Small Batch Funfetti Cake
Today, I’m celebrating my 33rd birthday with this small batch funfetti cake! With my city of Portland still in lockdown, I didn’t really make any kind of celebration plans. I figured tonight would just be another night of wearing sweatpants and watching episodes of The O.C. on HBO Max, lol. However, I did make this very small batch funfetti cake to at least celebrate the occasion a little bit (ha, see what I did there?). This tiny sheet cake is a homemade version of the funfetti cake we all know and love. But with a twist: I scaled the recipe down to a very small cake enough for just me and Erlend!
What is Funfetti Cake?
Hold the phone. If you don’t live in the United States, you might not know what funfetti cake is. I came into the funfetti cake game pretty late in life myself. But we’ll get to that shortly. First, let’s rewind:
Pillsbury first introduced their funfetti cake mix, a white cake mix with rainbow sprinkles, in 1989 (check out this vintage commercial for it!). This cake mix was the first to incorporate sprinkles as an ingredient in the cake itself and NOT as a topping for decorating the cake. And when baked, these sprinkles melted into the bright streaks and dots of color and give the cake crumb its unique rainbow appearance. Because of this colorful crumb, kids loved the cake. It was an instant hit. Indeed, according to my friend Molly, funfetti cake defined every kid’s birthday party in the 1990s. Back then, it was the “must-have” centerpiece for every birthday!
How Funfetti Cake Mix Taught Me How to Bake
But personally, I was late to the party. I didn’t grow up in the United States—instead, I spent the peak funfetti-cake childhood years in Manila and The Hague (two places where Pillsbury funfetti cake mix was and is still unavailable). So it was actually my college roommate from my freshman year who introduced me to funfetti. I still remember the look of disbelief on her face when I asked her what funfetti was! Her vague description—”it’s like cake with some rainbow stuff in it, idk, it’s good, everybody likes it”—convinced me to bike up the hill to the grocery store to buy my very first box of Pillsbury funfetti cake mix.
Later, I baked my very first set of funfetti cupcakes to procrastinate from my schoolwork. In the kitchen—even my tiny, terrible dorm kitchen with nothing but mismatched silverware and only one mixing bowl—it was easy to forget about homework and looming deadlines. My friends and dorm mates, attracted by the smell of caramelizing sugar and funfetti cake wafting from the oven door, gathered around to help me decorate them. After admiring our (shoddy) handiwork, we’d devour several cupcakes each. It was truly then that I fell in love with baking.
What Does Funfetti Cake Taste Like?
Fast forward to now. Many professional chefs and bakers took inspiration from their childhood and provided gourmet riffs on funfetti cake, making fancy layered versions from scratch and selling them at bakeries (like Christina Tosi of Milk Bar fame and her naked confetti cake). These funfetti cakes, with their fancy ingredients like birthday cake crumbs and homemade rosewater-flavored sprinkles, are elevated versions of the cake mix version.
While these versions are delicious (I mean, I’ve tried Christina Tosi’s recipe myself), you can’t really beat the Pillsbury classic. This cake starts with an extremely soft and tender vanilla cake. Although Pillsbury gives you the option to make the cake with whole eggs OR exclusively egg whites, I always opt for the all egg-white version. Doing so results in a super bright, white cake crumb that allows the sprinkles in the cake batter to really pop! And in addition to providing lots of color, the sprinkles give the cake little crunchy bites of sugar here and there.
This homemade small batch funfetti cake doesn’t stray too far from Pillsbury’s vision. The cake base is an all-egg whites vanilla cake studded with lots of rainbow sprinkles. Finally, thewhole cake is topped off with a classic vanilla American buttercream frosting.
Why You Should Make This Funfetti Cake Recipe
Here are all the reasons to make this very cute and scaled down funfetti sheet cake:
This small batch funfetti sheet cake recipe is based on a popular, homemade funfetti recipe by one of my good friends (and Food Network starlet, too), Molly Yeh.
Molly, one of my good food blogger friends, is renowned for her homemade funfetti cake recipe. She first developed her from-sratch recipe for Food52 way back in the day, and then published the perfected version in her cookbook. I remember excitedly following along as she discovered the best types of vanilla, flour, and even sprinkles to use. The results paid off! Her funfetti cake recipe became an instant internet classic. I personally have made the regular-sized cake many times, pairing it with chocolate cream cheese frosting and subbing in a fancy gourmet “Princess Bakery” extract.
