What do Anna Kendrick, Bruno Mars, and my three kids have in common with today’s recipe? They’re tiny and straight-up ADORABLE. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: fancy pants desserts like these mini layer cakes are my favorite. With soft pastel colors and a pint-sized stature, these little vanilla cakes are a happy treat to share with others. No, this isn’t the most social time of our lives (given the worldwide circumstances), but I’ve never known a time where people need love a little more. Maybe love them via cake?
I’ve been wanting to create a tutorial for simple mini layer cakes on this site for a while. I’ve hesitated because I really didn’t want to provide some set of instructions that required you to buy a ton of mini cake pans, cake rings, or other unnecessary equipment. I finally tooled around with a sheet pan cake and found that the layers, when trimmed out with a cookie cutter and briefly frozen prior to frosting, are actually pretty decent to work with. These mini layer cakes aren’t insanely easy to make, but with a smidge of patience you can totally do this. Scout’s Honor.
Making the Mini Cakes
To make these mini layer cakes, we first bake up a fluffy vanilla cake in a rimmed half sheet pan. This recipe is relies on whipped egg whites for its fluff, but you do need to take care not to overbake it. White cakes are prone to drying out, so bake only until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Once the cakes have cooled, use a 2″ round cookie cutter (I like this one!) to trim out cake circles. You want to cut out your circles pretty close together; if done correctly, you should end up with enough to make about 7 and a half-ish cakes. I was happy to have an extra layer in case one didn’t come out super clean, but you can feel free to eat those extra layers yourself. No shame. Place the cake layers on a clean sheet pan lined with parchment and freeze briefly so the cakes can firm up. This makes them easier to frost.
Frosting the Cakes
The frosting is a simple American buttercream. You can reference my recent post on stacking layer cakes for a little help here. I opted to frost the cakes entirely, but if you wanted an easier option and were planning to serve them quickly, you could also pipe the frosting onto the cakes for a naked look! Click here for a cute example I found on the internet. Truly, do whatever feels right here and just make something that goes with your vibe.
I opted for pastel hues on my mini layer cakes, and you can find some info on the colors I used in my recipe. As always, I opted for Americolor food gels, but use whatever you have on hand. Keep in mind that food coloring can often change the texture of your frosting, so be sure not to use too much. For decoration, I smeared a bit of white buttercream on top and garnished with assorted white and clear sprinkles. Again, this is dealer’s choice. Fresh flowers, fruit, or confetti is super pretty too.
It feels odd to be sharing recipes for cake with you at a time like this, but I also simple sources of pleasure and joy should be indulged in, especially now. If you’re homebound and looking for a fun project, this could be just the ticket. Give the recipe a try, pop the cakes into the mailboxes of people you love, and be apart of your own personal delicious little love movement. Y’all take care and happy baking.
If you like these mini layer cakes you should check out:
Mini Victoria Cakes
Mini Strawberry Galettes
Smash Cake Tutorial
Mini Layer Cakes
These mini layer cakes are cute and delicious treats for gifting or sharing with a few! Check out the tutorial here!
- Prep Time: 60
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 120
- Yield: 7
- Category: Dessert
For the cake:
- ¾ cup (170 gm) egg whites (I use ones directly from the carton), at room temp
- 1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter, at room temp
- 1–1/2 cups (300 gm) sugar
- 3 cups plus one tablespoon (400 gm) cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 gm) milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
For the frosting (Recipe makes a bit of extra frosting, but this will be sufficient for getting to decorate the tops!)
- 1–1/2 cups (340 gm) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Milk or water to thin the frosting
To prepare the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prep a rimmed half sheet pan (18”x13”) by lining it with a sheet of parchment paper and lightly greasing the sides.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside in another bowl while you continue prepping the cake.
- In the same stand mixer bowl you whipped the egg whites in, cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Combine 3 cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt and add half of this mixture to the butter mixture. Stir on low to almost combine and then add half of the milk and the vanilla. Stir to combine and then add the remaining half of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining half of the milk. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the egg whites being careful not to overwork the batter. Smooth the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 19-20 minutes. Be careful to not overbake! The top will be golden and set when the cake is done. Set aside to cool completely- you can expedite this process by popping it in the freezer after cooling on the counter for a bit. Once cool, use a 2” round biscuit or cookie cutter to trim out circles of cake. You should be able to get about 23 circles out of the sheet cake which will make 7 cakes plus 2 extra layers for backup. Feel free to pop the layers on a clean baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze briefly while you make the frosting. This will make assembly a little easier.
- To prepare the frosting, whip the butter on medium speed using the paddle attachment on your mixer. Continue for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary, until pale and smooth. Add half of the sugar and stir to combine. Add the remaining sugar, the vanilla, and a couple of tablespoons of milk or water to help it all come together. Stir and add water or milk a tablespoon at a time until the frosting is smooth. Consistency is important here- make sure the frosting isn’t so stiff that it will pull on and rip the cake layers while assembling, but it also needs to be thick enough so that it won’t just squish out the sides. A good consistency frosting will plop off your rubber spatula but will chill to firm. Pop it in the fridge if it gets too warm.
