A party without cake is just a meeting.
– Julia Child
I believe the quote above to be the truest statement ever and whenever I start planning a party or shower the dessert is one of the first things planned. Throughout this year I’ve shared many of my favorites. Italian Cream Cake has been part of most of my special days, from wedding cake to birthdays to special times with wonderful friends. Is there anything any better than cream cheese frosting, coconut and pecans? I’ve passed this love on to my daughter who was thrilled to incorporate it in to her special celebrations this year.
I’ve modified this recipe so many times for so many parties. For birthdays I’ve jumped on the small, tall cakes trend that seems to be so popular right now (check out the Preppy Kitchen blog). I’m loving how they turn out: they feed way more than you might think and they look so pretty. For showers I like to use the same cake base cut into petit fours, I use the cream cheese frosting in between the layers and then glaze for a more traditional petit four icing. The embellishment on the top can be anything from fresh flowers to a simple little monogram made out of fondant and dusted with gold dust.
My love of Italian cream led me to yummy cookies that I tried at one of my favorite bakeries in Tyler; my quest to figure out the recipe or a similar recipe began. With the help of my sister, several different recipes and a slew of taste testers we came up with what I think is a pretty wonderful substitution for cake! So, if your party or shower doesn’t need an Italian Cream Cake, try Italian Cream Cookies.
Italian Cream Cake
• 6 extra large eggs, separated
(save 5 yolks for cake)
• 2 cups sugar, divided
• 1 cup butter
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 ½ tsp. vanilla ( I use
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup toasted and finely
chopped pecans or walnuts
• 1 cup flaked coconut
1. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, add ½ cup of the sugar and beat until it’s meringue texture. Set aside.
2. Cream butter, remaining sugar, salt and vanilla, adding egg yolks one at a time until it resembles whipped cream. Stir baking soda into buttermilk. Add this mixture alternately with the flour-BEGINNING AND ENDING WITH THE FLOUR!
3. Fold in the egg whites, then nuts and coconut. Pour mixture into 3 round cake pans (I use 5 inch, but it works for 8 inch as well) that have been greased and floured (I use Baker’s Joy). Bake at 325 for about 40 minutes
4. Remove from pans and let cool. Frost layers and sides with Italian Cream Frosting. Sprinkle the extra frosting with coconut if desired.
Italian Cream Frosting
• 1 stick butter
• 8oz. cream cheese
• 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
• 1 ½ pounds of powdered sugar
1. Have all ingredients at room temperature, mix together butter, cream cheese and vanilla.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat well.
Italian Cream Cookies
• 8 tablespoons of salted butter
• 1/2 cup white sugar (I like to use raw cane sugar with a coarser texture)
• 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt (but I always add a little extra)
• ½ cup of coconut
• ½ cup toasted, finely chopped pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Microwave the butter for about 40 seconds to just barely melt it. It shouldn’t be hot – but it should be almost entirely in liquid form.
2. Using a mixer, beat the butter with the sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and the egg; beat on low speed until just incorporated – 10-15 seconds or so (if you beat the egg for too long, the cookies will be stiff).
3. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until crumbles form. Use your hands to press the crumbles together into a dough. It should form one large ball that is easy to handle (right at the stage between “wet” dough and “dry” dough). Add the coconut and pecans.
4. Roll the dough into 12 large balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies look puffy and dry and just barely golden. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Take them out even if they look like they’re not done yet. They’ll be pale and puffy.
5. Cool on the pan for a good 30 minutes or so. They will sink down and turn into these dense, buttery, soft cookies. These should stay soft for many days if kept in an airtight container.
6. Top with a generous dollop of Italian Cream Frosting and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
By Nancy Roberts