Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake – when failure tastes delicious!

I’m extremely hard on myself. I often feel that nothing I do is ever good enough and I’m constantly criticizing my actions or second-guessing my decisions. It’s exhausting being me when the voices in my head just won’t shut up.

I wasn’t going to blog about this cake for the very reasons noted above – I made it for my father-in-law’s birthday and it looked like a hot mess. I know it’s just cake and I shouldn’t take it (or myself) so seriously. But I felt like a ridiculous failure for making something that look so incredibly unappetizing. Out of shame, I didn’t take a photo of it but in the name of my self-deprecating nature, I’m kicking myself in the arse now for not capturing it for posterity (and a good laugh now that sufficient time has passed).

The cake is one of the Husband’s favourites – it’s bright, lemony, and studded with sweet bursts of blueberry. I decided to make a four layer cake, with homemade lemon-strawberry curd in-between each layer and a whipped cream frosting for the outside. Like a breath of springtime as we descend into dark, cold winter days.

During transport to my in-law’s house, the movement of the car and the slickness of the curd sent each of the layers flying, smushing whipped cream all over the domed top of my cake carrier. The curd oozed out and mixed with the cream into an decidedly unappealing reddish goo. I fixed the cake as best I could – I pushed the layers back together and smoothed out the whipped cream.

Ahhh, it looks like a bloody mess!

Ahhh, it looks like a bloody mess!

It tasted delicious so that’s all that counts.

Lemon blueberry layer cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)

2 cups plus 6 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries (you can use fresh but all I had at the time were frozen)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of two lemons
juice of one lemon
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously butter two 8″ round cake pans.

Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Transfer 1 tbsp flour into a separate bowl. Toss the frozen blueberries into the 1 tbsp of flour and set aside.
Mix the sour cream, milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, until it’s very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until well combined.

You want your butter and sugar to be very fluffy and creamy.

You want your butter and sugar to be very fluffy and creamy.

Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
The original recipe calls for the blueberries to be stirred into the batter at this time. Even though I’ve covered the berries in flour, every time I add them directly into the batter the colour bleeds and the cake turns purple. To avoid this, I spoon half the batter into my cake pans, add a layer of the blueberries on top of the batter, and then top the blueberries with the remaining batter.
The batter is very thick so be careful when adding the top layer.  Put a huge dollop in the center and gently nudge it out to the edges with a rubber spatula.

The batter is very thick so be careful when adding the top layer. Put a huge dollop in the center and gently nudge it out to the edges with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes then remove them and finish cooling on wire racks.
Lightened Lemon Curd (adapted from Baking Bites)

2/3 cup strained, fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon
12 tbsp sugar
2 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, combine the sugar and lemon juice. Add the zest and stir until sugar has completely dissolved.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisking constantly (or with an electric mixer on low), very slowly pour the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the eggs. Beat for 2 minutes (only 1 if you’re using a mixer), then pour back into the saucepan by pouring the mixture through a sieve to catch all the bits (especially any egg that may have cooked and scrambled).

Cook the mixture over low heat, whisking constantly, making sure to get into the corners, until the curd just comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Transfer to a small airtight container and store in the fridge. I doubled Baking Bite’s original recipe – this will make about 1 1/3 cup curd.

I felt that my curd was a bit tart so I added about 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar to it after it finished cooking. It was still tart (which is how I like it but I was worried my in-laws wouldn’t) so I then added about a cup of homemade strawberry jam to the curd. It actually didn’t do anything to decrease the tartness. Oh well.

For the whipped cream frosting, I used a 225 mL carton of whipping cream and whipped it in my stand mixer with about 1/4 cup sugar. Easy peasy.
You look a fright but you were delicious.

22 thoughts on “Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake – when failure tastes delicious!

