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Italian Cream Cake Recipe

All good bakers, let’s have a moment of silence for the Italian cream cake’s awesomeness. All new bakers, join in too because you’ll be a pro once you get this baby on your table and enjoy the cheers (and empty plates) it brings. 

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Italian cream cake is southern enough to make you say "honey","y'all" and "I do declare this is good!" without giving it a second thought. A true showstopper for any special occasion. This cake is a wow-er. A wow-zer. A “what in the world did you do there?” kind of thing.  And you’ll see why it should only be made for special occasions when you get to the ingredients.

It would kill you if you ate it more than that.

All I can do is recommend that you just close your eyes and eat it and don’t think about the calories. Why ruin such a good thing?

I know this isn’t truly the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted. But I hope you’ll stay with me on it. Every once in awhile we have those times when we need something amazing. And this is just the thing.

If you’re new to baking, I believe you can do this. See below for some links to helpful videos for how to work with egg whites if you’ve never done that. And of course, if you have ANY questions at all, I’m only an email or a comment away.

italian cream cake on a glass cake plate

Now warning: this cake has coconut and pecans. If you don’t like those, don’t make this because it won’t be the same cake. You could, possibly, sub the pecans for walnuts I guess…

But if you make it according to the instructions, sit back and enjoy. This cake is rich, but not overly sweet. It’s dense, but it’s moist at the same time.

A couple of tips to keep in mind about your Italian cream cake:

Remember to separate the eggs, then whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.(Check this helpful little snippet if you’re not sure how. Or take a look at my ultra helpful post on everything you need to know to bake cakes like an old Southern woman. 

FOLD in your egg whites to keep as much air in the batter as possible. If you don’t know how to fold, you can watch this video–nothing like a random YouTube guy to get your lesson from. Maybe one of these days you’ll get a lesson from me.

This recipe takes  a few most of the bowls in your kitchen. Sorry about that. And the calories? Well, this just isn’t something you should eat when you’re counting.  I just wanted to warn you.

A note on the frosting: If you want a thick frosting, make a double batch. I find a thin skim is plenty on this ultra-rich cake, so plan accordingly if you want more. If your frosting is thick, feel free to thin it slightly with one teaspoon at a time of milk if it’s hard to spread. 

a slice of italian cream cake being lifted from the main

Italian Cream Cake

Rich, sweet and an amazing showstopper for any event, this cake is made totally from scratch.
4.7 from 26 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 917kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 6 egg whites beaten to stiff peaks

For the frosting

  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350. 
  • Grease and flour 3 8-inch cake pans. Set aside. 
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and shortening until smooth. Add the sugar and beat well.  
  • Add the egg yolks and mix well. 
  • Sift the flour and add into the sugar and butter mixture one-third at a time, alternating with the milk. 
  • Stir in the vanilla, 1 cup of coconut and the pecans.
  • Fold in the egg whites carefully until no pockets remain.
  • Divide evenly between the three prepared pans. 
  • Bake 25 minutes and turn out to a wire rack to cool completely
  • While the cakes bake, sprinkle one cup of coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven alongside your cakes until brown and nutty, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir it every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. Then set aside to cool 

For the frosting:

  • Cream the butter and cream cheese until well mixed. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until well combined. 
    Spread between layers of cake and on top and sides. 
    Use your hands to press the toasted coconut all around the sides. 
    Sprinkle pecans over the top. 

Notes

If you like your frosting very thick, it’s fine to make a double batch. 

Nutrition

Calories: 917kcal
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Recipe Rating




Crystal

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

Hi Rachel! I'm not necessarily "new" to this cake as I've attempted it several times over the years. I say (attempted) though because, every time myself & my mother have made it, it FALLS terribly in the center if using a 9x13 pan, ALWAYS?! Can you advise us on the reason for this please & the best method to avoid it if possible, because regardless of the cake still tasting delightful, the icing is off naturally with less cake in the middle & the appearance is also less than beautiful as you can imagine! It's always gobbled down HOWEVER due to the fact that even if it's ugly- IT'S STILL A SLICE OF HEAVEN. Many thanks for sharing your experience & expertise here!

