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
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
594 Calories
35g Fat
67g Carbs
6g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 16 Servings
Amount per serving
Calories 594
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 16g 78%
Cholesterol 105mg 35%
Sodium 390mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 67g 24%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 6g
Calcium 85mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Despite the name, this Italian cream cake is a Southern specialty that is thought to have originated in Texas. This classic 3-layer cake is always a hit, and it will probably bring back fond memories for many. The moist buttermilk cake is baked with pecans and coconut and then topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting.


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

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Cake

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans.

  3. Put the 5 egg whites in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat until stiff peaks form; set aside.

  4. Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl; mix well and set aside.

  5. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and shortening together until fluffy.

  6. Add the granulated sugar and beat the butter mixture until light and fluffy.

  7. Add the egg yolks and beat well.

  8. Add the flour and baking soda mixture to the butter mixture in portions, alternating with buttermilk.

  9. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. Add the coconut and chopped nuts.

  10. Fold in the egg whites until batter is uniform.

  11. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared cake pans.

  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the Frosting and Assemble

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. While the cake is baking, beat the cream cheese with the butter until smooth.

  3. Beat in confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla and beat until smooth.

  4. If the frosting is very stiff, beat in small amounts of milk or cream to get a good spreading consistency.

  5. Stack the cake layers, spreading the frosting between each layer, and then frost the sides and top of the cake.

  6. Top with 1/4 cup of chopped nuts and 1/4 cup of coconut, as desired. 

  7. Slice, serve, and enjoy!


An important step to this cake recipe is adding the dry and wet ingredients separately, slowly, and alternately. The reason behind this technique is because if you added all of the liquid at once, it could cause the batter to separate; if you add all of the dry ingredients at once, the batter will end up too thick and the baked cake would be tough. To alternate the dry ingredients and buttermilk, mix in 1/3 of the flour, then half of the buttermilk. Mix in another third of the flour and the remaining buttermilk. Add the remaining flour and mix well.

To toast the nuts and coconut, put the 1/4 cup each of coconut and pecans 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).