Italian Cream Cake

It was my birthday this past Wednesday.  How old?  Old enough to make this cake and eat it, too.  

I can't tell you how many times I have had this cake for my birthday.  But I can tell you how many times I have made it-- once.  My mother was always there to bake one for me even after I was grown with children of my own.  But this year my parents headed South for the winter a little early and that left me one option-- ask mom for the recipe and bake the cake myself.

The cake is a simple yellow cake that is flavored with coconut and pecans (finely chopped for me).  The frosting *oh my the frosting*  is basically a classic cream cheese on steroids.  More butter, more cream cheese, and more sugar?? Yes, please!

I know how tasty and moist the cake is.  I know how unbelievable the frosting is and I even know how delicious a slice is with some good vanilla ice cream.  But what I don't know is why this is called an Italian Cream cake.  Do you?  Seriously, if anyone out there knows, please let me know.

Printable Recipe

Italian Cream Cake
10-12 servings

For the Cake
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
Pinch of kosher salt
2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 Tablespoons (4-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup sweetened shredded dried coconut, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Frosting
12-ounces cream cheese, cold
12 Tablespoons (6-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the 1 1/3 cups sugar.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4-6 minutes.  Beat the egg yolks in one at a time.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beating on low speed, add the flour in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 parts; scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat until combined.  Stir in the coconut and pecans.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar using a hand-held mixer or whisk until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high until stiff, but not dry peaks form.  Fold one-quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the cakes to detach from the pan.  Invert the cakes, remove the parchment, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla just until blended.  Add the confectioners' sugar, one-third at a time, and beat just until smooth (do not over beat).  Stir in the pecans.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter and top with 1 cup of the frosting, spreading evenly.  Place the other cake layer on top and frost the sides and the top with the remaining frosting. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from my mother, via Joy of Cooking, 1997


  1. Belated birthday wishes to you.. Cake looks absolutely perfect and delicious.. Very nicely done and presented well too.. thanks for the recipe :)

  2. I researched a little and the best I found was that it "could" have been made by an Italian baker living in the southern part of the US. While others have tried to find the origins of italian cream cake, one woman says, "My research didn’t lead to satisfying answers but lead me to just abandon the question as turkeys aren’t from Turkey and neither is ice from Iceland!"

    So I don't really know where it comes from but it's good and I don't really care :-)

    1. Thanks for looking into it. I knew it was Southern, but couldn't figure out the Italian part. Thanks!

  3. Lotsa memories about this cake! Yours looks beautiful :)

  4. This looks so delicious and I can just imagine how great this cake would taste with that frosting!!

  5. Happy Birthday! Wonuderfull cake!

  6. Very happy birthday ! Mine was last sunday and I indulged on chocolate, but your cake looks wonderful !

  7. Belated Happy Birthday Nicole! God bless you for all the delicious recipes you share with us.. Thanks to you, my family enjoys many wonderful treats. Ann

  8. This is one of my favorite all time cakes. Happy Birthday.

  9. bake at temperature exactly?? i have looke 3 times and cannot seem to find it

  10. This is the best summation of the cake's origins I found. Having grown up in an Italian neighborhood in California the Southern adaptation seemed very un-Italian. I think this timeline of the recipe is great.

  11. Your blog about Italian Cream cake is really awesome. I love this recipe very much.I will definitely try this recipe. I like Italian culture, tradition, italian food etc . Last summer I have visited Italy as well as I have visited Italian restaurant. I have enjoyed Italian food very much.Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  12. I am Italian and I've been making this cake for my daughter's birthday for over 30 years. In fact I'm ready to ice it right now. I know the recipe is not Italian but more Southern -- I was trying to find out where it originated. I have found references to the cake all the way back to the early 20th century.


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