Caramel Italian Cream Cake

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This moist Caramel Italian Cream Cake is a delicious twist on a classic cake recipe.

In today's flavorful caramel version of Italian Cream Cake, coconut pecan cake layers are flavored with brown sugar, glazed with caramel, and frosted with caramel cream cheese frosting.

Caramel Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake is a longtime southern favorite, with flavors of coconut, pecans, and cream cheese frosting.

Today's addition of brown sugar and caramel is heavenly! But we could never choose a favorite. You must try both of these amazing recipes!

How to Make Caramel Italian Cream Cake

You can find the full, printable cake recipe further down in this post. Here is a quick rundown of our steps!

  1. Preheat: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8x2 inch pans.
  2. Butter and Sugar: Mix butter at medium speed until softened and smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar, mixing on medium speed 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Egg Yolks & Vanilla: Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until the yellow of the yolk is blended. Add Vanilla extract.
  4. Flour Mixture: In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda, and salt, whisk at least 30 seconds to blend.
  5. Mixing: With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture (that is 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 additions of buttermilk) After last addition, mix just until blended..
  6. Adding Coconut & Pecans: Fold in pecans and coconut; using a spoon or spatula until combined.
  1. Egg whites: Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula or spoon, gently fold into batter.
Folding egg whites into cake batter
  1. Fill the Pans!: Dive the cake batter between three 8 inch cake pans.
Cake Batter in three 8 inch cake pans
  1. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on wire racks before turning out.
Cake layers cooling on a wire rack in the cake pans

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Italian Cream Cakes are most often frosted filled and frosted with cream cheese frosting. So, for today's caramel version, we opted for a delicious Caramel Cream Cheese frosting!

To make our cream cheese frosting caramel flavored, we simply mixed a few teaspoons of caramel.

We opted for store-bought caramel but if you prefer to use homemade for this recipe (as well as glazing the cake layers), check out the caramel sauce in our Pumpkin Toffee Pecan Pound Cake recipe!

Cream cheese frosting recipes are so easy to make. It is a simple combination of softened butter and cream cheese, powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, vanilla extract, and in today's recipe, caramel.

Easy Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

What if the Cream Cheese Frosting is too Soft?

Cream cheese frostings are softer than most buttercream frostings. We like to chill our bowl of frosting for about ten minutes or so before decorating the cake.

This firms up the butter and cream cheese in the recipe a bit so that the frosting is easier to work with.

If at any time your frosting becomes too soft when decorating the cake, chill the cake, bowl of frosting, or piping bag as needed.

Assembling the Cake

Now it's time to put it all together!

  1. Place the first coconut pecan cake layer on the pedestal or cake plate. Glaze the top of the cake layer with caramel using a silicone pastry brush.
  1. I applied caramel close but not all the way to the edge of the cake layer. (We used store-bought caramel but you can make homemade if you'd like!.)
Brushing Caramel onto Cake Layer with Silicone Pastry Brush
  1. Next, I piped on my caramel cream cheese filling using a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away.
Spiral of Filling applied to the top of the cake layer with a piping bag.
  1. As you can see, I piped a spiral of the filling onto the caramel glazed layer, and then lightly spread over it.

Spreading layer of cream cheese over the caramel glazed layer.
  1. Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer (crumb coat) of cream cheese frosting.
  2. At this point, I like to chill the cake for about 15 minutes in the freezer (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm everything up before applying the second layer of frosting.
  3. Decorate the cake however you like! I wanted a smooth finish around the sides of the cake and so I used metal bench scraper (warmed under hot water), to smooth over the chilled, frosted cake.
  4. I also used a small offset spatula to smooth the frosting on top of the cake.
Smoothing the frosting around the sides of the cake with a metal bench scraper

Decorating the Caramel Italian Cream Cake

To decorate the cake, I added a border of crushed pecans which I lightly pressed into the frosting around the base of the cake.

Chopped pecans border around base of cake

Next, using a disposable piping bag with a small part of the tip snipped away, I added a spiral of caramel on top of the cake.

(We used store-bought caramel sauce but you could use homemade if you'd like!)

Piping a spiral of caramel on top of the freshly frosted cake
Top border is piped with French Star Piping Tip 869.

As a final touch, we added a border using a french star tip 869. So pretty!

More Coconut Cakes to Share

If you love cakes with coconut, we have many favorites to share with you, including another fun flavor twist: Chocolate Italian Cream Cake!

We are sharing a few of our favorites below, but don't miss our collection of Favorite Coconut Cakes for even more!

Some of our most popular coconut cakes are German Chocolate Cake, Coconut Cream Cake, , and Carrot Cake.

We also have cake mix versions of Italian Cream Cake, including our easy Italian Cream Cupcakes and Italian Cream Bundt Cake!

Lemon is another great combination with coconut. Don't miss our Lemon Coconut Cake from Scratch & Easy Lemon Coconut Cake from cake mix!

Enjoy the Recipe!

Thanks so much for stopping by, we hope that you enjoy the Caramel Italian Cream Cake! If you give it a try, we would love for you to share a comment and photo below. Make sure to check out our other favorite caramel cake recipes as well!

