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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.
4.69 from 32 votes
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 917kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


  • 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


  • 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. 


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


Calories: 917kcal
Recipe Rating


Thursday 23rd of December 2021

My fave cake and the first made completely from scratch. Followed recipe exactly. The frosting works perfectly on any cake, even if you add 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and is now my go to frosting recipe.


Saturday 18th of December 2021

Made it again (3rd time) for a special someone. Took the advice posted in comments about using coconut oil vs. shortening and glad I did. Turned out great and everyone loved it! Tried to add a picture of the cake but I couldn't add it in the comments. Just wondering, what is the story behind the woman that gave you the recipe? Thanks again!

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 21st of December 2021

It's great to cut shortening from your life Leslie and that extra coconut flavor is perfect here! The story behind the woman...she's my aunt. She's pushing 80 these days. It was just a cake she made at Christmas and I fell in love with it as a little girl and it eventually became "my" cake at the holidays. --Rachel


Wednesday 15th of December 2021

Sounds like what I’m looking for. I’ve eaten it several times but never made it. A yummy cake that you don’t count calories bc it’s Christmas! I gotta try it. Thanks for the recipe.

Nicole Willis

Saturday 13th of November 2021

I am really excited to try this cake! But I was waiting for an “Occasion” (as I don’t trust my husband and myself not to eat the whole thing while watching King of the Hill reruns). So a girlfriend has a birthday party next week, and it seems the time has come, hallelujah! But I heard she started doing gluten free, and I wondered if you (or anyone you know of) has tried this with gluten free flour? I tried to read through the comments, but there are a lot of them! So I thought I would just ask.


Sunday 5th of December 2021

@Rachel Ballard, can I use buttermilk or do I need whole milk?

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 13th of November 2021

That's a great question Nicole and I don't think you'd find any answers in the comments because I don't think anyone ever asked about this particular cake before! It's tricky to say for sure because I've never tested this recipe GF, but I think it will work. The trick is that this cake is already quite delicate even with gluten in it for structure. So I'd recommend using parchment paper in the bottom so it doesn't stick and it's less likely to crumble when you take it out of the pan. Then handle it gently. I'd recommend using King Arthur's 1:1 Baking Blend for your flour. I've made a few cakes with it and they are just as good as traditional. You may want to thin your frosting a bit as well with a couple of tablespoons of milk so it's still spreadable but not drippy--that will help you not tug at the cake and tear it when frosting. You can freeze the layers before frosting as well and that will help prevent breakage. :)

I hope it turns out well for you. It's so delicious! --Rachel

Jacqueline Marino

Sunday 7th of November 2021

I made cupcakes out of this recipe for a bake sale - they tasted amazing and were a huge hit!!!

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 9th of November 2021

Oh great to know Jacqueline!

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