Italian Cream Cake

One of my co-workers asked me to make this cake for her Thanksgiving dinner, so I thought I might as well make one for our Thanksgiving dinner, too. After going through many, many recipes, I settled on this one at Southern Living.

Anti-coconut Quinn turned up his nose, but I soldiered on, knowing that there were still other desserts to be made. (More on that as I further recover from Thanksgiving.) As I described this cake to him – coconut, cream cheese, pecans – he asked in mock seriousness if this cake had been actually created just for me. It very well may have been. Seriously, if you could work in some chocolate somehow, this would be essentially my favorite dessert.

As it is, it’s pretty high on my list. I think I could just eat the frosting by itself. The cake itself is very dense. To me, the coconut flavor is not very dominant. The frosting was easy to whip up, and there was just enough to frost the cake. I am normally intimidated by frosting cakes, but this frosting is very forgiving. And very good. Did I mention that already?

One little tip. The cake batter needs to be divided into three cake layers. To do this, weigh your mixing bowl while it is empty. Then, once your batter is made, weigh again. Subtract the weight of the empty bowl and divide the remainder by three. Place one of your prepared cake pans on your scale and zero the weight. Weigh out your calculated amount of batter. Then, you can have equal amounts of batter for each layer. Not only does this satisfy my inner perfectionist, but the cake layers will be the same size and will bake the same, making quite the lovely cake. And, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, pick one up as soon as possible. You’ll never understand how you baked without it.

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

Italian Cream Cake

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Italian Cream Cake


For the cake:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (85g) sweetened flaked coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (120g) chopped pecans
  • 8 ounces (226g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (454g) confectioners' sugar, sifted


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Whisk together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of the buttermilk. Stir in the coconut.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Then, remove from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting:

  1. Toast the pecans in a shallow baking pan at 350° for 5-10 minutes, or until toasted and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat at low speed until blended. Then, increase mixer speed to high and beat until smooth. Stir in the pecans.
  3. Stack the cake layers, spreading the frosting between the cooled cake layers and on the top and sides of cake.


Recipe slightly adapted from Southern Living.

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