Assembled with vanilla sponge cake, lemon blueberry swirl whipped cream, and lemon cream cheese buttercream, this vertical cake is a beautiful masterpiece. It’s soft and light with bright refreshing flavors and an impressive aesthetic. For recipe success, follow the recipe and video tutorial closely.
Assembled with vanilla sponge cake, lemon blueberry swirl whipped cream, and lemon cream cheese buttercream, this vertical cake screams celebration. It’s soft and light with bright refreshing flavors and an impressive aesthetic. Who can resist?
You’ve been requesting a challenging recipe and after 6 failed vertical cakes and 12 total recipe tests, I admit that this one is tough! But I’m happy to share my recipe fails and successes with you so you can get the recipe right on the first try. I know you can do this and will be proud to check this baking bucket list recipe off your list!
What is a Vertical Cake?
Our eyes are used to seeing horizontal layer cakes, so when you first cut into a vertical layer cake, you’re instantly impressed. They’re ALWAYS a crowdpleaser! But what are they and how can we make one?
Vertical cake is just that: a cake with vertical layers. Instead of stacked layers like traditional layer cakes, vertical cakes are actually made with a cake spiral. When you cut into the cake, that spiral displays as vertical layers. You assemble the cake spiral with a sponge sheet cake. Roll the sponge cake into a cake roll when it comes out of the oven. Once cool, unroll it, cut it into 3 long strips, then top each with whipped cream. Roll the strips up, connecting the end of the first rolled strip with the next. Turn the cake upright and decorate with frosting as you would any other layer cake.
There’s a few more steps along the way, but that’s the basic rundown!
Video Tutorial: Vertical Cake
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s watch this vertical cake come together:
Tools You Need:
- Electric stand mixer or hand mixer
- Sieve Set
- Half Sheet Baking Pan
- Cake Decorating Turntable (optional, but helpful for decorating)
- Offset Spatula (optional, but helpful for decorating)
- Bench Scraper (optional, but helpful for decorating)
How to Make a Sturdy Sponge Cake
A successful vertical cake must begin with a sturdy sponge cake. This is where all 6 previous recipe tests went horribly wrong. I tried separating the eggs, cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, no baking powder, deflating the batter, creaming the butter, melting the butter, no butter… honestly I could keep going on about all the mistakes I made. If the sponge cake is too fragile, the vertical cake will collapse. If the sponge cake is too firm, it won’t roll up. Take it from me– follow this sponge cake recipe to the letter.
- Beat eggs until pale yellow and relatively thick. (Use 4 whole eggs.)
- Slowly add sugar, vanilla extract, and a touch of oil. Butter dried out this cake.
- Whisk all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt together. In 2-3 additions, sift the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients, stirring lightly to combine after each addition. This sponge cake batter is very light and airy, so be careful not to deflate it.
- Grease a 12×17 inch cake pan, line with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper, then dust with flour. We need an extremely nonstick surface for this cake. While we use a rectangular piece of parchment paper here, this parchment paper rounds for cakes video and post may be helpful to review if you haven’t used parchment paper when baking cakes before.
- Spread cake batter into prepared cake pan. It will be a very thin layer of batter.
- Bake for a short 12 minutes or until the top is set. Do not over-bake.
Forceful mixing will deflate this airy sponge cake batter. Be gentle– it needs volume!
Roll the Cake Up
No time for cooling! When it comes out of the oven, immediately invert the warm cake onto parchment paper or a thin kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently roll the cake up with the parchment/towel. Let it cool in the rolled up shape so when it’s time to roll it up with the whipped cream filling, it’s already “familiar” with the rolled up shape.
Lemon Blueberry Swirl Whipped Cream Filling
The lemon blueberry swirl whipped cream combines homemade lemon blueberry sauce and whipped cream. If desired, feel free to use your favorite blueberry (or any flavor) jam to replace the homemade lemon blueberry sauce. The sauce must completely cool before you mix it into the whipped cream, so I recommend making it ahead of time or as the cake cools. You need blueberries, lemon juice, cornstarch, water, and sugar. Cook it on the stove, cool it completely, then fold into lightly sweetened whipped cream. For the whipped cream, you need heavy cream and a touch of confectioners’ sugar.
This whipped cream would be unbelievable with pound cake or sandwiched between choux pastry, too! Or our not-so-sweet whipped frosting would make a great alternate filling for this cake.
How to Assemble a Vertical Cake
Watch the video above for a visual of these steps.
- After the sponge cake cools in the rolled shape, carefully unravel it. The cake may crack a bit as you unroll it, so work slowly. You can see mine has a few cracks.
- Using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut the cake into 3 long strips. The cake is about 11 inches wide (it shrinks when baking and cooling), so each strip is a little over 3.5 inches wide.
- Spread the whipped cream all over the top. It’s easier to neatly cut the strips without the whipped cream on top, so that’s why I recommend cutting before topping.
