Vertical Cake (Lemon & Blueberry)

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.

vertical cake

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!

vertical cake slice

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:

vertical cake slice on pink plate

Tools You Need:

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.

  1. Beat eggs until pale yellow and relatively thick. (Use 4 whole eggs.)
  2. Slowly add sugar, vanilla extract, and a touch of oil. Butter dried out this cake.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Spread cake batter into prepared cake pan. It will be a very thin layer of batter.
  6. 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!

sponge cake batter

sponge cake batter in sheet pan

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 cream puffs, too!

blueberry swirl whipped cream

How to Assemble a Vertical Cake

Watch the video above for a visual of these steps.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. You now have 1 large cake spiral. Turn it upright so one of the spiral ends is exposed at the top.
  6. Chill the shaped vertical cake for at least 45 minutes before decorating.

whipped cream on vertical cake pieces

assembling vertical cake

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.

 

vanilla sponge vertical cake with lemon blueberry whipped cream

Looks like a regular cake, right?

It’s what’s on the inside that counts. 🙂

vertical layer cake

Print
vertical cake

Vertical Cake (Lemon & Blueberry)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Cake

  • 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
  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 12×17 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter, so the parchment paper sticks. Then line it with parchment paper. Spray or grease the parchment paper, then dust with a very light layer of flour. (A sifter helps.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. (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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.)
  16. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  17. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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: layer cake, lemon, blueberry

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

232 Comments

  1. I was very happy with this challenge! I baked vertical cake two years ago for the first time, without any clear instructions. I just had an idea what to do. It wasn’t easy, actually it was a disaster. So thanks to yours clear instructions, I had a success this time! Great cake! Great flavors! My absolute favorite! Thank you!

  2. I made this for my sister’s birthday. Since cherry limeade is her favorite drink, I used cherries and lime juice in place of the blueberries and lemon. Each step worked perfectly, resulting in an impressive cake!

  3. I did make this and posted my picture on Instagram. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to make it, but I still gave it my best try. I only baked my cake for 10 minutes and it was brown on the bottom but still slightly gooey on top. I absolutely blame that on my oven. It’s small and I’m still getting used to how much the rack height affects baking. Anyway, even though the cake cracked horribly, I was still able to make pretty layers. I just prefer to stick to thicker, more forgiving cake layers when it doesn’t make a difference I flavor.
    Important question for you: do you develop recipes using weight or volume? You list both but I just wonder if you’re testing the more accurate weights or just using a conversion tool?

  4. Your clear instructions were the key with this! I was very intimidated but by following your steps I was able to make this and the results are so rewarding! Thank you!

    1. A truly rewarding recipe- especially when you serve that first slice! Thrilled this was a hit, Maddie 🙂 Thank you for participating this month!

  5. Wow, this cake is beautiful with it’s purple swirls against the white lemon cream cheese frosting! I truly enjoyed challenging myself by making this cake. I can see myself making this again, especially when you are feeding a smaller crowd. It was perfect for a group of 12! The flavor was outstanding and I even helped some family members realize that they DO like lemon/blueberry flavors! 🙂 Thanks Sally!

    1. I love reading this, Sarah! I’m glad this recipe was a hit with your family 🙂 Thank you for participating this month!

  6. I liked this recipe but man ot was a challenge. I did everything right except for the frosting. I accidentally used a whole package of cream cheese instead of half(that was my fault). It came out absolutely delicious though. The toughest part was rolling it up and making sure to get the pieces cut even. Some how i eyeballed the cutting and got it right. The cake came out beautiful and delicious just like i imagined. Good job on giving us a challenge for this month. It has helped me learn as a baker. Thank you again.

  7. This was such a fun recipe to make! Lemon and blueberry is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Everyone was astounded by the vertical layers. Your spot-on instructions made this a breeze. I did add lemon zest to the icing because I wanted a stronger lemony flavor.

  8. Loved this recipe! Was so fun to do something a little different for a cake. And rolling it up really wasn’t as hard as I though it would be. Maybe because I’ve made your cake rolls before. Thanks again for the very clear instructions and the very helpful video!

    I made mine gluten free, vegan, and soy free and just made some modifications from your regular recipe 🙂

    1. I’m so happy you were able to successfully modify the recipe to your family’s preferences! Thank you so much for participating this month, Bree 🙂 Nice to try something a little different!

