This small vanilla cake recipe bakes up incredibly soft, stays moist for dayyyys, and is perfect for any celebratory occasion!
This small vanilla birthday cake recipe is truly my favorite cake recipe on the blog! I have never been a fan of birthday cakes, because they're always dry, overly sweet, and covered in fake frosting. So when I started this blog, I made it my mission to create the most amazing vanilla cake recipe that's so good, you'd have no choice but to go back for a second piece.
And well friends, this is it. This is THE cake recipe that tops all others. It is so moist and perfectly sweet, and when paired with my super silky vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, it is absolutely irresistible. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do!
For more birthday related recipes, try Birthday Cake Sugar Cookies, Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, Birthday Cake Macarons, and Funfetti Pancakes.
- Cake Flour: Though it's not essential to make this cake, cake flour achieves the softest crumb!
- Sugar: Both the cake and the buttercream require granulated sugar.
- Leavener: You'll need just baking powder to give this cake the perfect rise & texture.
- Fat: To make this cake super moist while maintaining that classic buttery flavor, this recipe uses an oil-butter combo. You'll also need 3 whole sticks of butter for the buttercream.
- Dairy: For optimum flavor and texture, use full fat greek yogurt and milk.
- Egg: The cake needs just one egg, while the buttercream needs 4 egg whites.
- Vanilla: You can't make a classic birthday cake without vanilla! Use a high-quality vanilla paste or extract for the best flavor.
- Sprinkles: Decorate your cake with rainbow jimmy sprinkles or leave plain for a classic look. OR top it with these birthday cake macarons!
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and individual quantities.
Step by Step Instructions
This recipe really could not get any simpler! It's a one-bowl recipe, so you can whip this cake up in no time and with minimal clean-up!
STEP 1: Cut butter into dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut up the butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until it resembles wet sand.
STEP 2: Mix in the wet ingredients. Add the oil, yogurt, milk, egg, and vanilla, and mix until fully combined.
STEP 3: Bake. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. (I recommend weighing the batter to be as precise as possible!) Bake for 28-32 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
STEP 4: Cool. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
STEP 5: Make the Swiss meringue. In a double boiler, heat the egg whites, sugar, and salt, whisking frequently until it reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C) or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites do not feel grainy. Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn the mixer down to low speed, and wait until the meringue cools down to at least 85 degrees F (30 degrees C).
STEP 6: Add the butter. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the meringue a few pieces at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate before adding more. Once all of the butter is added, it will likely look curdled, but keep beating for a few more minutes and it will come together. Once the buttercream has mostly come together, change the whisk attachment to the paddle and keep mixing on low speed until homogenous and smooth. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
STEP 7: Decorate. Secure the first layer of cake on the cake stand with a small amount of frosting on the bottom. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to measure out the frosting for each layer. I used a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop and put 3 scoops of frosting on each layer. Cover the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting for the crumb coat. Place in the fridge for about 20 minutes, then frost the cake as desired.
STEP 8: Serve. Top with rainbow jimmy sprinkles and enjoy!
How to Scale the Recipe
If you would like to create a larger cake, such as a 3 layer 6-inch cake or 2 layer 9-inch cake, you can scale the recipe up. Simply multiply the gram measurements by 1.5. For example, this recipe calls for 180g of cake flour, so for a larger cake you will need 270g of cake flour.
Please Note: Scaling can work with volume measurements, however with the extremely precise gram measurements required, it can get very complicated. I recommend only scaling the gram measurements.
If you are looking for an even smaller recipe, try these small batch vanilla cupcakes! You could also bake this cupcake recipe as a 1 layer 6 inch cake if you would like.
The reverse creaming method is the process of beating room temperature butter into the dry ingredients. The fat coats the flour and inhibits the gluten from developing. With this method, the cake is sure to bake up flat without becoming too golden around the edges or on top. In contrast, the creaming method involves beating the sugar and butter together, which adds a lot of extra air into the batter. This is a great method for other bakes, but not with a white cake. With the reverse creaming method, the cake will bake up with an ultra fine, velvety crumb.
