Italian Cream Cake And Tips For A Better Batter

I love baking. Always have. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t always kept my recipes well organized. Some recipes get stuffed inside any one of 100s of cookbooks or notebooks, a shoebox or desk drawer. I decided to try to get more organized, as I was starting this blog, when I misplaced a few of my recipes including my all-time favorite non-chocolate cake recipe. An Italian Cream Cake. I’ve made it so many times, I should have it memorized by now. But, I try something different with it every time, so it’s never really the same. I’ve made a chocolate version, an orange version, a blackberry version and a raspberry filled version.

When I first realized I couldn’t find my recipe, I tried a random recipe I found online or a cookbook, but it wasn’t the same. Since I have no idea where I originally got the recipe, I’ve tried several times to recreate it and I think I have the right recipe now. Wish me luck. I’m making this for a dear friend’s 85th birthday, so I hope it turns out well.

There are several keys to making good cakes. You can’t just dump all the ingredients together all at once. Well, you can, if you want a dense cake. But, if your goal is moist and tender, you need to keep some things in mind that will, scientifically, make the best cake.

First, creaming together your butter and sugar is very important. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature. Leave it sit out for a half hour before baking. You should be able to lightly press into the butter and still have a little resistance without smooshing all the way through it. If it is still too cold, give it another 30 minutes. It’s tempting, but it’s not a good idea to try to soften it up in the microwave because melting changes the structure of the butter. Butter that is too cold or too hot will not give you the same result in your cake.

It should also be noted that using part butter and part shortening will produce a more tender cake as well. Shortening “shortens” gluten strands because it is 100% fat; whereas butter is only 80-85% fat and the remainder is water, which can toughen your cake. I’ve used all butter in this recipe and it is still delicious, but I prefer butter and shortening. You may have different preferences, so experiment with it until you get it to your liking.

Mixers vary in strength, so you’ll need to rely on texture and appearance to determine when the creaming is complete. Use the setting for “Cream” based on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your mixer. During the creaming process, the sugar crystals aerate the butter causing minute air bubbles in the butter…which will be activated by your leavening agent (baking soda or powder) during baking which will give you a light, fluffy cake. Test the texture of your mixture periodically. It will be ready when the sugar is almost dissolved, it will feel silky rather than grainy. The mixture will be visibly fluffy and still retain some of the yellowish tint from the butter.

Now that you’ve mastered the creaming process, making the rest of the batter will be a piece of cake. Sorry, bad pun intended. The important takeaway for the rest of the batter is to not overmix anything. Overmixing will ruin the aeration from the creaming. After the creaming process, adding the ingredients and mixing only until you can no longer see that ingredient is sufficient timing for mixing. Add the eggs (one at a time) after the creaming process. Then, add the extract. Then alternating dry and liquid ingredient additions to the mixture minimalizes gluten formation, resulting in a lighter, fluffier, moister cake. Finally, fold in the last ingredients and you’ve got an excellent cake batter.

Italian Cream Cake
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Italian Cream Cake

This delicious Italian Cream Cake is a favorite of mine that is frequently requested by family and friends. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Decorations

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut toasted

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Italian Cream Cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

  3. Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Set aside the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Set aside.

  5. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes) checking texture periodically. Mixture, when rubbed between your fingers, should be silky rather than grainy.

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until blended.

  7. Add vanilla.

  8. Add the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix any of the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. 

  9. Gently fold the chopped pecans and the coconut into the batter.

  10. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

  11. Divide the batter between 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans or 36 cupcake cups (filled 1/2 way).

  12. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center, the cake is done when there are just a couple moist crumbs stuck to the toothpick and the cake is toasty brown. (If making cupcakes, start checking them between 15-20 minutes.)

    Italian Cream Cake layer
  13. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake. Then allow them to finish cooling on the wire racks for about an hour before decorating with the frosting.

