Italian Cream Cake

16 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Refrigerate 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Italian Cream Cake is the perfect tender vanilla cake with pecans, almond extract, and rich cream cheese frosting.

This delicious homemade cake is perfect for a variety of occasions and surprisingly easy to make. For more decadent Cake Recipes that are sure to wow your family and friends, try these recipes for Classic Coconut Cake and Red Velvet Cake next. 

Italian Cream Cake on a platter

Although it’s called Italian Cream Cake, this is not an authentic Italian dessert. The tasty cake has its roots in Southern states, though it’s hard to trace exactly where it came from or how it got its name. Regardless, it’s a fantastic cake with dreamy cream cheese frosting that you’re sure to love. 

A lot of the ingredients in this recipe are similar to a Classic Vanilla Cake. However, the addition of pecans in the batter adds a nice crunch and aromatic, nutty flavor to the rich cake. After baking, you’ll finish the layer cake with tart Cream Cheese Frosting, another layer of pecans, and white chocolate decorations. The end result is a beautiful, buttery, flavorful cake. 

Italian Cream Cake collage

The beautiful frosting and garnishes make this Italian Cream Cake recipe the perfect dessert for a special occasion. It’s an ideal centerpiece for birthdays, holiday parties, or any get-together that you want to make extra special. 

How to Make Italian Cream Cake

  • Prep Time: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then grease two 8-inch cake pans with butter, and sprinkle flour over the top. 
  • Cake Batter: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt, then set the dry ingredients to the side. Add softened butter and granulated sugar to your stand mixer. Then use the paddle attachment to beat butter for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Keeping the electric mixer at medium speed, add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time with 15 seconds of mixing between adding each one. Then add the vanilla and lower the mixer speed. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk to the mixing bowl, continuing to mix as you go. Stir the pecans into the cake batter. 
  • Baking Time: Divide the cake batter evenly into each prepared baking pan. Then bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the entire cake cool before adding the frosting. 
Italian Cream Cake collage
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: Clean the stand mixer mixing bowl. Then add the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla to the electric mixer, and beat until light and fluffy. Then add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until incorporated into the decadent cream cheese frosting. 
  • Frost Cake: Add a spoonful of cream cheese frosting to your cake stand or cake plate to help the bottom cake layer stay put. Level the cakes with a serrated knife, brush off excess crumbs and discard the extra cake pieces. Add the first cake layer to the cake stand. Then spread 1 cup of cream cheese frosting over the top. Add the second unfrosted cake to the top. Then add a layer of cream cheese frosting, and spread it evenly. Add another cup of cream cheese frosting to coat the outside of both cakes. Then place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the frosting to harden. After refrigerating, add a second layer of frosting. This one will come out more clean without crumbs on the surface. 
  • Decorate the Cake: Press 2 cups of pecans against the side of the cake so that they’re coming halfway up. Then pipe swirling mounds of frosting over the top of the cake with the frosting that remains. Add shaved white chocolate to the top. Let the frosting set for a few minutes before slicing and serving your Italian Cream Cake. 
Italian Cream Cake collage

Classic Cake Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions About Italian Cream Cake

How do I toast pecans?

You can intensify the flavor of the pecans by toasting them before chopping them and adding them to the cake. To toast the pecans preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cup of pecans in a tablespoon of olive oil. Then lay them on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Pop the baking sheet in the oven and toast the pecans for 7-10 minutes. Stir them occasionally throughout the cooking time so that they toast evenly. Then remove the pecans from the oven, let them cool and then chop them. 

What is Italian Cream Cake?

This recipe is basically a traditional vanilla cake with pecans baked in. Italian Cream Cakes are usually topped with whipped cream frosting or Cream Cheese Frosting as we used in this recipe. Despite the name, it’s not actually an Italian dessert. 

What flavor is Italian Cream Cake?

Italian Cream Cake has a rich vanilla, butter pecan flavor. The tart cream cheese frosting adds a nice contrast to the more rich, sweet flavors of the cake. 

