Italian Cream Cake
With three sweet, dense layers of coconut cake and a decadent cream cheese frosting, this Italian Cream Cake makes a spectacular dessert! It’s worthy of any celebration.
I truly swooned with my first bite of this Coconut Cake. Other versions have been tasty, but this recipe is out of this world! Plus this is a nut-free version, but feel free to add some pecans if that’s your preference!
Why You Must Make
I had my first taste of Italian Cream Cake a few years back. Tasty, but not memorable. One bite of this latest version and I knew I needed the recipe ASAP. I’m a huge fan of a classic Coconut Cake, but this one was something special.
- Was it the absence of nuts, the extremely moist cake, or the fluffy cream cheese frosting that sold me? It was a combination of all three!
- A THREE layer cake makes an impression. Whether for a birthday, a holiday, or any celebration, jaws will drop when you bring this towering cake to the table!
- My personal experience was after a filling gourmet dinner club meal. I tried to resist eating the whole slice, but in reality, I had to hold myself back from licking the plate. So rich and delicious.
- Check your stock of pantry and refrigerator staples: Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Baking Soda, Salt, Flour, Vanilla, Powdered Sugar
- Shortening – as mentioned above, it contributes to the lovely texture of this cake
- Buttermilk – adds moisture to the cake. PRO-Tip: If you don’t have any buttermilk, put a tablespoon of either lemon juice or a neutral-flavored vinegar into a 1 cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring up to the 1 cup mark. Mix and let sit for a few minutes before using.
- Sweetened coconut flakes – I use Angelflake brand
- Vanilla – use real vanilla extract, never imitation
- Powdered Sugar – Sift first for the smoothest frosting
- Cream Cheese – Bring to room temperature for the smoothest frosting
I find that buttermilk is one of the secrets to an outrageously moist and tender cake. These Coconut Cupcakes have been a perennial favorite of mine, and I swear using buttermilk is key to their deliciousness.
Between the addition of buttermilk and alternately adding wet and dry ingredients, this method practically guarantees a spectacular dessert. Plus 3 layer cakes just can’t help but be impressive!
- PRO-Tip: Use room temperature ingredients, especially the eggs, butter, and cream cheese so they will incorporate more easily.
- Cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening very well before adding any other ingredients.
- Fold in the egg whites with a spatula, not your mixer. Folding is a technique to help lighten the batter with egg whites. If you deflate the egg whites, the batter will be too dense.
- PRO-Tip: After dividing the batter between your 3 pans, weigh them with a kitchen scale. This ensures there is approximately the same amount in each pan.
- Test the cakes for doneness before pulling them out of the oven. Use a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake. When the cake is done, it will come out clean. If you’re unsure, you can always use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the center is up to 210 degrees (according to (affiliate link)Bake from Scratch Magazine).
- Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a cooling rack. Any longer and the cake may not come out in one piece.
I took this 3-layer coconut cake to my book club dinner last week and my girlfriends responded with the same swoons that I had with my initial taste. I upped the ante and made a batch and a half of the frosting (the recipe reflects a single batch), so this made an extremely rich cake even more decadent. With a luscious batter full of coconut and two layers of cream cheese buttercream, this is one show-stopper of a cake.
- PRO-Tip: Use room temperature ingredients, especially eggs, butter, and cream cheese.
- PRO-Tip: This is a nut-free Italian Cream Cake but you can add a cup of chopped, toasted pecans to the batter if that’s your jam.
- Toasting the nuts for about 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees will bring out their essential oils and enhance their flavor. Watch carefully and stir a few times as they can burn easily.
- I’d also use some pecan halves to garnish (in lieu of the coconut I placed on top of the cake) to give a preview of what’s inside the sliced cake.
- A ring of coconut flakes (affiliate link) over the top was a hint to what was beneath the frosting.
- Don’t be put off by the shortening in this recipe. Most of my cakes and cookies have only butter used for the fat. But there are some advantages to using part butter and part shortening. The butter provides a lovely flavor, but when shortening is creamed with sugar, it makes a tender, lofty, light crumb according to King Arthur Flour’s website.
- PRO-Tip: Make a batch and a half of frosting if you love cream cheese frosting. I always do!
Frequently Asked Questions
Apparently, there may be ties to Renaissance Italy, but there was no written recipe for this coconut cake until the early 1900s. The first known recipe was from Canada then a version was published in Plano, Texas, in 1937. This cake seems to have more Southern roots than Italian!
Yes, a cake with cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days as long as the cut surfaces are covered with plastic wrap.
PRO-Tip: Bring the cake out of the fridge and let it warm up at room temperature for about an hour before you plan to serve it. This gives the frosting a chance to soften and get creamier.
