There’s a movement afoot to scale back the size of cakes. It’s all about avoiding the waste and expense of a three-foot tall confection that might sit uneaten on someone’s plate for the entirety of a wedding reception or intimate at-home ceremony. This is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice the integrity and quality of the cake. Smaller cakes are just as delicious, and they’re easy to work with when it comes to decorating and piping frosting. They’re also a great option for anyone who hasn’t had much experience baking or simply wants something a little simpler than traditional cakes.
This recipe is for a simple vanilla cake made in a smaller size. It’s a great way to get some practice and build up your skills for bigger cake projects down the line, and you can also use it as a base for other flavors. Just swap out the vanilla extract for your favorite and you can create something entirely new.
The first step is to make the batter. The key to a soft cake is vigorous mixing of the fat and sugar at the beginning – a process called “creaming.” Air is carried by the rough surfaces of the sugar crystals, which are then encased in the fat, creating a foamy mixture that is tender and fluffy. This is why caster sugar (or superfine sugar) is preferred for cakes – the crystals are smaller and more delicate, allowing more air to be incorporated into the batter.
After the fat and sugar are thoroughly combined, we add the eggs one at a time and mix until the mixture is pale yellow. We then gradually add the flour and baking powder to avoid over-mixing, which can cause dense cakes. The last addition is the sour cream, which makes the cake extra fluffy and gives it nice flavor.
Once the batter is combined, we divide it into two 6′′ round cake pans and bake until the layers are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. When the cakes are done, let them cool on a rack. You can even freeze the cakes briefly before icing them to help them firm up and make them easier to handle.
Once the cakes are cooled, they’re ready to be frosted. I recommend using a small offset spatula to frost these cakes. I find it to be the easiest and most precise tool for this task. To ensure the frosting is smooth and creamy, make sure your buttercream has reached room temperature before frosting the cakes. Once you’re done frosting the cakes, add some edible flowers to each slice for a pretty finish. If you want to fill the cakes, simply use a piping bag with your favorite frosting and pipe into a circle on top of each cake. Then enjoy! small cake