Italian Cream Cake with Pecan Cream Cheese Icing

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This cake is in my top 10 favorite desserts of all time. It’s pillowy soft, moist, and just all around perfect. Top it with a pecan studded cream cheese frosting and you’ll bring back an empty pan every time.

a piece of italian cream cake with pecan cream cheese icing.

Y’all know I’m usually all about making a recipe your own and substituting what you have on hand for what you don’t. With this easy Italian cream cake recipe, though, if at all possible, I strongly encourage you to stick as close to my ingredients list and instructions as you can. Make a trip to the grocery store if need be because the end result is more than worth it!

This is the perfect cake for any special get-together: Thanksgiving, bridal shower, birthdays, or “just because”. Whenever you make it, you’ll most certainly be required to make it again as the question will arise: “Is grandma/aunt/sister making her Italian cream cake this year?”. So get ready to start a new tradition.

Why is this cake so special? Well, it’s tender, light, moist, and totally melts in your mouth. It’s also filled with a flavor you can only get from a special “from scratch” Italian cake recipe. It has hints of vanilla, coconut, and pecan to make a cake that’s to die for. Fortunately, though, there isn’t a lot of fuss involved so there is nothing to deter you from adopting this as your signature special occasion cake. Not that I’m hinting at anything…

Italian Cream Cake Ingredients

Recipe Ingredients

To make this amazingly wonderful cake that your family and friends really and truly deserve a chance to enjoy, you’ll need:

Italian Cream Cake

  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Whole buttermilk
  • Solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
  • Baking soda
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut flakes

Pecan Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream cheese (visit this post to learn how easy it is to make cream cheese at home).
  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Butter flavoring (optional)
  • Chopped pecans

How to Make Italian Cream Cake

Butter, shortening, and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Place butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined and fluffy.

Please please please please please make sure your cream cheese (for the icing) and butter are at room temperature in this recipe. Do you know how I tell y’all not to fret over little details like this in most of my recipes? Well, if I tell you it’s time to get particular, get particular. This is an easy one to do, though. I just set my butter and cream cheese out as soon as I get up in the morning so they are room temp by mid to late morning and that is when I make this cake.

Add eggs to sugar mixture.

Add your eggs. This recipe calls for five large eggs. You don’t need to add each egg yolk individually, just toss them all in.

Beat eggs well with electric mixer.

Beat eggs really well, scraping down the sides as needed. Already, this cake batter is like rich smooth velvet, but it’s about to get even better.

Flour and baking soda in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir your baking soda into your flour.

Add flour mixture to cake batter and mix well.

Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture and mix until well blended, about a minute.

Add in coconut and vanilla and mix well.

 Add in the shredded coconut and vanilla extract and mix again until incorporated and the cake batter is nice and creamy. Oh, what a lovely batter this is! 

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Spread the cake mix into a greased 9×13 cake pan.

If you want to get fancy you can make this in two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans but I mean, we have already made this cake from scratch and I’m just a 9×13 girl.

Cake batter in pan.

Bake this at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If you are baking it in round pans it will bake for about 25-30 minutes but you’ll need to keep an eye on it and still test for doneness.

Spread pecan cream cheese icing on top of cake.

How to make the pecan cream cheese frosting

Once it is done, let it cool completely, and then make your cream cheese frosting and ice the cooled cake.

Place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the flavorings and about half of the sugar and mix again, scraping down sides as needed, until sugar is well incorporated. Add remaining sugar and mix until a nice fluffy icing is formed, again scraping down sides as needed (about one to two minutes). Mix in the chopped pecans and then spread it over the cake.

 You can make it into a cake layer (or two or three) if you want a layer cake, but I love it in a 9×13 pan!

Italian Cream Cake sliced in pan

 Top with some coconut and pecans if you want. Then cover with foil or plastic wrap and store in the fridge until serving time.

Italian Cream Cake slice on spatula.

 ENJOY this cake, and enjoy watching everyone else enjoy it, too! This Italian cream cake is one of a kind and such a delicious treat. Great for potlucks, weekday entertaining, and more.


  • Store this cake, well covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to a week or at room temperature for up to two days. You can eat it cold from the fridge, or let it warm up on the counter for 30 minutes or so before serving.
  • This Italian cake is also freezer-friendly. Simply take your cooled cake and place it in a freezer-friendly container. Then freeze for 3 to 4 months. Remove a slice or two and allow to thaw on the counter for a quick thaw. Or place the cake in the fridge overnight to thaw.

Recipe Notes

  • Now, I say use the “best quality vanilla you can find” and I mean that just as I say it. If you open up your pantry and the best you can find is imitation vanilla, well then use it. If you have this amazing vanilla extract that you just love to use, then use that.
  • When you sprinkle the chopped pecans on top, feel free to add some sweetened flaked coconut as well. If you want to go over the top, opt for toasted coconut and toasted pecans to enhance the flavor.
  • On the other hand, if you’re not on team coconut, you can totally leave it out. I won’t tell!

Recipe FAQs

What is an Italian cream cake?

Italian cream cake is a moist and decadent vanilla sponge cake that is filled with coconut flavor in each bite. It’s then topped with a coconut and pecan frosting that is out of this world. An ultra-moist and decadent homemade cake.

Why is it called Italian cream cake?

No one actually knows why it’s called Italian cream cake, as it’s actually not Italian but Southern. Yep, this cake recipe first appeared in publications in the southeastern US, so the most logical theory is that an Italian immigrant baker created the recipe.

Why do I need softened cream cheese for the frosting?

Cream cheese is pretty stiff and thick on its own. Allowing your cream cheese to become room temperature allows you to cream the cheese so it is ultra-creamy. If you don’t allow it to soften, it will be hard to mix up and clumpy.

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

One of my top 10 favorite desserts of all time, this Italian cream cake with a pecan-studded cream cheese icing is pillowy soft, moist, and all-around perfect.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: cake
Calories: 297kcal


  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup butter softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temp
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temp
  • 3.5-4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring optional
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9×13 pan by spraying it with cooking spray and then setting it aside.
  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well until smooth, scraping sides as needed (about two minutes).
    ½ cup shortening, ½ cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 5 large eggs
  • In a separate small bowl, stir together the flour and baking soda. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the egg mixture and mix until well blended and completely smooth (about two more minutes). Add in the coconut and vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup buttermilk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make cream cheese icing

  • Place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the flavorings and about half of the sugar and mix again, scraping down sides as needed, until sugar is well incorporated. Add remaining sugar and mix until a nice fluffy icing is formed, again scraping down sides as needed (about one to two minutes). Mix in the chopped pecans. Ice the cooled cake.
    8 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 3.5-4 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon butter flavoring, 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Store this cake, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week or at room temp for up to two days.


Calories: 297kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

This recipe was published in 2015. I updated the photos and post in 2020. 

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  1. 5 stars
    One of my fav cakes. I just saw a small loaf pan sized 2 layer version at Walmart bakery for $10.99. I think I’ll be baking mine from now on.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve eaten this cake and actually made it. But I’m not a fan of coconut. Is there a substitute for the coconut? Or is there another recipe just as special without coconut?

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