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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. Does anyone know what non-alcoholic beverage is appropriate to serve with Italian Cream Cake? I am having a small wedding reception and will be serving Italian Cream Cake. Unfortunately, I have no idea what beverage to serve with it.

  2. This is hubby’s favorite cake of all times……(next to his mother’s fresh coconut cake and her fried apple pies)..Rest in Peace Ninny Babb

  3. Susan Rawski

    Italian Cream Cake is delicious! But I needed more frosting!
    How do I increase the amount?

  4. This was not what I expected when I read about it in Emily March’s “Eternity Springs” books. But it is delicious!

  5. Summer Lestage

    I made this cake. It was a hit, I added a pack of strawberry jello to it for a Summer event and the kids loved it.

  6. Rhonda Duron

    This cake is absolutely delicious and so worth the extra effort once a year. It’s actually the identical recipe from an old cookbook from the 70’s that my aunt has. She brought it for dessert at Thanksgiving last night and she snapped me a photo of the recipe so I could make it then I was looking for a picture of the old cook book cover and found this page. It’s been passed around a lot for good reason. The depth of flavors that this cake has is unmatched and many newer recipes omit the shortening unfortunately. I wonder if you could make cupcakes without altering it- but the triple layer presentation is just lovely 🙂

  7. Estellene Minghini Derrel

    I made 4 of these this last December!! So delicious and beautiful!! I tint the icing pink sometimes too!!
    My Mom was famous for her Italian Cream Cake!

  8. What an impressive cake! I think Southern recipes are some of the best. Thanks for sharing so many throughout the year…I hope 2016 brings you plenty more inspiration, along with lots of fun and joy! Happy holidays!

  9. Jess @ Sweetest Menu

    Well first off, this cake looks absolutely incredible – those gorgeous layers! Pinned! Second, I just love the tradition of singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, what a beautiful way to remember what this holiday is all about. Love it x

  10. I’ve never had Italian cream cake before, but it looks like something I could crave really easily! And I’m the original cream cheese frosting fanatic!

  11. Joshua Hampton

    I could stare all day at that gorgeous cake, but eating a slice would be so much better. What a beauty.

  12. This cake looks really impressive! I could imagine making it with walnuts, pecans are sooooo expensive around here…

  13. Sarah @Whole and Heavenly Oven

    You completely NAILED this cake, Christin! It is seriously SO beautiful and impressive and I am totally craving a super-huge slice right now!

  14. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice

    What a gorgeous cake, Christin! I love the pretty layers and frosting. This really looks like the ultimate dessert!

  15. Thao @ In Good Flavor

    What a beautiful cake! I love the coconut/cream cheese/pecan combination. This is one cake that I would not be able to bypass at the dessert table!

  16. June @ How to Philosophize with Cake

    That looks scrumptious! I really must try an Italian cream cake sometime, they sound delish 🙂

  17. Amy @ The Blond Cook

    I could sooo tear into this cake right now with a big glass of milk.. it looks delicious! 🙂

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