After extensive testing, this is my favorite vanilla 6 inch cake recipe. It’s simple to make and there are step by step photos!
The time has come my friends! If you’ve seen any of my previous cakes, I usually bake 6 inch cakes. I develop recipes for the casual home baker and most people don’t need to serve more than about 10 people at a time. Most of my cake recipes are made for a three layer 6 inch cake, which can be baked into two 8 or 9 inch layers, as well.
Most recipes can also be doubled if a larger cake is needed.
That said, I have tested many cake recipes over the last couple years and although some have been phenomenal they just weren’t the one. I wanted the perfect 6 inch vanilla cake. Now, we know that perfect is different to everyone so let me describe my version of perfect.
What makes this the perfect 6 inch cake recipe
Texture: I wanted the texture of this cake to be pretty tight. I don’t like when there are large air bubbles in my cake or when the crumb is too crumbly or too bready. I wanted a perfect combination of moisture, density, and fluffiness.
For instance, if your cake has too much moisture, it can be kinda gummy and super dense and heavy. We obviously don’t want that. If the cake is super light and airy, it can be a little too spongy or not stable enough to stack three layers. Many factors play into making the perfect cake.
Flavor: To me, the perfect vanilla cake tastes like a combination of butter, sugar, flour, milk and vanilla. I don’t want my cake to taste super buttery, I don’t want it super sweet and I certainly don’t want it to taste like cake flour or buttermilk. Cake flour and buttermilk obviously have their place in cakes but there needs to be a good balance.
Simplicity: No one wants to make the BEST cake out there if the ingredient list is inaccessible or the instructions are obnoxious. Some will still say this one is way too much work but remember, you’re making a cake from scratch… not a box mix.
Adaptability: I wanted my perfect 6 inch cake to be easily adapted to other flavors. I’ve tried a brown sugar version, a cinnamon version, a brown butter version, etc. I would not recommend adding anything that will vastly alter the wet to dry ratio but you can certainly do things like substitute ¼-½ cup of flour for graham crackers or cocoa powder, etc.
How to make this vanilla cake recipe
I really like to keep my recipes as simple as I can without leaving out anything that might help you. The full instructions are in the recipe card but we’ll run through some best practices for cakes in general and the ingredient list.
- All-purpose Flour: Cake flour is known to produce better results in cakes… better is an opinion, lol. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of cake flour. The texture may be more tender, but it’s not worth someone going out to buy cake flour just to make a cake. This recipe was developed specifically to use all-purpose flour since that’s what most people have at home.
- Fat: I use butter and oil in almost all my cake recipes because I like the flavor from the butter and I like the texture produced by the combination of both fats. I find that oil alone is sometimes too spongy and not quite as pleasant in a plain vanilla cake. Whereas using all butter usually results in a cake that’s a bit more stiff.
- Whole Eggs: you simply can’t argue against the flavor and richness that egg yolks bring to the table. I use egg whites when I specifically wanted my cakes to be white and not yellow but this cake was developed for optimal flavor and texture so egg yolks all the way!
- Sugar: I mean do we need to talk about this one? YES WE DO, because some people think it’s ok to remove up to half of the sugar from a recipe because “they don’t want it so sweet”…I get it. But the truth is homemade cakes are nowhere near as sweet as store bought ones (at least mine aren’t) and if you want to remove sugar, use a European based buttercream instead of an American.
- Sugar is not only there for flavor, it creates tenderness and locks in moisture. Please do not email me or leave a comment below saying the cake wasn’t good and all you did was take out some of the sugar lol…
- Liquid: I was a firm believer in buttermilk before I did all this testing. Now I am a firm believer in sour cream. The difference in texture and flavor was mind blowing from the very first test. If you really don’t have access to sour cream you can substitute it for ½ cup of buttermilk or 3/4 cup of yogurt or Greek yogurt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do my ingredients need to be at room temperature?
I’m sure you see this one a lot but please use room temperature ingredients. It’s not as hard as you think, ¼ cup of butter will soften to room temperature pretty quickly if you cup it up. Put the eggs in warm water for 10 minutes. Microwave the milk for 20 seconds if you need to.
This ensures that the right amount of air is incorporated into your cake and that the batter emulsifies properly. If your batter ever looks split/curdled when you add the eggs, it’s most likely either the temperature of your ingredients or the fat to liquid ratio is off.
