Italian Cream Cake

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. A-light-italian-duo-webMost 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!

Happy baking!

Italian Cream Cake


  • 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
  • For the Italian Cream Buttercream:
  • 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


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. For the Italian Cream Buttercream:
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.






37 thoughts on “Italian Cream Cake”

    1. Hi Linda, I don’t care for the texture of coconut shreds in my cake generally but if you are a fan by all means add in a cup! Adding coconut oil instead of vegetable oil would be another way to add yummy coconut flavor too. 🙂

    1. Hmmm that’s a tricky one. I don’t think they would probably do well because they are so light and rich. I think they would collapse. You could try making them without beating the eggs and sugar. Just beat all the sugar with the butter and oil, then beat the eggs in one at a time and continue from there as written. I fear that the frothed eggs would lead to over leavening and collapse. Best of luck 🙂

  1. Do you think this would work as a gluten free cake with either gluten free flour or almond meal. It looks great but I need a gluten free cake for Fathers Day (first sunday in sept in Australia)
    thanks for your postings – I’ve made a few of your cakes now and they are a great success – the strawberry cake works really well as cupcakes with no change to the recipe. best wishes Sally

    1. Thanks Sally! I think the structure of this cake is inherently weak and I would worry that it would not hold up as well in a gluten free form. It could go either way. To be safe I would probably go with the Gluten free Vanilla cake and add a couple of eggs and fold in a cup of walnuts to replicate the flavor profile. I hope your cake turns out lovely for Father’s Day!

  2. I love Tiramisu. Any way to add a small layer of something espresso between layers?

    Also, I only have 2 of 8″ pans. Don’t want to buy more pans right now, before a possible move. But I do have two 9″ pans. Could I use those? How many cups of batter?


    1. I would probably just split all the batter from the 8″ recipe in to the two 9″ pans. Here is my Sizing Chart too if you want to calculate specifics but you should be fine in the two nines. Yes, for sure add some espresso! You can use a soaking syrup like in my Tiramisu Cake or flavor a buttercream espresso flavored and fill with it. Yum!

    1. The eggs will beat better warm (the proteins unravel faster at warmer temperatures) and the sugar dissolves in more readily too. In a genoise the eggs are heated with the sugar over simmering water until just warm. I figured I could replicate the effect by dropping them in hot water for a few minutes and not need the extra pan on the burner. It seems to work well they whip up beautifully. 🙂

  3. I love Italian Cream Cakes, however for mine…I use coconut and toast it first. Then when cool I grind it in the food processor till it’s ground fine. Then I soak it in the buttermilk for 10 minutes before adding it alternately with the dry ingredients. I also add some coconut cream to my frosting. I’d like to try this recipe with almonds instead of the pecans I normal use.

    1. Yum! That sounds delicious. I much prefer the texture of toasted coconut. I have coconut flour too which could be a nice addition without the stringy texture. I think the almonds would be fabulous too. If you add almonds a touch of amaretto to the batter and buttercream would be divine! Let me know if you try it. I am off to make Mocha Almond Fudge Cake for my mom’s birthday! 🙂

  4. This cake originates from the south. Not sure why it got the Italian title, other than pretty much everything Italian is delicious, so why not call it Italian?

  5. I did it! I made this cake for my 10th wedding anniversary last weekend. After all your help reducing the recipe for 6×2″round pans, I forgot to reduce and ended up pouring 2c into the 6″ pans, 2 4″rounds, 1 4″ square, and still had enough for one Texas size muffin. They all worked wonderfully without any structural issues.

    I iced with your frosting recipe but had loads leftover. I gave 1 4″ round to my small children, 1 4″ round to their babysitter, 1 4″ square to my photographer (who also took pictures of the anniversary cake), and my husband and I cut the 6″ cakes on location for an anniversary photo session. I still have the Texas size muffin in the freezer. 🙂 I will forward professional cake pictures your way when I have them.

    THANK you for this website. Yours are truly the only cakes I trust 100%.