Yes, it freezes well for up to 3 months. Just make sure to wrap it airtight before freezing. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Pro-Tip: So your plastic wrap doesn’t get stuck to the frosting, you may want to put the unwrapped cake in the freezer for a couple of hours so the frosting gets hard. Then wrap and freeze until you’re ready to eat it. Remove the plastic before defrosting.
Or just freeze the unfrosted cakes ahead of time, defrost, make the frosting, and ice a day or so before serving.
You May Also Like:
- Coconut Cheesecake Bars Recipe from Crunchy Creamy Sweet provides relief for my coconut and cheesecake cravings
- Coconut Cupcakes – one of my favorite coconut treats!
- Pistachio Coconut Granola is a yummy way to start the day
- Coconut Crusted Chocolate Ganache Pie with only FOUR ingredients! So rich and easy with a coconut crust and a chocolate ganache filling
- White Chocolate Coconut Truffles is another dreamy four-ingredient recipe
- Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
- Mounds Bar Recipe
- More Dessert Recipes
- More Cake Recipes
Italian Cream Cake Recipe
A spectacular three layer coconut cake with fluffy cream cheese frosting
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups flour, sifted (measure, then sift)
- 1 cup sweetened coconut (I used angel flake)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For frosting (I made an extra half batch of this recipe for a thicker layer of frosting):
- 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 vanilla
- 1 cup pecans, chopped, optional (I did not use)
- Milk, to thin frosting
- Coconut, to garnish, if desired
- Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour 3 8-inch baking pans or spray with flour and oil baking spray like Baker's Joy. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together sugar, butter, and shortening. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Whisk together flour and salt. Dissolve baking soda in the buttermilk and add alternately with flour mixture to batter. Add coconut and mix to combine.
- Beat egg whites till stiff. Fold into batter, then add vanilla.
- Divide batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to wire racks to finish cooling.
- Make frosting. Mix butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and nuts, if using. Drizzle in a little milk till frosting is a good spreading consistency. Frost between layers. Sprinkle top with more coconut, if desired.
Total time does not include cooling time.
For better coverage, make an extra half batch of the frosting.
This recipe is adapted from Southern Living
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 834Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 415mgCarbohydrates: 119gFiber: 3gSugar: 98gProtein: 12g
84 Comments on “Italian Cream Cake”
Made thia fo dear hubby’s bday and he loved it!!! Thank You for this amazing recipe!
So glad this was a hit! It’s one of my favorite cakes and perfect for a birthday celebration!!!
SO glad he enjoyed, Robin! I need someone to make it for MY birthday 🙂
Of course I’ll make a batch and a half of the frosting — in fact probably double! What a beautiful dessert this is. Seems like a fantastic celebration cake! 🙂 ~Valentina
Wow. This looks incredible — rich, moist, flavorful. I don’t care where it’s from — I just want some!
Do you have a waiting list for your bookclub? I would think that if everyone knew what was served there would be. Your baking is always a showstopper.
Italian Cream Cake is simply one of the top cakes of all time! I enjoyed reading your tips; I can always incorporate better practices to improve with. Welcome back from your mountain sojourn with all of the Crawford buddies! What a special treasure to have throughout your lives! I envy you! Liz, I love your new layout. Lots of options! Well done!
This cake is DELICIOUS! It’s one of my favorite recipes to prepare.
Thanks, Margaret!!! I feel the same way about it. xo
Italian or not, I’m already in love with it ! xo
That’s a very beautiful layered cake! I love how tender and smooth the crumb of cake is and the cream cheese frosting is perfect.
I have to make this with no nuts and no coconut because of a family member. Do I have to adjust anything in this recipe or will it be okay with out the added ingredients. Thanks.
It should be fine without! Hope you enjoy, Marlene!
This looks amazing! Italian Cream cake is one of my favorites and I cannot wait to make this.
Italian Cream Cake is one of our favorites and I haven’t made it since 2000 when I baked one for a ‘cake walk’ for one of my kids’ school events. Fantastic recipe, Liz!
This is such a fabulous cake – I love coconut and cream and layer cakes and I am certain that I would be thrilled to eat a nice slice of your beauty of a cake alongside my afternoon cup of tea!
This is certainly a cake that will impress family, friends and all thos cake lovery out there!
Absolutely fabulous! xoxo
Dear Liz, what a beauty of a cake! It sounds utterly delicious, it looks totally elegant and your presentation is picture perfect. I am a fan of coconut and cream and of layer cakes and I know that I would love this one. Perhaps a nice slice with that afternoon cup of tea?!
A recipe that is certain to impress family, friends and all those cake lovers out there. Simply fabulous! xoxo
What an outstanding cake, absolutely gorgeous! It’ll have to wait until the summer when we’ve hit our goals but I’m definitely bookmarking for the future.
Dear Lizzy this sounds and looks absolutely wonderful !!
Hugs and love !