  9. What a clever idea Sally. It looks so complicated but is actually really easy to make, and looks so different to the usual layer cakes. Really enjoyed this challenge and will be making vertical cakes again. Thanks Sally, this was great fun

  10. Great recipe and the video tutorial was very helpful with the rolling step! The icing also wasn’t too sweet and worked well with the blueberry filling.

  11. I’m really glad this was the August challenge because I actually tried making this last year and haven’t made it since. I did make this recipe along with another recipe I used previously, except I made the sponge a green tea flavor instead of lemon. I also did a strawberry Italian meringue buttercream instead of the cream cheese frosting but kept the whipped cream filling for the middle except strawberry flavored (love the whipped cream center! I’m keeping this in all my future vertical roll cakes). Your instructions are pretty thorough and would have been helpful for my first go-around! I did like that the sponge in this recipe was quite sturdy; however, I think the sponge was too thin and fragile for me. I kept it covered but I found it still quite dry and it cracked a lot. 🙁

    I know you tested this recipe with separating the eggs and using different flours, but did you experiment with the number of eggs in this recipe at all? I ended up using 8 eggs in a slightly different recipe and it produced a thicker, fluffier sponge that still held up nicely and did not crack at all. Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for your recipe as always! 🙂

    1. I did, yes! I found the end result to taste extremely egg-y and I tested it a few different ways varying the other ingredients. What other recipe did you use? I would LOVE to look at it! Feel free to email me if you’d like. Thank you so much for trying the vertical cake!

  12. I made Sally’s champagne cake with champagne whipped cream. It looked pretty before I cut into it but one of my layers was shorter than the rest. I did have success with the cake not cracking after rolling it! I really like the looks of everyones cakes! think these types of cakes are not for me. I have always had issues with them. Thanks Sally for a great challenge! I have never made a vertical cake before!

    1. I’m so happy you were able to try something new this month, Shannon! Thanks for participating in August’s baking challenge 🙂

  13. I am so glad there was a video with instructions! It made making this (complicated) cake quite a breeze to bake and assemble. Without Sally’s video guidance, I would have failed dismally! It was a hit, and the lemon and blueberry combination was SO delicious!

  14. Made this for my boys today on their first day of school! They loved everything except the cream cheese frosting but they really just don’t know any better!

    1. What a delicious first day of school treat! Too funny about the cream cheese frosting- LOL!! Thanks for your positive feedback, Rebecca 🙂

  15. WOW! This is so intimidating to make, BUT it doesn’t need to be! Watch the video, read the recipe and just do it! It’s absolutely delicious and so fun to make and serve! Will definitely make again as is, and am also excited to play with different flavors. Definitely a keeper recipe!! Love it!

    1. Love reading this, Nancy! So happy you participated in this month’s challenge and thrilled you’ll be making this recipe again. Way to go!

  16. This recipe was definitely a challenge, but a lot of fun and so tasty! The cream cheese frosting is so good! Even my husband loves it. My cake was a little sticky which made it hard to roll up and keep a nice shape. Luckily frosting really helps hide any imperfections.

    1. Frosting is magical! 😉 Glad this was a hit and I’m so happy you were able to step outside of your baking comfort zone this month, Tara!

  17. The flavors of this cake are AMAZING! One of my favorite cakes I’ve made in quite awhile. The instructions are so clear which makes making this challenging looking cake a piece of cake! I will definitely be making this cake again!

  18. This was a little intimidating, but the results were very pretty and delicious. Thanks again for a wonderful recipe.

  19. Very easy to follow. My cake didnt roll/unroll well so the layers werent as defined as yours…but it tastes delicious. 🙂 very light and fresh. I was impressed the buttercream wasnt super heavy and the amount of lemon was enough to let you taste it but not overwhelm it. I also think the fresh garnish blueberries really add more to the texture and the flavor.

  20. I made this as the alternate challenge with a friend of mine who had never made sponge. She was surprised how easy it was and also how quick sponge cakes are prepared. We both liked the whipping cream the best and actually used it also as frosting. We added lemon zest to the batter as well as the whipping cream, yum!

  21. I made this and brought it in to work. It was so good it vanished like it was a magic trick. Fortunately I made sure to save a slice for myself :). The instructions worked great.
    Thanks for the recipe and all the hard work.

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