This funfetti cake recipe is VERY small batch.
However, I couldn’t commit to making a huge layer cake for just me and Erlend since my city still in lockdown and social gatherings still banned for the time being. So I did what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks—I scaled down Molly’s original recipe to make the cake very small batch. This recipe makes a tiny sheet cake so small that it’s baked in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan! That means that this small batch funfetti cake recipe is roughly a quarter of the size of a regular sheet cake (which are typically baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan). It’s the perfect serving size for 2 hungry people (a.k.a., me and Erlend), or 4 more-reasonably hungry folks (lol)!
This small batch funfetti cake recipe comes together quickly.
Some funfetti cake recipes make things more complicated than they need to be. Not Molly’s—her recipe comes together quickly and easily! Indeed, when my friend Erika did a bake-off of the most popular funfetti cake recipes on the internet, Molly’s recipe placed first in terms of ease and accessibility. Her recipe is free of any unnecessarily complicated techniques like whipping egg whites, folding ingredients together, and more. Luckily, this ease also translates to the small batch version!
This small batch funfetti cake recipe has ingredients that can be easily substituted with other similar ingredients.
It’s likely that you already have all the ingredients you need to make this small batch funfetti cake. But there are a couple—namely, cake flour and clear vanilla extract—that you likely won’t have if you’re an infrequent baker. Just don’t worry! I provide substitutions for those ingredients below; be sure to check out the Ingredients section of this blog post! I’m all about saving you from an extra, unnecessary trip to the grocery store.
Small Batch Funfetti Cake Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve convinced you to make this small batch funfetti cake recipe, here’s the shopping list for the recipe:
Shopping List for Small Batch Funfetti Cake Recipe
- cake flour
- baking powder
- kosher salt
- whole milk
- clear imitation vanilla extract
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter
- large eggs
- canola oil
- rainbow jimmie sprinkles
And let’s talk about some of its key ingredients:
This small batch funfetti cake recipe uses ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of cake flour.
Cake Flour versus All-Purpose Flour
In the grocery store, you’ll likely find an aisle of more flour varieties htan you would have thought existed: all-purpose, bread, cake, pastry, and many more. These varieties are defined by their protein percentages. Cake flour contains less protein than all-purpose flour. As a result, using cake flour in a cake recipe results in a cake with a softer and more tender crumb. If you need a brand recommendation, my favorite cake flour is Swans Down Cake Flour.
Can I use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour in this small batch funfetti cake recipe?
Yes! But it’s not a 1:1 substitution. 1 cup of cake flour (4 ounces or 113 grams) tends to weigh less than 1 cup of all-purpose flour (4.5 ounces or 128 grams). So if you’re planning on using all-purpose flour instead, you need to swap out the cake flour with ½ cup plus 2 teaspoons (2.45 ounces or 69 grams) all-purpose flour. However, note that using all-purpose flour in this recipe results in a heavier, slightly denser and breadier cake crumb.
This small batch funfetti cake recipe uses ¼ cup of whole milk.
Can I use skim, low-fat or non-fat milk instead of whole milk in this small batch funfetti cake recipe?
Yes, but with reservations. Skim, low-fat, and non-fat milks will lead to less flavorful baked goods.
Can I use non-dairy milk like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or oat milk instead of whole milk in this small batch funfetti cake recipe?
Yes! You can use alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and/or oat milk in this recipe without altering the results. However, be mindful that using an alternative milk with “strong” flavors (like coconut or oat milk) will impart their flavors into the funfetti cake, too. Specifically, your cake and frosting might have a subtle coconut or oat milk flavor to them, too.
Clear Imitation Vanilla Extract
This small batch funfetti cake recipe uses 1 ½ teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract.
What is clear imitation vanilla extract?
In the Milk Bar cookbook, Christina Tosi explains that the secret to her funfetti cake is clear vanilla extract. What is clear vanilla extract? Most vanilla extracts are “pure”, meaning that they are made with real vanilla bean pods and are brown in color. Clear vanilla extract, on the other hand, is artificially made in a lab (hence the “imitation” in its name). Although it is vanilla in flavor, it’s not flavored by any actual vanilla beans. According to Christina, “it’s ‘vanilla’ in more of a guilty tub-of-frosting, box-cake way.” Indeed—using it in this homemade funfetti cake recipe gives the cake a more “authentic”, funfetti cake mix flavor. Additionally, its clear color keeps the cake crumb a bright white color that allows the sprinkles to really pop!
