Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bitchin’ Bites: Italian Cream Cake

My mom introduced me to this cake several years ago, after she got the recipe from a co-worker, and it has been a family favorite ever since. As a self-professed cake obsessive, I have sampled (and loved) hundreds of cakes and in my not-so-humble opinion this one is simply the best. It isn’t the easiest cake to make (nobody can beat a Betty Crocker mix, after all), but it is a lot more simple than some other tedious creations I have slogged through, recipes that, quite frankly, just weren’t as tasty. Unless you hate pecans or coconut, I can pretty much guarantee that you will love this cake. I have made it for special occasions and birthdays for years and the only a-holes who ever said they didn’t love it were my kids. Everyone else gives it rave reviews.

_3007099_thumbIt will probably take you about an hour, possibly a bit more, to get through the the prep work for the cake the first time you make it, but it gets quicker the next time around.  Don’t try and save time by skipping the toasting of the pecans and coconut, that step is what makes the cake especially delicious. And don’t forget to use the timer while toasting, I have literally lost at least four batches of pecans because I left them in the oven too long. Insert HUGE frowny face here.

Italian Cream Cake

1/2 cup shortening (100g)
1 stick butter (100g)
2 cups granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups cake flour (263g)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (can sub with: 1 cup milk w/ 1tbsp. of lemon juice stirred in, let sit 10 minutes before using)
1/2 cup flaked coconut, lightly toasted (3.5oz or 100g)
¾ cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
5 eggs whites, beaten stiff

8 ounces cream cheese (300g tub in UK), room temp
7-10oz powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you like it   
1/2 stick butter (56g), room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
¾ cup toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 325ºF (gas mark 3 or 165ºC). Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans.
1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter, then add sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each yolk.
2. Sift flour. Add baking soda and salt and sift again.
3. Continue beating slowly while adding flour mixture alternately with buttermilk (I alternate in 3 portions of each).
4. Stir in coconut and pecans.
5. Beat egg whites until stiff.
6. Gently fold egg whites into cake batter with your largest spatula. Be patient, it will come together – Don’t stir, just keep folding it over.
7. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans for 5 minutes. Remove to cool completely on racks.

best-italian-cream -cupcakesFrosting: Blend together cream cheese, butter. Add powdered sugar a little at a time. Stir in vanilla. (I find that the consistency is pretty loose in the UK, but it still tastes delicious. Just chill before serving, especially if you are planning on driving somewhere with the cake.)

To assemble the cake: Place bottom layer on serving plate. Frost and sprinkle layer with some of the pecans. Top with next layer. Frost and sprinkle more of the pecans. Place top layer and ice sides of cake and top with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle remaining nuts all over the top of the cake. Gently press the toasted coconut around the outside edge of the cake, collecting bits that fall to cover the entirety of the edge. 

Can also be assembled as cupcakes: Line three muffin tins (3 dozen) (there is enough batter for 3 dozen reg. size cupcakes and I also got about 7 mini-cupcakes) and fill cups about 2/3 full of batter.  Bake at 325ºf for about 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks.
When the cupcakes are cooled, frost each cake and then sprinkle pecans and coconut over the frosting. Tip: Put the frosted cakes on a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, this will allow you to easily clean up any nuts or coconut that fall off. 

Refrigerate any leftover cake.

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