- Working with 1 strip at a time, gently roll the cake strip back up. Connect the end of the first rolled strip with the next, continuing to roll and wrap.
- You now have 1 large cake spiral. Turn it upright so one of the spiral ends is exposed at the top.
- Chill the shaped vertical cake for at least 45 minutes before decorating.
How Big is This Vertical Cake?
If you think about it, the cake should only be about 3.5 inches tall, right? The strips actually stretch and bulk up as you roll them with the filling! So after you top the cake with cream cheese frosting, the cake ends up being about 5 inches high by about 6 inches wide.
Cream Cheese Buttercream
Just like any layer cake, this lemon blueberry vertical cake needs a frosting decoration. Whip up a simple lemon cream cheese buttercream by combining block cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. A bench scraper and small offset spatula are handy for decorating. Some of the whipped cream exposed on the top of the cake will mix with the buttercream, creating beautiful random swirls of purple. This cake is gorgeous on both the inside AND outside.
One last step– refrigerate the decorated cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. This prevents the cake from squishing too much when you slice it.
Looks like a regular cake, right?
It’s what’s on the inside that counts. 🙂
See Your Vertical Cakes!
Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂Print
Vertical Cake (Lemon & Blueberry)
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours
- Yield: serves 8
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
This recipe yields one vertical cake, about 5 inches tall and 6 inches wide. For best results, follow the recipe carefully and read through the directions before beginning.
- all-purpose flour for dusting pan and confectioners’ sugar for dusting baked cake
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Blueberry Whipped Cream
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons warm water
- 1 cup (190g) fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) heavy cream
- 3 Tablespoons (20g) confectioners’ sugar
Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 ounces (112g) block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- optional: fresh blueberries for garnish
- For best success, follow this recipe closely, be prepared with all of the special tools you need (see recipe notes), and watch the video tutorial in the blog post.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 12×17 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or butter, line it with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper, then dust with a very light layer of flour. (A sifter helps.) Parchment paper helps the cake seamlessly release from the pan. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post, but note that you’ll use a rectangular piece of parchment paper for this cake.)
- Make the cake: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the eggs in a large bowl on high speed for 5 minutes until pale yellow and relatively thick. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat in the sugar, vanilla, and oil just until combined, about 1 minute. Set aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. In 2 or 3 additions, sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, gently folding together after each addition. You do NOT want to deflate the eggs. Make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients. Batter is thick and airy.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. You’ll really have to stretch the batter out to fit this pan. It will be a thin layer. Tap the whole pan on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles on top.
- (As the cake bakes, complete step 7.) Bake for 12-13 minutes or until cake is set and the top springs back when lightly poked with your finger. Do not over-bake.
- As the cake bakes, place a piece of parchment paper (a little larger than the cake) or a thin kitchen towel flat on the counter. Using a sifter, dust with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar.
- Roll the cake: Once the cake comes out of the oven, run a thin knife along the edges to help release the cake, then immediately invert it onto the parchment/towel. Peel off the parchment paper that was on the bottom of the cake as it baked. Using a sifter, dust surface with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar. Starting with the narrow end, slowly and gently roll the cake up with the parchment/towel. The cake will be warm. Allow the cake to cool completely rolled up in the parchment/towel. Place in the refrigerator to speed it up, about 2-3 hours.
- As the cake cools, make the blueberry sauce: The blueberry sauce must be completely cool before folding into the whipped cream, so make it ahead of time or when the cake is cooling. Mix the cornstarch and water together in a very small bowl. Set aside. Combine blueberries, lemon juice, and granulated sugar together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly, bursting the blueberries against the sides of the pan. Once the blueberries have released some liquid, add the cornstarch/water. Turn the heat up to medium. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Mixture will thicken as it cools. I place it in the refrigerator to cool down quicker.
- Remove the cake roll from the refrigerator and allow to sit on the counter for a few minutes to warm up as you prepare the whipped cream.
- Make the whipped cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar together on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold in cooled blueberry sauce. If you want blueberry swirls as pictured, don’t completely combine the two. Only fold together a few times. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Assemble vertical cake: Slowly and gently unroll the cake. If you notice the cake cracking, unroll slower and gently press the cracked pieces back together. (Some cracks are fine!) Using a very sharp knife or even kitchen shears, cut the cake into 3 long strips. Cake is about 11 inches wide (it shrinks when baking and cooling), so each strip will be a little over 3.5 inches wide. Spread whipped cream evenly on top of each strip. Working with 1 strip at a time, gently roll the cake strip back up, without the parchment/towel this time. Connect the end of the first rolled strip with the next, continuing to roll and wrap the cake up. See video above if you need a visual for this step.
- Turn cake upright on its flattest end and place on a cake turntable for decorating or if you don’t wish to use a cake turntable for decorating, onto a cake stand or serving plate. Refrigerate covered or uncovered for at least 1 hour or freeze covered or uncovered for 45 minutes. Chilling helps ensure the cake holds its delicate shape.
