This glorious Italian Cream Cake is one of the greatest cakes ever invented! It's a spectacular cake, any way you slice it. Pardon the pun. The rich thick pecan and coconut filled batter is only trumped by the decadent cream cheese frosting. It's ideal for showcasing as the feature dessert for birthdays, holidays or any special gathering.
Easy Italian Cream Cake Recipe
What's Italian About This Cream Cake? Nothing, actually. This vintage cake dubbed "Italian Cream Cake" is more Southern than Italian and no one really knows definitively why it was given this name. That said, Italian cream cake recipes are basically the same, and true to form as it is with all recipes, my take on it has evolved through the years in my kitchen. While it does take several steps to create this cake it's a labor of love well worth the effort when you see the delight on the faces of your family and friends. It's a very special cake for a special occasion.
How to Make the Best Italian Cream Cake Recipe
My family members are die hard sweet or savory coconut fans. Coconut and pecans pair beautifully in this spectacular cake frosted with a dreamy cream cheese frosting. It's such an amazing cake, it's guaranteed to turn any occasion into something special. I always like to include a few tips to ensure your cake making success:
- Kitchen tools you'll need to make Italian Cream Cake: An electric mixer, either a stand mixer or a hand mixer whatever you have on hand. Large mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons and a whisk to sift together the dry ingredients, plus a large silicone spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing. A sheet pan and chopping tool to prep the nuts for roasting.
- Ingredients you'll need to make homemade Italian Cream Cake: All purpose flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, salted butter, baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, sweetened flaked coconuts and pecans. Softened cream cheese and powdered sugar along with vanilla and almond for the frosting.
- If you only have unsalted butter on hand, add ½ teaspoon salt to the dry ingredients and proceed with the recipe.
- Traditional Italian cream cake recipes often call for solid vegetable shortening in the batter. That said, after years of making this cake, I prefer using all butter in my cream cake batter.
- Granulated sugar alone doesn't give the depth of flavor you gain by adding brown sugar to the batter along with a touch of almond extract. Don't skip it, it's what sets this recipe apart from the rest.
- It's well worth the small amount of effort it takes to toast the coconut to use as a garnish for the sides of the cake. Not only does toasted coconut make it pretty, but it adds a spectacular flavor as well.
- See how to toast coconut here for this cake recipe.
- Store this cake in an airtight container chilled for up to one week, if it lasts that long.
- This cake is one of those showpiece cakes that make a statement on the dessert table. It's okay to feel proud once you serve it, I know I do.
- You may also like this recipe for Coconut Custard Layer Cake from Beyond Frosting.
More Southern Style Cake Recipes to Add to Make
Cakes just spell celebration no matter when they're served. In my opinion, life is much too short to skip dessert or only have cake once a year on your birthday. Baking can be therapeutic, and sweets tend to bring happiness to those around you. Other cakes you may like to try:
- German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Icing is a classic that never goes out of style.
- Million Dollar Pound Cake Recipe is a must-make for any occasion.
- Island inspired Hawaiian Pineapple Coconut Poke Cake is a cake mix hack that everyone can make.
- Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Pecan Icing is a retro cake that's rich and delicious.
- Double Chocolate Coconut Zucchini Cake will have the kiddos eating their vegetables and loving it!
- Red Velvet Layer Cake is an iconic Southern dessert.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Italian Cream Cake
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup salted butter softened
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup whole buttermilk
- 14 oz package sweetened flaked coconut divided
- 1 ½ cup pecan pieces toasted divided
- 2 (8 oz) blocks cream cheese softened
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 lb powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- reserved coconut toasted
- ½ cup reserved toasted pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 3  inch round cake pans or spray with baking spray. Set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pure vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until creamy and light beige in color, around 3-4 minutes
- Add the eggs 1 at a time beating well after each addition.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. After all has been added, increase the mixer speed and beat until fully combined.
- Mix in ½ of the 14 ounce flaked coconut and 1 cup of toasted pecans by hand.
- Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
- For the frosting: Cream together the cream cheese and butter until light, fluffy and pale yellow in color. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until creamy and smooth.
- Line the edge of the cake plate with wax paper strips.
- Frost the cake between the layers sprinkling each with reserved toasted pecan pieces. Add the final layer and frost the top and sides.
- Press toasted coconut on sides. Decorate the top as desired with the remaining chopped pecans. (See in the Cook's note for how to toast coconut)
- Store chilled until serving.
b) "How to" for toasting the coconut here
c) Alternative frosting technique: Mix the toasted pecans into the frosting by hand and spread onto the top and sides of the cake.
I’ve made this cake numerous times- always a hit.
I’ve a question Melissa, have you any recommendations on how to freeze the layers? I’m going to make this again this week but want to use only only one layer for the 3 of us.
There are numerous suggestions on the internet with options of wrapping this type of soft cake when it is still warm. Others state to cool completely.
Curious if you have tried to freeze a single layer and offer a suggestion if one method worked for you.
