Mini Birthday Cake

mini vegan chocolate cake with blue ombre vanilla frosting

♫ Listening to: Dark Charms by Banta ♫

This recipe makes a mini 4” vegan chocolate birthday cake with vanilla frosting piped in ombré rosettes. If you like small vegan cake recipes, you might also like this mini 4-inch cake and this mini vegan cake recipe.

Table of Contents

(click the links below to skip to the section you’re looking for)

This recipe makes one mini birthday cake (4 servings).

Vegan Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons (40g) hot coffee
  • ¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder
  • ⅞ cup (107g) unbleached white flour
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (3g) baking powder
  • ½ cup (110g) organic, vegan, or raw sugar*
  • ¼ cup (54g) sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120g) nondairy milk*
  • ½ tablespoon (7g) apple cider vinegar (or substitute white vinegar)

Mini Vegan Chocolate Cake Directions

prep time: 15 min | bake time: 25 min

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Lightly oil three 4-inch cake pans. I used these mini spring form pans. If you don’t have 4-inch cake pans, see the questions and answers section below for alternatives.

Mix 3 tablespoons (40g) hot coffee with ¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder. If you avoid coffee, see the substitutions section below.

blooming the cocoa powder

Sift together ⅞ cup (107g) flour, ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda, and ½ teaspoon (3g) baking powder.

Whisk ½ cup (110g) organic, vegan, or raw sugar into the dry ingredients.

Mix ¼ cup (54g) sunflower oil, 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract, and ½ cup (120g) nondairy milk into the dry ingredients, and mix until smooth.

Add the bloomed cocoa powder, and mix until smooth. Use a baking spatula to make sure you get it all.

vegan chocolate cake batter

Check the oven to make sure it’s heated to 350°F (175°C). If it’s not, wait for it to get there before continuing.

Mix in ½ tablespoon (7g) apple cider vinegar.

Fill each of the 3 cake pans as evenly as possible. They don’t have to be exact, but get as close as you can. Use a baking spatula to make sure you get all the batter.

Bake for 24-26 minutes, until when you insert a toothpick into the center of one, it comes out clean.

mini vegan chocolate cakes

Cool in the pans.

Remove the cakes from the pans, only when they’ve cooled completely.

Vegan Vanilla Frosting Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup (80g) vegan butter or organic whipped earth balance*
  • ⅓ cup (64g) organic palm shortening*
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (6g) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (240g) organic powdered sugar*
  • 1-3 teaspoons (5-15g) nondairy milk (optional, if needed)*
  • vegan food coloring

Vegan Vanilla Frosting Directions

prep time: 10 min

Whisk ⅓ cup (80g) vegan butter, ⅓ cup (64g) vegan shortening, and 1 ½ teaspoons (6g) vanilla extract using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a handheld electric mixer.

Sift in 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar, half at a time, mixing in between each addition for about 30 seconds.

Add 1 teaspoon (5g) nondairy milk if it seems too thick. You can keep adding nondairy milk until it’s the creamy consistency you want, but when I make this recipe, I only need to add 1 teaspoon.

vegan vanilla frosting

Assembling and Decorating the Vegan Mini Birthday Cake

assembly time: 10 min | decorating time: 20 min

Slice the tops off the cakes if they’re not flat on top. Mine usually have little domes on top, so I slice them off and eat the parts I cut off, like a little reward for all the dishes I’m creating for myself.

slicing the tops off the mini vegan chocolate cakes

Assemble the cake by setting one layer on a cake stand or a plate and then spreading a thin layer of vanilla frosting on the top. I use a mini offset spatula, but you can use a butter knife from your silverware drawer.

assembling the mini vegan chocolate cake

Add the second cake layer and top with vegan frosting again.

Add the final cake layer to the top.

Frost the entire mini cake with a thin layer of frosting. This is called the crumb coat. The reason for this is just to keep the crumbs from falling off when you decorate the cake.

mini vegan chocolate birthday cake covered in a crumb coat of frosting

Chill the crumb coat of frosting by setting the cake in the freezer while you prepare your frosting for decorating. If you don’t have room in your freezer and you don’t want to play freezer tetris, you can set the cake in the fridge instead.

Divide the rest of the frosting into 3 bowls.

Add different amounts of vegan food coloring to each bowl so you have a few different shades of the same color. I used wilton sky blue gel coloring for this birthday cake.

vegan ombré frosting

Fit a piping bag with a Wilton 1M Star Tip, and set it in a tall jar, folding the piping bag over the mouth of the jar.

a piping bag folded over a tall jar

Fill the piping bag with the lightest color of frosting.

