Cakes

Vertical Lemon Cake Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Savor our Vertical Lemon Cake, bursting with spring-refreshing citrus flavors throughout the creamy frosting, soft cake, and smooth filling.
A stunning Vertical Lemon Cake is being displayed on a white tree-stump cake stand, covered with white mascarpone whipped cream and topped with fresh flowers. One slice is cut off and served on a dessert plate. The slice shows the layers of soft cake covered with luscious lemon curd and mascarpone whipped cream on the inside and generously frosted with additional mascarpone whipped cream on the outside.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Our dreamy Vertical Lemon Cake is the most flavorful, gorgeous way to celebrate spring! Cut into this exquisite confection to discover layers of cake, lemon curd, and whipped mascarpone frosting. It’s a creative dessert that will wow your guests with its unique construction, bright color, and sweet-tart flavor!

  • Tender lemon sponge cake is covered with homemade lemon curd and mascarpone whipped cream and rolled into a spiral.
  • Although the rolled cake looks intricate, with its layers going up and down instead of side to side, putting it together is much easier than you’d think!

Spring is a wonderful time for fresh, pretty desserts, and this delectable treat is the perfect show-stopper for Easter dinner. If you’re cooking for a big crowd, add Chocolate Easter Eggs and Carrot Cake Cupcakes, and you’ll have a spectacular dessert buffet!

Table of Contents

The Vertical Lemon Cake is a visually stunning, covered with white mascarpone whipped cream and topped with fresh colorful flowers . It's being displayed on a white tree-stump cake stand.

What is Vertical Lemon Cake?

  • A Vertical Lemon Cake is a visually stunning and delicious dessert crafted by rolling a sheet cake that has been covered with luscious lemon curd and mascarpone whipped cream. The rolled cake is then elegantly placed swirl-side down on a cake stand and generously frosted with additional mascarpone whipped cream.
  • From-scratch lemon curd and mascarpone frosting give this dessert an unbeatable homemade taste.
  • Early versions of sponge cake emerged in early seventeenth-century England. By the 18th century, sponge cakes, with separately beaten whites and yolks for leavening, began to emerge. After that came creations such as the Classic Victoria Sponge Cake, Battenberg Cake, Swiss Roll Cake, and innovative Vertical Cake.

Tools You Need

Key Ingredients and Why

  • Cake Flour

    • Cake flour is very finely milled from soft winter wheat. It has a protein content of 6 to 8%, giving this lemon cake a refined, tight, and tender crumb.
    • If you don’t have cake flour, use our simple DIY Cake Flour Substitute, or you can use all-purpose. Generally, the cake will have a slightly heavier texture when all-purpose flour is used, but it will still taste great.
  • Granulated Sugar

    • In the lemon curd, sugar balances out the tart lemon flavor.
    • In the whipped mascarpone, sugar sweetens the frosting and stabilizes the mixture.
    • Importantly, sugar sweetens the cake, and because sugar is hygroscopic, it attracts moisture from the liquid ingredients and holds it in after baking.
  • Eggs

    • In the lemon curd, the egg thickens the mixture and provides rich flavor and a vibrant yellow color.
    • Eggs are used as a binding agent in cakes. Additionally, they provide tenderness, aeration, emulsification, and structure.
    • Importantly, unless specified, eggs should always be at room temperature.
  • Lemons

    • Lemon gives a refreshing citrusy flavor to the cake and the curd filling.
    • Another key point is that this recipe uses lemon zest and lemon juice, so use organic lemons if possible.
  • Butter

    • Butter gives the lemon curd rich body and thickness, luxurious flavor, and a glossy sheen.
    • Make sure your butter is softened correctly. Specifically, you’ll know it’s soft enough when you push the butter with your finger and it makes an indent, but it doesn’t easily squish right through.
  • Salt

    • A touch of salt is necessary in even sweet recipes to help support all of the other flavors. Without it, recipes can taste flat.
  • Mascarpone Cheese

    • Mascarpone cheese is an Italian spreadable cheese. Specifically compared to cream cheese, it’s less firm and with a much milder, milkier flavor.
    • If you can’t find mascarpone for the whipped cream, you can easily make mascarpone cheese at home with my recipe. Additionally, you can also substitute crème fraîche or simply use plain whipped cream.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream

    • Significantly, heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (no less than 30% fat) is what we use to whip cream.
    • Check the label on your cream to ensure you have cream with the correct fat content. If it is any less, you will have difficulty whipping the cream to the correct consistency.

