Small Batch Vegan Birthday Cake

This small batch vegan birthday cake is super easy to make and incredibly delicious. With soft and fluffy vegan vanilla sponges and a luxurious whipped chocolate ganache frosting, you couldn’t possibly guess that this gorgeous cake is vegan. The recipe also doesn’t use any egg replacements – no chia or flax eggs needed!

Vegan birthday cake decorated with sprinkles on a wooden cake stand.

Friends, I’m incredibly excited to share this recipe with you. I’ve been working on a reliable vegan vanilla sponge recipe for years, and I’ve finally finally figured it out – and in this gorgeous small batch cake, it’s combined with the most amazing vegan whipped ganache frosting.

The result is THE BEST vegan birthday cake you’ll ever taste. And yes, I know I’m incredibly biased… but it’s also 100% true. The flavours, the textures, the appearance – they’re all just spot on, and you couldn’t possibly guess that this beautiful cake is vegan.

And believe it or not, this cake uses no egg replacements!! That’s right: no chia or flax eggs, no aquafaba or anything like that. Just your usual pantry ingredients, all of which you probably have on hand already.

And no special equipment either! You don’t need a stand or a hand mixer to make this vegan birthday cake. Just two large bowls, a couple of rubber spatulas, a whisk, and you’re good to go.

A slice of vegan birthday cake on a white dessert plate.

Here’s why you’ll LOVE this vegan birthday cake

  1. The vegan vanilla sponges are soft, fluffy, moist and delicate. It’s all down to using just the right ingredients and, crucially, using them in the right ratios and proportions. The sponges are also super easy to prepare – no egg replacements and no special equipment needed.
  2. The vegan whipped ganache frosting is velvety smooth, super rich and incredibly chocolatey. It’s a brilliant alternative if you’re not a huge fan of the usual buttercream, and it’s also very easy to prepare. It requires just three ingredients (dark chocolate, vegan double/heavy cream alternative and powdered sugar) and it’s a joy to work with – it spreads and pipes like a dream, and it’s very stable at room temperature.
  3. It’s super easy to make. I know I’ve said this several times already, but it’s definitely worth repeating: this recipe seriously couldn’t be any easier to prepare.
  4. No egg replacements!!! I know that many like to use egg replacements like chia or flax eggs in vegan baking, but I like to avoid them if at all possible. That’s because I’ve found that they don’t give the most pleasant texture to the finished bakes and also, in many cases, they’re just not necessary.
  5. It’s drop dead gorgeous and SO DELICIOUS. Plus, there’s sprinkles, and we all know that sprinkles make everything even better.

Vegan birthday cake decorated with whipped ganache frosting and sprinkles on a wooden cake stand.

Cross-section view of the vegan birthday cake.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

How do you make vegan vanilla cake sponges?

Making these (small batch, 6 inch) vegan vanilla cake sponges couldn’t be easier. You basically just need to mix the dry ingredients with the wet until only just combined, pop the batter into the prepared cake tins and bake. Yes, it’s that easy.

The crucial thing to keep in mind when making these vegan sponges is that you mustn’t over-mix the batter. Over-mixing will cause gluten development (as we’re using regular all-purpose wheat flour in this recipe, though I am planning on developing a gluten-free version as well) and can result in a gummy sponge filled with large, irregular holes.

So, when it comes to mixing the dry ingredients with the wet, I recommend that you use a rubber spatula and gently fold the ingredients together. Stop mixing the moment the ingredients are only just combined, and don’t use a whisk (as it’s easier to over-mix when whisking than it is when folding).

Here’s how you make THE BEST vegan vanilla cake sponges:

  1. Sift together the dry ingredients (and sugar) into a large bowl: all-purpose flour, caster/superfine sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle,
  2. and pour in the sunflower oil (or other neutral-tasting oil of choice)
  3. and a mixture of dairy-free milk (I used almond milk, but rice, oat or soy milk will also work), dairy-free yoghurt, vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), almond extract and apple cider vinegar.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients together until only just combined and there are no flour clumps. Don’t over-mix the batter!!!
  5. Divide the batter evenly between two prepared 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins and tap them a few times on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles trapped in the batter.
  6. And then, bake!
  7. The sponges are done when they’re golden brown on top, they start coming away from the sides of the tins,
  8. and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The first 4 steps of the 8-step process of making vegan vanilla cake sponges.

The last 4 steps of the 8-step process of making vegan vanilla cake sponges.

