dairy: it is imperative to use full fat dairy in this recipe for moisture, since we’re using melted butter, therefore removing some natural moisture.
  3. Parchment paper rounds: I highly recommend parchment paper rounds with any cakes, but more specifically 6 inch cakes, because the smaller the cake, the harder it is to get out of the baking pan. Trace your pan on parchment paper, then cut out rounds with scissors.
  4. Cake scraps: use your cake scraps in my birthday cake ice cream or cake pops.
  5. More flavors: see the text above for all of my favorite cupcake recipes that you can turn into a 6 inch cake.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @freshaprilflours on Instagram or tag #freshaprilflours!

Nutrition Disclosure

All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 855kcal | Carbohydrates: 106g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 48g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 150mg | Sodium: 267mg | Potassium: 85mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 85g | Vitamin A: 1576IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. 5 stars
    This tutorial was literally perfect. I chose the vanilla bean cake recipe as written and it turned out beautifully for my nephew’s smash cake! Thanks so much for such a thorough post!

  2. Lindsay J. says:

    5 stars
    OMG, amazing. This was so helpful for making my daughter’s smash cake. I used the chocolate cake recipe and whipped cream buttercream. Sooo good!

    1. Thanks, Lindsay! So glad it worked out well for you.

  3. Jamie Gettz says:

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this!!! I needed a small cake for a bachelorette party and this page did not disappoint! The vanilla cake is so soft and it was just the right size for 5 of us! Will be making this again 🙂

    1. I’m so happy to hear this! Thank you, Jamie!

  4. Your recipe sounds good! I typically make 6″ cakes, but like my layers taller (1 1/2″ at least). Would your recipe give me 3 6″ round layers about as tall as I like? Thank you.

    1. Hey, Paula– good question! This recipe will give you three 1″ (ish) layers. If you want higher ones, I would 1.5x or 2x the recipe for sure. Let me know how it turns out!

    2. Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    We made a small cake today for our Friendsgiving celebration (6 guests). I made your carrot cake and it was so good. THanks for breaking it down in this guide!

    1. Great choice– thanks, Desiree!

  6. 5 stars
    Made this vanilla bean cake as written – except I subbed gluten-free all-purpose flour – and it was fantastic! Super moist and tender, with lots of vanilla flavor. Would definitely make again! It was so helpful to have a recipe made for a 6” pan size too.

    1. Thanks so much, Alex! I’m so glad it worked out well 🙂

  7. 5 stars
    Made it and it was lovely! Everyone loved it!

  8. 5 stars
    This recipe turned out beautifully! A lovely vanilla flavor and a wonderful crumb, not too moist and not too dry. The icing was super easy, too. I made three 6-inch layers, put some lemon curd in between the layers, and garnished with a big fat strawberry on top. This recipe is a keeper!

    1. Thanks so much, Jan! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  9. Would someone mind giving me advice? My daughter has many food allergies, so I have a safe go to recipe. The problem is it’s for a 9×13. Any advice how to reduce this recipe for a 3 layer 6″ cake? Would I use all of the 9×13 batter or decrease the recipe? I’m just not sure on equivalents and for safety do not want to use a different recipe. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hey, Lori– a 9×13 recipe typically makes two 8″ layers. So if you halve the recipe, you can get two thick or three thin 6″ layers. Hope that helps!

  10. 5 stars
    Could I use a recipe that makes a two-layer / eight inch cake in a three-layer / six inch cake? Thank you!

    1. Hi! A recipe for two 8″ layers will be four 6″ pans, but you might be able to squeeze it into 3 with some leftover for a few cupcakes. Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you, it really does! Much appreciated.