Small Birthday Cake (Yellow Cake)

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This small birthday cake is a classic small batch yellow cake recipe layered with flavorful filling and frosting. The 6-inch layer cake showcases vanilla flavor, a perfectly tender crumb, and makes the perfect base cake recipe. Chocolate swiss meringue butterceam frosting and strawberry cream filling combine with the vanilla cake in this deliciously sweet birthday cake!

Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry celebration dessert on a pink serving platter.

Small Birthday Cake

Truth time – it took me 2 months to test this small batch yellow cake recipe, and countless layers of cake eaten.  My goal was to yield a cake that had a tender crumb, stays moist beyond day one, didn’t collapse, and was the perfect mix of sturdy and plush.  And, it had to be a small 6-inch cake.

This is that cake.

I couldn’t be more excited to finally have a classic yellow cake recipe that can serve as the base for many cake recipes and many birthday cake flavors.  I believe once you have a delicious vanilla cake in your repertoire, the number of cake creations almost becomes limitless.

3 indivdiual cake slices on white plates with gold forks.

Neapolitan Birthday Cake

How about a variation for frosting and fillings for the base yellow cake?  That’s where I started with this recipe.  I kept the yellow cake a classic vanilla flavor but added more layers of flavor in the filling and frosting.

And the ultimate trio – vanilla + chocolate + strawberry.  Otherwise known as Neapolitan.  If you’ve ever had the ice cream, you know what I’m talking about.  

We have the vanilla in the cake, so let’s talk about the chocolate and strawberry.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake Filling

It truly is what the name implies – whipped cream flavored with strawberry.  Fresh strawberries to be exact. 

  • Whipped cream – this is simply heavy whipping cream beaten to stiff peaks.
  • Strawberry puree – fresh strawberries blended in your smoothie blender or food processor.  The only note I have here is it is your choice on whether or not you want to strain the puree to get the seeds out.  I did not.  
  • Gelatin – this is optional.  But since this is a cake filling, I wanted to make sure it was sturdy enough to not seep out the sides of the small birthday cake.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream – See Recipe Notes

To be perfectly honest, Swiss Meringue Buttercream deserves a whole post to itself.  But for this recipe, I gave plenty of notes to make the frosting.

If you haven’t had Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you must try it. 

  • The main reason – it isn’t as sweet as American Buttercream. 
  • The secondary reason – it is super light and fluffy, almost like a chocolate marshmallow cream.

And while it is still a buttercream frosting, the base starts with beaten egg whites, which keeps it light.  Which also makes this great for chocolate frosting.  Because I don’t know about you, but when I have chocolate frosting, I want to taste the chocolate, not sugar.

A slice of layer cake on a white plate with strawberry filling and chocolate frosting.

Perfect Birthday Cake

We’ve talked about flavor, filling, and frosting for classic yellow cake – but the most obvious use for the cake is a celebratory birthday cake!  

I can’t think of any adult or child I know that would pass up on vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry cake.  Throw on a few sprinkles and some candles and you have the cutest little birthday cake! 

Tips For Making The Small Birthdady CAke

  • Read the recipe first – There are times when I just jump into a recipe without reading it first, only to regret it.  This is especially true for the frosting in this recipe.  It is so helpful to know what to expect and what step is next.  Not to mention, gathering all of your ingredients and kitchen tools ahead of time is so important.
  • Room temperature ingredients – I can’t stress this enough, especially for cake recipes.  It makes mixing everything together easy.  Plus, when all the ingredients start at the same temperature, they bake better.
  • Keep an eye on the baking time – Every oven is different and while my oven may finish baking the cake at 18 minutes, your oven may not take as long, or longer.    
  • Experiment with different flavors – We have a good vanilla birthday cake recipe now, and the possibilities for different fillings and frostings are pretty exciting!
Chocolate frosted baked celebration dessert on a pink serving stand.
Mini vanilla cake
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4.91 from 10 reviews

Small Birthday Cake

Yield: 6 Servings
This small birthday cake is a classic small batch yellow cake recipe layered with flavorful filling and frosting. The 6-inch layer cake showcases vanilla flavor, a perfectly tender crumb, and makes the perfect base cake recipe. Chocolate swiss meringue butterceam frosting and strawberry cream filling combine with the vanilla cake in this deliciously sweet birthday cake!
Prep45 minutes
Cook22 minutes
Total1 hour 7 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients
 

Classic Yellow Cake

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature (any kind)
  • 1/3 cup full fat sour cream, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Cream Filling

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons water
  • 1/4 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (sweeten to taste)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 2.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (chips or baking bar)
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Strawberry Filling

  • Make the filling first. In a small microwave-safe prep bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let the gelatin bloom for about 5 minutes.
    1 ½ teaspoons water, 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • While the gelatin is blooming, puree the strawberries with the maple syrup in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a small bowl.
    1/4 cup fresh strawberries, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Once the gelatin has bloomed, microwave for only a few seconds to liquify the gelatin. This should only take 3 to 5 seconds. Do not overheat. Whisk the gelatin liquid into the strawberry puree. Set aside.
  • In another small bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks. Fold the strawberry puree into the whipping cream until thoroughly combined. At this point, you can sweeten the strawberry filling to taste – keeping in mind the cake and frosting are sweet. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.
    1/4 cup heavy cream

