Mini 4-inch Vanilla Cake

mini vanilla cake

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 vanilla cake sliced

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

To Assemble

  • ~1/4 c strawberry preserves/jam (preferably on the thick side)
  • Simple syrup
  • Sprinkles, if desired


For the mini vanilla cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 4-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease and flour the pans.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sour cream and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  3. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl and mix on low 30 seconds to blend.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

To assemble:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

mini vanilla cake from above

30 thoughts on “Mini 4-inch Vanilla Cake

    1. 6″ is my go-to size too! I got the 4-inch pans pretty cheap but hadn’t bothered to scale down a recipe yet. I’ll probably use them more often now; have to scale down a chocolate version next!

  1. ahh little marcus is going to be a big brother! congrats ruth! this is the cutest little cake ever i want to try 4′ pans now it’s so cute!

    1. Hi Fatimah! Yes, it’s about to get a little busier around here, hehe (though nothing compared to you yet!)! Yes, the little pans are so cute. Going to use them for my tiny cakes from now on!

    1. Hi! There’s a link to the pans I use in the second paragraph above. You can often find them in baking supply / craft stores as well.

    1. I don’t have the volume measurements as I do pretty much all my baking by weight for speed and accuracy. There are a lot of online converters you could try, though I’d definitely recommend investing in a kitchen scale (they aren’t expensive!)!

  2. For half kg cake how much ingredients I need n wht size pan? Plz reply. Thanks in advance.

    1. Yes, but I would bake in two batches unless you have four 4-inch pans. I would also use a sturdier frosting, like a swiss meringue buttercream.

  3. How tall would you say the batter should be when poured into a 4inch pan? and how tall will the cake be? haven’t gotten an oven thermometer so want to make sure the correct result should be,

    1. I can’t remember the exact height since it’s been awhile since I’ve made this. The layers are fairly thick but they should bake up fine as long as your pans are at least 2″ high.

  4. Hi, can I use buttermilk instead of sour cream? Sour cream is not available here unfortunately. ..or is there any other substitute?

    1. I haven’t tried it, but I think plain greek yogurt would be a better substitute for the sour cream because it’s more similar in consistency. If you try it, please let me know if it works for you!

  5. What a wonderful recipe!
    Could this be doubled and used for 5” tins? Also if I wanted to turn it into chocolate cake how could I go about it?

  6. Hi, I have PME 4 inch tall cake pans. I was just wondering if I could pour all the batter into one 6 x 4 inch cake pan since the cake pan is already so tall or would it result in overflowing. And if it is okay would I need to bake it for longer?

    1. Hi! I haven’t tried baking as one thick layer so I don’t know for certain. It would definitely take longer, though.

    1. I would make the same amount of batter but just fill them no more than 2/3 full. If you have extra batter you can bake as cupcakes. Baking time may differ so just use visual cues to determine doneness!

  7. Should I cut the recipe in half if I wanted to make two 4″ layers? I found a different recipe for a single 4″ chocolate cake, and I wanted to mix the two to make a three layer 4″ cake with both vanilla and chocolate.

    1. I think it depends on how thick you want the layers — in the picture each layer is cut in half for a total of 4 layers, but you can just keep them uncut as well for two thicker layers. Personally I would just make the recipe as written and freeze the extra layer if I decide to cut one into two. Hope that helps!

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