This Italian Cream Cake is incredibly soft, loaded with chopped pecans and toasted coconut, and topped with a homemade cream cheese frosting. This classic cake is perfect for birthdays, holidays, or just about any occasion!

This post is sponsored by Danish Creamery. As always, all opinions are mine.

An Italian Cream Cake on top of a wooden cake stand with a marble top. A jar of chopped pecans and two milk jugs rest in the background.

One of my favorite things about the holidays are all of the baked goods and desserts. From the homemade pies, cookies, cakes, and more, I just can’t get enough of them!

So today, I’m bringing you one of my favorite cake recipes for the holidays – this homemade Italian Cream Cake. This recipe is made with layers of vanilla cake that are filled with toasted pecans and shredded coconut. Then, it’s all topped off with a homemade pecan cream cheese frosting.

If you’re looking for the perfect cake to make for Christmas this year, or even year-round, this is it!

The ingredients needed to make an Italian Cream Cake on a gray surface.

While this cake is very similar to most traditional Italian cream cake recipes, I’ve made a few tweaks to really make it perfect. Let’s discuss a few key ingredients:

  • Danish Creamery European Style Butter: You know how much I love Danish Creamery butter and it is key in this cake! While many Italian cream cakes use a combination of butter and shortening, I prefer to just use butter. Danish Creamery’s European style butter gives this cake so much flavor and is truly the best butter out there. In fact, they’ve used the same recipe since 1895 which is just high-quality cream and a touch of sea salt.
  • Cake Flour: Another important ingredient I prefer to use in my cake recipes. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour which results in a softer, fluffier cake as well as taller cake layers. If you only have all-purpose flour on hand, you can use my homemade cake flour substitute here. Or you can simply replace the cake flour with 2 cups (250 grams) of all-purpose flour.
  • Almond Extract: While this ingredient is completely optional, it adds extra flavor to this cake. I highly recommend using it if you have some on hand.
  • Pecans: There’s chopped pecans in both the cake and frosting. You can feel free to leave them out of the frosting, but I personally love them in it! You can also swap out the pecans for an equal amount of chopped walnuts.
  • Cream Cheese: This ingredient will be used for the frosting, but you want to make sure to use bricks or blocks of cream cheese. Avoid using cream cheese that’s in a tub as this typically has ingredients added to it to thin it out and will result in a runny frosting.

How To Make An Italian Cream Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and toast the pecans: Toasting the pecans is completely optional, but it really enhances their flavor. I typically toast mine in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or just until they’re fragrant.
  • Prepare three 8-inch cake pans: The cake layers can be a little sticky, so I suggest spraying your pans well with nonstick cooking spray and lining them with parchment circles.
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together: In a large bowl, mix the cake flour, baking soda, and salt together.
  • Whisk the buttermilk and extracts together
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy: Don’t try to rush this step! Be sure to beat your butter until it’s smooth first, then mix in the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. This step will usually take about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Mix in the egg yolks one at a time: Set the egg whites aside for later.
  • Alternate mixing in the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture: This will help prevent over mixing the cake batter, which can result in a denser cake. You will start by mixing in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture, another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, the remaining 1/2 of the buttermilk, then the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
  • Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks: Remember the egg whites you set aside earlier? Now it’s time to mix them to stiff peaks. In other words, when you lift your beaters out of the bowl the peaks of the egg whites stand straight up.
  • Fold in the egg whites: Start by folding in 1/3 of the egg whites, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Make sure to do this gently and only fold them in until just combined, this is what helps to create fluffier cake layers!
  • Mix in some of the chopped pecans and the coconut: Gently mix in 1 cup of the chopped pecans and all of the coconut. Set aside the other cup of toasted pecans for the frosting.
  • Divide the batter between the three prepared cake pans
  • Bake for 25 minutes: Or until a toothpick inserted into the cake layers comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool: I recommend letting the cakes cool in the pans for 20 to 30 minutes, then carefully removing them to cool completely.

An Italian Cream Cake that's been sliced on a cake stand. Two milk jugs rest in the background.

Once the cake layers have cooled completely, you can mix together the frosting. To make the frosting, simply beat two blocks of cream cheese until smooth, then mix in two sticks of butter. I highly recommend using Danish Creamery European style butter here too. Their butter has 85% butterfat, which is actually higher than most other European style butters and creates a thicker cream cheese frosting.  

Stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl, then mix in some powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Once everything is well combined, gently stir or mix in the remaining cup of toasted chopped pecans you set aside earlier.

Then, level your cake layers and frost the cake. I typically use about 3/4 to 1 cup of frosting between the cake layers and use the rest to frost the top and sides of the cake.

