This Italian cream cake recipe is from my mom. It is a tried-and-true family favorite of ours. This from-scratch cake is soft, airy, and studded with coconut and pecans. It is made even better with homemade cream cheese frosting. If you really love frosting, be sure to double it!
Preheat oven to 350° and prepare pans. You make bake the cake layers in either two 9-inch cake pans or three 8-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper for easy removal once baked. Secure in place by greasing the outer edges with some shortening. Also grease the sides of the pans generously.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and shortening with a mixer until creamy. Add sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time, and mix after each addition. Sift flour with baking soda and salt; then add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Gently stir in the coconut and pecans.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites into batter. Do not overmix, as you do not want to deflate the whipped egg whites.
Pour batter into the prepared pans. For three 8-inch pans, bake for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown. For two 9-inch pans, bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Peel off the parchment paper. Let cakes cool completely before frosting. You may speed up this process by placing the cakes in the freezer. This makes them easier to frost.
Frosting and Assembly Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Using a mixer, beat for about 3 minutes until smooth, light, and fluffy. Add the vanilla and gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined for at least a minute. Frosting should be smooth but thick.
To assemble the cakes, the cakes must be completely cooled and preferably chilled. Level the tops of the cakes if necessary so they are completely flat and even. Add cream cheese frosting between layers and apply a thin crumb coat to the top and sides of the cake. Once set, apply the remainder of the frosting and use an offset spatula to swirl the frosting. Garnish cake with additional whole or chopped pecans for garnish.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped. Leftover cake also freezes well.
If thick frosting is desired between layers and the outside of the cake, double the frosting recipe. Any leftover frosting can be enjoyed on graham crackers or saved for another cake or cupcakes.