How do you make sure the cake won’t stick to the pan?
Honestly I rarely encounter this problem. I typically just use a baking spray made with flour to grease my cake pans. I feel like that’s not as common as greasing with plain butter or flour but it works for me and it’s so much easier. If you’re really nervous you can use parchment paper to line the pans as well.
How do I know when my cake is done baking?
This is important because a good cake can become a dry cake in a matter of minutes. Most people insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean, the cake is done baking but that’s unnecessary in my opinion.
If your cake pans are greased properly, the cake should release itself from the edge of the pan once it’s fully baked (you can see that in the photo with the baked cake in the pan). Another way to know is that as soon as the top of the cake no longer looks wet, gently press on the center of it and if it springs back, it’s done. If your fingerprint stays pressed down then baked for another 1-2 minutes and try again.
Can I make this 6 inch cake recipe in different size pans?
Yes! I prefer a three layer 6 inch cake. You could also make thin layers by cutting them in half to make six 6 inch layers. This recipe can also make
- Two layer 8 inch cake, bake for about 35 minutes
- Two layer 9 inch cake, bake for about 30 minutes
- One 9×13 inch cake, bake for about 45 minutes
Does this vanilla cake recipe work for cupcakes?
Yes! This vanilla cake recipe makes 24 cupcakes, HOWEVER, when I developed the recipe I wanted it to dome as a little as possible so they do bake up kind of flat. I recommend a recipe developed specifically for cupcakes, you can use this funfetti cupcake recipe and just remove the sprinkles.
Before you ask, I also would not halve this recipe to make 12 cupcakes because it has 3 eggs.
What kind of frosting should I use for this 6 inch vanilla cake?
This type of cake pairs well with many different frostings. You can pair it with basically any European or American buttercream. My favorites are Swiss meringue buttercream and cream cheese frosting. The cake featured below is the Rhubarb Vanilla Cake with Swiss meringue buttercream. If you omit the jam and add vanilla. you’ll have a vanilla cake!
You can also try the most luxurious buttercream, I have a whole post on How To Make French Buttercream. Flavor it with 1 Tbsp of vanilla, 1/2 cup (40g) cocoa powder or even 1/2 cup of Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce.
For more buttercream flavors, make sure to check out my new cookbook Frosted! It has 13 base frosting recipes to chose from and teaches you how to customize and troubleshoot them.
How much frosting do I need for a 6 inch cake?
To lightly cover a 6 inch cake, you can get away with a batch of frosting that uses 1 cup (227g) of butter but that won’t leave any extra for decorating. If you’re looking to decorate as well, I recommend a batch and a half of frosting so you’ll want to use at least 1 1/2 cups (340g) of butter.
For example, the Swiss meringue buttercream and the French buttercream, linked above, both use 1 cup of butter in their recipes. To make enough frosting for decorating, you’ll need 1.5x that. So that would be 1 1/2 cups (300g) of sugar, 6 large egg yolks, about 1/3 cup (79mL) water, 1 1/2 cups (340g) butter, etc.
I’m very aware that this will not be everyone else’s favorite 6 inch vanilla cake recipe. I always welcome constructive criticism but please be kind!
I’d be happy to answer any questions down below. If you make this cake, make sure to tag me @baranbakery on Instagram and show me what you made with it! As always, happy baking and have a blessed day!
- 2 1/4 (270g) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp (10g) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120mL) oil
- 1 1/2 cup (300g) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (170g) sour cream, room temperature
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (180mL) milk, room temperature
Begin by bringing all your ingredients to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease and line three 6 inch cake pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until they're evenly distributed.
Place the room temperature butter, the oil and the granulated sugar in a large bowl and use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat them for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed until each egg is fully incorporated. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, turn the mixer on low speed and then pour in the milk, followed by the rest of the dry ingredients.
Distribute the batter evenly among the three cake pans, about 14oz in each pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. When the cake is fully baked it will release itself from the edge of the pan and it will spring back if you press on the center of it.
Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
You can bake these cakes up in advance. To preserve the moisture, allow the cakes to cool almost to room temperature, they should still be slightly warm. Wrap them in plastic wrap, place them in a freezer bag, pressing all the air out and freeze.
Remove them from the freezer when you're ready to frost, this makes it easier to frost and they will defrost by the time you're ready to serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 354Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 250mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 1gSugar: 26gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.