Where can I buy clear imitation vanilla extract?
You can find clear imitation vanilla extract in the baking aisles of any major grocery store like Kroger, Safeway, and more (Portlanders—Fred Meyer typically carries a variety of clear vanilla extracts!). It is usually by the pure vanilla extracts (although it is much cheaper than the real stuff). Christina writes that they use the McCormick brand at her bakery. I use Kroger’s generic version as well as the Watkins brand.
Can I use pure vanilla extract in this funfetti cake recipe instead?
Yes, with reservations. Your cake will definitely taste great. However, your crumb won’t be as pale and white as mine. It might have a yellow-ish tinge.
This small batch funfetti cake recipe uses 1 ½ Tablespoons canola oil.
Can I use another oil in this small batch funfetti cake recipe instead?
Yes! You can use whatever oil you have on hand instead. Vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, and peanut oil work best to replace the canola oil because they are also neutral in flavors. However, you can also use flavored oils like coconut in this recipe. Just note that, similar to using flavored milk above, your funfetti cake might have a subtle coconut oil flavor to them, too.
Rainbow Jimmie Sprinkles
This small batch funfetti cake recipe uses 2 ½ Tablespoons rainbow jimmie sprinkles.
What are rainbow jimmie sprinkles?
Sprinkles come in all shapes and sizes! I don’t want to bore you by describing them all (instead, you can refer to this fun guide by Sarah’s Bake Studio), so let me just summarize the ones typically found at the grocery store:
- Jimmies: These are the most commonly available sprinkles. They look like small, long rods of color. You can see what they look like on this Small Batch Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting. My favorite rainbow jimmies are the generic kind from Fairway Market in New York City. I make my in-laws ship them to me because I’m the best (lol). However, I suspect those sprinkles are actually these Chef’s Quality sprinkles rewrapped in Fairway packaging (you can also get a smaller, cheaper amount over on this site). Unlike most jimmies, these sprinkles actually have flavor and taste like vanilla candy! Highly recommend.
- Nonpareils: Nonpareil sprinkes are the second most commonly available kind of sprinkle at the supermarket. Instead of rods, these look like teeny, tiny balls of color. You can see what they look like in this recipe for Mini Funfetti Donuts (I decorated half the donuts with nonpareils, and the other half with jimmies).
- Quins: Quin sprinkles are the sequin-shaped sprinkles you see on top of this small batch funfetti cake. Although quins can come in different shapes and sizes, the most common shape are the flat circles you see in these pictures. Quins are typically available in “fancier” grocery stores like Whole Foods Market or, if you’re in U.K., Waitrose (specifically, these are Waitrose sprinkles that I bought during my last trip to London). But for U.S. folks, I recommend these naturally-dyed India Tree quins—I love their pastel colors!
Can I use another kind of sprinkle like rainbow nonpareils or quins in this small batch funfetti cake recipe instead?
Yes, with reservations. Jimmies give the cake the most classic funfetti look since they melt into streaks that really show up in the cake crumb. Nonpareils and quins, on the other hand, melt into blobs. You can really see the differences in this photo of my friend Molly’s blog post. Nonpareils also don’t give you the subtle, slight sugary crunch that jimmies do. In my opinion, that sugary crunch is the sign of a good funfetti cake!
Can I use coarse or sanding sugar in this small batch funfetti cake recipe instead?
Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Because sanding sugar granules are so small, they don’t really melt in the same way as sprinkles. You end up with tiny dots of color that you really need to squint to see, kinda defeating the point of funfetti cake. Again, you can see what I mean in this photo of my friend Molly’s blog post.
Can I use natural dyed sprinkles instead?
Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Natural sprinkles are made with ingredients like berries, turmeric, and flowers to give them their colors. They work really well for decorating. But in funfetti cake? Not so much. They don’t show their colors as well when baked, resulting in a less colorful funfetti cake. Again, you can see what I mean in this photo of my friend Molly’s blog post.
How to Make Small Batch Funfetti Cake
Here’s how to make this small batch funfetti cake from scratch:
First, make the funfetti cake:
- First, prep your ingredients for the funfetti cake. (Prep Time: <5 minutes)
Luckily, this funfetti cake does not require too much prep other than making sure you have all the ingredients you need and measuring them out. Make sure that your milk and butter are at room temperature. Separate one egg into egg whites and a yolk (save the yolk for a recipe like these egg yolk chocolate chip cookies!); you need the whites for this recipe.
