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Last Updated on April 5, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
Today we’re baking a cute little small-batch mini vanilla cake! Because sometimes you just don’t need that much cake, but (and this is important) you still want cake!
Tell me if you’ve ever been in this situation: You’re having a party, and spend all day baking a delicious cake (or you pick up a delicious cake from a local bakery) and no matter how good it is, you end up with tons of cake left over??
Or, maybe you’re at home alone or with one or two others, and you want cake, but not too much?
For me, it was this past Easter — just a few weeks ago but feels like it’s been months. I was making dinner for just me and my boyfriend, so for dessert we didn’t need much. Something quick, easy, and small, but still yummy! This mini vanilla cake was perfect!
Why should I make this cake?
Besides being the perfect, cute little size for a small group (or just for one), this mini vanilla cake is amazing! It has so much vanilla flavor, a light, fluffy texture, and a delicate crumb. I’ve made it so many times and always loved it! PLUS it’s the perfect vessel for some rainbow sprinkles, just in case you need a little joy sprinkled into your day! I went a little crazy with the sprinkles, but who hasn’t?
Best of all, this is a one bowl recipe, and you don’t even need a mixer! No butter to soften, no special techniques — it could not be easier!
I’ve also included a recipe for an optional quick vanilla buttercream frosting, the perfect amount for this mini vanilla cake! So whether you’re making a birthday cake for a party of two or a portion-controlled dessert for the family, you’ll have just enough cake AND just enough frosting.
How do you make a mini vanilla cake from scratch?
This mini vanilla cake is very quick and easy, and it comes together with just a few ingredients. Chances are, you have most of these on hand already:
- egg – make sure your egg is at room temperature before you start to bake! To get it to room temp quickly, set your egg in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes.
- granulated sugar – adds just enough sweetness to our recipe.
- pure vanilla extract – Vanilla is the main flavor in this mini vanilla cake, so we want it to shine, so be sure to use a high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- vegetable oil – serves two purposes in this mini vanilla cake! First, it keeps the cake more moist than butter. Also, since you don’t have to worry about softening or creaming butter, the oil makes this mini vanilla cake recipe SO easy!
- buttermilk – make sure your buttermilk is room temperature. This helps your mini vanilla cake to bake up nice and fluffy in the oven. If you don’t have buttermilk, see below in the Tips and FAQ for a substitute!
- cake flour – cake flour gives this mini vanilla cake its soft and tender crumb because it has less protein in it than all-purpose flour. If you don’t have cake flour, see below for how to make a substitute using all-purpose flour and cornstarch! Be sure to use a kitchen scale to measure by weight, or use the spoon-and-level method to measure by volume.
- baking powder & baking soda – these helps to give our cake some lift!
- salt – since we’re using vegetable oil, we don’t have any salt from salted butter. So we need to add some salt to make sure we bring out those vanilla flavors and sweetness!
And for our quick, perfectly-portioned vanilla buttercream frosting you’ll need:
- salted butter – I prefer salted butter, but if you use unsalted just add a couple extra dashes of salt to taste.
- powdered sugar – gives our frosting the sweetness and texture that’s perfect for this mini vanilla cake!
- pure vanilla extract – of course!
- heavy cream – helps to fluff up the frosting while adding richness.
- salt – to bring out the vanilla flavor!
One tool you’ll definitely need for this mini vanilla cake are 6-inch cake pans. I like these Wilton ones — I always get a great result from them! (affiliate link) I definitely recommend using a 6-inch pan to get an even bake, but I would imagine you could also make this small batch cake into 4-6 cupcakes, or try baking it in a small loaf pan. If you do try a different type of pan, let me know in the comments below! Here are some of my other recommendations for tools you’ll need:
Tips and F.A.Q.
A mini cake can be between 4 and 6 inches in diameter, and can be a single layer like this mini vanilla cake, or have lots of layers. Often, mini cakes will be single serving, not much smaller than cupcakes.
This 6 inch single-layer mini vanilla cake is perfect for two, or for one with leftovers! It yields about 4-6 slices, depending on how large you cut them.
A white cake typically is made without egg yolks, to maintain the pure white color. Vanilla cakes like this mini vanilla cake are made with whole eggs, and so the yolks, along with the vanilla extract added, change the color of the cake slightly.
If you don’t have cake flour, you can make a substitute to use for this mini vanilla cake! All you need is all-purpose flour and corn starch. Just measure out 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and replace 1 1/2 teaspoon of it with cornstarch. In grams, it’ll be 91 grams of all-purpose flour sifted with 4 grams of cornstarch. As I mentioned above, it’s best to measure by weight with a kitchen scale, but if you don’t have one be sure to use the spoon-and-level method to measure by volume.
If you don’t have buttermilk, feel free to use whole milk, replacing a teaspoon of the milk with vinegar. This will create the acidic effect of buttermilk to help your mini vanilla cake come out even more moist and tender.
If you love this mini vanilla cake recipe and want to try its “sister cake” (if you will), check out my mini chocolate cake!! Like this one, it’s a deliciously easy small-batch cake that is perfect for two! But with 100% more CHOCOLATE.
OR if you want to use your 6-inch pan for another delicious celebration cake, try my 6-inch strawberry layer cake! It’s got fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream between yummy brown butter yellow cake layers! You’ll love it!
Equipment you may need
- Spray a 6-inch cake pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg, vanilla, and sugar until well combined and thickened.
- Whisk in oil, followed by buttermilk, until smooth.
- Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold into batter with a rubber spatula until just barely combined.
- Pour into cake pan. Drop cake in pan from 3 inches onto counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the cake comes out clean.
Prepare Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- In a bowl, beat softened butter for one minute until it’s light and fluffy.
- Gradually add in powdered sugar, followed by vanilla and beat until smooth.
- Add cream a little at a time and beat until you have the desired consistency.
- Add a pinch or two of salt, if desired and beat to combine. Spread over cooled cake.
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