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line the bottom of 2 6-Inch round cake pans with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Lightly grease the pans.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the milk and stir in the sour cream.
    1/2 cup milk, room temperature, 1/3 cup full fat sour cream, room temperature
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the sugar and oil. Mix until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add half of the milk mixture and mix until just incorporated.
    2/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1 large egg, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and fold into the batter until just incorporated. Add the remaining milk mixture and mix until mostly incorporated. Finish by sprinkling the remaining dry ingredients into the batter and fold just until no dry streaks remain. Do not overmix the batter – it is ok if there are a few lumps.
  • Pour the batter equally into the prepared cake pans and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cakes are golden, spongy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Tip Use a cookie scoop to equally portion the batter into the cake pans.
  • Cool the cakes in the pans set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then gently invert the cake pans onto the wire rack to release the cakes. Carefully peel away the parchment paper (if it stuck to the bottom of the cakes), and flip the cakes back over to cool on the wire rack completely.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Once the cake is cool, make the frosting. Create a double boiler. Simmer about 2 inches of water in a saucepan. You will then need a heat-proof mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the bottom. Gather your hand held mixer and attach the whisk attachments. You will also need the regular beaters too.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate and melt in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
    2.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • Add the egg whites to the mixing bowl. Be extremely careful not to get any yolk in the egg whites. Note The mixing bowl and whisk attachments must be clean and free of any grease or residue. You can wipe them with a paper towel and a tiny bit of vinegar to make sure they are clean.
    2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Add the sugar to the egg whites and whisk to combine. You can use one of the whisk attachments as your whisk. Set the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to turn white. The egg mixture is ready when it reaches 160F degrees. Or, rub a little of the egg mixture between your fingers – if it is smooth and no longer grainy, it is ready.
    1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Remove the bowl from the saucepan and with the hand mixer fitted with whisk attachments, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. This may take anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes. NoteIf the egg whites don't reach stiff peaks, chances are either the bowl or beaters were contaminated with oil or residue, or the egg whites had yolk in them. There is no saving them, and you will have to start over.
  • Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, switch to the beater attachments. On medium speed, begin to add the butter 1 tablespoons at a time. Making sure each butter cube is mixed in before adding the next. Once you've added all of the butter, add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Continue to beat on medium speed until the chocolate is thoroughly mixed in and the frosting is smooth and creamy.
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • At this point, the frosting is ready to use right away. Or you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Assemble the Cake. Place one cake on a serving plate. Top with the strawberry filling – using as much as you prefer (you may have a little leftover). Place the second cake on top. Frost the cake with the chocolate frosting – either pipe on or simply frost with an offset spatula.
  • The cake is best enjoyed the day it is made, but can sit covered at room temperature for 1 day. After that, I recommend covering and refrigerating for up to 3 days.
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RECIPE NOTES

Frosting Notes
  • Carefully separate the eggs.  Any traces of egg yolk in the whites and the whites won’t beat to stiff peaks.
  • Make sure the whisk beaters and bowl are clean and free of any oil or residue.  Wipe down with a little vinegar on a paper towel.  The egg whites probably won’t beat to stiff peaks if the bowl or beaters are dirty.
  • The butter shouldn’t be too soft, and it should still feel cool to the touch.  Butter that is too soft will make the frosting soupy.
  • If the butter is too soft, and the frosting is soupy, you can refrigerate the frosting for 10-15 minutes to cool it down, before continuing to beat in more butter.
  • The melted chocolate needs to be cool before adding to the frosting.  If it is still too warm, it will probably turn the frosting to soup.  Refrigerating the frosting before continuing to beat can remedy this.
  • The frosting is stable enough to stay at room temperature.  However, I don’t recommend keeping the cake at room temp for longer than a day because of the filling and frosting – (especially if it is warm out).  
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich

NUTRITION ESTIMATES

Calories: 587kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 82mg | Sodium: 226mg | Potassium: 234mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 654IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 4mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
About the author photo.

about the author ...

I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch gluten free and traditional desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you!

comments & reviews

4 thoughts on “Small Birthday Cake (Yellow Cake)”

  1. 5 stars
    This simple cake baked up so well in my 2- 6 in pans that I actually cut them in half and made 2 individual cakes. The cake itself didn’t crumble or fall apart when cut in half. I am very pleased with this recipe and it will be my go to when needed.
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Erin | Butter and Bliss

      Thank you Dee – I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for visiting the blog!

  2. 5 stars
    Yum!! Thank you so much for this recipe. I’m in a pinch needing to make a cake to bring for my food -allergy son to safely enjoy at a birthday party and this is perfect! So many recipes were just EXTRA with all the added egg whites and other ingredients. I made it into an 8-inch cake because I only need to cut a single little piece for him to bring with him. I’m not a huge cake fan, but this is soo good! Definitely will be making it again

    1. Erin | Butter and Bliss

      Thank you Kaitlin – so happy to hear you enjoyed the cake and I appreciate the kind comments! This is one of my go to cake recipes for any occasion!

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