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Italian Cream Cake slice on a white dessert plate with strawberry garnish

Italian Cream Cake

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I truly swooned with my first bite of this Italian Cream Cake. Other versions were nice, but this recipe was out of this world!

Three layers of dense vanilla butter cake chock full of coconut were iced with a decadent cream cheese frosting for a spectacular dessert that’s worthy of a celebration! Plus this is a nut free version, but feel free to add some pecans if that’s your preference!

Italian Cream Cake slice on a white dessert plate

Italian Cream Cake

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? I’d surmise that it was a combination of all three.

This recipe comes from my friend, Sabra, who served it for our dinner club dessert. Full from our gourmet meal, I tried to resist eating the whole slice, when in reality, I had to hold myself back from licking the plate. It was just that exquisite.

Italian Cream Cake

A Dreamy 3 Layer Coconut Cake

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, practically guarantees a spectacular dessert. Plus 3 layer cakes just can’t help but be inpressive!

I took this to my 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 (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.

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. I’d also press 1/2 cup of pecans into the frosting to garnish and give a preview of what’s inside the sliced cake.

A sprinkling of coconut over the top was a hint to what was beneath the frosting. Bill steered clear of the leftovers I brought home. Coconut is just not his thing! But if it is your thing, I guarantee you will adore this Italian Cream Cake.

Italian Cream Cake slice on a white dessert plate with strawberry garnish

A Special Cake for a Birthday Celebration Menu

Today is the birthday of a dear blogger friend, Isabel. Creator of the blog Family Foodie, she is also the brainchild of the wildly successful Sunday Supper Movement. This busy lady needs some pampering on her big day.

Along with a few of my favorite bloggers, we are throwing her a surprise birthday bash. She typically shares savory, dinner worthy recipes, often with a Portuguese flair, but I delved deep into the Family Foodie archives and found a delectable Carrot Pineapple Cake. And her mom, Vo-Vo, has a very famous Cheesecake recipe. Be still my heart. You’ll love both her desserts plus all the celebratory dishes my friends have prepared for the party.

Italian Cream Cake pin

The Birthday Party Line Up:

Join me in celebrating Isabel’s Birthday with all the delicious food and drinks her blogger friends prepared!

Birthday Drinks:

Birthday Appetizers:

Birthday Main Courses:

Birthday Desserts:


Love this recipe? Please consider rating it in the comments below. You can also follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Italian Cream Cake

A spectacular three layer coconut cake with fluffy cream cheese frosting

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Cake, Cupcake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian, American


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups flour, sifted (measure, then sift)
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut (I used angel flake)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For frosting::

  • 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) 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


  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together sugar, butter and shortening. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Dissolve baking soda in the buttermilk and add alternately with flour to batter. Add coconut and mix to combine.
  3. Beat egg whites till stiff. Fold into batter, then add vanilla.
  4. Divide batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or till toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to wire racks to finish cooling.
  6. 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.

More Coconut Recipes You’ll Love:

This Coconut Cream Pie Dip from Belly Full is an easy, yummy way to get your coconut fix, this Coconut Cheesecake Bars Recipe from Crunchy Creamy Sweet provides relief for my coconut and cheesecake cravings, and this Coconut Cream Lush from Amanda’s Cookin’ is calling my name!

Below are a few of my favorite coconut recipes from the blog:

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting on a silver tray

Coconut Cupcakes

I’ve been making these Barefoot Contessa coconut cupcakes for years. The cream cheese frosting pushes these over the top. Be prepared to go back for seconds!Pistachio Coconut Granola in a white cereal bowl

Pistachio Coconut Granola

I love adding coconut to my granola recipe. It adds a delicious sweetness and texture to one of my favorite breakfast dishes. I serve with cold milk and banana slices.

3 white chocolate coconut truffles on a small white plate

White Chocolate Coconut Truffles

With only FOUR ingredients, there’s no excuse not to whip up these coconut truffles! So easy and decadent!

A slice of Coconut Crusted Chocolate Ganache Pie on a white plate with a red handled fork

Coconut Crusted Chocolate Ganache Pie

Another fabulous coconut dessert with only 4 ingredients! And it’s PIE!! Pie with an impossible to resist chocolate ganache filling.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links; view my Disclosure Policy for details. I earn a small percentage from any purchase you make by clicking on these links at no extra cost to you.

