Thursday, July 14, 2011

Italian Cream Cake

Necessary Background Information: I've always been a chocolate girl by inclination.  Not chocolate candy as much, though - just chocolate baked goods.  If a dessert has chocolate in it, it gets preference over the others.  I get chocolate cake cravings on a regular basis, and sometimes all I want in life is a jar of Nutella and some pretzels to dunk into it. 

This coming weekend is my birthday, and it's a big one - my 21st!
Since my birthday's in the middle of the summer, and Virginia's not known for amazingly mild summers, I've had store-bought cake or ice cream cake (all chocolate of course) for the vast majority of my birthdays.  Last year I made my own cake (and what a cake that was!) but this year, I really wanted a homemade cake that I didn't have to bake myself.  My mom volunteered and had me choose exactly what I wanted.

Wonder of wonders: I chose something with no chocolate in it!
And what a fantastic choice that was.

As she was making the cake, my mom told me the story of a family vacation she took in Texas.  For most of the trip, she felt awful, and the only thing she could stomach was this Italian Cream Cake.
So she had it for three meals a day.
Not like she would ever let me get away with that, but it was a cute and envy-inspiring story.  And after tasting the cake, I fully understand why.

This is the most addictive cake I've ever tasted.

Three layers of moist vanilla buttermilk cake are held together by thick layers of vanilla cream cheese frosting, and all of the above are chock full of chopped pecans and angel flake coconut.  It's both light and satisfying, and no matter your sugar tolerance or flavor preference it's just plain amazing - my best friend can't usually finish a full slice of layer cake, and my dad doesn't like coconut...and both of them adore this cake.  I could easily eat this cake for three meals a day.

Not that I will.

I just could.

See?  The cake even wants to eat itself!

Italian Cream Cake
Source: my mother's Aunt Sis

For the cake:
5 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:
8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb (approximately 4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Grease and flour three 9" round cake pans.
Separate the eggs.  Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until smooth and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the egg yolks and beat the mixture till well-combined.
Sift together the flour and baking soda.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk and mix until everything is combined and smooth.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.  Stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.
Divide the batter evenly between the three cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning the cakes out onto racks to cool the rest of the way.
To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add the powdered sugar.  Once combined, beat on medium-high speed for around 1 minute.  Beat in the vanilla, then stir in the coconut and pecans.
To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake plate or cardboard cake circle.  Frost the top of the layer with a generous amount of the frosting and place a second layer on top of the first.  Repeat with the second and third layers.  Frost the top and sides of the entire cake generously.  Enjoy!

**NOTE: This frosting recipe makes just enough to fill and frost the cake.  We ended up making an extra half recipe, and I highly recommend you do the same.  The frosting's WAY too good to skimp on it :)


  1. YUMMY! What a cute story! Family recipes that have history are the best. Nothing can replace the time spent in the kitchen talking and cooking with people you love.

    Happy 21st! I hope you had a great time!

  2. Such a great post!!
    I will have to try this one - I will call it: Fattorini Italian Cream Cake!
    Oh! and check out Smitten Kitchen's blog...lotsa stuff that seem up your alley... Happy summer!