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 15th of October 2020

Hey Crystal,

The most common reason that cakes sink in the center is because of an acidity issue within the batter. Typically, too much baking soda. However, if you've used this recipe in the past in the standard 8 or 9 inch round pans and they haven't sunk (they don't sink for me), the issue lies with the size and temperature when baking one large cake. Temperature of the oven, how much you've opened the oven door during baking, and heat distribution through the batter itself can cause the cake to sink. This recipe was written for 8 or 9 inch round pans and not for a 9 by 13, so it's not as simple as just using a different pan with the same temperature and bake time.

Check out this post for more details and see if you can figure out what the difference is in your kitchen: https://whatsarahbakes.com/baking-secrets/problems-and-solutions-baking-secrets/why-did-my-cake-sink/

I also highly recommend using a separate thermometer to double check the accuracy of your oven's temperature when you do a lot of baking. It's really helpful. Very good luck! --Rachel

Hannah

Saturday 1st of August 2020

Im curious if I can sub the veg. shortening for something. Its not something I keep on hand I would love to avoid buying some just for this. :)

Linda Nell Benson

Sunday 11th of October 2020

The long and short of it is that coconut oil substitution is fabulous! And I learned more about coconut oil in my experiment. I searched through the many recipes for the perfect Italian Creme Cake online, and for comments about coconut oil substitution. This is the only one I could find that makes any mention of it, per this comment and response. Upon examining the product in my pantry — an organic semi-solid coconut oil, I was at first dismayed to find it "unrefined" considering Rachel's reply, however, the fragrance of the product was heavenly and the quality was lovely, so in it went, as an experiment. I found that it was PERFECT! It will be my permanent substitution for "vegetable shortening" since my aim in cooking is to eliminate all hydrogenated, trans-fat products. The fact that the cake already contains delicious coconut is only enhanced by the slightly deeper coconut flavor of the unrefined product — not a negative in this case. The added bonus is a healthier, whole-food choice in which beneficial components removed from the product by refining are retained in the wet-milling process that extracts oil in the unrefined product. "When coconut oil is refined, the baking and bleaching reduces the number of polyphenols and medium-chain fatty acids available.

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 5th of August 2020

Hey Hannah, I've never tested this without the shortening (even though it's a terribly unhealthy ingredient!) but I'd think refined coconut oil would work. NOT unrefined, but refined. --Rachel

Eva Lee Kingsolver

Monday 20th of July 2020

My husband wanted this cake last July for his 91st birthday He and the family loved it. This year as we socially distance it will be just the two of us. Does it freeze well? Plans are to surprise him with it tomorrow.

Eva Lee

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

The cake turned out as expected. Before receiving your reply, I placed slices on dry waxed paper in individual sandwich bags for the freezer. Now he can have a little cake celebration for many days.

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Hello Eva, yes it does freeze well! I've done it and it's easy. Just leave it out to thaw for 24 hours if possible before enjoying it again. --Rachel

Dawn

Sunday 12th of July 2020

I have a question about baking the cakes. As you can probably tell I am not an expert at baking cakes but always wondered if the three separate baking form can be placed in the oven at the same time. And if so would it work in any oven? I have a gas oven and I think when I tried doing this it didn’t bake properly.

Rachel Ballard

Monday 13th of July 2020

Hey Dawn,

I'm glad to help. With cakes, you do want to get them all in the oven at the same time if you can. That's because the baking powder/soda is going to start rising immediately and you don't want that happening on your counter while you wait on another cake to bake. You want that power in your oven so your cakes are light and fluffy. As for the next question, yes cakes work in every type of oven. I have gas also and it's good to know that all ovens are cooler toward the front and hotter toward the back. That means you need to rotate those pans during cooking. Bring the back ones forward and the forward ones backward and also rotate them in a circular fashion so they don't get too dark on one side or the other.

I hope that helps. --Rachel

Kristen

Saturday 6th of June 2020

Love this recipe!! My mom is usually the one making Italian Cream Cakes but I thought I would give it a shot on my own. Mine turned out 10 times better thanks to you. Oh and I used Duck eggs and it was super fluffy and moist. My son requested I make it again for his birthday. Lol Many thanks and God bless!

Allison

Monday 15th of June 2020

Hey Rachel,

I love making 6 inch cakes. Would be able to advise how full to fill the pans if mine are 6 inch instead of 8? Of perhaps you have this recipe in cupcake form? That tends to be the right portions for a 6 inch.

Rachel Ballard

Monday 8th of June 2020

Wonderful Kristen! I'm so glad to hear you liked it and yay for those duck eggs. :) --Rachel