Vanilla 4 Inch Cake

This 3 layered vanilla 4 inch cake is the perfect size for a personal treat or small celebration and uses simple ingredients you already have at home!

After developing my vanilla 6 Inch and 8 Inch Cake, I realized we needed a base recipe for a vanilla 4 inch cake. The 4 inch cake is the perfect size for a small celebration cake or smash cake. It can be tricky modifying a recipe to fit the amount and size you want, so I took out the guesswork and developed the perfect 4 inch cake for you guys! 

How to make a 4 inch cake

My 4 Inch Cake is a basic vanilla cake with 3 layers. To keep things simple, I made a vanilla buttercream. I’m picky about three main things in my cakes- 

  • Texture– I like my cakes to be perfectly soft and moist without being too dense.
  • Flavor– There needs to be a balance of flavors where no ingredient stands out.
  • Simplicity– I do not like complicated recipes with complicated ingredients. 


  • Flour: I like to use all-purpose flour because it is a staple ingredient in most homes. The difference cake flour makes isn’t worth the extra trip to the grocery store.
    • I always recommend using a digital scale, especially when measuring flour.
  • Fat: I like the combination of butter and oil. For a cake this size, using both would require measurements that are too small and kind of annoying. To keep it simple, I used oil because I prefer the texture from oil more than butter.
  • Whole Egg: I like to use whole eggs for a richer flavor. It is important for your eggs to be room temperature. If you forget to take them out in time, place them in hot water for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Sugar: People are always trying to cut corners with sugar. Without sugar there would be no flavor and your cake would be dry. So please, do not cut out any of the sugar!
  • Liquid: I like the texture my cakes get from using sour cream and milk. If you don’t have sour cream you can substitute greek yogurt. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

How can I customize my 4 Inch Vanilla Cake 

You can use almost any type and flavor of frosting. If you want to customize the vanilla buttercream you can add ¼ cup of jam, peanut butter, nutella or chocolate ganache. If you want more ideas, my book Frosted has over 60 different frosting recipes.

Does this recipe work for cupcakes? 

If you want to use this recipe to make cupcakes I’m assuming you want a small batch. Lucky for you I have a Small Batch Cupcakes recipe and it’s perfect! 

How do I know when my cake is done baking? 

When your cake is done baking it will release from the edge of the pan. You can also gently press the middle of the cake and if it springs back it is done. I also recommend buying an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is at the right temperature. 

How to store 4 Inch Vanilla Cake 

If the cake is sliced, cover the opening with plastic wrap or store in a cake dome at room temperature for 2-3 days. To refrigerate, place the cake in an airtight container for up to a week.

You can freeze it for up to 2 months by cutting into slices and placing them in an airtight container. Place the container in a freezer bag and squeeze out all the air. When you want to serve the cake, allow the slices to thaw at room temperature. 

Thanks so much for reading today’s post! If you have any questions just comment down below, I’m happy to answer! If you make this 4 inch vanilla cake I would love to see the results, so please make sure to tag me @baranbakery on instagram and order my cookbook, Frosted. As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

Yield: 4-6 slices

4 Inch Vanilla Cake Recipe

slice cut out of the cake to show three layers of vanilla cake and buttercream

Simple vanilla cake now comes in the perfect size for a personal treat or small celebration. This 3 layered, 4 Inch Vanilla Cake is delicious, soft, and simple to make!

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes


Vanilla Cake

  • 3/4 cup (90g) cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp (4g) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (56g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) milk, room temperature

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cup (240g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 Tbsp (15-30mL) heavy whipping cream, room temperature


Vanilla 4 inch cake

  1. Preheat the oven on convection to 350°F (177°C) (325F/162C conventional oven) and grease and line three 4 inch cake pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until they're evenly distributed.
  3. Place the oil and the granulated sugar in a large bowl and use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat them, until they're smooth.
  4. Then add the egg and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat just until combined.
  5. 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. Mix just until the last streak of flour is combined.
  6. Distribute the batter evenly among the three cake pans and bake for 20 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.
  7. Flip the cakes over onto a tea towel and allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter at full speed until it's pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and beat at low speed just until it's combined.
  3. Scrape the edge of the bowl and continue beating at medium-high speed until the sugar is fully dissolved and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla and turn the mixer to low-medium speed, pour in 1 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream and mix until it's well combined.
  5. If you want it softer, add the extra 1 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream and mix until it's fully combined.


  1. Use 1/2 of the buttercream to frost the first and second layer and then use 1/4 for a crumb coat.
  2. Refrigerate the cake for 15-30 minutes, then use the last 1/4 of the buttercream to frost the rest of the cake.
  3. Use a piping bag with a medium sized round tip to pipe the poofs. Top with gold foil!


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.

If you want extra frosting for decorating, do 1.5x or 2x the amount of frosting. This is just enough to fully frost the cake.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 538Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 203mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 0gSugar: 54gProtein: 4g

Nutrition information may not be fully accurate.

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  1. Hello

    I don’t have 4 inch cake pans but I have 6 inch can I use this same recipe in those, will probably yield two layers.

    Thank you

    • Hi Sandy, you can sub 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar for cocoa powder.
      Any of 6 inch cakes can be baked in a square 10 inch pan or a 9×13″ pan and if you double any of my 6 inch cakes, it makes three 10 inch layers. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi, I am wondering how long it takes to have the stuff out to get it to room temp? Does it have to be room temperature?

  3. Hi!! Thank you for the recipe! My friends and I can’t wait to make it! Question… if I don’t have 4 inch round cake pans can I make the cake in a larger pan and cut 4 inch rounds using deep 4 inch cookie cutters?
    Thank you!

  4. I’ve been looking for the perfect 4” cake to make for guests celebrating special occasions and this is by far the best I’ve tried! Everything was perfect and I appreciate that it only takes a stick of butter because it’s so expensive here! Delicious and affordable? Thank you!!

  5. I made this as a smash cake for my daughters first birthday. The only change I made was using melted butter instead of oil and it is hands down the best and most moist vanilla cake I’ve ever had!!!

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