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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
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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

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




Pam

Sunday 21st of February 2021

I'm not a big cream cheese icing fan. Can you suggest another icing to be used?

Rachel Ballard

Monday 22nd of February 2021

Hey Pam, Eh...this cake is defined by a specific icing. It's part of what makes it what it is. I would never swap it but if you don't mind not eating it with the full flavor it's intended to have you could try a basic buttercream on it. I just think you'll be pretty underwhelmed with the overall flavor since the cake itself is very subtle. --Rachel

Heidi Yanover

Friday 19th of February 2021

Hi Rachel, your recipe for the Italian Cream Cake sounds divine!! Can the self rising flour be substituted for all purpose or cake flour? Can’t wait to try!! Thank you, Heidi

Rachel Ballard

Friday 19th of February 2021

You'll need to add baking powder and salt if you use all purpose flour Heidi. You can check out my recipe for how to make self rising flour here on the site. --Rachel

Leslie

Thursday 17th of December 2020

Made this again (for the third time) and it turned out great! It is now a yearly request for a certain someone. It's all he wants for his birthday! Also made one, packed it well, and off to Panama City Beach, FL last January for my sister's birthday. Thanks again for sharing!

Rachel Ballard

Thursday 17th of December 2020

Leslie you are one brave woman to mail a cake! I'm so glad it makes you happy and that everybody enjoys it. It's always been one of my favorites too.

Lesa

Monday 14th of December 2020

I made this cake last week and it turned out fantastic! It was so good I shared it with my family. Big mistake! Now I have to bake 4 this week for them. ? Love it! Thanks for the recipe

Rachel Ballard

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

Oh you're in for it now! This cake has always been a hit everywhere it goes. I'm so glad you enjoy it. --Rachel

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