  1. Nancy, I am sooo glad you posted this! Dude, you are being too hard on yourself! the photo of the slice looks freaking delicious!! Most of the time when you use blueberries in baking, don’t they end up like this? anyway, I think it looks delicious!!! If the father-in-law liked it and it tasted delicious, that’s all that counts!! 🙂 Girl, I would have YOU bake my birthday cake any day! 🙂 I think you’re a fabulous baker! take care lady!

    • lol, thanks Alice! It’s true – so long as it tastes good, who cares what it looks like? I always get such an ego boost when I read your sweet comments. I hope you know the feeling is totally mutual!

  2. Girl, whatchu talking about?! The moment this post came up on my feed, I thought “Wow … that’s a pretty looking cake.” I love your idea of sandwiching the blueberries in between cake batter … when you slice into the cake, it looks beautiful! I can’t even begin to tell you how many epic kitchen failures I’ve had … but so long as it tastes awesome and was made with love, that’s all that matters, right? Haven’t made a layer cake since the summer, but all that’s going to change with this recipe. Really can’t wait to try it!

    • Lol, thanks Debra! I’m usually loud ‘n proud about my epic kitchen failures – I don’t know why this one really stuck in my craw. I think I had performance anxiety since the cake was for my father-in-law. Let me know if you try it – it’s seriously one of my go-to cakes cause it’s so easy and delicious.

  3. I think that last pic is perfect! What is a homemade cake with blueberries, curd and cream but a mess? It´s gorgeous Nancy and looks even more appetizing because it´s not perfect! I´m a bit suspicious of perfect looking cakes most of the time…

    • Thanks, Paula! I love your line about being suspicious of perfect-looking cakes. This is going to be my go-to opinion from now on instead of being jealous that I can’t decorate cake as beautifully as some of the uber-talented bloggers out there.

  4. I’m a lawyer, too, so I read things carefully. Your cake was a mess because of slippage on the journey, right? So next time, you bring the components, and put the cake, curd and cream together when you arrive. Yeah, the pictured cake is gorgeous, but it hasn’t had to survive a car trip!

    Love your blog and your recipes. Keep it up!

    • Ahhhh…you’re so right, Janet! Your keen legal analysis zeroed right in on the problem. I should’ve assembled it at my in-laws place. I usually don’t have this problem with cakes because I use nice, thick frostings where slippage isn’t a concern. It was that damn curd – lol. Thanks for reading!

  5. I must try this as soon as possible! I know this is going to be a favourite with everyone here. Between the curd and the whipping cream, nothing short of freezing it would have helped. I still think it looks amazing!

    • Thanks, woman! Lol – you’re probably right about the freezing. I’m sure if I were driving through the blizzard snow that you’re experiencing, the cake would’ve frozen for sure!

  6. Nancy, are you kidding?? That cake looks PHENOMENAL. I saw it on instagram and had to come check out the recipe. And I actually love Sweetapolita and drool over her cakes regularly, but that particular cake of hers has never called to me (must be the chocolate freak in me). This post, however, is a game changer. I want to go home and make that RIGHTNOW. Also, genius with your lightened lemon curd! I was just pondering whether there was a vegan version of lemon curd that I could make…

    Oh AND fab tip about pouring the cake batter over the blueberries instead of stirring them in. When I someday make this cake, that will be super helpful. Without you, I’m positive there would be some bleeding purple cakes in my future!

    • Thanks, Erika – you’re the sweetest! And Sweetapolita is AH-MAY-ZING! I’ll never be able to make my cakes as stunningly beautiful as hers. They’re pieces of art! You’re welcome re: the blueberry tip. I learned the hard way – every time I use frozen blueberries they bleed if I simply mix them in.

  7. Nancy, this cake is AWESOME! Cindy (Cheung) made this cake for mine and my husband’s birthday this past weekend…and it is truly delish! I can’t wait to bake it myself! Thanks for posting the recipe!

    • HI Danelle! I saw the photos of the cake on Cindy’s facebook and I wondered if it was this recipe. I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! Happy belated birthday to you and the Hubs.

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