ITALIAN CREAM CAKE RECIPE: Italian Cream Cake is a southern-style cake is bursting with pecan, coconut, and almond flavors. It’s frosted with a cream cheese frosting and beautifully decorated to make one impressive and ridiculously tasty dessert!

Ingredients – For Cake

  • 2 ⅔ cups (333 g) all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 12 Tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter softened and cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 ½ cups (354 ml) buttermilk room temperature preferred
  • 2 large eggs room temperature preferred
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup (120 g) sweetened shredded coconut

  • 1 cup (113 g) coarsely chopped pecans
top-down view of ingredients including coconut, pecans, buttermilk, flour, and more


Ingredients for Frosting 

  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter softened

  • 16 oz (453 g) cream cheese softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 8 cups (1000 g) powdered sugar

How to Make Italian Cream Cake

collage of four photos showing cake batter being prepared and baked in three pans
  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then mix in the butter one tablespoon at a time (this is the reverse creaming method I use with my caramel cake, as opposed to creaming together the butter and sugar first).
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients together, then drizzle this mixture into the butter/flour mixture while mixing on low speed.
  3. Fold in the pecans and coconut with a spatula, then divide the batter between three greased, floured, and parchment-lined pans.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, then let the cakes cool in their pans for 10-15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
collage of two photos showing cream cheese frosting being prepared

  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then stir in the extracts and salt.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar and keep mixing until the icing is smooth and creamy.
collage of four photos showing a cake being stacked and frosted with cream cheese frosting and decorated with toasted coconut and pecans
  1. Level your cakes if needed, then spread a thick layer of frosting over the top of one layer. Repeat until all layers have been frosted.
  2. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Finish frosting and add decorative swirls on top, if desired.
  4. Press a mixture of toasted coconut and finely chopped pecans up the sides of the cake and lightly sprinkle any excess on your piped swirls.

SAM’S TIP: Pretty much the only way to mess up this cake is to overbake it, so make sure to test the cake for doneness a minute or two early to be safe!



Q1. Is Italian cream cake actually Italian?

Surprisingly, Italian cream cake is not actually Italian! It’s believed to have originated in the southern USA, which isn’t surprising considering it’s studded with nuts both inside and out.

Even though its not actually from the Mediterranean, it still tastes as bright and flavorful as a true Italian dessert!

Q2. Do you have to refrigerate an Italian cream cake?

Yes, although it should be fine at room temperature in an airtight container for about 48 hours. After that, definitely put it in the fridge (still in an airtight container!).

Q3. Can I use a different icing?

You could, but classic Italian cream cakes are made with cream cheese icing and I’ve found the cake really benefits from the slight tang of a cream cheese frosting. If you’d like to switch things up, whipped cream frosting or Swiss meringue buttercream would be good alternatives!


So, how did I do? If you asked for this recipe, let me know how you like it in the comments below!


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