  6. I have made the Italian Cream Buttercream 3 times; it’s just divine! I’ve used it on an Almond Cake, your Moist Chocolate Cupcakes and Essential Vanilla Cupcakes. I will be making it again to pipe on the Essential Vanilla Cupcakes, but this time I would love to add some Nutella. How much Nutella do you suggest I add without changing the consistency too much? Thanks for such great recipes!

    1. You can probably get away with between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. This buttercream is a bit fragile. For greater strength and more chocolate flavor you can make a variation of SMBC with chocolate and add nutella to that too. Here is the French Buttercream Variation but you can use all egg whites or whole eggs instead for more firmness.

    2. Hi Alexandra, Sorry for the response delay! I was having technical difficulties and sick children. I would add 1/4 to 1/2 cup Nutella. If you want a more chocolaty flavor you can start with a chocolate buttercream such as Chocolate French Buttercream and add the Nutella to that. Yum 🙂

  7. I made this cake for a friend , she loved so much … She said it reminded of the one her mother used to make for her bday 🙂 . I added toasted coconut to the batter . The buttercream is superb , I added the toasted coconut plus chopped walnuts 🙂 . Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed new Year.
    Thank You very much !

    1. Awesome! I too love the unique texture and taste of this cake. What a sweet friend you are to bless your friend with a birthday treat!

  8. Gradually working my way through the recipes. They all look delicious. Just finished baking the three layers and made the icing. The cake was very easy to put together and baked beautifully level. Gave the “track” as suggested and the cake responded well!! Can’t wait to taste it tomorrow as the smell is delightful and the icing tastes delicious. Thanks again Lesley

  9. Just an addendum to my comments above. Took the cake to my monthly cake meeting. Break was at 3 PM – by 2.30 there was no Italian Cream cake left!! It was incredibly moist (I did add a little coconut) – and tasted delicious. Will definitely make again (and that was supposed to say “thwack” above for the technique you suggested of whacking the cake pans when you take them out of the oven.

  10. I just discovered your site a few days ago and I am currently baking layer #2 (I only have 1 8″ pan because I live in Vienna and they aren’t for sale here…at least not good ones!). I thwacked him a good one when he came out of the oven and low and behold, it did what it was supposed to! This cake will be part of a cake buffet at my best friend’s wedding and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Thank you so much for all your hard work. May the Lord bless you and yours.

    1. Final comment, I promise! The cake was divine, but the frosting curdled (twice!) so I went to my old SMBC recipe. I will definitely make the cake again. Yum!

  11. Just took the cakes out of the oven, thwacked ’em, they look delish. Can’t wait!
    I am another one that bakes her own birthday cake.

  12. Hello Summer…made this recipe and my cake turned out oily. Is there something I’m doing wrong. Many thanks and look forward to your feedback.

  13. I made this cake and loved it!!! Sadly I ruined two batches of the cheese frosting and that is the highlight of the recipe right? The festival g just wouldn’t come together. Any tips?

  14. Hi Summer,
    This recipe sounds so good, but my only dilemma are the nuts, as my daughter is allergic to all nuts. Was wondering if not adding nuts would alter the taste of the cake.

    1. Hi Naheed, You can easily leave the nuts out. They just add texture and crunch but are not crucial. If coconut is desireable and not an allergen for your daughter you could also replace the nuts with coconut. 🙂

      1. Thank you so much Summer for replying to my silly question Thankfully she’s not allergic to coconut. Would love to add coconut in place of nuts.

  15. Hi Summer! I made this cake twice last year and it is delicious. I had a terrible time with the frosting however and couldn’t get it to stay together. I made 2 batches and threw them both away. Any ideas about what I could’ve done wrong? In the end I used SMB with a thin coating of melted chocolate between the layers. Everyone loved it so all was well in the end.Thanks!

    1. Hi Nancy! I’m sorry about your frosting woes! Cream cheese is a devil to work with. It may have to do with the composition of the mascarpone or cream cheese you are using. You can try cutting the mascarpone to 1 cup and adding 1/2 cup more butter.You can also try adding the mascarpone and cream cheese to the butter before the sugar is added to create a stable emulsification. I hope that works! Nothing is more frustrating than failed frosting!

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