A few notes on the ingredients and their amounts

  • Raising agents: I use both baking powder and baking soda in this recipe, and you might notice that the combined amount of raising agents is slightly higher than in a non-vegan recipe. That’s because eggs tend to provide lift and aeration in non-vegan cakes, and in their absence you need a slightly larger quantity of raising agents to achieve the same fluffy sponge texture.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Much like the slightly larger amount of raising agents, the apple cider vinegar is here to make the sponges fluffier and softer. As vinegar is acidic, it reacts with the baking soda and the basic component of baking powder, giving the raising agents an extra boost. And don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it in the final cake.
  • Oil: Note the relatively small amount of fat, especially if you compare this recipe to a non-vegan, butter-based cake. That’s because in non-vegan cakes, eggs provide structure to the sponges. Oils and other fats, on the other hand, have a tenderising effect. So, in the absence of eggs, you need to use a smaller amount of oil, otherwise you’ll end up with a dense, stodgy sponge.
  • Almond extract: In the absence of eggs and dairy products, these vegan vanilla sponges don’t contain many flavour-imparting ingredients, except for the vanilla bean paste or extract. I’ve found that adding just a small amount of almond extract gives the sponges an almost buttery undertone, without overwhelming the whole flavour profile of the cake.

The baking setup and procedure

I’ve found that going with the standard baking method (baking at 350ºF/180ºC on the middle oven rack, uncovered for the full 30 minutes of baking) can result in a somewhat hard top crust on the sponges that makes it difficult to easily trim them.

That’s why I’ve developed a slightly adapted baking procedure:

  • Bake the sponges at 350ºF/180ºC on the lower middle oven rack.
  • Cover the sponges with a sheet of aluminium foil (shiny side up) after 20 minutes – that is, the sponges should be covered for the last 10 minutes in the oven.

These relatively small changes give perfect results every single time – the sponges will come out of the oven with a soft, golden brown top and an even bake, with minimal doming.

How do you make vegan whipped ganache frosting?

Just like with the vegan vanilla sponges, making this frosting is incredibly simple. Here’s how:

  1. Place the chopped dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Heat the vegan double/heavy cream alternative until it only just comes to a boil. I used the Elmlea brand, but most good quality vegan double/heavy cream alternatives should work.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.
  4. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes with frequent stirring until thickened and firmed up slightly. It should be of a spreadable consistency – not runny but also not so firm that you can’t easily whisk it.
  5. Add the powdered sugar (make sure to use a vegan one!) to the chilled ganache and whisk until it lightens in colour and becomes slightly fluffier. You don’t want to over-whisk it, as it can sometimes split (if that happens, you can re-melt it, chill again and then whisk to the right consistency). I like to whisk it with a large balloon whisk by hand, as this gives me the most control. By hand, this takes about 8-10 minutes at the most. If using a stand or a hand mixer, whisk at a medium speed for 4-5 minutes.
  6. If the whipped ganache frosting feels slightly too soft to easily spread and pipe at this point (which can be the case if your kitchen is very warm), you can chill it in the fridge for a further 15-20 minutes. Stir it frequently and keep an eye on the consistency, as you don’t want it to firm up too much.

Then, all that’s left to do is to assemble the vegan birthday cake!

Spreading the whipped ganache frosting onto the vegan birthday cake.

Piping frosting on top of the vegan birthday cake.

Vegan birthday cake decorated with sprinkles on a wooden cake stand.

And there you have it – a simple and reliable recipe for the most amazing small batch 6 inch vegan birthday cake with wonderfully soft and fluffy vanilla sponges and a luxurious whipped ganache frosting.

I really hope you’ll have lots of fun making it… and, of course, even more fun eating it.

Happy baking!

Signature of the author, Kat.

A slice of vegan birthday cake on a white dessert plate.

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Vegan birthday cake decorated with sprinkles on a wooden cake stand.
5 from 2 votes
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Small Batch Vegan Birthday Cake

This small batch vegan birthday cake is super easy to make and incredibly delicious. With soft and fluffy vegan vanilla sponges and a luxurious whipped chocolate ganache frosting, you couldn’t possibly guess that this gorgeous cake is vegan. The recipe also doesn’t use any egg replacements – no chia or flax eggs needed!