Love your website, it’s been a great resource for me since I cook 7 days a week and bake once or twice a week.
Hi Judy, I'm so happy you're loving this cake! I like to cool my cake layers (slightly warm is OK) and then wrap in freezer wrap ending with a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil for extra protection. You can stack them once frozen solid. Thaw in the refrigerator then frost when you're ready to serve.
Many thanks Melissa
It's my pleasure.
My birthday cake! I’m not a baker but thought this looked delicious. The flavours are delicious, especially the combination of almond and vanilla. Living in Australia the only coconut options I have are dedicated (very small) and ‘toasted coconut’ which is the flakes you often see in muesli. That said, I went with the latter to find the coconut very chewy in the finished cake. It also formed little pockets around each flake in the cakes, so when the cake is sliced it looks crumbly. Any ideas on coconut options for future? Thank you for all your beautiful recipes x
Hi Dana, since I'm not familiar with what's available in your market it's hard to say. Perhaps you could buy fresh coconut and use it instead. Our sweetened flaked coconut is sweeter and drier than fresh coconut but perhaps the toasted coconut wasn't the best of the two available options. Maybe try a half batch using the dedicated (desiccated?)coconut, it will likely perform better than toasted.
Hi Melissa, Really appreciate your reply. I’ll definitely try again and report back. I’m not a confident baker, but willing to try!( Eating a slice as we speak - that frosting is delicious 😋)
What about getting it off of Amazon? Or something like that? Since it doesn't need refrigerated until after opening, that's what I do, it won't matter how long it takes to get to you. That way you can buy more than you need and have it ready for future baking. Just trying to help. Good luck to you! 😊
I love this cake so much!
One question-do you cool this cake in the cake pan or remove it?
You can cool them completely in the pan. If you want them to cool more quickly, remove after 20 minutes and cool on a cooling rack.
Hello.. if I put this cake in fridge will it dry or stay moist? Cake is for a birthday party tomorrow.
It will be fine to store this chilled overnight in an airtight container.
Recipe sounds delicious and can't wait to try it, but I was wondering if cake flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour?
There's no need to use cake flour for a tender crumb, this cake is dense by nature. All purpose flour is best.
I love making this recipe. I have made over and over. I always make it one cake pan. I use a 9 x 4 round daddio cake pan. Then cut in the layers I want. Then frost the layers and build my cake. Love it!
Hello, I am going to be trying your recipe this week. Most Italian Cream cake recipes call for the eggs to be separated and the egg whites beaten and folded in. I am excited that this recipe does not call for this extra step, but want to make sure I am reading it correctly. Can you confirm, no need to separate the eggs?
Please follow the recipe as written. There's no need to separate the eggs.
I made this exactly as written and it was a smash hit at the party! I received so many compliments and family asking me to please make it again next time. Mexican vanilla extract works beautifully in this cake with the almond. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you!
I would like to add crushed, drained pineapple. How would I adjust the amount of buttermilk?
I haven't tested that adaptation so it would only be a guess. If you try it, let us know how it goes.
I am glad I came across this recipe as I have made it for a birthday and it was delicious. The combination of the almond extract and the toasted pecans and coconut are a delicious flavour, everyone after taking a single bite said WOW!!! Who made this cake!!
Thanks for the recipe
I don't have 3 9" cake pans. I would like to make a 9X13 pan. How long would I bake this?
Check it at 30 minutes and adjust from that point.
I was enough crazy to try to make it without eggs, but with yogurt. It came good. I was very surprised.
I’m not sure why but my cake sank in the middle. I didn’t open the oven til 25 mins. Baked at 350. I did use a fine coconut could that have caused the cake to sink? And I weighed it on a scale 7 ounces? May have been too much? Anyhow it wasn’t a complete loss I made it into cake balls and they taste great! Any advice?
There are many reasons a cake can sink in the center from not baking it long enough to improper measuring of ingredients. No oven is exactly the same so you should always check it with a toothpick or cake tester before removing any cake from the oven. A fine coconut...was it fresh as opposed to sweetened flaked coconut? If so, that would add additional liquid to the batter and change the outcome.
Made this cake last year and though the recipe is extensive, it was DELICIOUS.! I was quite proud of this, only to find out later that a few family members are not fond of coconut🙁
I'm so happy you enjoyed it!
TRACY E POWER
This week, I made this cake for my daughter's birthday. I decided to try the recipe as written as a baseline. It was the first time making an Irish Cream cake. It turned out amazing!! Not only was it stunning to look at, but the cake itself was delicious. I wouldn't change a thing! The whole family loved it. I will definitely be making this one again. Thank you for this delicious recipe!
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
This recipe is a new favorite! It was very easy to make, elegant in appearance, and so delicious! I will definitely make this one again. Thank you!
I would like to make this cake. I only have 2 9" pans, but they are deep. Can I use 2 instead of 3?
They should work, sure.