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
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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”
I’ve never heard of Italian cream cake!!! Now that I’ve heard of it and seen your lovely photos, I NEED to make this!!
Coconut cake and cream cheese frosting…. Mmmm, such a great combo! I put this cake on my to do list!
This cake blew us away! So fluffy and delicious.
This is three layers of pure heaven!
Everyone in my house loved it! So delish!
Italian Cream Cake is a family favorite we couldn’t get enough of this!
Italian Cream Cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. I made this for Christmas and everyone loved it!
Italian Cream Cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. I made this for Christmas and everyone loved it!
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!
What a beautiful cake. I love all the fluffy frosting and coconut . Who can resist something that looks so decadent! love it!
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!
that cake is awesome looking wow!
that is one perfect cake! WOW
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?
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!!
I’m so glad it was a success! It’s one of my favorites 🙂
What an incredible cake Liz! Looks soooooooooooo elegant
It might sounds weird but you definitely have a whiter flour than what we have here
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
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!
Oh this is one heck of a gorgeous cake! I gotta try buttermilk next time for sure!
this cake is sooo beautiful and looks incredibly delicious and moist!