- Next, make the funfetti cake batter. (Work Time: 10 minutes)
Prep your ingredients by mixing together all the dry ingredients like flour, baking powder, and salt, then the wet ones like milk and vanilla. Beat together the sugar, butter, egg white, and oil, then add the dry and wet ingredients, alternating between the two. Finally, mix in he sprinkles!
- Then, bake the funfetti cake. (Bake Time: 22 minutes)
Pour the funfetti cake batter into a prepared loaf pan and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Then, make the vanilla buttercream frosting:
- First, prep your ingredients for the vanilla buttercream frosting. (Prep Time: 5 minutes)
Make sure your butter is at room temperature, and sift your confectioners’ sugar. These are the secrets to the perfect buttercream frosting!
- Then, make the vanilla buttercream frosting. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
The vanilla buttercream frosting is a simple American buttercream frosting that comes together quickly. Simply beat the butter and vanilla extract until creamy, then add the confectioners’ sugar, kosher salt, and milk until light and fluffy!
- Finally, assemble and decorate the funfetti cake. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
Sheet cakes are my favorite type of cake to make because they are so fast and easy to assemble! Simply scoop the frosting on top of the cooled cake and use an offset spatula to swoop and swirl it around on top of the cake. Don’t forget to garnish with more sprinkles!
Small Batch Funfetti Cake Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: Tools to Make A Small Batch Funfetti Cake
Can I bake this small batch funfetti cake recipe in an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan instead of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan?
Yes! The only difference is that your funfetti sheet cake will likely be a little bit taller than mine. You may also need to add a few minutes to Bake Time.
I don’t have a loaf pan. Can I bake this small batch funfetti cake recipe in another type of cake pan?
I’m sorry, but I don’t know. Whether it works depends on the kind of pan you use. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that this recipe probably best translates to one or two 4-inch or 6-inch round cake pans. But note that you’ll end up with very thin cakes—especially if you use two 6-inch pans.
FAQ: Small Batch Funfetti Cake Recipe Results
I want to make a regular sized batch of this small batch funfetti cake. What should I do?
If you’re interested in baking this funfetti cake recipe in larger 8- or 9-inch round cake pans, I suggest referring to Molly’s original recipe instead. The version on Food52 makes an 8-inch, 2-layer cake, while the recipe on her blog makes an 8-inch, 3-layer version. Both recipes also make enough batter for a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake (though you’ll need to adjust the Bake Time).
Can I make the funfetti cake without the sprinkles?
Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Although this recipe makes a pretty good white cake perfect for funfetti, I wouldn’t recommend it on its own. Why? Because the batter needs to suspend sprinkles, the cake is on the denser side to help hold them in place. And this texture is very noticeable without the sprinkles!
So if you’re looking for a super light and delicate small batch white cake, let me make a recommendation: try this strawberry cake recipe instead. I adapted the recipe from the white cake recipe in my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. It makes the fluffiest, lightest white cake ever… just mini-sized!
Help! My sprinkles made the cake batter streaky when I added them. What did I do wrong?
You probably didn’t do anything wrong. Instead, your sprinkles did. Some sprinkles don’t hold their color very well, and immediately start bleeding their colors at any sign of moisture. It’s bad news for your funfetti cake batter since it has the potential to dye the white cake batter different colors. So check out my sprinkle recommendations in the “Ingredients” section of this blog post—the sprinkles I recommended won’t let you down.
That being said, if you used the sprinkle brands I recommended and still have the same issue, then I’m gonna break the bad news: it’s probably you (sorry). In the recipe below, I specifically instruct you to mix the sprinkles in by hand. Why? Stand mixers and electric handheld mixers, especially at high speeds, can cause the sprinkles to break down and dissolve, causing them to bleed their colors and dye your batter. If you added them to the batter and mixed them in with an electric mixer of any kind, you likely caused the sprinkles to break and bleed.
FAQ: Small Batch Funfetti Cake Storage
Can I make the funfetti cake batter and save it for baking later?
Technically yes, but I don’t recommend it. Instead of pouring the batter into the cake pan, simply cover the top of the mixer bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 36 hours. When ready to bake, pour into the prepared loaf pan. There’s no need to wait for the batter to come to room temperature. However, you may need to increase Bake Time slightly to compensate for the chilled batter.
