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Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake has three layers of moist cake covered in cream cheese frosting with plenty of coconut and pecans. It’s not hard at all to make and is perfect for a holiday celebration.

Italian Cream Cake on a red cake stand.

But let’s just start by saying that Italian Cream Cake isn’t exactly Italian. It’s more of a southern thing. I’m not really sure what the origin of it is, but I know it has been very popular in the south for years and I mostly associate it with Christmas.

Every year my mother was in charge of making this cake for an annual Christmas Eve Party at her friend’s house. The cake would be lit with candles and we’d all sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

Coconut and Pecan Combination

The combination of coconut and pecans is what really makes this cake special. In this recipe the coconut is added to the batter, but I’ve eaten plenty of Italian Cream Cakes with coconut in the frosting. Lots of chopped pecans are in both the batter and the frosting. Be sure to finely chop them or you’ll have a heck of a time spreading the frosting.

This cake has quite a few eggs in it. Five to be exact. The eggs are separated and the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks and then folded into the batter, helping to give it a light texture.

Italian Cream Layer Cake on red cake stand.

Recipe Tip

A good tip for beating egg whites is to separate them when they are cold and then let them sit at room temperature before you beat them. You’ll have a much easier time separating cold eggs and beating room temperature eggs.

A combination of both butter and shortening gives Italian Cream Cake a light and fluffy texture.

Whether it’s Christmas or another special occasion, Italian Cream Cake makes a memorable and beautiful dessert that you will want to eat every last crumb of.

Slice of Italian Cream Cake on a red plate.

More Cakes For Special Occasions

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Try this Bundt Cake version of Italian Cream Cake.

Watch the short video below to see how to make Italian Cream Cake.

Italian Cream Cake

The combination of coconut and pecans is what really makes this layer cake. Covered in a creamy, cream cheese frosting.
PREP: 20 minutes
COOK: 25 minutes
TOTAL: 45 minutes
SERVINGS: 20 servings


  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 5 egg whites, stiffly beaten


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped toasted pecans


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.
  • Using an electric mixer, cream butter and shortening.
  • Add sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Add egg yolks and mix thoroughly.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternating with buttermilk.
  • Stir in vanilla extract.
  • Stir in coconut and pecans.
  • Fold in egg whites and pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
  • To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  • Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.
  • Add vanilla extract and stir in pecans. If too thick you can add a tablespoon or 2 of milk.
  • Spread frosting on top of bottom layer of cake. Top with second layer. Cover with Frosting. Top with third layer and spread remaining frosting on top and sides. Store in refrigerator.


Calories: 486kcal
Author: Christin Mahrlig
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: Christmas, layer cake

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Originally posted December 19, 2015.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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29 thoughts on “Italian Cream Cake”

  1. This is a cool game and if you play it with your friends, you’ll have a lot of fun. One of my close friends working at play solitaire told me about this game and I have played this game with him quite a few times now. It’s just awesome!

  2. A Christmas tradition in our family for over 40 years. Only thing that needs to added is sift your flour, I use White Lily. Merry Christmas 🎅 🎄

  3. This recipe makes the perfect Italian Cream Cake just like the ones I remember growing up – scratch made and so delicious. I first made this cake back in 2019 for one of our Thanksgiving desserts at the request of my father. This week I’ll be making it again for my mother’s birthday at her request. You will not be disappointed by this wonderful cake recipe.

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