This recipe was passed onto me by my friend, Marina C., whom I affectionately refer to as my “Foodie Mama,” because she is my biggest baking inspiration. She has won nearly 300 ribbons at county & state fairs for her food, (from burritos to cookies & cakes to entire meals), her recipes & food-related interviews have been published in Bon Appetit, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Taste of Home, Readers Digest, The Blue Ribbon Gazette, several newspapers, and The Wall Street Journal. She has been a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, has appeared on the Home Show and is currently a field editor for Taste of Home magazine. Whew! What a resume!
She has shared many of her award-winning recipes with me and is very generous, so you can find many of them on this site (click here to see them all) because she never minds me posting them. As far as I know, this one isn’t a literal winner but it really won my family over!
When I asked my mom what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday this year, I expected her to request her favorite Mocha Crunch Cake, but instead she said, “Surprise me!” I guess I’ve been baking cakes long enough that she knows she can trust my judgement. (And if you knew my Mom, you’d know that’s a big compliment. She doesn’t trust anyone’s judgement–lol.) With Marina’s help, I didn’t let her down.
This Italian Cream Cake is a little different from other recipes in that it starts with a mix and it contains maraschino cherries, which is unusual. The combination of nuts, coconut and cherries with the soft, creamy frosting made me feel like I was eating some sort of ice cream sundae in cake form! I made the mistake of serving it cold and while everyone liked it (my Mom could NOT stop gushing over how wonderful it was), I took a piece home and ate it at room temperature the next day and found it to be 100 times better. When cold, the texture is much more dense and the frosting is a little hard. At room temperature, it’s light and the frosting is creamy and it’s divine.
I couldn’t find frozen coconut so I shredded my own, which was a chore but I was able to use the leftover in a Mounds Cake.
EASY ITALIAN CREAM CAKE
1 (18.25 oz) butter cake mix
5 egg yolks
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. butter, softened
½ c. chopped maraschino cherries
¼ cup maraschino cherry syrup
1 c. fresh frozen coconut, thawed
1 c. chopped pecans
1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. Crisco
1 box (1 lb) powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk (I omitted)
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8″ or 9″ cake pans and set aside.
Mix cake mix with rest of ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the Cream Cheese Icing. Beat the cream cheese, butter and vegetable shortening until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, milk & vanilla until well blended. When the cake is completely cool, spread 1/3 of the icing over one cake layer, place the other on top and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Sprinkle top of cake with the ¾ cup of pecans (I opted to press them into the sides and use drained cherries to decorate the top.) Cover cake in air-tight container and refrigerate overnight, or longer, to allow the flavors to meld. Remove from fridge at least two hours before serving; serve at room temperature. It will keep several days at room temperature and probably up to five in the fridge.
Recipe courtesy of Marina C.