Italian Cream Cake

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This easy Italian Cream Cake is loaded with coconut, toasted pecans, and a rich and tangy cream cheese frosting. Impress your guests not only with the flavors in this Italian cake recipe, but with each stunning layer of this classic dessert!

titled collage for Italian cream cake recipe


Italian Cream Cake

Layered cakes make a stunning display for any occasion, and they’re not as hard to make as you might think!

If you have a steady hand and can follow a recipe, you’ll have no trouble assembling this easy Italian cream cake.

Still too much work? I’ve got plenty of recipes just for you — all you need to do is dump everything in the pan, stir, and bake.

Otherwise, you’ll love the layers in my chocolate mint or strawberry shortcake cakes.

There’s even a gorgeous red velvet recipe that’s perfect for the winter holidays! Or this Italian Nougat candy you will go nuts for!

ingredients to make italian cream cake

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Sugar – You’ll need both white and brown sugar for this Italian cream cake recipe. The brown sugar adds a touch of caramel flavor plus moisture to the batter.
  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda – We’re using two leavening ingredients too!

    Since the Italian cream cake features a dense sponge, it needs an extra boost to help it rise properly.
  • Vanilla and Almond Extract – Notice a pattern? Just a touch of almond enhances the nutty flavor of the pecans, so I like to include it.

    Feel free to use just the vanilla extract if you prefer.
  • Shredded Coconut – Be sure to grab the sweetened kind for this Italian cake recipe or you won’t get much of the flavor.
stirring cake batter with coconut and pecans

Italian Cake Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Measure carefully.

Stir the flour inside the bag or container to loosen it up, then spoon it into a measuring cup and level off the top with a knife.

Too much flour will result in an overly dense and tough Italian coconut cream cake.

  • Use room temperature ingredients.

Pull your dairy and eggs out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before starting this recipe.

This allows the ingredients to incorporate more easily into the batter, resulting in a better overall texture.

  • Create a simpler look.

Since the nuts will clog up your piping tip, be sure to set aside any frosting you may want to use for detail work.

If you don’t want to pipe swirls on top of the Italian cream cheese cake, go ahead and mix the pecans into the whole batch of frosting. 

  • Don’t have buttermilk?

Make your own substitute! Simply stir 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into 1 cup of plain milk.

Let it sit until thickened, about 5 minutes, then use as directed.

bowl of pecan cream cheese frosting in bowl and piping bag

Italian Cream Cake Recipe FAQ

What is Italian cream cake?

Despite the name, it’s not actually Italian! It seems to be a Southern recipe where pecans and coconut are baked right into the layers for a bolder flavor.

Then, Italian coconut cream cake is finished off with either whipped cream or cream cheese frosting

The combination of all-purpose flour and buttermilk creates a denser sponge than traditional white cake, and the buttermilk adds lots of extra moisture as well.

Don’t worry — it’s still deliciously fluffy! It just needs that extra density to support the bold flavor of the pecans and coconut.

Can I use a different frosting?

Technically, yes, but cream cheese frosting is the traditional choice for any Italian cream cake recipe.

Because the dense cake is packed with coconut and pecans, it can really benefit from the extra tang as well.

Whipped cream frosting would be a good (and easy) alternative. Regular American buttercream would be too sweet.

What’s the best way to toast pecans?

Chop them up into small pieces and spread them into a single layer on a small baking sheet. Pop them in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 350°F until toasted.

Start checking on them as soon as they become fragrant. Once they are ready, remove them from the pan immediately so they don’t continue toasting and burn.

Storing Leftover Italian Cream Cheese Cake

Due to the cream cheese frosting, Italian cream cake should be kept in the refrigerator.

Store it in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out, and enjoy within a week for best results.

You can also freeze Italian cream cheese cake for up to 3 months, even completely assembled! Simply thaw on the counter for a few hours before serving.

italian cream cake with piped swirls on top

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showing inside of italian cream layer cake

Italian cream cake

Italian Cream Cake

Donna Elick
Italian Cream Cake is loaded with coconut, toasted pecans, and luscious cream cheese frosting. Impress your guests with a classic dessert!
5 stars from 5 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Method Oven
Servings 12


  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8” round cake pans by cutting a round of parchment paper and placing in the bottom of each cake pan. Spray with non-stick baking spray.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter until smooth and fluffy. Add sugars and cream together for 4-5 minutes.
  • Add one egg at a time, mixing on low speed until each egg is incorporated. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract.
  • Add 1/3 cup of the buttermilk and beat in on low speed.
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and add ½ of this flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat in on low speed until incorporated.
  • Add another 1/3 cup of the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture, and then the remaining 1/3 cup of buttermilk.
  • Beat in 1 cup of toasted pecan pieces and 1cup of coconut.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly between the three pans and immediately place in the oven.
  • Bake layers 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with just a few crumbles.
  • Allow the cakes to cook for about 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.
  • Wrap each cooled cake layer in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
  • Prepare the frosting by beating together softened butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract.
  • Add powdered sugar and beat on high until combined.
  • Drizzle in heavy whipping cream while beating until desired thickness is achieved.
  • Remove 1 cup of the frosting to use for piping on the top of the cake (optional).
  • Beat the toasted pecan pieces into the remaining frosting.
  • To assemble cake, unwrap the chilled cake layers from their plastic wrap. Place one layer on a serving plate. Spread a couple spoonfuls of frosting over the top of the cake layer and spread smooth.
  • Place a second layer of cake over the first layer and add a layer of frosting over that.
  • Place the third layer of cake onto the stack. Mound the remaining frosting on the top of the cake and use a large offset spatula to spread the frosting across the top and down over the sides of the cake.
  • Continue spreading the frosting to cover the entire cake. Place cake in the freezer to firm up for about 15 minutes.
  • Load reserved frosting into a piping bag fit with an open star tip such as Tip #1M. Pipe swirls around the top perimeter of the cake using the reserved frosting (without the pecans). Sprinkle with toasted coconut.
  • Chill or slice and serve immediately.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 1025cal | Carbohydrates: 120g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 59g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Cholesterol: 200mg | Sodium: 510mg | Sugar: 96g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 130mg | Iron: 3mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): cream cake recipe

Originally published October 2021, updated and republished September

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  1. 5 stars
    So pretty and yummy looking! Have you made this with unsalted butter? Would the cake science still work?
    Thank you-

  2. My favorite cake of all times! So moist and delicious. I’d recommend this for any occasion.

  3. 5 stars
    Donna’s Italian Cream Cake recipe is a winner! I added a splash of rum to the frosting for a little extra flavor kick.

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