Microwave cavities coupled to superconducting qubits have been demonstrated to be a promising platform for quantum information processing. A major challenge in this setup is to realize universal control over the cavity. A promising approach are selective number-dependent arbitrary phase (SNAP) gates combined with cavity displacements. It has been proven that this is a universal gate set, but a central question remained open so far: how can a given target operation be realized efficiently with a sequence of these operations. In this work, we present a practical scheme to address this problem. It involves a hierarchical strategy to insert new gates into a sequence, followed by a co-optimization of the control parameters, which generates short high-fidelity sequences. For a broad range of experimentally relevant applications, we find that they can be implemented with 3 to 4 SNAP gates, compared to up to 50 with previously known techniques.