How to Make Vertical Lemon Cake

  • Make the lemon curd:
    • First, heat lemon juice, zest, and sugar until simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
    • Next, temper the egg yolks by gradually pouring the lemon mixture over the egg yolks while whisking. Then, return the mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly until it thickens like pudding. Whisk in the butter.
    • At last, pass the curd through a sieve to remove lumps. Finally, let the mixture cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
  • Prepare to bake: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C); butter and line a 13×18-inch jelly roll pan.
  • Whip the egg whites:
    • First, whip egg whites for two minutes until foamy, and then whip on medium-high until soft peaks form.
    • Next, add 1/4 cup (2 oz/57 g) sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to whip to stiff and glossy peaks.
    • Finally, put the egg whites in a clean bowl and set aside.
  • Finish the cake batter: 
    • Beat egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup (4 oz/115 g) of sugar, lemon juice, and zest, and salt on high until fluffy. Next, stir in the flour.
    • Lastly, fold a third of the egg whites into the batter, and then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Step-by-step instructions on how to make Vertical Lemon Cake: on the baked sheet cake, spread lemon curd, then cover it with mascarpone whipped cream. Divide the sheet cake into three strips, roll up one from the short side.

  • Bake and roll the cake: 
    • Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
    • Then let the cake cool but while it’s still warm, dust it with confectioners’ sugar, cover it with parchment paper, and top with a cooling rack.
    • Next, flip the cake so it’s sitting on the wire rack. Remove the pan and rack; peel off the parchment. Then, starting at a short side, roll up the warm cake. Giving it this “practice roll” while it’s warm helps the cake roll up easily later without cracking.
  • Make the mascarpone whipped cream and assemble:
    • Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla to medium-soft peaks. Stir mascarpone in by hand.
    • Next, spread the curd evenly over the cake. Then, top with a thin layer of mascarpone whipped cream.
    • Cut the cake into three even-width strips. Starting with the short end of one strip, roll up the cake. Line up the next strip where the first strip ends and keep rolling up the cake. Repeat with the last cake strip and then, looking to see which end is flattest, carefully stand the cake on a serving plate.
    • Lastly, frost the cake with the remaining whipped cream and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Can I Make Vertical Lemon Cake in Advance?

Yes, you can make a Vertical Lemon Cake in Advance. Although it’s best served the day it’s assembled, you can make elements of the cake ahead to save time.

  • To make the sponge cake in advance:
    • The cake can be made up to two days in advance. Bake the cake off, let it cool to room temperature, wrap it well with cling wrap, and store it in the refrigerator for up to two days.
    • Additionally, for longer storage, you can freeze the cake. First, let the cake cool completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. It will keep frozen for up to 2 months.
    • Importantly, before serving, first allow the cake to thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, bring it to room temperature before assembling it.
  • To make the lemon curd in advance:
    • Cool cooked lemon curd to room temperature. Then, store in the fridge for up to seven days.

How to Store Vertical Lemon Cake

  • Store leftover Vertical Lemon Cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six hours.

FAQs

  • How do I prevent my cake from cracking when I roll it?

    • First, roll your cake while it’s still quite warm and let it cool in a rolled position. Basically, creating this ‘muscle memory’ in the cake means it will roll easily later.
    • Then, if it still cracks, remember you will be covering it all up with frosting, and no one will notice!
  • Last time I made lemon curd, it curdled! What did I do wrong?

    • First, you were probably cooking this over too-high heat. Instead, keep the heat low.
    • Remember, don’t forget to stir constantly!
    • Lastly, once the curd has thickened, immediately strain it. Don’t leave it sitting in the hot pot, or it may overcook.
  • Once I put my cake on the serving platter, how do I ensure it keeps its shape?

    • Gently tie the cake with a bit of butcher twine to hold it together, and refrigerate it for at least one hour to firm it up.
    • Lastly, once it’s cold, untie the cake, frost the top and sides, and then return to the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Can I make Vertical Lemon Cake gluten-free?

Yes, you can make this cake recipe gluten-free.

    • To do this, simply replace the cake flour with gluten-free cake flour.

A stunning Vertical Lemon Cake is being displayed on a white tree-stump cake stand, covered with white mascarpone whipped cream and topped with colorful fresh flowers. One slice is cut off and served on a dessert plate. The slice shows the layers of soft cake covered with luscious lemon curd and mascarpone whipped cream on the inside and generously frosted with additional mascarpone whipped cream on the outside.

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips

  • Cake flour can be made using my substitute recipe here. Or simply replace it with the same amount of all-purpose/plain.
  • This vertical cake uses a sponge cake base that contains no butter or oil, and the egg whites and yolks are whipped separately. Significantly, it’s a lighter, drier style of cake that will readily absorb syrups or other flavorful fillings.
    • A genoise cake uses whipped whole eggs and some fat, usually clarified butter.
    • In contrast, a chiffon cake uses separated, separately whipped yolks and whites, like a sponge, but also includes fat like genoise (but usually in the form of oil). All three of these types of cakes can be baked as the base for this cake, yielding slightly different textures.
    • Go ahead and try different bases to find your favorite one!
  • Filling variations are limited only by your imagination! Alternatively, you can use a different curd, such as lime, passionfruit, or even raspberry curd. Additionally, you can also use jam instead of curd or use a buttercream flavor of your choice instead of whipped cream.
  • However, in a pinch, you can also use store-bought lemon curd (shh!!!).

