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Recipe sharing: Italian Cream Cake

February 20, 2011

Hi all!

It’s been quite a while since we posted.  Things have been busy for us, although not necessarily cake-related.  This winter in New Jersey has been a harsh, snowy, and cold one.  We’ve had lots of storms that have dumped incredible amounts of snow and ice on the Garden State.  The weather and being stuck in the house has bred germs and ailments that we found hard to fight, including migraines, strep, bronchitis, and the flu!  We are finally hale and hearty and ready to bake again – despite the fact that another cold front has hit and snow is in the forecast AGAIN!!!  😦

Last week I made this cake for my BFF’s son, Miles, who is turning 6.  He wanted Super Mario and so that is what he got.  The bottom tier was a 2-D version of a scene from the game, complete with toads, bullets, man-eating flowers, pipes, and the like.  The top was a hand-painted Mario with stars and coins as decorations.

Hand-painted top of Super Mario cake for Miles.

Side view of cake, a scene from the game.

Today is Sunday and we are headed to dinner at my MIL’s house for dinner.  Since I am the designated family baker, I am in charge of dessert.  Patricia (my MIL) is full-bread Italian and so today we can expect a big Italian spread.  In the spirit of that, I looked for a good recipe in my library to go with the meal.  I toyed with Tiramisu, for which I would have used Giada De Laurentiis‘s recipe since she is my go-to person for delicious-but-easy Italian recipes.  I also contemplated Napoleons, which I adore but have never made and so shied away from that.

Finally, I settled on Italian Cream Cake (AKA Italian Wedding Cake), and specifically a recipe I found in one of my favorite cake books, All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray of NPR fame.  (If you don’t have this book in your library, GO GET IT!)  It is traditionally a cake made with walnuts and coconut with a texture much like carrot cake.  The secret ingredient, I think, is the buttermilk, although all of the flavors just come together so well for this delectable dessert.

The final product is very pretty and I am sure will be delicious too.  I only deviated slightly from the recipe, using 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract  and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract instead of the 1 teaspoon of vanilla the recipe calls for.  Why?  It just sounded yummier to me.

Here is a pic and the recipe.  Buona fortuna in making it!


Italian cream cake for Sunday dinner!



And of course, happy baking!


“Alma’s Italian Cream Cake” from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray

(P.S.  She got this recipe from Iron Chef Cat Cora)

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing cake pans
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit each of two 9-inch round cake pans. Grease the pans with butter, fit the parchment into the pans, then grease the parchment.

To make the cake: Sift the cake flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, cream 12 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a a time, beating well after each addition. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix well, then add half of the buttermilk , beating on medium speed and scraping the sides of the bowl down, using a rubber spatula. Repeat, alternating the remaining dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, the coconut and 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites, slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, until the whites form stiff peaks but are not dry. By hand, fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until it is incorporated. Fold in the next third of the egg whites; when incorporated, gently fold in the last third. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, for 30-35 minutes. Set the cakes on racks and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the pans.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, 8 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla at medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating at low speed until blended. When all the ingredients are incorporated, beat the frosting at high speed until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted walnuts.

Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, bottom side up. Ice the sides and top. Place the other cake round on top, rounded side up, and ice the top and sides. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to firm up the frosting. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving, and press the remaining 1/2 cup toasted walnuts into the frosting on top.

Makes 10-16 servings.

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