Old-fashioned Italian cream cake made with coconut, pecans, and cream cheese frosting. This is a can’t-miss authentic Italian cream cake recipe!
Italian cream cake has so many good things all in one cake! It’s a moist buttermilk cake filled with coconut and pecans and topped with almond cream cheese.
I don’t think that I could have come up with a more perfect cake! This cake is more involved than many of my one-bowl cake recipes.
It is worth the time it takes, and it makes a great holiday or special occasion cake.
What is Italian cream cake?
Italian cream cake is a moist buttermilk cake has pecans and coconut in it. The cake is frosted with cream cheese frosting.
The cake is traditionally made as a 3 layer cake, but some of the ingredients vary from recipe to recipe. I prefer the version with almond extract, but feel free to leave it out if you would like.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Butter – I use salted butter. If using unsalted butter, I recommend adding 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the cake and couple of pinches of salt to the frosting.
- Shortening – Why use shortening in this cake? The shortening helps to produce a taller, fluffier cake.
- Granulated sugar
- Large eggs
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract – The almond extract is optional, but it does add something special to both the cake and the frosting.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Buttermilk – Regular or low-fat buttermilk will work.
- Sweetened shredded coconut
- Pecans – The pecans can be toasted or untoasted. However, toasting the pecans does add more flavor.
- Cream cheese – I don’t recommend using fat-free cream cheese in this recipe.
- Powdered sugar – If your powdered sugar is lumpy, sifting it before adding it in will help it to better incorporate.
How to make Italian cream cake (from scratch)
This cake is more involved than a one-bowl cake, but it isn’t difficult to make.
Begin by beating the butter and shortening together.
Add granulated sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
Then, mix in the egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract.
Next, add in the baking soda and half of the flour. Then, mix in the buttermilk and then remaining half of the flour.
Mix in the pecans and coconut.
Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. You want them to be stiff peaks but not dry and overbeaten.
Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites.
Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans. I highly recommend greasing and flouring the cake pans.
I like to use a nonstick spray that has flour in it, but traditional greasing and flouring will also work.
Once the cake has cooled, prepare the frosting. Begin by beating the butter and cream cheese together.
Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract.
Finally, top each layer of cake with frosting and pecans.
How to store this cake
Italian cream cake should be stored, covered, in the fridge.
How long will the cake keep?
The cake will stay good for 3-4 days when properly stored in the refrigerator.
More decadent cake recipes!
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Italian Cream Cake
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk¹
- 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 12 ounces cream cheese² softened
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2-1 teaspoon almond extract³
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening together until well-combined.
- Add granulated sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
- Beat in egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add half of the flour and all of the baking soda. Stir in until just combined.
- Mix in buttermilk.
- Stir in remaining half of the flour until just combined.
- Mix in coconut and pecans until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Fold one-third of the egg whites into batter.
- Fold in remaining beaten egg whites.
- Gently spoon batter into prepared pans.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove cakes to wire rack to cool completely.
- For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, and mix on low for 30 seconds, or until powdered sugar is just incorporated.
- Increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy.
- Spread frosting over layer of cake and then top with pecans.
- Repeat with remaining layers, frosting, and pecans.⁴
- Refrigerate before serving, and cover and chill any leftovers.
- Low-fat or full-fat buttermilk ok
- Full-fat or 1/3-less fat ok. Fat-free isn’t recommended.
- If you want a milder almond flavor, use 1/2 teaspoon. For a stronger almond flavor, use 1 teaspoon.
- Feel free to use (cooled) toasted pecans on the top layer. Using toasted pecans is optional, but it adds a little something special to the cake.
- Nutrition values are estimates.
Originally posted 11/28/18. Updated with additional information on 3/3/21. Updated again on 12/4/21 with additional photographs.
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