Cakes may dome in the middle when they bake because the outside bakes faster than the center, so the center has more time to rise. This is not ideal for layer cakes, because it is a pain to have to trim away the top of the cake. The reverse creaming method helps with baking perfectly flat cake layers. But the best way to ensure your cake layers bake up flat rather than doming is to use cake strips. Soak the cake strips in cold water before wrapping around the outside of the cake pans. This will ensure that the outside of the cake does not bake faster than the center.
You likely have added the butter to the meringue too soon. DO NOT add the butter to the swiss meringue until it has cooled down to below 85 degrees F. I have made the mistake of adding it too soon, and the meringue ended up melting the butter and turned the whole thing into a soupy mess. If your meringue has reached stiff peaks before it is cool enough, turn the mixer down to low speed and keep it there until it reaches the right temperature.
Cover the cake and leave out at room temperature for up to 5 days. Yes, it stays moist for that long!!!
Baking in Grams
All of the recipes on this blog are carefully developed with gram measurements so you can easily recreate them in your own kitchen with success. Volume measurements are extremely inaccurate and leave room for significant errors. Not all measuring cups are made equally, so your one cup of flour will be different from my one cup of flour. By providing precise measurements in grams (aside from minor ingredients, which are given in tsp/tbsp), you can make these recipes accurately and with less cleanup! All you need is this kitchen scale.
If this still isn't enough to convince you, I have provided volume measurements in the recipe card. If you are interested in understanding the conversions, this is the best conversion chart.
But trust me, once you try baking in grams you'll never turn back!
Happy baking! x
Other Birthday Recipes to Try
If you tried this recipe, I'd love to know how it turned out for you! Leave a star rating & review below and post a picture (or video!) on Instagram and tag me so I can see your bakes! Not ready to make this recipe yet? Click the heart button on the right of your screen to save it for later 🙂
Small Vanilla Cake Recipe
For the small vanilla cake:
- 180 g (1 ½ cups) cake flour
- 168 g (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 76 g (5 ½ tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temp
- 65 g (⅓ cup) extra light tasting olive oil
- 113 g (½ cup) plain whole milk greek yogurt, room temp
- 113 g (½ cup) whole milk , room temp
- 1 egg, room temp
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
For the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream:
- 145 g (about 4) egg whites
- 300 g (1 ½ cups) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 340 g (24 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temp, but on the cooler side
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- rainbow jimmy sprinkles, for decorating
For the small vanilla cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and line two 6 inch cake pans with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Cut up the butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until it resembles wet sand.
- Add the oil, yogurt, milk, egg, and vanilla, and mix until fully combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. (I recommend weighing the batter to be as precise as possible!)
- Bake for 28-32 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
- Cool completely before frosting.
For the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream:
- In a double boiler, heat the egg whites, sugar, and salt, whisking frequently until it reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C) or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites do not feel grainy.
- Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn the mixer down to low speed, and wait until the meringue cools down to at least 85 degrees F (30 degrees C).
- Cut the butter into cubes and add to the meringue a few pieces at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate before adding more. Once all of the butter is added, it will likely look curdled, but keep beating for a few more minutes and it will come together.
- Once the buttercream has mostly come together, change the whisk attachment to the paddle and keep mixing on low speed until homogenous and smooth.
- Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
- Secure the first layer of cake on the cake stand with a small amount of frosting on the bottom. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to measure out the frosting for each layer. I used a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop and put 3 scoops of frosting on each layer.
- Cover the whole cake in a thin layer of frosting for the crumb coat.
- Place in the fridge for about 20 minutes, then frost the cake as desired.
- Top with rainbow jimmy sprinkles and enjoy!
- You can use any oil that has a neutral taste. My go-to is light tasting extra virgin olive oil, but you can also use vegetable or canola oil.
- You can make the cake layers the night before and decorate it the next day. Just wait until the cakes are completely cool, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
- I recommend making the buttercream the day you are decorating the cake.
