Nonna's Italian Cream Cake Recipe: This Moist Layer Cake May Not Be Italian After All by Ann Marie Patitucci

Nonna's Italian Cream Cake Recipe: This Moist Layer Cake May Not Be Italian After All

Don’t let the name of this layered cake fool you! This Italian cream cake recipe may not be Italian at all. I love looking into the origins of a recipe and for this one I found one source that says this cake is Italian. All the other sources I discovered argue that this is a southern-style cake. Having lived in the south for a while now, this doesn’t surprise me, given the ingredients. In addition to the pecan flavor, this layer cake boasts coconut and almond flavors, too – a winning trio!

The “Italian” cream cake has three layers and is frosted with a whipped cream cheese frosting. It is beautifully decorated, making it impressive as well as delicious. In addition, the cake is moist, sweet, light and airy. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something lighter, especially this time of year. This layer cake recipe is perfect. I can just imagine it as the signature dessert of a garden party.

Inside scoop: Cake is best when stored covered in the refrigerator and eaten within about three days. I don’t recommend freezing this particular cake.

Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 12 to 14 slices



  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted, plus more for decorating
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted (can be toasted in the oven)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 20 ounces cream cheese (full fat), at room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Here’s how to make it:

  1. While eggs are cold, divide the egg yolks and whites. Set them aside to bring to room temperature (necessary for whipping later).
  2. Place circles of parchment paper in the bottom of three 8-inch cake pans and grease the sides. Be sure to grease the corners and sides of the pan well, to prevent sticking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a bowl, combine baking soda, salt and flour. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add butter, shortening, sugar and extracts, then beat together about 3 to 4 minutes, until fluffy and light in color (do not cut the creaming time short). Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after adding each yolk. Using a baking spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined. (Don’t worry if batter is thick.) Slowly add about half of the buttermilk and mix until well combined. (Don't worry if the batter looks a little curdled.) Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until mostly combined. Using a baking spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated (but don’t overmix!).
  6. Slowly add the other half of the buttermilk and mix until well combined. Add the remaining 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Do not overmix. Set aside.
  7. Add the egg whites to a mixer bowl and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites, toasted pecans and coconut to the cake batter, and gently fold them into the batter until mostly combined. Add the remaining egg whites. Gently fold together until well combined.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool fully.
  9. To make whipped cream cheese frosting, add cream cheese to a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Set aside. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to another good-sized mixing bowl. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add about 1/3 of the whipped cream to the cream cheese and gently fold together to combine; be careful not to deflate the whipped cream. When mostly combined, add another 1/3 of the whipped cream and gently fold together. Add the final 1/3 and gently fold together until fully combined.
  10. To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to remove the "domes" from the tops of the cakes so they’re completely flat. Place the first cake layer on a serving plate or tray. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting. Top the cake with the remaining layer and smooth out any frosting that might be poking out on the sides of the cake. Pop it in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  11. Frost the outside of the cake. Press the toasted coconut into the sides of the cake. Use the remaining frosting to pipe around the top edge of the cake, then sprinkle with some remaining pecan crumbs. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve (ideally in an airtight cake carrier). It is best at room temperature, so I recommend letting it sit out for an hour or two before serving.

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Cake Stands
Cake Stands $8 & Up
Pecans $4 & Up
Coconut $2 & Up
Stand Mixers
Stand Mixers $50 & Up
Vanilla $4 & Up

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That is one creamy delicious cake recipe.
Elisa Schmitz
So light and fluffy and decadent all at once. I love whipped cream cheese frosting, too. Great dessert, Ann Marie Patitucci !
Delicious recipe!

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