Small Birthday Cake

Helene

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Looking for a small birthday cake for two to four people? This single layer chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache is your answer.

a small birthday cake decorated with ganache and sprinkles and a gold candle is on a marble bard with a pink napkin in the foreground.

No need for a complex recipe to create a pretty small birthday cake. Easy, with minimal preparation, this cake is designed for simplicity without compromising on flavor. Add sprinkles, a pretty candle, and this mini birthday cake will be the centerpiece of your celebratrion.

a small birthday cake on a marble board, with a slice being removed from the cake.

Ingredient notes

For this small birthday cake, we use common pantry ingredients.

For the chocolate cake:

  • Chocolate: semi-sweet with 50% cocoa content
  • Light brown sugar
  • Vegetable oil with a neutral flavor like canola oil / rapeseed oil.
  • And classic all-purpose flour, baking powder, large eggs and unsalted butter

Chocolate Ganache:

  • Chocolate: 40% cocoa content. If you can’t find chocolate with 40% cocoa content, make a mix: half milk chocolate with 30% cocoa content and half semi-sweet chocolate with 50% cocoa content.
  • Heavy cream, full fat, 30-36% milk fat minimum
  • Unsalted butter

How to make this small birthday cake?

Here is a summary of the recipe to give you an idea of the process. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions at the end of this post.

Chocolate Ganache: Heat the chocolate and half of the heavy cream over a double boiler. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the butter and stir until completely melted. Add the remaining heavy cream. Stir until fully incorporated. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours until the ganache is set.

a bowl of ganache to frost a small birthday cake with the ganache before and after chilling.

Bake the chocolate cake: 

Start to melt the butter and the chocolate over a double boiler (or microwave). Set aside

Using a whisk, combine the sugar and the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour and baking powder and whisk until combined. Add the melted chocolate/ butter, oil and mix, but do not overmix. Transfer the batter to the cake pan and bake.

Once the cake is baked and cooled, it’s time to decorate it.

Spread the ganache evenly on top.

a small birthday cake in process with the cake after baking on the left side and then, the cake, frosted with chocolate ganache on the right side.

Optional: Place the cake on a turntable and use a spoon to create swirls on the top while turning the table. With this method, the ganache is slightly pushed to the edge. Use a cake scraper to remove the excess. Alternatively, Place the chocolate ganache in a piping bag fitted with a closed star piping tip, pipe a large rosette, or any decorations you desire. Check my chocolate mud cake for example.

Decorate the edge with sprinkles.

a small birthday cake with decoration in process with sprinkles arranged along the edge of the cake.

Tips

This cake is easy, but like any recipe, there are always a few tips to help you turn out this small birthday cake perfectly. 

Chocolate cake

  • Ingredients at room temperature. It’s easier to combine and result in a better texture.
  • Measure the flour correctly; using a scale is the best method to be accurate. Too much flour, and you will end up with a dry cake.
  • Wait for the chocolate and butter to cool down a bit; avoid adding them to the batter when it’s hot.
  • Don’t overmix the batter. Mixing too much will make the cakes tough and dry. Just mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  • Don’t let the batter rest; when it’s ready, pour it into the cake pan and bake.
  • Use an aluminum cake pan for best results.
  • Don’t overbake your cakes. Overbaking will dry them out.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • When heating the chocolate and heavy cream to make the ganache, use a spatula, not a whisk, as we don’t want to incorporate air.
  • If the ganache is too firm, place it in a microwave in a 5-10-second burst until you reach the right consistency. It should be soft enough to spread easily.

Assembly:

  • Let the cake cool completely before decorating it, or the ganache will melt.
Top view of a small birthday cake, with a napkin and candles around.

FAQs 

How to store the cake?

The cake is at its best on the day it is made, as it contains butter. Store it in the refrigerator under a cake dome for up to 2 days.

Can I make this small birthday cake ahead of time?

You can prepare the ganache the day before and leave it in the fridge. When ready to decorate, place it in a microwave in a 5-10-second burst until you reach the right consistency.

Variations

This cake is perfect for chocolate lovers, but here are a few ideas to decorate it with other frostings and toppings.

  • Buttercream: use my ermine buttercream for a smooth and not-too-sweet frosting (Note: divide the quantity by 3).
  • Classic whipped cream: Whip 120ml (1/2 cup) of heavy cream + 60g (1/4 cup) of mascarpone cheese + 30g (1/3 cup) powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can replace the mascarpone cheese with cream cheese.
  • Flavour your whipped cream: add 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of raspberry or strawberry cordial.
  • Dust with powdered sugar before serving the cake.
  • Add desiccated coconut on top.
a slice of a small birthday cake with a candle, placed on a dessert plate with a spoon and a pink napkin in the foreground.

Want to check more chocolate recipes?

If you tried this small birthday cake or any recipe on the blog, let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment below or a rating.

Small Birthday Cake

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 3

Small Birthday Cake for an intimate celebration.

Ingredients

Chocolate Ganache

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) semi-sweet chocolate: 40% cocoa content *
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) heavy cream: 30-36% fat minimum
  • 20 g (1.5 tbsp) unsalted butter, diced

Chocolate Cake

  • 90 g (3.2 oz) semi-sweet chocolate: 50% cocoa content, finely chopped
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70 g (1/3 cup) light brown sugar
  • 65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Decoration

  • sprinkles

Method

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1)

    Prepare a double boiler with a small amount of water in a saucepan.

  • 2)

    In a bowl, add the chopped chocolate and HALF of the heavy cream. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

  • 3)

    Using a flexible spatula, stir constantly until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth.

  • 4)

    Add the butter and continue stirring until the butter has completely melted.

  • 5)

    Remove from heat and add the remaining heavy cream. Stir until the mixture is fully blended. If there are any lumps of chocolate, return the bowl over the double boiler and stir until smooth.

  • 6)

    Transfer the ganache to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours until the ganache is set. It should be firm enough to hold its shape, but smooth enough to pipe onto the cake.

    Note: If the ganache is too firm, microwave it in 5 to 10-second intervals until you reach the desired consistency.

Chocolate Cake

  • 1)

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

    Line a 6-inch cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

  • 2)

    Melt the butter and chocolate together either over a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside.

  • 3)

    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Add the flour and baking powder, and whisk until well combined.

  • 4)

    Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and butter, along with the oil. Mix until just combined; avoid overmixing.

  • 5)

    Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few dry crumbs. (Note: It typically takes me 27 minutes to bake perfectly.)

    Note: I place wet cake strips around the pan. It helps keep the sides moist and limits the dome on the top, but it usually takes 5 extra minutes to bake the cake. So, start to monitor the cake after 22 minutes of baking.

Assembly

  • 1)

    Proceed once the cake is baked and cooled.

    Spread the ganache evenly on top.

    Optional: Place the cake on a turntable and use a spoon to create swirls on the top while turning the table. With this method, the ganache is slightly pushed to the edge. Use a cake scraper to remove the excess.

    Alternatively, place the chocolate ganache in a piping bag fitted with a closed star piping tip, pipe a large rosette, or any decorations you desire.

  • 2)

    Decorate the edge with sprinkles.

Notes

– US/UK standard Baking Spoons:  teaspoon: 5ml / tablespoon: 15ml / cup: 240ml

– The cake is at its best on the day it is made, as it contains butter

– * Chocolate: 40% cocoa content. If you can’t find chocolate with 40% cocoa content, make a mix: half milk chocolate with 30% cocoa content and half semi-sweet chocolate with 50% cocoa content.

– Scroll back to read tips, variationsstep-by-step photos and FAQ within the blog post that you might find helpful.

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