Everybody needs a go-to classic Italian Cream Cake recipe from scratch! We have the perfect recipe for you....and it's DELICIOUS!
What is the Origin of Italian Cream Cake?
Italian Cream Cake has long been one of my favorite classic recipes. The cake layers are packed with flavor from pecans and coconut and frosted in a rich cream cheese frosting.
The funny thing is that nobody quite knows where the name Italian Cream Cake actually comes from.
In my research, I found that it's not a traditional recipe of Italy. Some say that the recipe first appeared years ago in a Texas newspaper....and others say that the "Italian" name comes from an Italian baker that prepared the dessert for a southern family in the US-- and was so well received that the rest is history.
All that I know is that whoever came up with this deliciousness is a genius! If you've never tried Italian Cream Cake, you absolutely must!
What Flavor is Italian Cream Cake?
Italian cream cake is slightly more dense than the average cake (much like a carrot cake), and contains a heavenly combination of finely chopped pecans, coconut, and cream cheese frosting. With this trio of big flavors, how could you go wrong?
Just look at that slice! I can hear it calling to me through the screen.
Pecans in the Frosting Option
If you'd like, you can stir crushed pecans into the cream cheese frosting. The frosting will have a more textured look to it with the pecan pieces but this is a popular option for this cake.
We decided to go with a smooth finish around the sides with our frosting today and so we did not mix the pecans into the frosting.
Instead, we just pressed the finely chopped pecans around the sides. Either way, the cake will be delicious!
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.
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. We like to chill the crumb coated cake in the freezer for 15 minutes (or longer if refrigerating).
You can refrigerate your bowl of frosting during this time also if it seems a bit too soft.
Next, apply the second layer of frosting and smooth around the sides with a metal bench scraper or spatula. (We like to run our bench scraper under very hot water before gliding over the frosting for an extra smooth finish.)
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.
Freezing Tip for Moist Cake Layers
No matter what kind of cake I'm making, I like to freeze my cake layers to make them extra moist. A baker told me this secret when I was just getting started with my home-based cake business about fifteen years ago and I've done it ever since.
After removing my cake layers from the oven, I allow them to cool (still in their pans) on the cooling rack for about ten minutes.
Wrap the Slightly Warm Cake Layers
Then, I flip them out and while still warm, double wrap the individual layers tightly with plastic wrap, then with foil, and into the freezer they go!
The moisture created when the warm (not hot), wrapped cake layers are placed in the freezer results in cakes that are even more moist!
If you don't have time for this step, don't worry- this Italian Cream Cake is moist as it is. But if time allows, no matter what the cake recipe, I think you'll notice a difference (plus, freezing will allow you to work well in advance)!
Freeze the Cake Layers
Freeze the wrapped cake layers for at least three hours, but when baking in advance, you can safely freeze for up to three months with no problems! Your cake layers will be ultra moist and taste as fresh as the day they were made.
Thawing the Cake Layers
When thawing, I remove the cake layers from the freezer, and keep the layers wrapped until condensation has formed on the foil. That's all there is to it!
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.
This recipe makes a great filling and frosting, and we use it on all sorts of cakes, including Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Hummingbird Cake, and more!
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).
Does Italian Cream Cake Need to be Refrigerated?
Yes, because of the cream cheese frosting and filling, this cake requires refrigeration.
However, for the best taste and texture, remove the cake from the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving to allow the cake and frosting warm and soften.
Looking for an Italian Cream Cake- Doctored Cake Mix Version?
We have another great recipe for Italian Cream Cake that starts with a cake mix! It is still a flavorful combination of coconut, pecans, and cream cheese frosting. This recipe can be used as a layer cake also! Find it here: Italian Cream Bundt Cake- Box Mix Recipe
Chocolate Italian Cream Cake- A delicious Twist on a Classic!
Did you know that we also have a FANTASTIC Chocolate Italian Cream Cake Recipe? This moist cake has the same wonderful coconut and pecan flavor as this classic Italian Cream Cake Recipe, but with the addition of cocoa for flavorful, chocolatey cake layers.
The combination of chocolate, coconut, and pecans is PERFECT! Not to mention, it has a Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting that is just heavenly.
If you are looking for another great chocolate cake to add to your file of favorites, this one is a keeper! Find it here!: Chocolate Italian Cream Cake Recipe
We hope that you enjoy this moist and flavorful Italian Cream Cake recipe- it is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser!
A Few More Favorite Southern Cake Recipes to Try!
Italian Cream Cake is just one of those good old fashioned cake recipes that everyone needs in their recipe box. We have several other favorite southern desserts that you need in our life. Keep these in mind for your next birthday cake or just because!
Enjoy the Recipe
Thanks so much for stopping by! We hope that you enjoy this delicious cake recipe. It always gets rave reviews! If you give it a try, we would love for you to leave a comment and photo below.
Also, make sure to check out our other favorite classic homemade cake and frosting recipes in our Recipes section!
Italian Cream Cake Recipe
This amazing Italian Cream Cake recipe has so much flavor from chopped pecans, coconut, cream cheese frosting and more!
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
- Italian Cream Cheese Frosting (See our recipe)
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING;
- 2 sticks (1 cup) (226g) unsalted butter - Let the butter sit out for approximately 10 minutes. It should feel cool to the touch
- 2( 8oz.) packages cream cheese (total weight 452g)- Softened slightly, I used full fat cream cheese. Using reduced fat or the spreadable cream cheese will cause the frosting to be too soft. If using a hand mixer you may need to soften slightly. If using a kitchen aid or strong mixer, do not soften the cream cheese, just cut into pieces when adding to bow.
- 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
- 6 to 6 ½ cups (690g to 747g) powdered sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
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.
- For the filling, we spread the frosting between the layers then pressed in some of the chopped pecans. 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.
My family enjoyed my first layered cake.
I'm so happy to hear it! The cake looks perfect. Great choice for first layer cake- one of my favorites!
Is it possible ro make this recipe for an 9x13 sheet cake?
Hi Paula, We have not made the recipe in a 9x13 but I think it would be fine to do so. I did not note the number of cups of batter but I think there should be 7 but I can't be sure. Seven cups are needed for a 9x13 sheet cake.
Question the frosting is it enough to do the middle too or do I need to make more frosting for that?
Hi Amanda, Yes, there is enough frosting to fill between the cake layers. Hope you will enjoy the cake.
Can I use walnuts instead of pecans? I just so happen to have walnuts in my cabinet.
Hi Tammy, I'm sure that would be fine! I hope that you enjoy it.
can this recipe be used for cupcakes?
This cake is heavenly. And beautiful when frosted and finished with the toasted chopped pecans around just the bottom of the cake. It was easy to make just a half batch of the cake batter using 3 small eggs. I baked it in two 8 inch round pans for 20 minutes. It was perfect, however, next time I will use two 6 inch pans for a taller cake. I halfed the frosting also and didnt use all of it which made for the perfect amount of sweetness. I may also try adding a bit of almond flavoring to the cake batter to take it to the next level.
Thank you for this amazing recipe.
Hi Vicki, Your cake looks wonderful, I am very happy you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks so much for posting your review with details of how you made the cake.