- Make the cream cheese buttercream: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more lemon juice if frosting is too thick, or a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
- Remove cake from the refrigerator or freezer. Spread the frosting all over the top and sides. A bench scraper and small offset spatula are handy for decorating. Some of the whipped cream exposed on the top of the cake will mix with the buttercream, creating beautiful random swirls of purple. Garnish with fresh blueberries, if desired. If you decorated the cake on a cake turntable, use a couple thin spatulas (and a helper!) to carefully lift the cake off the turntable and onto a cake stand or server. (Decorating on a cake board is helpful for this, too.)
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The best way to make the vertical cake ahead of time is to complete the recipe through step 8, letting the rolled up cake chill overnight in the refrigerator before continuing with the recipe. Make the blueberry sauce (step 9) 1 day ahead of time as well. Cover tightly in the refrigerator overnight. You could also complete the recipe through step 13, letting the assembled vertical cake chill in the refrigerator for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 1 month. Cover tightly if chilling/freezing for longer than 1 hour. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before continuing with step 14.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Sieve Set, Half Sheet Baking Pan, Cake Decorating Turntable, Offset Spatula, Bench Scraper
This recipe was inspired by the beautiful vertical cake by Dan Langan
Keywords: lemon blueberry vertical cake
Reader Comments & Reviews
Hi Sally, I have made this previously and it’s always delicious. My grandson has requested this cake for his 21rst. birthday as a layer cake. Is this possible? If so how long would I cook the cake for.
Hi Diane, here is our lemon blueberry layer cake that we’d recommend. Hope you enjoy it just as much!
Hey Sally! Can this cake be made a day ahead or can it be made in stages? If so what do you recommend? Thanks Again!
Hi Cheryl, see recipe notes for make-ahead instructions. Happy baking!
I made this recently as a log and taste test.. I now would like to make it for my son’s birthday since it was so delicious. I’d like to know if I made two separate cakes could I cut each cake strip to 5 or 6″ so it would be higher. Would it fall apart? Thank you for all your wonderful recipes.
Did you try making it taller? I was also wondering about the potential of making it larger.
This cake is absolutely one of the best I’ve ever made! Made for my mother-in-law’s 96th birthday. Planning on making again for daughter’s 40th this week.
Sallies recipes are well thought out with the best instructions.
I’m drying to try this technique and am wondering if you have any holiday recipes that could be adapted? I’m thinking it would be a beautiful dessert to serve this winter. Thanks in advance!
Hi Seren! We haven’t tested different flavors, but our pumpkin roll and red velvet cake roll may be good places to start. Let us know what you try!
Thank you so much for this recipe and tutorial. Would it be ok to add lemon zest and/or lemon juice to the cake batter? Or does the lemon juice in the whipped cream give it enough lemon flavor? I love the strong lemon flavor in your lemon blueberry layer cake.
Hi Pam, You can try replacing half teaspoon of the vanilla extract with lemon juice and adding some lemon zest. Let us know if you try it!
I was hoping to adapt this to a holiday recipe by adding spices/pumpkin to the sponge and pumpkin/caramel instead of the blueberry lemon. Do you have any recommendations about how to start?
Hi Meghan, We haven’t tested this exact recipe with pumpkin, but you may enjoy this recipe for a pumpkin roll!
Thanks. I ended up making with pumpkin sponge, maple whipped cream and caramel cream cheese frosting. Also added whit e chocolate shards because why not.
Have you ever tried to double your recipe making a six roll cake? If so does it work ok making a bigger cake for a larger crowd? Please advise! Thank you!
Hi Cheryl, we haven’t tested a larger cake but would love to hear how it goes if you do! We would make two batches of batter instead of doubling.
if i try to make a vertical cake using your vanilla sheet cake recipe would it turn out different?
We recommend using this vanilla sponge cake if you plan to roll it up. Sponge cakes have a much lighter texture vs a traditional vanilla cake, and this is much thinner, which helps it to roll without breaking.
My cake rolled up nicely but completely cracked to pieces when (very slowly) unrolling. Why would that be?
Hi Katya, If you notice the cake cracking, unroll slower and gently press the cracked pieces back together. (Some cracks are fine — you can even see a few in the photos in the post!)
This is going to be my second time making this cake. It’s such a hit! Easy to make. Perfect recipe
What a beautiful, delicious and fun cake to make! Lemon and blueberry evoke such Spring and Summer vibes that you’re happy just looking at it. The sponge cake is absolutely delicious and fluffy! So thankful for the video which was a big help on the assembly part! Will definitely make it again ( as it makes a somewhat small cake) but that’s it a problem at all! This cake would be the center piece for a lovely tea party too!
Hi there! I want to make this but would like to know what size does this cake turn out to be and about how many people does it feed please?
Hi Cheryl! This recipe yields one vertical cake, about 5 inches tall and 6 inches wide. Exact serving size depends on the size of your slices, but we typically get about 8 servings from this cake.