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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 planning to make this cake this weekend for my mother’s 50th bday! Never made this cake before but I’m very excited to try. Can you use butter flavor e shortening?

    1. Hey Leslie, I’m going to recommend that you don’t use butter flavored anything, ever. 😉 Seriously though–in this case I’m afraid of what the cake might taste like if you did. Go for regular.–Rachel

  2. I received a recipe several years ago as a Black Walnut Cake. I made it for a few years and it was well liked by everyone. My aunt ate it and asked if I had ever eaten Italian Cream Cake. I hadn’t but looked up the recipe and lo and behold it is the same recipe only with black walnuts instead of pecans. So your readers and you might like to try it with black walnuts.

    1. Yes Teneal you sure can. It may take a couple of minutes longer to get things mixed but it will work just fine. Just mix until you don’t see any pockets of dry flour and then stop so you don’t make your cake tough. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it! –Rachel

  3. 5 stars
    I made this cake for my granddaughter for her birthday. Turned out just like your picture. Beautiful! She was really pleased. First time I ever tried it. Followed your recipe to a T. Thanks!

    1. Yay!!! I’m glad you followed the recipe Mary! You have no idea how happy that makes me–people get way too creative sometimes. 😉 Isn’t it just a fantastic cake? I’m really glad you made it and that it worked well for you. Thank you for letting me know.–Rachel

  4. Hi there, I am def looking forward to baking this delicious cake for my Dads birthday, and I was wondering if I could use buttermilk or sour cream in place of the milk? If I were to, would I have to alter anything else, or is the flavor of the cake enough as is and I shouldn’t alter anything? Looking forward to hearing from you.

    1. Hey Kristina, I guess my first question is why do you want to swap in those ingredients? Just for more tang? I’m a big buttermilk user and really enjoy it’s flavor but I have to say that unless I’ve tested a recipe with a certain substitution, I don’t recommend you change things. That’s just because baking is a science and when you start making swaps, what comes out of the oven can be pretty unpredictable. Especially since this is for a specific event or celebration. It’s probably not the time to make a change. I’d recommend just leaving it as-is until you have a day to experiment when the pressure is off. 🙂 –Rachel

    2. Yes ma’am just for more tang!! And I will be following the recipe as you have it! Looking forward to trying it!!

  5. I am making this recipe for my company bake-off. So far so good and I’ll let you know if I place. I’m somewhat famous for my baking at work so this will be a test.

    1. Hey Ellen, You know, I have no idea. I would suspect that fresh may have more moisture in it that may affect the texture but you are certainly welcome to try it. Let me know how it works out. 🙂 –Rachel

    1. Hi. You can try it, yes. Sugar in cakes not only adds sweetness but is also part of the rise and texture so adjusting the sugar may change the texture, but you are certainly welcome to try it. –Rachel

  6. Hello Rachel, your responses to everyone are so sweet and informative. You are a kind lady! I have a question…the video shows toasted coconut going into the cake batter, yet the instructions say to toast it along with the cake pans as cakes bake. My question is…do I toast all two cups of coconut in advance so that when I make the cake batter, it is with toasted coconut? Thank you in advance!

    1. Good catch Nicolina, you have to keep your eye on me. I guess the answer is that it doesn’t really matter if the coconut in the cake is toasted or not. The original recipe as it is written does not use toasted in the batter. But I think the day I filmed this I goofed and toasted it all and just went ahead and used it. It works either way. I’d say follow the recipe and use untoasted in the batter and toasted on the outside. But either way is still okay. 🙂 I’ll try to get that cleared up in the recipe just in case it stumps anyone else. –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.