Caramel Italian Cream Cake

Caramel Italian Cream Cake

This moist Caramel Italian Cream Cake is a delicious twist on an old favorite. Coconut pecan cake layers are flavored with brown sugar, glazed with caramel, and frosted with caramel cream cheese frosting.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Servings: 15
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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (226g)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (we used light brown) (117g)
  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (242g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (5g)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (242g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (85g)
  • 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut (75g)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened (226g)
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened We use two 8 oz packages, full fat.
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract (4g)
  • 3 Tablespoons Caramel Sauce (We used Smuckers brand- see notes re: Homemade Caramel) (42g)
  • ½ teaspoon salt 2g
  • 6 ½ cups powdered sugar (adjust amount to your liking) (747g)

Glaze for cake layers

  • Caramel Glaze We used Smuckers brand. See Notes if you prefer homemade!

Decoration

  • We used additional chopped pecans and caramel to decorate the cake as well as a french tip Ateco 869 for accents on top.

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8x2 inch pans.
  • Mix butter at medium speed until softened and smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar, mixing on medium speed 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until the yellow of the yolk is blended. Add Vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda, and salt, whisk at least 30 seconds to blend.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture (that is 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 additions of buttermilk) After last addition, mix just until blended..
  • Fold in pecans and coconut; using a spoon or spatula until combined.
  • Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula or spoon, gently fold into batter.
  • Spoon batter into three 8 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on wire racks.

For the Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cut the softened butter into slices and add to the bowl of your mixer. Beat on low to medium speed until the butter is softened and smooth.
  • Cut the softened cream cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating at low to medium speed until incorporated. If you are using a hand mixer you may need to soften the cream cheese a bit more.
  • Add the vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of caramel sauce. Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low speed until blended. Cover the bowl with a towel to keep down the cloud of powdered sugar.
  • Increase mixing speed and beat until fluffy. Be careful not to over-mix as it will become very soft. If it becomes too soft, chill until it firms up.
  • This frosting will pipe best if used while still chilled. You can make it in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use let it soften slightly (do not microwave) and remix.

Assembling the Cake

  • Place the first cake layer on the cake base or pedestal. Glaze with a thin layer of caramel sauce. (I don't take the sauce all the way to the edge).
  • Using a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away (or ziplock bag with corner snipped away, pipe on a layer of caramel cream cheese frosting (I do this in a spiral pattern) and then lightly spread with a spatula.
  • Top with the next cake layer. Glaze with caramel, fill, and top with the third cake layer.
  • Fill in any gaps between cake layers with frosting, then crumb coat the cake (thin layer of frosting). Chill the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes (or longer in the refrigerator) to firm everything up before applying the final coat of frosting.
  • Decorate however you like! We pressed chopped pecans around the base of the cake, and added a spiral of caramel on top using a disposable piping with a very small bit of the tip snipped away. We added a french tip border with a Tip 869.

Notes

We opted for store-bought caramel today for convenience. However, if you prefer to make your own caramel, check out the homemade caramel glaze in our Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake recipe.

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17 Comments

  1. Hi, I have trouble getting my Italian Cream Cakes light and fluffy. It seems mine are more dense - no matter what I do. I have seen some suggestions of using part shortening, instead of all butter. Do you have any suggestions of what I could do to improve the texture? Thanks, Patty

    1. Hi Patty, have you tried our recipe? It is very light and fluffy, especially with the whipped egg whites folded into the cake batter. Let us know if you're having trouble with this recipe and we can help you troubleshoot. As a side note, using a digital scale for measuring your dry ingredients (we always try to list the gram weight) will ensure that you are using the intended amount of flour, etc.

      1. Yes, your recipe is just like my recipe, and yes I do fold my egg whites in. Sometimes my cake does turn out well, and other times it is dense. I also wonder if the humidity has anything to do with that. Thanks11

  2. Hi, this cake is beautiful! Does it store well if I make it ahead of time? Also, I'm assuming you have to store it in the fridge? Thank you so much!

    1. @Jmango- thanks!

      Yes, this cake should be refrigerated--and then removed a couple of hours or so before serving to give it time to soften up a bit.

      We often bake and freeze our cake layers- if you are wanting to make the layers many days in advance, just bake, then wrap each layer in plastic wrap, then foil. (I like to put each layer on a foil-wrapped cake cardboard for support before wrapping and freezing-- and I also like to wrap them when still slightly warm.)- You can freeze cake layers up to 3 months as long as they are tightly wrapped.

      When ready to put the cake together, just remove the layers from the freezer, leave the wrapping on, and allow to thaw for about 30-45 minutes- then unwrap and thaw to desired amount- many decorators like to assemble their cakes while still slightly frozen because they are less fragile.

      As for refrigerating the assembled, frosted cake- I prefer to serve the cake within a couple of days of refrigerating although you may have some wiggle room if needed. You should store the cake in an airtight cake container or bakery box. Hope you enjoy it!!

    1. Hi Catie, yes- I would just start peeking at it sooner. Or you could make two thicker 9 inch cake layers and increase the baking time a bit.

    1. Hi Diana- We haven't used cake flour with this recipe- it would be an experiment, it should be okay but I can't say for sure.

    1. Hi Casey- It's in the recipe card at the bottom of the post- I've updated for you (6.5 cups in the frosting, but you can adjust to your liking).