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.
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
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, fluffed and spooned or sifted**
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)
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.
Have all ingredients measured and ready to go.
Stir baking soda into buttermilk and set aside.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; set aside. I like to do this first and get it over with.
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.
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.
Cream the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. Frost the cakes and stack. Garnish with pecans.
This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the cake generously and still have a little extra for decorating.
**I sifted my flour before measuring and it weighed about 8.5 oz. I think next time I’ll measure and then sift and use 9 oz. I haven’t found a recipe that gives a standard weight for the flour.