Decorations

  1. Spread one cup of the sweetened flaked coconut into a small baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Tossing the coconut frequently. The coconut will burn easily, so make sure you check it often. 

    Toasted coconut

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.

    Italian Cream Cake frosting ingredients
  2. Add vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it well blended. You may not need all 6 cups of the powdered sugar, but this should be a firm frosting if you're going to pipe the frosting onto the cake. The more pwdered sugar you use, the firmer the frosting will be and will hold it's shape better for piping.

    Italian Cream Cake crumb coating
  4. Once the cake is sufficiently cooled, layer the cakes with frosting between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for one hour before continuing. (This is called a crumb coat. It will allow for easier spreading of the frosting while decorating and will keep the crumbs of the cake from mixing in while you spread your frosting. It will also cover the cake, so if you're piping on the frosting, any gaps in your piping will be concealed by the crumb coat.)

    Italian Cream Cake
  5. Continue decorating as desired with your favorite decorating tips.

    Italian Cream Cake cupcakes
  6. Optional: For this cake, I used raspberry preserves as a filling just as an added flavor. You can experiment with many different flavors for this cake or enjoy it as it was originally intended.

I haven’t been able to determine the origin of this cake. I’m not sure why it’s called an Italian Cream Cake, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection to Italy. It’s primarily a dessert served around the holidays in the Southern United States. I’m only guessing, but I think the frosting was probably made with mascarpone cheese once upon a time. Mascarpone being fairly expensive, perhaps someone started using cream cheese instead. It produces the same texture frosting and with the powdered sugar, the taste would be comparable.

If you know, let me know in the comments below.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

When I hear someone say that they don’t like cake, I can only imagine that they’ve only ever had boxed cake. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very good, but if I’m going through the process of making a cake, I’m going all in and making it from scratch.  My parents have been good sports and sampled my countless experiments with baking from scratch since I was a kid. So, for my mom’s birthday the other day, I didn’t want to bake a cake she’s had a million times before. I thought about some things that she likes that I would be able to incorporate into a cake and the idea of the Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake was born.

She likes blueberries, however, it’s not really a good time of year for fresh blueberries, so I decided on a blueberry filling and a syrup made from blueberry jam for a topping to drizzle over the frosting. She likes buttermilk on occasion, so I thought the sourness of buttermilk with a the sweetness of blueberry filling would make a nice contrast that would still go well together.

Why mini cakes instead of a whole cake or cupcakes, you ask? Well, I just wanted to do something different and I found these cute 4-inch mini baking pan paper cups at the store recently and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. By the way, you can certainly use this recipe for a layered cake or cupcakes, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

This moist white cake is so versatile. You can eat it without frosting, add different fruit toppings or chocolate. Use a simple butter cream frosting for an everyday cake or dress it up with sprinkles or syrup for special occasions.

NOTE: I indicated that this recipe makes 24 servings because it makes 12 mini cakes and each mini cake is actually 2 servings.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling/Syrup

  • 2 cups blueberry jam divided
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the baking cups a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. 

    Buttermilk cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

  3. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. 

  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended. 

  5. Mix the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added.

    Buttermilk cake batter
  6. Pour mixture into baking cups (about 1/2 full). Bake 18-22 minutes. Just until they barely start to turn golden. Insert a toothpick into the center, and if there are a couple of moist crumbs, it's time to take them out. 

  7. Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Filling/Syrup

  1. Syrup - In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of jam over medium/low heat until the jam starts to melt. Gradually add water a little at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. You may or may not need 2 tbsps of water depending on how thick or thin you want the syrup. (Set aside until after you're done frosting the cakes. The syrup will thicken a little upon standing. If it's too thick, return to the stove and add a little more water.)

    Buttermilk cake with filling
  2. Using a decorating bag filled with 1 cup of jam and a filling tip, insert the tip halfway into the cake and squirt just enough jam into the cake until you can see it. Repeat randomly throughout the cake.

