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Italian Cream Cake

by on April 28, 2010 · 40 comments

I’d like to learn the origin of Italian Cream Cake, but so far all I know is it’s about as Italian as German Chocolate Cake is German. It’s very popular here in Texas, and it’s made with things you find in a Southern kitchen; so my guess is that it’s a Southern cake which picked up the name “Italian Cream” in honor of the cream cheese, which might be a tribute to Italian desserts made with ricotta or mascarpone.

Italian Cream Cake

The version I tried today seems to be the most popluar, with 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, a combination of shortening and butter, 5 separated eggs and a cup of buttermilk. It was extremely moist, not mushy, but dense and light at the same time. I followed the directions very carefully and as in previous attempts at this cake, my layers baked up flat, but very light and tender similar to Italian Cream Cakes I’ve had from bakeries.

Todd loved this cake, but I’m still looking forward to trying variations. I’ve already made Cooking Light’s, which is excellent for a light cake, but I’m curious to try an all-butter recipe, or one where baking powder has been added, or where oil is used in place of shortening. If only it didn’t take our family a week to eat Italian cream cake.

Italian Cream Cake


Italian Cream Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Italian Cream Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 10
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 5 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 4 oz unsalted butter plus 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit salt if using salted)
  • 1/2 cup shortening (3.5 oz)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour,
  • 2/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 cup angel flake shredded, sweetened coconut ( 3.5 oz)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened plus 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted)
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, not sifted (about 1 ½ pounds)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans or spray with flour-added cooking spray and line bottoms with parchment circles.
  2. Have all ingredients measured and ready to go.
  3. Stir baking soda into buttermilk and set aside.
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; set aside. I like to do this first and get it over with.
  5. Cream butter, salt (if using) sugar and shortening in bowl of stand mixer for 3-5 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl often. Beat in vanilla. By hand or using lowest speed of mixer, add flour and buttermilk mixture alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in egg whites. When egg whites are incorporated, fold in the pecans and coconut. Batter should be thick and light. Scrape into prepared pans dividing evenly.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done. My cakes were fairly pale in the center and didn’t appear done, but the cake tester came out clean so I knew they were. Let cool in pans on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn from pans and cool completely.
  7. Frosting:
  8. Cream the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. Frost the cakes and stack. Garnish with pecans.
  9. This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the cake generously and still have a little extra for decorating.

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Published on April 28, 2010

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Mower April 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I’ve never heard of this cake before, but it looks scrumptious! It looks really moist and fluffy too. My favorite cakes are the moist and fluffy ones.

Fallon April 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

That looks soo good! Have you posted the cooking light recipe on your blog?

sue April 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I love this cake. It was our wedding cake almost twenty years ago.
I’m going to try to make it this weekend! I am almost positive ‘Southern Living’ cookbook has it.

Sue April 29, 2010 at 7:31 am

I don’t think I’ve ever had this cake. It sounds wonderful! I bet it would disappear within minutes if you sent it to work with Todd or took it to the construction crew. I doubt people at either venue would mind that you’ve already cut into it. With only two of us here I understand about having a lot of one thing around even if it’s something you love.

Pam Shank April 29, 2010 at 7:41 am

this looks soooo good. I love this cake and I always forget about it when I am trying to decide what cake to make. I have got to make it today. Thanks

Anna April 29, 2010 at 7:46 am

Chris, this one’s light, but I wouldn’t call it fluffy. It’s more of a tender cake.

Fallon, it’s been years since I made the Cooking Light cake, but I remember liking it very much. I may make it again soon — just as soon as we eat (or share) this one. I’m pretty sure the recipe is on If not, shoot me an email and I’ll type it for you.

Sue, the original is from Southern Living so you probably have it or could find it on

Sue, thanks! Maybe I will just send it along.

Pam, let me know how it goes and which recipe you end up using.

Joanne April 29, 2010 at 8:16 am

I think the true Italian version of this makes a cannoli cream filling for the insides but this sounds delicious either way!

Jeanette April 29, 2010 at 8:21 am

This looks so delicious! I am interested to know which recipe ends up being your favorite (if you make others that is). Thanks~

Anna April 29, 2010 at 8:21 am

Joanne, I didn’t think there was a true Italian version. If there is, could you point me to it? I’ve never seen a version of this cake using ricotta, but that would be neat if there was one.

Kath April 29, 2010 at 9:03 am

The best Italian Creme Cake recipe I have ever used came from the Austin American Statesman several years ago. I think it was the winner of their Christmas cake contest. I’ve tried dozens of different Italian creme cake recipes and the one from the Statesman is by far the best. It may be the amaretto in the cake and the frosting! :) It is by far my most requested cake from friends for weddings and other big events. I couldn’t find the recipe online to post — but will do so after I get home tonight. Happy baking!

Anna April 29, 2010 at 9:08 am

Kath, thanks for the hot tip! I’ll see if I can find it. I know the Statesman has published more than one version of the recipe, so the Amaretto is key.

