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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. Veronique I am working on that! I thought I had the recipes all set with a conversion button but it doesn’t seem to be working. Check back in a day or two. There should be an option to change the recipe to metric right where you find the servings, cook time, etc in the recipe area. I’ll keep tweaking that! –Rachel

    1. Hi Cheryl, do you mean a 9×13? Yes you certainly can make it that way but I never have. You could check out information for converting it to a sheet pan online but my best suggestion is to just start checking it after 15 minutes and check it every five until a toothpick comes out clean. Just keep an eye on it. –Rachel

    1. Hi Alysha, I’ve never been a high altitude baker, so I’m sorry I don’t know all of the requirements. I know they vary depending on your exact altitude. You’d probably want to look up some general suggestions. I know liquid amounts and baking times do have to be adjusted. Sorry I’m not more help. –Rachel

  1. 5 stars
    Hello, I’m eager to make this, but I don’t like flaked coconut. I like coconut flavor. Can I substitute something for the coconut in the cake?

    1. Hey Tania, sorry but no, not in this case. The coconut is partially responsible not just for flavor here but also for texture of the cake itself. I’d say you may need to find a different recipe. It just won’t be the same. –Rachel

    1. Shredded coconut. It’s actually 2 cups since there’s technically supposed to be 8 ounces in a cup. You’re welcome to weigh your coconut if you’d would prefer, that works too. 🙂

  2. I’d like to make this for a wedding reception that we’ll travel for. How far in advance can this be made? Does it need to be refrigerated? Thank you!

    1. Hey Lacy, I think two to three days is fine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be refrigerated, but the flavor is best if it can get a day or two in the fridge before you’re ready to serve it. If you plan to haul it in the hot car several hours away you may melt your frosting off, so plan accordingly but it can easily set out the day of the event and be fine. Don’t forget to line those cake tins with some parchment paper. I find it really helps the delicate cake come out without tearing. Let me know if you have any other questions. –Rachel

  3. It looks absolutely beautiful, I was wondering if there is an icing without cream cheese. Maybe a buttercream.

    1. Hey Stephanie, sorry for my slow reply. I think in this case you need some sort of frosting with a bit of tang. The cream cheese really balances out the sweetness of the coconut and the subtle cake flavor so I’d be afraid that putting a buttercream on it might end up being cloyingly sweet. If you enjoy mascarpone buttercream, or maybe even a buttercream flavored with almond or rum, that might help bring some zing in to it. Let me know if you try a different version and how it turns out, okay? –Rachel

  4. Hello! I was just wondering what, if any, alterations might be needed to bake these in 4” cake pans? I understand that it is meant to be a layer cake but I wanted to try making smaller cakes that I could cut in half and frost as instructed. Thanks for any input!

    1. Hey Brett, you know, when you change the size of the pan from the recommended, any variety of things can happen but of course the bake time is going to be much shorter. You’ll need several 4 inch pans too–maybe 8 of them–to bake the entire cake so keep that in mind as well. Just keep an eye on them in the oven and take them out when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Good luck! –Rachel

    1. Hey Denise, You can check out a chart like this one: http://dish.allrecipes.com/cake-pan-size-conversions/ but basically use the same oven temperature, and you’ll just have to check it frequently until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. I can’t tell you for sure because I’ve never made it in a bundt pan. It’s meant to be a layer cake so that’s the way I go. I’d guess it may need 35 to 40 minutes but I’d start checking it at 30 and see how it goes from there. –Rachel

  5. 5 stars
    This was absolutely everything I wanted it to be!!! Amazing!!! Perfection! Thank you!!! Wonderful recipe. I doubled the icing

    1. Thank you Ramona! I am so glad you enjoyed it. It’s certainly a special occasion treat, isn’t it? And double the frosting sounds good to me! I hope you enjoy the leftovers (if there are any) it’s been my favorite cake for years and years. –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.