    Tip: If you don't have a filling tip, you can use a small paring knife. Insert the knife halfway into the cake and gently twist a small hole. Cut a small tip off the decorating bag filled with jam and fill the holes.  

    Buttermilk cake decorative ideas

Frosting

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in vanilla extract.

  3. Add powdered sugar. Mixing one cup at a time until it is well blended. You may not need all 5 cups of the powdered sugar. Add at least the first 3 cups, then test for firmness of the frosting.

    (If you're spreading the frosting over the cake, a thinner frosting like this would be sufficient. If you're using decorating tips and piping the frosting, you'll need to add more of the powdered sugar until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.)

    Decorate cakes as desired and drizzle syrup over the top

    Buttermilk cakes closeup

I actually want to try this with fresh blueberries when they are in season at a reasonable price, so don’t forget to like this page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates. Also, comment below to tell me what other fruit you would try with this cake.

Homemade Kahlua

Homemade rum and coffee liqueur, better known as Kahlua, is so much better than the original. The main reason, it’s way less expensive than buying it from the store. One liter bottle of rum, some very strong coffee, sugar and vanilla will yield a little more than three liters of this rich, delightful, coffee spirit.

I usually use Bacardi rum, but if you like a little more kick, 100 proof vodka or even Everclear grain alcohol (if you can get it) works just as well. Your wallet and your taste buds will thank you. In total, homemade Kahlua costs between $23.00  and $30.00 for three liters of the liqueur ($7.67 – $10.00 per bottle). Whereas, one liter of the original will cost you about $30.00.

A breakdown of your costs are simple. $15.00 (liter of Bacardi) – $22.00 (liter of 100 proof Smirnoff or Everclear). $2.00 for a 2 pound bag of light brown sugar (I know that sounds like a lot of sugar, but we’re using a lot of liquid that needs to be sweetened. Plus, if you measure out and firmly pack the brown sugar, it’s only about 5 cups). Approximately $1.00 for a strong brewed pot of coffee.  This recipe would be an even better bargain if vanilla weren’t so expensive. If you can get an 8 oz bottle of vanilla for $20, using 2 oz (1/4 cup) will add $5.00 to your total.

Don’t use a bunch of your individual coffee pods for this recipe, as it will make your cost even more expensive than the original. Well, maybe not. I haven’t actually done a cost analysis on it, but I drink way too much coffee for those to be cost effective for me on a daily basis, so I don’t imagine it would be economical in this recipe either.

Vanilla has always been on the expensive side, but the last few years, it has really skyrocketed. A higher demand for pure vanilla as opposed to imitation has caused a shortage and driven up the price. It might be fun to experiment with hazelnut extract or almond extract instead of vanilla to see if we can make this recipe even more economical. Plus it would be some fun flavors to add to your favorite cocktail.

After you’ve made the recipe, you should pour the liqueur into glass bottles that have been sterilized then store in a cool, dark place for about 2 or 3 weeks. This product tastes much better after a few weeks, but if you absolutely can’t wait to try it, it is perfectly good to sample it today. I like to make a double batch and make gift bottles for friends and still have an ample supply for me.

Homemade Kahlua

An excellent substitute for  your favorite rum and coffee liqueur. This recipe yields about 3 liters and is easy enough to make, you can double or triple the recipe. 
Course Alcohol, Beverage
Prep Time 10 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 3 Liters
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 liter rum
  • 1 pot strong coffee use 1 cup ground coffee
  • 2 lbs light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Using a 12 cup coffee maker, brew one cup of coffee grounds with one full pot of water.

    Homemade Kahlua ingredients
  2. Pour brown sugar into a large heat resistant bowl or pot. Pour hot coffee over the sugar and stir until well dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour)
  3. Add vodka and vanilla. Stir until well blended. 

  4. Store in a cool, dark location for 2-3 weeks. 

Have you tried this recipe or experimented with other extract flavors? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.