A close-up of an Italian Cream cake that's been sliced to show the texture. A slice of cake and a jug of milk rest in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Italian Cream Cake Have To Be Refrigerated?

Yes, since this particular recipe uses cream cheese in the frosting it does need to be refrigerated. You can store this cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The cake is delicious cold, but feel free to bring it to room temperature before serving if you prefer.

Can I Make This In A 9×13 Pan?

Yes, absolutely! The baking time for a 9×13 pan will be about 35 to 45 minutes. I’d recommend cutting the frosting recipe in half or freezing any leftover frosting.

Can I Freeze This Cake?

This cake does freeze really well! Once the cake layers have cooled completely, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. The frosting will also freeze well in a large freezer bag for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to make the cake, bring the cake layers and frosting to room temperature, then assemble it.

You can also freeze slices of the frosted cake for a few months. I recommend wrapping them tightly with plastic wrap and storing them in a large freezer bag or storage container. When you’re ready to enjoy them, just place them on the counter and let them come to room temperature. 

A slice of Italian cream cake on a white speckled plate. Pecans and coconut are scattered around the plate.

Baking Tips

  • If you’re toasting the pecans, make sure to do this step first so they have time to cool completely before you mix them into the batter and the frosting.
  • Since the egg yolks and egg whites are mixed in separately, it helps to separate them before getting started.
  • Be sure to gently fold in the whipped egg whites. If you overmix them, this can cause them to deflate and the cake layers won’t be quite as tall.
  • To get perfectly clean slices of cake, refrigerate the cake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. This will allow the frosting to firm up and make it easier to slice into! I also recommend using a serrated knife, so you can easily slice through the pecans in the cake.

More Homemade Cake Recipes To Try!

An Italian cream cake on a wooden cake stand with a marble top. A jar of chopped pecans and two milk jugs rest in the background.

Italian Cream Cake

Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
This Italian Cream Cake is incredibly delicious, soft, loaded with chopped pecans and toasted coconut, and topped with a homemade cream cheese frosting. 

Ingredients

Servings: 8 slices

Italian Cream Cake

  • 2 cups chopped pecans divided (240 grams)
  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour spooned & leveled (260 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature (240 ml)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract optional
  • 1 cup Danish Creamery European style unsalted butter softened (230 grams)
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar (350 grams)
  • 5 large eggs separated and at room temperature
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (95 grams)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces brick-style cream cheese softened (452 grams)
  • 1 cup Danish Creamery European style unsalted butter softened (230 grams)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (480 grams)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.
  • Spray three 8-inch round cake pans well with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle, and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In another mixing bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the Danish Creamery butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed slowly add the granulated sugar. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Separate the egg yolks and egg whites. Add the egg yolks one at a time (set the egg whites aside for later), stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk mixture (begin and end with the dry ingredients) on low speed. Mix in each addition until just combined, making sure not to over mix the batter. Use a rubber spatula to scrape around the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well combined.
  • In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold ⅓ of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined.
  • Gently stir in 1 cup (120 grams) of toasted chopped pecans (set aside the other cup for the frosting) and the shredded coconut until just combined.
  • Evenly divide the cake batter between the three prepared cake pans and spread it around into one even layer.
  • Bake for 23 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 20 to 30 minutes. Slide a knife around the outside of the cakes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the Danish Creamery butter and mix for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until well combined and smooth.
  • Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gently mix in the remaining 1 cup (120 grams) of toasted chopped pecans.
  • To assemble the cake: Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler.
  • Place one of the cakes on a cake stand, top with ¾ cup to 1 cup of frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer.
  • Repeat with the second layer and another ¾ cup - 1 cup of frosting, place the third layer on top, then use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.

Notes

Storage Instructions: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing Instructions: Once the cake layers have cooled completely, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 months. Frosting will also freeze well in a large freezer bag for up to 3 months. When you're ready to make the cake, bring the cake layers and frosting to room temperature, then assemble.
Slices of the frosted cake may be frozen for 2 to 3 months. I recommend wrapping them tightly with plastic wrap and storing them in a large freezer bag/container. Thaw to room temperature before serving.
To make a 9x13 cake: Grease a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour the batter into it. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I recommend cutting the frosting recipe in half for a 9x13 cake.
Cake Flour: If you don't have any on hand, you can use my homemade cake flour substitute here. Or you can simply replace the cake flour with 2 cups (250 grams) of all-purpose flour.
Cream Cheese: Make sure to use blocks of cream cheese in the frosting. If you use cream cheese spread in a tub, the frosting will be too soft.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle
Did you make this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften on Instagram or tag #livewellbakeoften.