Course Dessert
Cuisine Dairy Free, Vegan
Prep Time 45 minutes
Bake/Cook Time 30 minutes
Chill time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

For vegan vanilla sponges:

  • 225 g (1 ¾ cups + 2 tbsp) plain all-purpose flour
  • 200 g (1 cup) caster/superfine sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 80 g (⅓ cup + ½ tbsp) sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing the tins (or other neutral-tasting oil of choice)
  • 120 g (½ cup) dairy-free milk, room temperature (I used almond milk, but rice, soy or oat milk will also work well.)
  • 90 g (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) unsweetened dairy-free yoghurt, room temperature (I tested the recipe with Tesco's own brand and Alpro plain yoghurt, but other good quality dairy-free yoghurt alternatives will also work well.)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • ¼-½ tsp almond extract (optional, the amount depends on how intense you want the almond flavour to be)

For vegan whipped ganache frosting:

  • 250 g (8.8 oz) chopped dark chocolate chocolate, 60-70% cocoa solids (Make sure to use a vegan chocolate.)
  • 250 g (1 ¼ cups) dairy-free double/heavy cream alternative (I used the Elmlea brand, but most good quality dairy-free double/heavy cream alternatives should work well.)
  • 150 g (1 ¼ cups) icing/powdered sugar (Make sure to use vegan icing/powdered sugar.)
  • sprinkles for decoration

Instructions

For vegan vanilla sponges:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly grease two 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins with oil and line their bottoms with rounds of baking/greaseproof paper.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together the plain all-purpose flour, caster/superfine sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

  3. Add the oil. Mix together the dairy-free milk, dairy-free yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and almond extract, and add them to the dry ingredients.

    Tip: The apple cider vinegar helps to make the sponges fluffier and softer. As vinegar is acidic, it reacts with the baking soda and the basic component of baking powder, giving the raising agents an extra boost. Don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it in the final cake.

  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients together until only just combined and you get a smooth cake batter with no flour clumps.

    Tip: The crucial thing to keep in mind when making these vegan sponges is that you mustn’t over-mix the batter. Over-mixing will cause gluten development and can result in a gummy sponge filled with large, irregular holes. That's why I don't recommend whisking the batter, but rather folding the ingredients together. Stop mixing the moment the ingredients are only just combined.

  5. Evenly divide the cake batter between the two lined cake tins and tap them a few times on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles trapped in the batter.

  6. Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, cover the sponges with a sheet of aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done. The final sponges will be well risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick should come out clean.

    Tip: Covering the sponges with aluminium foil prevents them from forming a somewhat hard top crust that makes it difficult to trim them.

  7. Allow to cool in the cake tins for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For vegan whipped ganache frosting:

  1. Place the chopped dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.

  2. Heat the vegan double/heavy cream alternative until it only just comes to a boil.

  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.

  4. Chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes with frequent stirring until thickened and firmed up slightly. It should be of a spreadable consistency – not runny but also not so firm that you can’t easily whisk it.

  5. Add the icing/powdered sugar to the chilled ganache and whisk until it lightens in colour and becomes slightly fluffier.

    You can do this by hand using a balloon whisk – it should take about 8-10 minutes. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters – it should take about 4-5 minutes on the medium speed setting.

    Tip: I actually recommend whisking the ganache by hand, as it allows you more control over the consistency and makes it pretty much impossible to over-whisk/over-whip the frosting. Using a stand/hand mixer, you can over-whip the frosting (which causes it to split), so make sure to keep an eye on it and stop whisking when it looks fluffier and noticeably lighter in colour. If you do over-whip it, you can re-melt it, chill again and then whisk to the right consistency.

  6. If the whipped ganache frosting feels slightly too soft to easily spread and pipe at this point (which can be the case if your kitchen is very warm), you can chill it in the fridge for a further 15-20 minutes. Stir it frequently and keep an eye on the consistency, as you don’t want it to firm up too much.

Assembling the cake:

  1. If necessary, level off the sponges with a sharp serrated knife.

  2. Place the bottom sponge on a cake stand or serving plate of choice.

  3. Dollop some of the frosting on top and smooth it out into an even layer, using a small offset spatula.

  4. Place the other sponge on top, with the bottom of the sponge facing upwards (this will give you a nice flat top).

  5. Use most the remaining frosting to cover the outside of the cake, reserving some for piping decorations on top. You can smooth out the frosting completely, or create swirls and swoops of frosting with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.

  6. Transfer the remaining frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle of choice. Pipe dollops of frosting on top of the cake.

  7. Decorate with sprinkles before slicing and serving.

    Tip: For extra neat and clean slices, cut the cake with a warm/hot knife. Choose a sharp knife and dip it into very hot water. Wipe it dry, then slice the cake while the knife is still hot/warm. In between slices, dip the knife again in hot water, wipe it off and repeat.

Storage:

  1. The vegan birthday cake keeps well in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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