Classic Italian Cream Cake

Three Layer Italian Cream Cake
Diana Rattray
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Yield: 12 to 16 Servings
Ratings (30)

This classic Italian cream cake is always a hit, and it will probably bring back fond memories for many. It's a moist buttermilk cake with pecans and coconut, topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting. Despite the name, the cake is a Southern specialty that is thought to have originated in Texas.

This is a classic version, made with three layers, lightened with beaten egg whites and filled with pecans and coconut. I topped the cake with toasted coconut and pecans, but plain chopped pecans would be just fine. See the tips and variations below the recipe for toasting instructions.

What You'll Need

  • 5 large eggs (separated)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups/9 ounces flour (all-purpose)
  • 1 (4-ounce) stick butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups sugar (granulated)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut (sweetened, flaked)
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (chopped, divided)
  • Frosting:
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 (4-ounce) stick butter (softened)
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar (about 3 3/4 cups unsifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or cream (as needed)
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts (chopped)

How to Make It

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
  2. Separate the five eggs, putting the egg whites in a stainless steel or glass bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  3. Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl; mix well and set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the 1 stick of butter and shortening together until fluffy; add the granulated sugar and cream with the butter mixture until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well.
  1. Add the flour and soda mixture to the creamed mixture alternating with buttermilk.*
  2. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla.
  3. Add the 1 cup of coconut and 1 cup of chopped nuts.
  4. Fold in egg whites.
  5. Pour into the 3 prepared cake pans; bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.



  1.  Beat cream cheese with 1 stick of butter until smooth; beat in confectioners'  sugar. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. If the frosting is very stiff, beat in small amounts of cream or milk to get a good spreading consistency.
  2. Spread on cake layers and then top with 1/4 cup of chopped nuts and 1/4 cup of coconut, as desired. See below for toasting instructions.

*To alternate the dry ingredients and buttermilk, mix in one-third of the flour, then half of the buttermilk. Mix in another one-third of the flour and the remaining buttermilk. Add the remaining flour and mix well.

Tips and Variations

  • How to Toast Coconut and Nuts - Put the 1/4 cup of coconut and pecans or walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring and turning until the coconut begins to brown. Remove to a plate to cool. Sprinkle over the top of the frosted cake (and on the sides, if desired).

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Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
594 Calories
35g Fat
67g Carbs
6g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)