Why don’t I recommend it? One of the best things about Molly’s funfetti cake recipe is that it results in a flat, level cake. However, the longer the batter sits, the more the flour will absorb liquid and hydrate—you can read more about the food science in my post for small batch blueberry muffins. The resulting cake will likely have a domed top. While this is ideal for muffins, it’s not so great for sheet cakes. The ideal sheet cake has a flat, level surface that’s easy to frost!
Can you freeze funfetti cake?
Yes! You can freeze funfetti cake after it’s been baked both unfrosted AND frosted.
To freeze unfrosted funfetti cake, simply turn out the cake into a sheet of plastic wrap big enough to wrap the entire cake in. Tightly wrap the cake and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, unwrap and discard the plastic wrap, and cover the top of the cake with buttercream frosting. Let thaw at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then garnish with extra sprinkles and serve.
To freeze frosted funfetti cake, follow the instructions for assembling and decorating the cake with the buttercream frosting. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, just enough for the frosting to stiffen. Once the frosting is stiff, carefully wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 hours. To serve, let thaw overnight in the refrigerator overnight.
How to store small batch funfetti cake
Place any leftover slices in a single layer in an airtight container. The cake can be stored at room temperature for 1 day. After that, transfer the container to the refrigerator and refrigerate for up to 2 more days.
Best Small Batch Funfetti Cake Recipe Tips
Best Ingredient Tip
- The funfetti cake recipe instructs you to use 1 ½ Tablespoons of canola oil and 2 ½ Tablespoons of jimmie sprinkles. Unfortunately, most measuring spoon sets only come with the following measures: ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 Tablespoon. So what the heck is a ½ Tablespoon?
Don’t panic! A ½ Tablespoon is equivalent to 1 ½ teaspoons. That means you need 4 ½ teaspoons canola oil and 7 ½ teaspoons sprinkles for this recipe.
Best Equipment Tip
- If you plan on doing more small batch baking recipes like this small batch funfetti cake, I highly recommend investing in more specialized tools. For this recipe, I recommend this 1 ½ Tablespoon measure for dry ingredients, and this mini liquid measuring cup that measures out small quantities of wet ingredients.
More Funfetti Recipes
- Buttermilk Chess Pie
- Cake Pops with Tahini Magic Shell
- Layer Cake Version with Chocolate Frosting
- Mini Donuts
- Momofuku Milk Bar Version
- Princess Bakery Version
More Sheet Cake Recipes
- Banana Sheet Cake with Dulcey Cream Cheese Frosting
- Banana Tres Leches Cake
- Coffee Tres Leches Cake
- Potluck Chocolate Sheet Cake
- White Chocolate Raspberry Sheet Cake
More Small Batch Recipes
- Banana Nut Muffins
- Blueberry Scones
- Copycat Levain Bakery Blueberry Muffins
- Fudge Brownies
- Strawberry Sheet Cake
- Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Get the Recipe: Small Batch Funfetti Cake Recipe
For the Funfetti Sheet Cake
- ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (2.5 ounces or 71 grams) cake flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (2.35 ounces or 67 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg white, at room temperature
- 1 ½ Tablespoons (0.75 ounces or 21 grams) canola oil (see baker's notes for teaspoon measures)
- 2 ½ Tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 grams) rainbow jimmie sprinkles (see baker's notes for teaspoon measures)
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract
- 1 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon whole milk, at room temperature
- sprinkles, for garnish
For the Small Batch Funfetti Cake
- First, make the sheet cake. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the pan's two long sides. Spray the parchment, too.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and vanilla.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combined the sugar and butter. Beat on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low and add the egg; increase the mixer to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, another 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the oil and beat until combined.
- With the mixer in low, gradually add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until the last of the dry ingredients are just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more. Sprinkle the sprinkles over the batter and gently mix by hand with the rubber spatula until the sprinkles are evenly distributed throughout.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth its top.
- Bake the cake. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the top of the cake bounces back when gently pressed. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before frosting.
- Next, make the vanilla buttercream frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and vanilla on medium-low until soft and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the milk and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, then beat on medium-high until the frosting is creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Assemble and decorate the cake. Use an offset spatula to cover the top of the cake with the frosting completely. Garnish with sprinkles.
- Serve and store. Serve immediately after decorating. The cake will keep in an airtight container for 1 day. After that, transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate for up to 2 more days.
This post was last updated on 8/15/2020.