- Cover the cake and leave out at room temperature for up to 5 days. Yes, it stays moist for that long!!!
May I know what speed and how many minutes of mixing when you add the oil, yogurt, milk, egg and vanilla extract?
Mix on low speed until fully combined, about 30 seconds! You can also finish with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is incorporated without over-mixing with the electric mixer.
Does this recipe works to make cupcakes?
Yes! It should make about 12 cupcakes. Bake at 350 F for about 16-18 minutes.
hi, what would the measurements be in metric to make a 2 layer 8 inch cake please?
Hi! Personally, I would leave the recipe as is for slightly thinner layers. But if you'd like them to be just as thick as the cake shown in the photos, then I would multiply the gram measurements by 1.25x at most, and leave the egg to just 1. I have not tested it this way, so no promises! Would love to hear how it turns out 🙂
Tamika Cook says
This cake is awesome!!! I’ve tried so many recipes and have been disappointed. Thank you for sharing!
I’ve used this cake reciept twice and I absolutely LOVE IT!!! So delicious and easy! But the second time around, I noticed an issue with crumble. The cake was firm enough to stack , I just got a lot of crumbs while slicing lol. Do you have any suggestion to how to prevent that?
I also ran out of plain yogurt and used sour cream instead, do you think that may have been the issue?
So glad you love the recipe! I've always found sour cream and yogurt to be interchangeable, especially in cakes, so I doubt that's the issue. The only thing I can think of is the cake might have been over-baked, leading to a more crumbly texture. Hope this helps!
Aysia Porter says
This recipe is so quick and easy to make, and the results are amazing!! The cake is so moist and delicious, my family loved it! This will definitely be my go to vanilla recipe.
This is an amazing recipe, everyone in my famili loves it!! You can make it with things you commonly have in your kitchen and if you want a bigger cake you just can double the recipe, plus you can put anything in the middle. I 100% recommend it!
Hi, if I double it or press 2x How many 8 inch pans do I use?
I would recommend using three 8 inch pans.
This is now my go-to vanilla cake recipe. The cake is not too sweet and has some tanginess from the yogurt. This was my first time using the reverse creaming method and it was a success. It's faster and easier than creaming the butter and sugar together. The cake really did stay moist for days.
I also made the frosting. It was my first time making Swiss meringue buttercream. The recipe was well written, and the frosting is much less sweet than American buttercream, but I think SMBC is just too buttery for me.
I’m new to baking. So the cake flour is that regular flour ? Or what type of Cake flour?
Cake flour is different than all-purpose flour. You can find it at most grocery stores. A common brand is Swans Down.
if you don't have cake flour you can do the following: 1 cup of AP flour, take out 2 tb and replace with corn starch
sorry, replace with 2 to corn starch
What size cake pans? 6”?
I have 9” but think they will make the layers too thin
How many people will this small cake serve?
Hi Alison, Yes this is a 6" cake recipe. If you would like to use two 9" cake pans, I recommend doubling the recipe. A two layer 6" cake can serve about 8-10 people, and a two layer 9" cake can serve about 16-18 people. Hope you get to try it!
A wonderful cake very moist and good.MGooden 9834
I’ve been searching for a good vanilla cake recipe for a while, and I think I’ve finally found the one! This cake is so moist and so tasty, and it’s the perfect little size.
Never making another vanilla cake recipe again. The best flavor and the texture is so soft and moist! And loved the Swiss meringue buttercream - I had never made it before, but was pleasantly surprised with how easy it is!
My favorite cake I’ve ever made!! Moist, buttery, and not overwhelmingly sweet 🙂
So glad you loved it Hannah!!
There's a mistake in the instructions. It should read: "Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)." Just in case a novice baker sees this. 🙂 Thanks for putting metric amounts!
For egg whites in buttercream: 160 F (71C)
Hi Memoria, thanks so much for catching that! Hope you get to try out the recipe 🙂
love this cake this is so moist ,the texture is also grate!