Caramel Italian Cream Cake


Brown sugar is the shortcut to quick caramel flavor in both the cake layers and the frosting.

Caramel Italian Cream Cake
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Food Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns; Prop Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell
Total Time:
2 hrs 25 mins
12 servings

Italian Cream Cake is a gorgeous layer cake that originated in Italy, but local bakers added their own special touches that turned it into a classic Southern layer cake. The three vanilla cake layers are packed with pecans and coconut, with more coconut on the outside. What makes this Italian Cream Cake recipe different from most is that instead of the usual cream cheese frosting inside and out, there's quick caramel frosting between the layers. This caramel frosting is not only quick, it's easy thanks to a delicious combination of brown sugar and cream that doesn't require a candy thermometer.


  • 3 cups shaved coconut

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans

  • ½ cup butter, softened

  • ½ cup shortening

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

  • 5 large eggs, separated

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

  • Quick Caramel Frosting

  • Cream Cheese Frosting


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place shaved coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan. Place pecans in a second shallow pan. Bake coconut and pecans at the same time 5 to 7 minutes or until coconut is toasted and pecans are lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

  2. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add granulated and brown sugars, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.

  3. Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in pecans and 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut.

  4. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, and fold into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

  5. Bake at 350° for 23 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely (about 1 hour).

  6. Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting. Immediately spread frosting between layers and on top of cake. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over sides of cake; press 3 cups toasted shaved coconut onto sides of cake.

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