Pam April 29, 2010 at 9:24 am

I make this cake quite often, and I use frozen shredded coconut instead of the sweetened flaked version. It melts into the batter so that you get the flavor but don’t see individual flakes of coconut, which makes it possible for my coconut hating husband to eat it and love it. He doesn’t even know there is any coconut in the cake — and I’ll never tell him! I think it also helps the cake to remain very moist, even after two or three days have passed.

Jennifer April 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

Wow, that looks great. I’ve never had (or made) an Italian Cream Cake, either. I’ll have to follow Pam’s suggestion of using frozen shredded coconut to see if I could get my coconut-haters to eat it.

Anna April 29, 2010 at 10:17 am

Here’s one with Amaretto. I’m not sure if it’s the one from the Statesman because I found it listed without a source on one of those big recipe aggregator sites, but it’s something like this.

1 cup butter, softened — probably used salted in original, adjust accordingly
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided (mix some of it with the egg whites)
5 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Amaretto
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup butter (probably used salted)
12 ounce cream cheese
1/4 cup Amaretto
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Use same techniques as above but bake at 325 for about 35-40 minutes. For the egg whites, beat about 1/2 cup of the sugar into the egg whites, then fold the sugared egg whites into the batter.

I’ll post original recipe if I can get the actual Statesman version, but this is probably it.

Sue April 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

Mmmm! A little amaretto couldn’t hurt anything!!

Window On The Prairie April 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Looks so delish! I’ve never made this type of cake, but will give it a try!

Kath April 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Anna — That’s the one! It is awesome. Even better the next day. I have used a mix of mascarpone and cream cheese in the frosting when I have it on hand. Doesn’t make a huge differnce becasue of the amaretto.

p.s. — heard you on the radio yesterday morning and chuckled.

Michelle April 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Whoa, this is eerie. I was just looking up Italian Cream Cakes just yesterday. I go here and find that you made one! Must’ve been on same baking vibe. LOL. You’re awesome!

vanillasugar April 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm

wow that cake looks so moist. i would love to add amaretto to the frosting you know? and i just thought of that because of seeing your first post.
also, do you know if these are good? jenny at picky palate said they were good, but just curious if you have them/ like them or even what you use for versatile cake deocrating.
here’s the link:

Anna April 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Dawn, I don’t go to Sur la Table very often (there’s not one nearby) and I’m not familiar with those fancy squeeze bottles. They look fine. I’d have to try them out to know. I just use decorating bags and tips.

Daisy Doodles April 29, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I love Italian Cream Cake! We had it as our wedding cake and I have had it as my bday cake every year since I was 16 ( I am a weirdo!).

I will have to ask my boss if they actually have Italian Cream Cake in Italy!

Mary M April 30, 2010 at 9:49 am

Pioneer Woman did one last year. I made it and it was delish- moist, yet fluffy- maybe the coconut?
Her recipe uses oil instead of shortening, plus butter.

Anna April 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

Thanks Mary! I looked at that one, but I thought it had too much fat. Not that I’m counting fat, but the proportions seemed like overkill. The recipe calls for 4 oz butter plus 8 oz oil. That’s 12 oz fat. And on top of that, the recipe had only 1 cup of sugar and the same amount of eggs and flour, so that’s even less sugar to buffer all that fat. I’m sure people liked it, though.

Louise April 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Have you ever made or eaten cassata? It’s definitely Italian and a tender cake with a cannoli type of filling. It doesn’t have coconut or nuts but a trace of candied fruit.

TG April 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Cassata i love. Italian cream cake i hate. Maybe i just haven’t had a good one. (In my book, there is no good one, haha.)

I grew up near an Italian neighborhood in the Northeast and there was no “authentic” original of this cake as I see it here in Texas; I think your theory (about its origin) makes perfect sense.

Anna April 30, 2010 at 8:47 pm

There’s a cassata recipe on my radar, but it calls for creme de cacao and I haven’t felt like spending the money on the booze or the ladyfingers. But it does sound good and the recipe happens to be from Paula Deen.
It also makes a huge cassata. I do make cannoli fairly often, though.

Louise and Teresa, if either of you have a cassata recipe to recommend, let me know.

Louise May 1, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Anna, The cassata I know is made from a homemade sponge cake and doesn’t use creme de cacao. I’ll have to dig out the recipe. I owe you a couple others too. :-)

Janice May 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I could be totally off base but have always thought Italian Cream and Hummingbird to be closely related Southern cakes.
I was thinking about you today as I looked at Anguilla pics.

