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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.
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 12 people
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
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

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  1. 5 stars
    I have a question. I need to know if this cake recipe can be doubled and put in a 12×18 square pan–still baking 3 layers. I LOVE this recipe, and so does my family every time I make it. It will be my grandfather’s 101st birthday, and I want to make a huge one for 40 guests. Please let me know if you can! Otherwise, KEEP THE YUMMINESS COMING! I love your recipes!!!

    1. Hey Ruby–that’s a great question. And my answer is going to be a little complicated. Whenever you bake, it’s not like “cooking” in that you can just double ingredients and you’re good to go. Because baking is science and specific, sometimes when you double or triple a recipe the whole thing can just go straight down the toilet–some recipes just cannot be multiplied with success. And because I’ve never made this for such a large crowd, I can’t tell you what might happen. I’d think that yes, it’s possible and will work. Just don’t shoot me if you end up with a giant science experiment–it’s such an expensive cake to make I sincerely hope it behaves for you. I say try it. And I love that you love the recipes!!! Let me know how it turns out, okay? I’ll wait with baited breath. 😉 –Rachel

    2. It worked! But, not the way I planned. I ended up having to make 3 separate cakes, each 12×18. I used a single recipe for each sheet, but after that, it was easy. I kept the oven at 350, and baked each for exactly 28 minutes. Then, I made a quadruple batch of frosting so that I could have a little extra for each layer, the surface, and decorative touches. It came out fantastic. I also carried a sprinkle of toasted coconut to the top and added it with the pecans because I realized that in cutting a square cake, not everyone would get a piece with the coconut.–Ruby
      P.S. This was my “practice” cake which I am donating to my son’s school tomorrow for the teachers’ lunch. 🙂

    3. Well Ruby those teachers are going to love you for that. 😉 You’re awesome! And I like your approach. That’s what I would have done. I’m glad it’s going to work for the birthday party! Write me back and tell me alllllll about the compliments. –Rachel

  2. It is in the oven. Then I read the next step that said to toast coconut and I’m like WHAT! I put all the coconut in the batter. I will see what happens

    1. Haha! Yeah, Tina step #1 is to always read a recipe all the way through at least once. And girl I have done the same thing so many times–get halfway through something and realized I did something crazy. And you’re cake is probably just fine–a little more coconut in the batter than what should be there, and the texture may be a bit different but it will still taste great. 🙂 Live and learn, right? I’ll try to clarify that the coconut needs to be divided so maybe it won’t trip anyone else up. Thanks for your comment! –Rachel

  3. 5 stars
    I made this today! It turned out perfect and tasted just as good as I was hoping. It was my first attempt at a cake in over ten years. Thanks for the great recipe and instructions!

  4. Hi Rachel, I’m planning to make this beautiful cake for someone’s birthday in a couple of weeks and I’ve been researching Italian Cream Cake recipes for a few months. I’ve recently stumbled across this one revipe I’m excited and nervous at the same time about making this decadent creation. I will definitely share how it turned out, I hope I do you proud…☺

    1. Well Goldie I am so honored that after months of research you are choosing mine! Please don’t be nervous and ASK ME ANYTHING. I’ll be glad to help you make the best cake ever. A few tips: some people say they don’t have enough frosting based on my recipe. I think it’s plenty of frosting but you might want to make double just in case. It’s a fairly light cake when it’s baked, so keep an eye on the cakes in the oven. Cook for the shortest amount of time and check them every 2 to 3 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let me know how else I can help, okay? –Rachel

  5. 1 star
    been baking for 25 plus years. followed directions exactly. cake was pretty much tasteless. only thing i could taste was pecans
    icing recipe was for 3 cupcakes certainly not an entire cake. very disappointed

    1. Oh goodness Heather. I’m so sorry you feel that way! If you’ve never made this cake before, it might help to know that Italian Cream Cakes aren’t made for big bold flavors. I always taste the coconut, and the pecans and the cream cheese but the cake itself is very mild in flavor. And 3 cupcakes? LOL–I guess it depends on how thick you like your frosting. The picture of the cake you see in the post is the exact same amount of frosting the recipe makes. You could always double the frosting recipe if you want it really thick. To me this cake is so sweet, I like a little less frosting. I hate to see that one star rating, but maybe your opinion will help someone else. –Rachel

  6. 5 stars
    I made the cake which was delicious It was to much cake for 2 people so I cut it in half and wrapped good an froze it took it to my daughters a week later thawed in the refrigerator they was no change in texture or taste it froze beautifully

    1. Thats wonderful Lill! Thank you for letting us all know. I know some people have asked about freezing the finished cake and while I felt sure that the cake itself would freeze fine, I wasn’t sure about the frosting. So you’ve answered that for us. And I can’t IMAGINE two people being able to eat that cake! For sure it’s a 8-10 person kind of thing. 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment. –Rachel

  7. I feel like 1 lb. of confectioner’s sugar would make the icing very sweet. Can I reduce the amount of sugar, or is the icing okay as it is?

    1. Hey Abby, I know–it’s a ton of sugar. And you’re fine to reduce it as long as it’s firm enough to spread and not slide off. Start with half and then add more as needed until the texture and sweetness is enough for you. I reduce the sugar a lot myself. Those super sweet cakes really make my head spin! –Rachel

    1. Hey Pam, Splenda can be a little tricky in baked goods. Regular Splenda won’t let the cake rise. So that’s not good. Splenda Blend does work okay, you just have to use half as much. And I hear that Splenda has a bit of an aftertaste and in a cake with mild flavors like this one, you may notice a difference. It’s up to you though–you’d be welcome to try it with the blend and see how it works! Thanks for your question–Rachel

    1. Hi! I freeze the unfrosted cake with no problems at all, but I don’t usually recommend freezing the finished cake, with the frosting. To freeze the cake layers, I wrap them in two layers of plastic wrap then aluminum foil and when I want to thaw them I just leave them on the counter for a couple of hours still in the plastic wrap :). Easy. I hope that helps! Thanks, Rachel

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.