Italian Cream Cake Collage

Key Ingredients

  • Butter: Make sure that you give the unsalted butter time to come to room temperature before you use it. Softened butter can cream with white sugar and blend into a light, fluffy consistency. If you try to use butter straight from the fridge, it will result in a dense cake. 
  • Milk: Using whole milk as the base liquid ingredient makes a rich, moist cake recipe. 
  • Flour: While you can use all-purpose flour, cake flour is a better option to get a perfectly fluffy cake recipe. Cake flour is ground more finely, resulting in a light, airy crumb. It also has less protein than all-purpose flour. The protein-dense flour would create a chewier consistency. 
  • Cream Cheese: As with the butter in the batter, you need softened butter and softened cream cheese for the cream cheese frosting. The cream cheese creates the perfect thick, creamy consistency for the frosting. It also has a sharp, tangy flavor that contrasts with the sweet cake and sweet ingredients in the frosting. 
  • Sour Cream: Adding 3 tablespoons of sour cream makes the frosting even richer and creamier without thickening it further. 
  • Powdered Sugar: You want to use powdered sugar for most frosting and icing recipes. The sugar is ground more finely, therefore it creates an airy, fluffy texture that’s perfect for the sweet topping. 
  • Pecans: The pecans act as a crunchy addition to the cake batter and as a decoration layered outside the cake. Along with adding some texture to the fluffy cake, the pecans also bring in a delicious and rich flavor. The combination of warm flavor from the pecans and vanilla extract makes this cake delightful. 
Italian Cream Cake inside view


  • Coconut Cake: Shredded coconut makes a delicious addition to this Italian Cream Cake recipe. You can mix shredded coconut into the cake batter at the same time you add the pecans, and toasted coconut makes a beautiful decorative cake topping.  
  • Nuts: If you prefer different nuts, you can make this cake recipe with chopped almonds, walnuts, or cashews to replace the pecans. You could also use a mix of nuts instead of choosing just one. 
  • Gluten-Free Cake: If anyone you’re serving has a gluten intolerance, you can make this recipe without any gluten in it. To make the recipe gluten-free, swap out the regular white flour for coconut flour, almond flour, or another gluten-free alternative. 
Italian Cream Cake slice on a plate
  • Flavor Additions: You can add extra flavor ingredients like almond extract or a spritz of lemon juice to the cake batter. Give the cake a boozy finish by mixing in a splash of amaretto liqueur. 
  • Decorations: You can also add different toppings to decorate the cake. Instead of white chocolate, try adding shaved milk or dark chocolate. You could also top the cake with large grain sanding sugar or a dusting of cocoa powder. Or, add sprinkles if you’re making your Italian Cream Cake into a birthday cake recipe. 

More Pecan Desserts

Italian Cream Cake inside view

How to Store

  • Serve: Don’t leave Italian Cream Cake out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. 
  • Store: To keep the cake recipe fresh, covered it in plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container. Because of the cream cheese frosting, you’ll need to refrigerate the cake. It will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Freeze: You can also freeze the cake for up to 3 months. 
Italian Cream Cake slice on a plate

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Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake is the perfect tender vanilla cake with pecans, almond extract, and rich cream cheese frosting.
Yield 16 Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


Italian Cream Cake:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup whole milk , room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans , very finely chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 24 ounces cream cheese , softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To finish:

  • 1 cup pecans , very finely chopped
  • 6 ounces white chocolate bar , thinly shaved


Vanilla Pecan Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then set aside.
  • To your stand mixer add the butter and sugar and beat them together until light and fluffy on medium speed, 2-3 minutes, then add in the eggs one at a time 15 seconds apart along with the almond extract then lower the speed to low. Add the flour mixture and milk, alternating a little of each at a time.
  • Stir in the pecans.
  • Pour into the cake pans evenly and baked for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool cakes completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Add the cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla to a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth and incorporated.

To Finish:

  • To your cake stand add a spoonful of cream cheese frosting.
  • Level the cakes with a large serrated knife and discard the cake pieces.
  • Brush off excess crumbs.
  • Add the first layer of the cake to the cake stand.
  • Top with 1 cup of cream cheese frosting, spread evenly.
  • Top with second layer of cake.
  • Top with 1 cup of cream cheese frosting, spread evenly.
  • Add 1 cup of cream cheese frosting, coating the outside of the cake.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow to harden.
  • Frost the cake with half the remaining cream cheese frosting.
  • Press the 2 cups of pecans up against the side of the cake coming up halfway on the sides of the cake.
  • Pipe swirly mounds onto the top of the cake.
  • Top with shaved white chocolate.


Calories: 702kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 97mg | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 249mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 75g | Vitamin A: 771IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 159mg | Iron: 1mg
Italian Cream Cake collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. In the ingredient list for the cake and icing you have almond and vanilla extract listed but in the instructions it only mentions vanilla extract. Should I use both or just the vanilla?
    Thank you, Patty

    1. Hi Patty,
      If you haven’t made this cake already, please add the almond extract to the cake batter. I have made the changes to the recipe card and appreciate you taking the time to let me know about this typo!
      Thank you! Hope you enjoy the cake!

  2. This Italian cream cake is so pretty and delicious! Perfect for any occasion. I’ll surely have this again. Thanks for this wonderful recipe Sabrina! Highly recommended!

  3. Made this on my birthday and it was one of the best cakes I’ve tried. It is so easy to make and turned out to be beautiful and delicious. Must try!