This Small Vanilla Cake recipe is a tender 6 inch vanilla cake decorated with creamy buttercream frosting. It’s the perfect one layer vanilla cake for birthdays, anniversaries, and more!

Slice of small vanilla cake

This Small Vanilla Cake recipe is long overdue.

I have a Small Chocolate Cake recipe, Small Red Velvet Cake, even a Lemon Raspberry Cake.

Technically I posted vanilla a long time ago with Cherry Vanilla Cake, but it’s a two layer cake.

I even have Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes.

As I was going through my 6 Inch Cake Recipes, I noticed I was missing an easy, one layer vanilla cake with Small Batch Buttercream.

I’ll admit vanilla isn’t a flavor I typically pick over chocolate or lemon, but sometimes it just hits the spot.

And when I say vanilla cake, I mean it; I wasn’t shy with the vanilla extract. You can even use vanilla bean paste or fresh vanilla beans like I did with my vanilla bean ice cream.

Make this small vanilla cake recipe as the perfect small birthday cake, as a small anniversary cake, or a small just because cake. You can even use it as a vanilla smash cake.

Small Vanilla Cake on white plate

What is the difference between a white cake, yellow cake, and vanilla cake?

While working on my recipe for small vanilla cake, one question kept popping up – what’s the difference between a vanilla cake, a white cake, and a yellow cake?

A vanilla cake is often what you think of when you want a basic small cake with no other flavors mixed in.

My Small Yellow Cake gets its name from using butter and whole eggs.

A white cake is made with only egg whites. Usually it’s also made with butter, but sometimes if you want a truly white cake you can use shortening.

In other words, white cake, yellow cake, and vanilla cake are essentially the same with the only difference being whether you want the richness from the yolks or stick with all whites.

Close up of 6 inch vanilla cake

Ingredients For Small Vanilla Cake

To get started on your 6 inch vanilla cake recipe you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • All-Purpose Flour: I used a combination of all purpose flour and cornstarch instead of cake flour because not everyone has cake flour. Make sure you know how to measure flour by using the spoon and level method, not the scoop and pack method.
  • Cornstarch: Since we’re not using cake flour, cornstarch makes up for the gluten difference. If you’re using cake flour, swap this for additional cake flour.
  • Baking powder: Leavening agent so your cake rises. Make sure it’s fresh and not expired.
  • Salt: Used so your cake isn’t bland.
  • Butter: Not only does it add flavor, butter helps the cake rise from its steam when it melts, trapping carbon dioxide in the batter as it bakes. This creates a tender crumb texture. Never substitute margarine.
  • Granulated sugar: Sweetens the cake.
  • Egg: Use a standard large egg at room temperature.
  • Vanilla: Because this is a vanilla cake, I went heavy on the vanilla flavor. Make sure you’re using high quality vanilla and not imitation extract.
  • Milk: Make sure you’re using whole milk and not 2% or skim. You’ll need that fat for a moist vanilla cake.

Servings In A 6 Inch Cake

Generally 6 inch cakes can be sliced into 4-6 slices, making it about 4-6 servings per 6 inch cake. However, if you slice your mini vanilla cake small enough, you can push for 8 slices, equaling 8 servings.

Slice of 6 inch vanilla cake

How To Make A Small Vanilla Cake

Here’s how to make your vanilla cake for two from scratch without a cake mix:

  1. Sift together your flour and cornstarch then stir in your baking powder and salt.
  2. Beat together your butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. This part is important as it’ll build air and help your cake rise.
  3. Beat in your egg and vanilla, scraping down your bowl if necessary.
  4. Alternate the dry ingredients with the milk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).
  5. Pour the batter into your 6 inch cake pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs (but not wet batter).

Small Vanilla Cake on white platter with blue table

How To Decorate A Small Vanilla Cake

I frosted my 6 inch vanilla cake recipe with buttercream frosting to double the vanilla flavor.

However, you can play around with the flavors and use Small Batch Chocolate Frosting, Peanut Butter Frosting, or Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

If you want a bit of tang, use my Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting, Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, or Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

6 inch vanilla cake on white platter

How To Freeze A Small Vanilla Cake

Although this small vanilla cake recipe only makes a few slices, sometimes you want to bake it ahead of time then freeze for freshness.

If your cake is already frosted, place it on a baking tray or plate lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap then freeze uncovered for 1 hour or until firm.

This will prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to your frosting and ruining it.

Next, wrap the cake in plastic wrap then stick in a freeze-safe plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible.

Write the date on your plastic bag then freeze for up to 3 months.

How To Thaw A Small Vanilla Cake

When you’re ready to serve your small vanilla cake recipe, place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Then let it sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving so it’s not cold.

It’s harder to taste the flavors if you eat the cake straight from the fridge without warming up first

More Small Cake Recipes

Craving more 6 inch cake recipes? Check out my other favorites:

6 inch vanilla cake on white platter

Small Vanilla Cake Recipe

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This Small Vanilla Cake recipe is a tender 6 inch vanilla cake decorated with creamy buttercream frosting. It’s the perfect one layer vanilla cake for birthdays, anniversaries, and more!


  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (when measuring, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off)*
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature (do not substitute low fat or fat free)

Pick One To Decorate


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease one 6-inch wide x 2-inch deep round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch then stir in the baking powder and salt.
  3. In another large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed (using paddle attachment for stand mixer), beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Scrape down the bowl then beat in the egg and vanilla.
  5. Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed possible then add the flour mixture alternating with the milk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).

    When you add the final addition of flour, switch to a rubber spatula and gently fold in by hand. You do not want to overmix this part or you'll have a dense, cornbread-like texture.
  6. Transfer the batter to the pan then bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
  7. Decorate with frosting of choice. Cover and store the frosted
    cake at room temperature for up to 2 days (buttercream only) or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (buttercream, cream cheese, and ganache).

    For best results, let the refrigerated cake sit at room temperature 15-30 minutes before serving.


  • *To substitute cake flour, omit the cornstarch and use 1 cup cake flour.
  • Love this recipe? Check out my full list of 6 Inch Cake recipes including chocolate cake, yellow cake, and more.
  • Don't have a 6 inch pan? Check out my recipe for Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes.

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