More Lemon Dessert Recipes

Vertical Lemon Cake Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Savor our Vertical Lemon Cake, bursting with spring-refreshing citrus flavors throughout the creamy frosting, soft cake, and smooth filling.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 12 servings
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill for 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Savor our Vertical Lemon Cake, bursting with spring-refreshing citrus flavors throughout the creamy frosting, soft cake, and smooth filling.
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

Lemon Curd

  • Zest and juice from 4 lemons (around ½ cup/4 floz/120 ml)
  • ¾ cup (6 oz/170 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) butter, softened and diced

Sponge Cake

  • 8 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 oz/57 g) plus ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (3 ⅓ oz/94 g) cake flour*
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • 1 ½ cups (12 floz/360 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) mascarpone

Instructions

Make the Lemon Curd

  • In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest, juice and sugar over Medium heat until simmering and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Gradually pour the hot mixture over the yolks while whisking the whole time. This is to warm up the eggs before adding them into the saucepan.
  • Return this mixture to the saucepan and reduce the heat to Low. Whisk constantly over Low heat until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like consistency, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Lastly whisk in the butter before passing the curd through the sieve to remove any lumps.
  • Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and refrigerate to let it cool completely before storing in the fridge until needed. It can be kept in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Make the Sponge Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and butter and line a 13x18-inch jelly roll pan.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or using a handheld mixer, whip the whites on Low speed for 2 minutes until foamy.
  • Turn the mixer to Medium-High speed and whip for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft peaks form.
  • With the machine still running, add the ¼ cup (2 oz/57 g) sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping to stiff and glossy peaks and then scrape the whipped egg whites into a clean bowl and set aside.
  • In the same mixer bowl add the egg yolks, the remaining ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) sugar, lemon zest, juice and salt. Whip on High speed until pale and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the flour into the egg yolk mixture.
  • Remove from the machine and fold in ⅓ of the whipped whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten the batter and then add the remaining whipped whites and gently fold in until evenly combined.
  • Spread evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes and then, while the cake is still warm, dust with powdered sugar, place parchment paper or a kitchen towel on top of the cake, put a cooling rack on top of the paper and flip the cake over so it is on the cooling rack. Remove the pan and cooling rack and carefully peel off the parchment paper from the cake.
  • Starting at a short end, roll the cake up to mimic the roll you will be doing later. Doing this while the cake is still warm helps the cake to roll easily later without cracking. Set aside.

Make the Mascarpone Whipped Cream

  • Place the cream, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or using a handheld mixer and whip on Medium speed to medium-soft peaks.
  • Mix the mascarpone to loosen it a little before stirring into the whipped cream. Do this step by hand and not on the mixer. Refrigerate until ready to use. Note, if it has softened a little before you assemble your cake, then whisk it up by hand.

Assembling the Cake

  • Spread the lemon curd evenly all over the cake. Follow with a thin layer of whipped cream. Take care not to add too much cream or it can be difficult to roll later.
  • Cut the cake lengthwise into 3 even strips, each roughly 4-inches (10cm) wide.
  • Starting with the short end of one strip, roll up the cake. Line up the next strip where the first strip ends and keep rolling up the cake. Repeat with the last cake strip and then, looking to see which end is flattest, carefully stand the cake on a serving plate.
  • Use the remaining whipped cream to first fill any unevenness at the top and then to frost the top and sides.
  • Decorate with some lovely fresh flowers and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours before serving to let set. Best enjoyed the day it’s assembled.

Recipe Notes

  • Cake flour can be made using my substitute recipe here. Or simply replace it with the same amount of all-purpose/plain.
  • This vertical cake uses a sponge cake base that contains no butter or oil, and the egg whites and yolks are whipped separately. Significantly, it's a lighter, drier style of cake that will readily absorb syrups or other flavorful fillings.
    • A genoise cake uses whipped whole eggs and some fat, usually clarified butter.
    • In contrast, a chiffon cake uses separated, separately whipped yolks and whites, like a sponge, but also includes fat like genoise (but usually in the form of oil). All three of these types of cakes can be baked as the base for this cake, yielding slightly different textures.
    • Go ahead and try different bases to find your favorite one!
  • Filling variations are limited only by your imagination! Alternatively, you can use a different curd, such as lime, passionfruit, or even raspberry curd. Additionally, you can also use jam instead of curd or use a buttercream flavor of your choice instead of whipped cream.
  • However, in a pinch, you can also use store-bought lemon curd (shh!!!).
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Lori
Lori
3 months ago

Hi Gemma! If I’m using a 13×18 jelly roll pan and cutting the cake lengthwise into three long pieces to fill, roll up, and turn on its side, the overall height of the cake will be 4.33” tall plus the frosting, correct? It seems so short! Would I run into any trouble if I cut it into threes the other way to get a taller cake? Thanks!

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

 

Weeknight Family Favorites Chapter from the Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook