Italian Cream Cake (Scratch Recipe)
Everybody needs a go-to classic Italian Cream Cake recipe! We have the perfect recipe for you, and it is DELICIOUS!
There's just nothing better than the combination of coconut, pecans, and cream cheese frosting!
Table of Contents
Why we Love It
There are so many reasons to love this Italian Cream Cake recipe. Here are just a few:
- Amazing flavor from pecans and coconut.
- Wonderfully light texture thanks to the whipped egg whites in the cake batter.
- Classic cakes like Italian Cream Cake always feel extra special, and make the perfect birthday cake recipes, holiday cakes, more! (We even have a doctored cake mix version: Italian Cream Bundt Cake).
How to Make Italian Cream Cake
**You can find the full, printable Italian Cream Cake recipe a little further down in this post. Here is a quick rundown of our steps!
- Preheat the oven and grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans. We like to also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
- Butter: Mix butter at medium speed until smooth using an electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment if using a stand mixer).
- Butter & Sugar: Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed 4 to 5 minutes.
- Egg Yolks: Add room temperature egg yolks, one at a time, mixing after each addition until the yellow of the yolk is blended. Then, add the vanilla extract.
- Flour Mixture: In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda, and salt, whisk at least 30 seconds to blend.
- Dry and Wet Ingredients: 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) Mix until just blended.
- Pecans and Coconut: Then fold in the pecans and coconut until well combined.
- Beat the Egg Whites and Fold into Batter Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula or spoon, gently fold into batter.
- Fill the Pans: Spoon batter into three 8 or 9″ round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean, or the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched.
Cool the cake layers (we often place them on a wire rack, still in the pans) and turn out after about 10 minutes.
Assembling the Italian Cream Cake
Now that the Italian Cream Cake layers have cooled completely, it is time to put it all together.
To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on your cake base or pedestal. Spread with a layer of cream cheese frosting using an offset spatula. Repeat for the next two cake layers.
Next, apply a thin coat (crumb coat) of frosting to the top and around the sides of the cake.
At this time, we like to chill the crumb coated Italian Cream Cake in the freezer for 15 minutes (or longer in the refrigerator.) This firms everything up nicely before we apply the second layer of cream cheese frosting.
You can refrigerate your bowl of frosting during this time also if it seems a bit too soft.
Decorating the Italian Cream Cake
Next, apply the second layer of frosting to the chilled cake. Today, we went with a smooth finish for our frosting, but a textured finish is always nice too (as with this ridged buttercream technique)!
When we decorate cakes with a smooth finish, we like to run our bench scraper under very hot water before gliding over the chilled frosting. (This technique is often referred to as the Hot Knife Method).
We then pressed chopped pecans around the base of the cake, and applied stars around the top of the cake using a large 1M piping tip.
Cream Cheese Frosting
We always fill and frost our Italian Cream Cakes with a simple, decadent Cream Cheese Frosting recipe. This is a simple combination of butter, softened cream cheese, vanilla, confectioners sugar, and a pinch of salt.
Consistency of Frosting
Cream cheese frostings are softer than most buttercream frostings and so if it becomes too soft, simply pop the piping bag, bowl, or even the cake into the freezer or refrigerator as needed (for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is reached).
More Classic Cakes
Italian Cream Cake is just one of those good old fashioned cake recipes that everyone needs in their recipe box. We have several other classic cakes that belong on your must-bake list!
Don't miss our full collection of Cake Recipes, including cake recipes from scratch as well as cake mix recipes! Also, if you are interested in cake design, we have hundreds of free cake decorating tutorials as well!
Italian Cream Cake Recipe
For the Cake
- 1 cup 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 5 large eggs separated
- 2 cups (242g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (5g) baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (242g) buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
- 1 cup (85g) chopped pecans
- 1 cup (75g) flaked sweetened coconut
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, softened
- 16 oz cream cheese (total weight 452g), softened (We used two 8 oz packages, full fat)
- 1 teaspoon 4g vanilla extract
- 6 to 6 ½ cups 690g to 747g powdered sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (Some bakers like to fold the pecans into the frosting. We prefer to add them to the frosted cake as decoration.)
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8x2 inch pans. You can also use 9 inch pans.
- Mix butter at medium speed until softened and smooth. Gradually add 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 or 9″ round 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 Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cut the 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 cream cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating at low to medium speed until incorporated.
- Add the vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low speed until blended.
- Increase mixing speed and beat until fluffy, approximately 1 minute, don't over beat. If beaten too long it will become very soft. If this happens, just refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
- This frosting will pipe best if used while still very cool. You can make it in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use let it soften slightly (do not microwave) and remix.
- Will frost a 3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake. Cool layers before filling and frosting.
- We filled and frosted the cake with cream cheese frosting. Chill at any time during the decorating process to firm things up (15 minutes in the freezer or longer in the refrigerator).
Decorating the Cake
- After the cake was completely frosted, we pressed the remaining chopped pecans around the bottom half of the cake. The traditional way to frost this cake is to stir all the pecans into the cream cheese frosting then frost the cake.