65 comments on “Italian Cream Cake”

  1. OMG, now this, this is my idea of heaven! If I could choose any cake in the world it would be a coconut one, it looks amazing:@)

  2. Oh how beautiful this cake is. There’s just something about an all white cake that appeals to me and this one looks delicious . Pinned so that I can make this for a very special friend who loves cake and coconut. Beautiful post thank you. Sammie

  3. That looks incredible! I’ve not tried Italian cream cake but judging by all the flavors in it I would love a slice 🙂 Loving all the birthday links too! 😀

  4. Happy Birthday, Isabel! That’s a really beautiful and delicious cake..perfect for the celebration.

  5. That cake looks so delicious Liz. I love the virtual birthday party for Isabel. Happy Birthday!

  6. Wow – that is a beautiful cake. I must make this for the next birthday – hitting the print button!

  7. You’ve out done yourself yet again, Liz! That recipe and a half of frosting sounds like a must and coconut is my thing!

  8. Hubba Hubba! Get that pillowy soft cake in my face!

  9. Absolutely beautiful cake Lizzy!
    Many times I dont make one!

  10. This is a mighty fine birthday cake. Your raving review makes me want to drop everything and whip it up right now.

  11. This cake is gorgeous!! It’s my boyfriend’s birthday soon, and I’m on the lookout for cake ideas!

  12. Buttermilk does indeed add beautiful flavor and moistness to cake. Your grand Italian Cream Cake is a grand tribute to the grand dame of Sunday Supper.

  13. When I go out to eat and I have enough room for dessert, this is my choice. I am so glad to think I can make it at home now.

  14. Liz, I honestly can’t tell you how thankful I am to know such a talented baker! It is not my strong suite by any means! I’m so in love with the thought of this cake and am trepiditiously looking forward to making it!

  15. That cake looks so beautiful! And your words make me feel it’s more than delicious! Can I use coconut oil instead of shortening?!
    P.S.: Happy birthday to your friend Isabel! What a great idea for birthday surprise! 🙂

    • Hi, Julia, I “think” coconut oil would be fine—since it is solid at room temperature like shortening. Hope you give this cake a try—it’s SO good!! xo

  16. The cake looks gorgeous and I bet it taste as good as it looks.

  17. Totally agree with you about buttermilk. This cake looks scrummy!

  18. I’m not much of a baker so I need to remember the buttermilk tip.

  19. Liz, this is so beautiful and elegant! I looooooove coconut cakes. I could easily eat this entire thing all by myself (you’d think I was exaggerating but sadly, I’m not!). I’ll always be thankful to Isabel & Sunday Supper for all the wonderful friends I’ve made, like you. This is the perfect celebratory cake to make for Isabel’s birthday!

  20. I agree that buttermilk makes wonderful cakes. I also use it in muffins. I love the three layers in your cake and the cream cheese frosting looks very yummy. This is a divine looking cake and very suited for a special birthday xx

  21. Boy, your friend is lucky to have you, isn’t she? Well, I’ll be patient waiting for my turn. Hahaha! xoxo

  22. What a sweet gift for a fellow blogger! Your Italian cream cake looks wonderful! The fluffiness, creaminess, moistness… looks like all in there! I love buttermilk! This must be so delicious. Love how elegant it looks!

  23. What a dreamy cake! I’ll take several slices 😉

  24. That is one gorgeous cake Liz.

  25. Your cake looks so moist and delicious! A great recipe to celebrate Isabel’s Birthday!

  26. If this isn’t the prettiest, most perfect looking birthday cake, I don’t know what is. It’s lovely, Liz.

  27. What a fun event! And this cake is perfect. Heck, it’s not my birthday, and this would be perfect for me today! 🙂 Really nice recipe — thanks.

  28. I have been drooling over this cake for 2 days now. Each time I would share it on social media, I would have to clean off my computer!