Lucy June 7, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Okay, I’m coming late into this whole thing, but – my daughter & I were having lunch at a restaurant today & Italian Creme Cake was listed on the dessert menu. I told her to pass it up because I had a recipe at home I could make. Except when I got home I discovered I’d thrown it out. Seems I’d forgotten how the last time I made it a few years ago, no one ate it (except me), so I got mad & threw the recipe away. ANYway…in trying to find the recipe again, or a similar one, on the Web (because now my daughter says she’ll eat it), I came across this recipe which sounds like it, & it uses baking powder:
1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. bkg. pwd.
1/4 tsp. bkg. soda
1/2 c. butter (no substitutes)
1/3 c. shortening
1-3/4 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. buttermilk or sour milk
1 3-1/2 oz. can flaked coconut
1 c. chopped pecans
4 egg whites

Frosting: In a bowl beat: 12 oz. cream cheese, softened; 6 Tbls. butter, softened; 1-1/2 tsps. vanilla. Gradually add 6 c. sifted pwd. sugar; stir in 1/2 c. chopped pecans.

Grease & flour 3 8×1-1/2 round pans. Combine flour, bkg. pwd & bkg soda; set aside. In mixing bowl beat butter & shortening on med to high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, beat until fluffy. Add egg yolks & vanilla, beat on med until combined. Add flour mixture & buttermilk alternately to egg mixture, beating on low after each addn until just combined. Fold in coconut & pecans. In small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold about 1/3 into cake batter to lighten. Then fold in remaining. Spread batter evenly in pans. Bake in 350 oven for 25-30 min or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 min; remove from pans & cool thoroughly. Frost and assemble layer cake. Chill until serving time.

I believe this is a Better Homes & Garden recipe. It’s gotten rave reviews everywhere I’ve seen it, including the site where I found it. It has the baking powder in it that you mentioned; that’s why I’m submitting it to you.

Lucy June 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Oh, I have one with oil that I came across. I know it’s not the recipe I’m trying to replace, but it sounds pretty good so I might try it if this replacement BH&Gs one doesn’t please my family. ;)

Kim June 10, 2010 at 6:33 am


This looks delightful. I make a cannoli cake that is also seriously delicious. The recipe is from a bakery that also sells cannoli cake, Sweet Maria’s in Waterbury, CT. Sweet Maria’s, Maria Sanchez has a collection of wonderful cookie and cake cookbooks. The cannoli cake is a 3 layer using a tube pan and it does use ricotta cheese, and yummy mini chocolate chips.

Sissy June 17, 2010 at 9:12 am

I am getting married in one week! I will be using this as our wedding cake I’m going to make it 3 or 4 stacks tall. We are having a small family wedding and I could’nt see paying 100.00 dollars for a big wedding cake, when this one will be wonderful and we will place a letter for our last name on the top of the cake for the topper.

Anna June 17, 2010 at 9:18 am

Congratulations on your marriage! I am sure you will enjoy this cake :).

Anonymous August 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

OMG .. this looks soooo sooo good… is this changing my mind about the jelly roll?.. omg :o.. this cake looks so beautiful.. and good..

Anna August 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

Go with Italian Cream Cake!

Olga September 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

Hi Anna…
I did it. Last night i baked it,.. it was really nice. It smelled so good and felt soo smooth when i was folding in the flour and buttermilk….different then anything i did before..i haven´t tried it yet..the gathering is tonight i will take a picture of it,i would like to show you. :).. The frosting is my best one so far..i did it last night and put it in the fridge .. this morning i assembled the cake and it felt like ice cream.. it is hot here so i had to put it in the fridge when i was half way.. then put it out and finished putting the frosting because it was dropping…..then no problem..i put pecans like you did and a bit of coconut on the side so it would cover my bad frosting skill..jij.. i sooo want to try it ..i bet it will be good.. Thank you for the recipe.. ..
PS. by the way.. the recipe doesnt say when to put the vanilla on the cake.. i realized and then put it at the very end i hope it is ok…. just wanted to let you know..
Have a nice dayy!!!.. i send you my pic :p

Anna September 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Hi Olga,
I can’t wait to see your photo! Cream cheese frosting is tricky because if it’s hot, it does need to be refrigerated. However, the refrigerator does change the texture somewhat. Either way, it will still taste good. Just keep the finished cake in the refrigerator since it’s so hot. Also, thanks for letting me know about the vanilla. I added that line about when to put it in.

Erika August 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

Hi! I just found out your blog!! Love it! I know I’m a little bit late to leave a comment foor this recipe, but I just want you to know (just to give you an answer) that Italian Cream Cake does not exist here in Italy…sorry, I forgot…I’m Italian (precisely from Vicenza, a small city which is located in Northern Italy). So, I think your suggestion was right…maybe it has been called liked this as a tribute to Italian desserts.
Congrats again for your blog and sorry for my english (surely I messed up at some point :) )

Anna August 10, 2012 at 8:57 am

Hi Erika,

Thanks! Your English is excellent.

Dainie Tidwell February 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I have been making this since 1960’s. Received this from friend from Huntsville, Al and Alexander City-from a resturant probably since her inlaws were in the business. It is a grand old Alabama recipe!

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