Who doesn’t love a mini cake? They’re perfect for smash cakes, birthdays, or — let’s face it — a Monday night when you want dessert but don’t want the temptation of a big, fat layer cake lurking in the fridge all week.
I’ve made quite a few mini cakes in the past. Normally I just bake an 8-inch layer and stamp out the layers using a round cookie cutter. This works really well, but it does leave you with a bit of cake scraps. Plus, I wanted to find a recipe that would perfectly fit my cute little 4 inch cake pans.
Turns out my go-to vanilla cake recipe, scaled down, worked like a charm with just the slightest bit of tweaking. One of the things I like about this particular recipe is that it bakes up fairly flat (thanks to the reverse-creaming mixing method, which produces a fine, dense crumb), a big plus when dealing with a small amount of cake (you don’t want to level off half the cake just to get a flat surface!). This cake is also sturdy, which makes assembly a lot easier (fluffier cakes are harder to layer, small-scale).
You can fill and frost this any way you want, but I opted for some strawberry jam and a super simple cream cheese frosting. This frosting is a nice, quick number that doesn’t require bringing any ingredients to room temperature. It wouldn’t be my first choice for doing fancy piping work, but it’s light and tasty and is easy to work with.
By the way, I made this particular cake to celebrate the fact that we’re having a GIRL!
Mini 4-inch vanilla cake
Makes 1 four-layer, four-inch cake | Serves 2-4
Mini Vanilla Cake
Adapted from Cake Paper Party
- 50g all-purpose flour
- 56g cake flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 95g granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 100g sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 57g unsalted butter, very soft
- 2 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil (I like canola or grapeseed)
Quick Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from The Fauxmartha
- 1 c heavy cream, cold
- 113g / 4 oz. cream cheese, cold
- 63g / 1/2 c icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- ~1/4 c strawberry preserves/jam (preferably on the thick side)
- Simple syrup
- Sprinkles, if desired
For the mini vanilla cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 4-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease and flour the pans.
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sour cream and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
- Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl and mix on low 30 seconds to blend.
- Add butter and vegetable oil to flour mix and mix on low for 30 seconds to moisten dry ingredients. The mixture should look like wet sand.
- Add half of egg mixture and beat on medium-high for 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture and beat on low for 30 seconds more.
- Divide evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset palette knife. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cake is well done (the top should feel springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean). Cool 10-20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting; wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate/freeze if using more than a day later. (I definitely recommend chilling the cakes completely before assembling.)
For the quick cream cheese frosting:
- Combine the cold cream, icing sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In another bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and spreadable, about two minutes. Add the cream cheese to the whipped cream mixture and beat at medium speed until completely smooth. Use immediately.
- Level the cakes and cut each cake in half for a total of four layers. Use a dollop of frosting to stick the first layer on a 4-inch cake board. Brush with simple syrup. Pipe a frosting border around the edge and fill the center with about 1 Tbsp of jam. Repeat until you have used all the layers.
- Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides and refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes to set. Frost as desired*, and top with sprinkles!
*For the watercolor effect, I tinted two small portions of frosting (~1/2 cup) different shades of pink (using Americolor Dusty Rose), then randomly dolloped little bits all over the sides. I used an icing scraper to blend the colors and smooth the frosting out, and an offset palette knife to give the frosting a little bit of texture for a rustic finish.