Lemon-Vanilla Bean Layer Cake and "What went wrong?"

Sometimes when I create a post about something I baked I try to smooth things over so they look perfect. You know- I don’t photograph the cupcake that looks weird or the crusty brownie that isn’t nearly as pretty as the middle gooier piece. I don’t do this because I want to seem like I don’t make mistakes in the kitchen (because I really do,) but because I value aesthetics too much to not pick the prettiest and best looking baked goods to be front and center. (Don’t worry, the ugly ones always get eaten first!)

When it comes to this cake though….I had two solid options: a- only show the outside of the cake that looks pretty good, or b- show the inside of the cake, highlight it’s flaws, and hope people still like me. And I chose option b, because I’m not a professional baker and this was only my 2nd layer cake I’ve ever made. And I know it’s not perfect- even from the outside I think it just looks alright- but it tasted SO good, and my sister Nadia (the birthday girl,) loved it. All of that being said- I decided the best thing to do was to share this.

As I said, this is only the 2nd layer cake I ever have made and the first was a couple years ago and also a visual disaster. It tasted amazing, but I had no idea about “leveling” the layers or “crumb coating” so it was domed and awkward. This time, I thought I had it all figured out. I spend a solid 3 hours on this blog reading tips and going gaga over her perfect looking cakes. After assessing a few recipes, I merged 2 together to make this cake. I chose a Vanilla Bean Cake, filled with Lemon Curd and frosted with Lemon Buttercream. I thought about just making cupcakes (Nadia requested lemon but left the rest to me,) but thought I’d never get better at cakes if I didn’t just give it a try. So I did.

I’m not sure exactly what went wrong but here is my guess: I chose a very dense cake recipe paired with a very light filling. It makes total sense how once I placed the layers atop each other all the filling got pushed out. It was just too heavy. But what I don’t understand is how other people make this work. My cake tasted perfect and looked exactly like the pictures of the recipe….but the buttercream in the original was thick and present in between the layers. My Lemon Curd, however was squished out onto the plate leaving me with a minor panic attack. (I hate when things go wrong!!)

At one point there was Lemon Curd on this layer….

So next time, do I just pick a lighter fluffier cake recipe? Or do I make a thick frosting to put in the middle. Or- do I simple cut thinner layers so they aren’t so heavy. Any layer-cake experts out there want to help a sister out? I also realized that I don’t have any of the right tools for smoothing frosting on a cake. I only had a small off-set spatula and you can bet I’m gonna hit the baking store before I attempt another cake.

 I am going to send you in the direction of where I found these recipes, but I don’t want to post a recipe that didn’t work quite right. The individual aspects of this cake were delicious, but the assembly wasn’t perfect.  You can expect another layer cake attempt from me very soon. I’ll get the hang of this! And please feel free to give me any tips if you are a layer-cake-baking master!

Cake and Frosting from: Sweetapolita
Lemon Curd: Martha Stewart


  1. Oh, gosh, I could have written this post so many times! I would still eat your fabulous lemon cake despite its minor imperfections :) But thanks for making me feel better with this post…because the frosting is absolutely perfect, and I would have never expected a single flaw on the inside without your confession~

  2. I think things like this happen to us all! It’s all part of the learning process of cooking/baking! I wish I knew more about baking to tell you what I think went wrong, but your cake still looks really delicious! Since the top layer of curd survived, I’m guessing that it might have something to do with the weight of the cake! But, I really am not sure, lol!

  3. I think your cake look perfect despite how hard was to get it done. I love the different color in the middle, it probably gives more flavor..I would also agree with Lizzy if you haven’t opened up and told us,I would never thought that anything is wrong with your cake..anyhow I still think it is pretty good looking cake!

  4. Great job on only your second ever layer cake, Audra! Hope to see many more improvements and successes as you continue to learn, but this is far better of a job than I could have ever done, hah! I think it’s so comendable that even though it didn’t turn out exactly like you wanted, you shared it anyway. We are ALL human and have just as many failures and triumphs in the kitchen… even though I consider your cake a triumph! :)

  5. I don’t bake a lot of cakes either and there is always issues when I do. It is always far from perfect when I attempt a cake. Yours looks amazing and sounds delicious.

  6. Of course I think it looks amazing but.. try frosting each layer and put them in freezer for 15 min or so (un-assembled!) and they will harden up enough to stack and frost the outside :)

  7. Well I have learned something from this.I have never had a filling spill out but now I can see that the possibility exists. This may be the reason why recipes do instruct to slice the layers in half before filling. I am not an expert either, but your cake does look lovely in spite of the missing lemon curd.

  8. First off, the cake looks AMAZING! But Kudos to you for being honest and pointing out what may have went wrong….that makes this a PERFECT post!

  9. Looks like a great cake to me! One tip (I am no expert though!) – pipe a line of frosting on the outside edge of the cake before you put in the filling. It helps to block it from oozing out the sides.

  10. Hi! Your cake looks delicious!! I can’t wait to try it. To make frosting the cake easier put the pieces in the freezer for 15-20mins. Helps with the crumbs and the cake looking more finished. Do a thin layer of frosting around the cake first. Let is set up at room temp or stick in the fridg / freezer for a few mins. Then finish frosting. Makes a huge difference. Another option with the filling is to scoop some of the center out of the bottom cake so it pools a bit. Almost like the big top cupcakes ( see them on tv sometimes). Hope that helps a little and have fun!

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