  29. That is one gorgeous cake Liz!! I would say I wish I had a pieced a slice right now, but that would mean 2 more hours on the treadmill LOL

  30. Hi Liz, this is certainly a showstopping cake, good tip about the buttermilk. Gorgeous, goegeous!

  31. What a dreamy cake, that frosting looks sublime!

  32. Lizzy,
    My hubby wouldn’t eat this cake because of the coconut too. Maybe if I make it sans coconut, he would like it. Would it still be Italian Cream Cake if I did that?

  33. If you say this is the ultimate version, I’m totally bookmarking this! Sharing it this week in my roundup, can’t wait to try this recipe!!

  34. This cake looks absolutely beautiful, and so perfectly baked too! You really cant beat three-tiered cakes!

  35. I do enjoy a good Italian Cream Cake and would love to try your version without nuts. Sounds creamy, velvety, and heavenly.
    And I need to know your secret for perfect slices too….

  36. My birthday is in April, can I get this cake delivered to me? LOL, just kidding, but it looks like a perfectly fabulous birthday cake! Marking this one to try and will remember that excellent idea about upping the icing as too much coconut is not possible. 🙂

  37. This is over the top! No Italian Cream Cake I’ve seen could even compare to this beauty!

  38. First of all, this cake looks fantastic! Then “extremely moist” and “fluffy cream cheese frosting” really caught my attention, and then “coconut” sealed the deal. I need to have this cake! Pinning!

  39. This cake looks absolutely gorgeous, Liz! I love anything with coconut so this would definitely be the ultimate cake for me!

  40. this cake is sooo beautiful and looks incredibly delicious and moist!

  41. Oh this is one heck of a gorgeous cake! I gotta try buttermilk next time for sure!

  42. This cake sounds so decadent and delicious! I would have loved to try a slice and I’m sure any leftovers would be tempting. Thanks for participating Liz!

  43. That is one delicious looking cake Liz! We haven’t used buttermilk in a cake before and we always take your advise seriously!
    This type of cake (in various cream or chocolate versions) is called Tourta here. Perhaps the Austrians have a similar approach as they call these cakes Torte (it also sounds like our Tourta) 🙂 It’s the classic dessert that you find in any Greek pastry shop, so you’d be really happy if you visit Greece and take a tour at local pastry shops:):)
    That being said, we really can’t wait to try this particular recipe, your instructions are excellent and your photos truly mouthwatering!
    Have a great day dear!
    Panos and Mirella

  44. What an incredible cake Liz! Looks soooooooooooo elegant
    It might sounds weird but you definitely have a whiter flour than what we have here

  45. I just made this cake this evening and it truly is amazing! I had to do 2 layers because I was lacking a third pan but it was still unbelievable. Thanks so much for this!!

  46. Hello,
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. Italian Cream Cake is my favorite cake so I can’t wait to try this recipe.
    I do have a question though, would I be able to stack it? obviously I would use appropriate dowels etc…
    Thank you again.

    • Hi, Carla, it is on the denser side, so I had no trouble stacking it in 3 layers. I did not use dowels. Does that answer your question or were you planning to make a larger version?

  47. that is one perfect cake! WOW

  48. that cake is awesome looking wow!

  49. Hello, this looks amazing! I want to make it for my Mom for Mother’s day tomorrow. I only have 2 round pans, can I do only 2 layers…would it be the same temp and baking time? Thank you.

    • I would only use about 2/3 of the batter and fill those two pans 2/3-3/4 full. Then you can bake at the same temp and time as is in the recipe. Take the extra batter and make cupcakes—try baking those 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a moist crumb or two.

      You can always cool and freeze the cupcakes for later.

      If you divide all the batter between your two pans, it will probably overflow and create a big mess! Hope you enjoy!

  50. What a beautiful cake. I love all the fluffy frosting and coconut . Who can resist something that looks so decadent! love it!

  51. I can see why this cake is extra special. Just from looking at it, you can tell how moist and flavorful it is. I can’t wait to try this recipe for a special occasion, or maybe even an average Wednesday. Great recipe!

  52. Italian Cream Cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. I made this for Christmas and everyone loved it! 

  53. Italian Cream Cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. I made this for Christmas and everyone loved it! 

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  56. Italian Cream Cake is a family favorite we couldn’t get enough of this!

  57. Everyone in my house loved it! So delish!

  58. This is three layers of pure heaven!

  59. This cake blew us away! So fluffy and delicious.

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