To assemble the cakes:
- Each mini cake will have 3 layers. Mix up your colors as you please. For the colors pictures here, I used Americolor Food Gels. The pinkish one is a 3 parts red, 2 parts blue, and ½ part brown. I recommend adding the color a tiny bit at a time to make sure you don’t mix a color you’re not fond of! The blueish greenish cake is 3 parts blue with ½ part brown. The orange-ish cake is 3 parts deep pink with ½ part brown.
- When ready to assemble, smear a little frosting on your cake board or serving plate and stack the first layer. Add about 2 tablespoons of frosting on top and use an offset spatula to smooth. Stack a second cake layer and repeat this process twice to finish with a third cake layer. Spread a thin crumb coat of frosting on the cake and pop it into the fridge or freezer to set up. I placed a cooling rack with a sheet of parchment on it in my freezer so that I could quickly chill the cakes while I was making them. I found keeping the cakes cold while assembling helped make the process simple.
- Once your crumb coat has set up, finish frosting the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired! For my cakes, I use a round dollop of white frosting that I smudged with the end of my offset spatula. White large and small nonpareils and clear sprinkles finished them up! Share with someone you love and enjoy!
47 thoughts on “Mini Layer Cakes”
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Hi Kate:) this cake looks cool but what size should the mold be ??
Followed the recipe as it is written for the cake and icing. All tasted really good and I didn’t find it too sweet. Sweetness was just right for us. Now our experience with this recipe goes downhill once we started the icing process. Our cakes looked like a kindergarten arts and craft project. Kids and I had fun with lots of laughter icing the cake. In the end, cake was good, kids and I had fun with this, and we will try again to hone in on our icing skill!! Thanks for the recipe!!
so umm can you like um cut the cakes freehanded?
Am i able to freeze cake that i didn’t use in case i don’t want to make all them at once?
can you use a 3 inch cookie cutter instead?
How many days in advance can you make these cakes for an event? Thank you!
I’d make them as close as possible- white cake it always prone to drying out!
about how big should the cakes be?
i would prob say 3 in in diameter and 2.5 minimum you don’t want it too small or worse it will tip. it’s fully up to you but i recommend staying above 3
Hello, I would love to make this cake for a friend, unfortunately she doesn’t like buttercream that much:/ Can I replace it with some other kind of frosting without any downsides?:)
About how tall are the cakes? I would love to make them for my students and will have to individually package them (so I am trying to find a mini cake box that would be easy for them to take them in and out to eat).
Thank you so much for sharing this.
Such a pretty cake! Do you think I could use stabilized whipped cream to decorate it them like yours? Also, where did you get those small white flowers?
I would think you could!! 🙂 I don’t recall anymore! I’m so sorry! 🙂
How deep does the sheet pan need to be? I can’t tell from the recipe how tall each layer is.
The sheet pan I use is about an inch tall!
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Hi! How many cups of frosting does this make?
shoot, I’m not positive. :/
Hi. Do you have any idea about how much they weigh? about 1lb maybe?
yikes, I don’t know. probably not a whole pound though!
About how long would you recommend freezing the layers prior to frosting? Thanks!
Just until they’re firm enough to work with! it’s certainly not necessary, but I find it makes working with those tender cakes a lot easier. 🙂
Can you post which colors you used for the pastel pink colored cakes? So pretty!
Hi! I use Americolor food gels and this is pink with a smidge of brown. Remember- less is more! 🙂
Beautiful!!!! I don’t have a 18×13 pan. Can maybe 2 – 9×13’s work?
Just made them with some sprinkles and they came out perfectly 👌 !
I’m thrilled to hear this!!
What would the recipe be for 1 cake instead of 7?
I’m not sure! I haven’t made that tiny of a cake! 🙂
I’m thinking of making these next weekend for me and my fiancee’s 5 year anniversary ( since we can’t go out, I want to do something special at home). I was thinking the same thing about having a lot of extra cake. One option is to use the left over cake scraps for cake pops which could be frozen for later treats 🙂 I’m sure there are other fun ways to use excess cake (other than just eating it plain 🙂
You can use leftover cake in dessert bowl layered with fruit, pudding and whipped cream!
It doesn’t feel odd at all. I’m finding myself looking at recipes as a distraction from Twitter lately. Given the scarce availability of some foods, it’s best to have some ideas. I just find food blogs to be a necessity. Don’t feel bad about posting at all! The layer cakes look wonderful and (almost) too pretty to eat. I love the creative design with the frosting.
Thank you for the kind words, Pam. I’m so grateful!
was your cake super pale and looked like it wasn’t even baked when you took it out of the oven?
yes! because it cooks so quickly in that thin layer in the pan. it’s pretty deceiving.
I made these for easter and they were so so good! I will say when it comes to whipping the egg whites, adding some cream of tartar and/or sugar helps them stiffen up. (I learned this the hard way and had them going for about an hour!)
AN HOUR??? OMG. Bless you. Yes- cream of tartar is great!
Wow. These are stunning! Thanks for lovely recipe I’m going to try them.
Hooray! I hope you will!
These are sooooooo cute!!!!
These are just adorable! Be well!
same to you!
These are so pretty and the pastel colors are lovely!
thanks Mom! 🙂
Love it! Thanks for share!