I will readily admit that I love most Italian foods. I love pasta and Italian breads, slow braised meats and Tiramisu. But despite my affinity for Italian cuisine I had little acquaintance with this Italian named cake. Now I am not sure of the exact origins of this nut-filled treasure (for all I know it may not be Italian), but this light, moist, flavorful Italian Cream Cake is so delicious I have to put it amongst my Italian favorites whether it is native or not. Most Italian Cream Cake recipes that I came across in my background research were very similar. While the majority of the recipe followed standard cake maker protocols, two points sent up red flags for me.
- Use of shortening
- Separating of eggs and beating the whites
In the past I have compared cakes made with shortening to those made with butter or oil and shortening cakes are just subpar. They are drier and flavorless and I just cannot bring myself to put shortening in a cake. So removing the shortening was my first order of business. I replaced the shortening with vegetable oil which makes for a more moist cake.
Next, I decided to address the issue of beating the egg whites. I have stated before that I do not care for beating egg whites separately and have found it generally ineffective for lightening cakes in the past. But I did not want to totally shirk convention when making this cake. Taking a note from a genoise recipe and the suggestion from my reader Valerie, I decided to beat the whole eggs with part of the sugar until thick and creamy and to stir that mixture in to the cake batter. This provides some lightness without too much leavening which can lead to a cakes literal downfall. Rearranging the mixing process of this cake also simplified the methodology and saved time and mixing bowls.
This was the cake I made for the Big Bang Theory post and I found that giving this light cake a good smack on the counter right when it was removed helped maintain its structure and lightness.
I topped this cake off with a light mascarpone-cream cheese buttercream which is mildly sweet and pairs beautifully with this flavorful nut-filled cake. I used walnuts in this variation, but pecans are also frequently used and would be delicious.
The texture and flavor of this cake are so unique and spectacular that this cake is definitely one to have on your short list of cakes to make. I hope this treat will become one of your Italian favorites as well!
- 5 large eggs
- 14 ounces (400 grams) granulated sugar, divided- 2 cups
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces, or 115 grams) unsalted butter softened- ½ cup
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces, or 120 milliliters) vegetable oil- ½ cup
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla bean paste
- 10 ounces (285 grams) all-purpose flour- 2 cups
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
- 12 ounces (340 grams) mascarpone, softened- 1 ½ cups
- 8 ounces (230 grams) cream cheese, softened- 1 cup
- 16 ounces (455 grams) unsalted butter softened- 2 cups
- 13 ounces (370 grams) powdered/confectioner’s sugar- 3 ¼ cups
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
- Place the eggs in their shells in hot tap water and let sit for 5 minutes changing the water half way if it starts to cool. Beat eggs plus 1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) sugar for 5 minutes with the balloon whisk on high speed of mixer until pale and thick and well increased in volume. Gently pour the beaten egg mixture into another bowl and set aside.
- Beat butter, oil and remaining 1 cup (7 ounce/200 grams) sugar for 2 minutes on medium high with flat beater until light and fluffy. Add vanilla or vanilla bean paste and stir to blend. Sprinkle in flour; remove 1 tablespoon of flour from the mixing bowl and sprinkle it over the nuts tossing to coat. Add the baking soda and salt to the mixing bowl with the flour and butter mixture. Turn mixer on low and mix to moisten dry ingredients, about 10 seconds. With the mixer going on low slowly pour in buttermilk. When all the buttermilk is added, beat on medium speed for one minute until well combined and smooth. Stir in the nuts. By hand, stir in half of the beaten egg mixture; once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining half of the beaten eggs.
- Gently pour into the prepared pans and bake for about 25-35 minutes until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. When you remove the cakes from the oven, thwack them firmly on the counter to minimize shrinkage and cool 10 minutes in pan on a cooling rack. Turn out to the cooling rack and cool completely if using immediately, or wrap in two layers of plastic wrap if using later. Frost the cooled cake with Italian Cream Buttercream or your buttercream of choice. Enjoy!
- In a mixer bowl combine the mascarpone and cream cheese and beat with the flat beater until creamy and smooth. Remove to another bowl and set aside.
- Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until pale and light. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time on low speed until combined and smooth. Add the vanilla on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to high (or as high as possible without the mixture flying all over) and beat for 3-5 minutes until creamy and firm.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the mascarpone-cream cheese mixture. When it is all added increase the speed as high as possible and beat for 1 minute or until smooth and firm. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a week. If stored, bring the buttercream to room temperature and rebeat on high for 2 minutes until smooth and firm.