Add the middle color of frosting to the piping bag on top of the lightest color.

filling a piping bag with vanilla ombré frosting

Pipe roses onto the sides of the cake starting at the bottom and going in a circle around the perimeter of the cake using the lightest color frosting. Keep piping around the cake, working your way higher, until you run out of frosting.

piping blue ombre roses onto the mini birthday cake

Refill the piping bag, using the jar method again, with the darkest color of frosting.

Pipe rosettes on the rest of the mini birthday cake. If you can see any chocolate cake peeking through the roses, you can fill them in with whatever frosting you have left in the piping bag.

mini vegan birthday cake decorated with blue ombre roses

Chill the cake until you’re ready to serve it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I don’t have 4-inch cake pans?

If you don’t have three 4-inch cake pans, there’s still a way to make this mini birthday cake. Simply double the recipe, bake the cake in a lasagna pan, and then cut out three 4-inch circles of cake, once the cake is completely cooled. You’ll have to adjust the baking time from 25 minutes to 30 minutes, and then use the toothpick test every 5 minutes until it’s done.

For more instructions on this, check out my coconut cake recipe where I used this method.

How long can this mini birthday cake be frozen?

Freezing a mini birthday cake is a great way to make sure it stays fresh and moist until the birthday. Freezing cake is also a good thing to do before you have to transport it in a car to make sure it survives the trip safely.

To freeze this cake, transfer it to the freezer once it’s decorated and let it freeze overnight. Then wrap it in cling wrap to make sure it doesn’t take on any unwanted freezer odors. The day before you want to serve it, transfer it to the fridge to defrost.

mini vegan ombre cake with a birthday candle

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Coffee: If you avoid coffee, you can replace the 3 tablespoons (40g) hot coffee in this recipe with hot water. Or if you’re in a hurry, just skip the step where you bloom your cocoa powder and sift the ¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder in with your dry ingredients. If you do skip the blooming, then just make sure you increase the amount of nondairy milk you use from ½ cup (120g) to ⅔ cup (160g).
  • Oil: I recommend using safflower, sunflower, or coconut oil for baking cakes because those oils are made for high heat, which helps you avoid transfats. However, you can use any other oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc. People even make cakes with olive oil, but I don’t recommend it.
  • Vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can replace it with lemon or lime juice (or even white vinegar). You just need some sort of acid to interact with the baking soda to make the cake rise.
  • Shortening: If you don’t have access to vegan shortening, you can replace it with additional vegan butter or margarine. My favorite is the organic whipped Earth Balance, but if you avoid soy, you can buy the soy-free Earth Balance. If you do this, your frosting will be less stable at room temperature, so you should keep it in the fridge instead of on the counter, if your house is warm.
  • Nondairy Milk: If you don’t have the full amount of nondairy milk that the cake recipe requires, you can substitute any amount with water, coffee, or nondairy creamer. You can also mix and match different nondairy milks. I do this a lot when my macadamia milk only has a little bit left at the bottom and I use it up, and then I open a new container of almond, oat, or soymilk.
  • Flour: If you don’t have all-purpose flour or you have some, but not enough, fear not. You can replace some or all of the flour in this recipe with any combination of cake flour, wheat flour, spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour. It will taste healthier with some of these though.
  • Sugar: For the sugar in the cake recipe, you can use any number of sugars, as long as they’re vegan: brown sugar, sucanat, coconut sugar, raw sugar, organic sugar, or demurara. If you’re not sure if your sugar is vegan, you can contact the company and ask, but basically, just avoid conventional white sugar or granulated sugar, and you should be ok.
  • Baking Soda: If you don’t have baking soda, you can replace the ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda in this recipe with baking powder. So, instead of ½ teaspoon (3g) of baking powder, you’ll increase it to 2 teaspoons (12g) of baking powder and omit the baking soda. Keep in mind that baking powder does expire, so it works best if it’s fresh/newish.
  • Vanilla Extract: Do not substitute imitation vanilla for the real vanilla extract in this recipe. Imitation vanilla is often made from something that comes out of beaver butts. (I can’t make this shit up.)

mini vegan ombre birthday cake with a slice cut

I originally published this recipe in 2015. In 2023, I updated it with new photos, and added a Table of Contents, FAQ, and Substitutions section. Below are some of the old photos from 2015.

vegan ombré frosting

mini stacked vegan chocolate cake

Stacked vegan chocolate cake with vanilla frosting

Vegan ombré cake

vegan ombre rose cake

vegan blue ombre roses cake

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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