Advocate-tested recipe

Incredibly Tender Italian Cream Cake

Makes 1 9-inch, 3-layer cake. Recipe is by Cynthia L. Nobles, who says, “No one is sure who invented Italian cream cake, but its building blocks of sponge cake, cream, nuts and flavorings have been common in Italian baking for hundreds of years. Because of the inclusion of coconut and pecans, it’s speculated that an Italian baker in America’s South may have created this masterpiece and given it its name. Compared to traditional recipes, this one calls for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, in addition to one more egg, resulting in a richer, yet lighter crumb.”

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

6 eggs, at room temperature, yolks and whites separated

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon iodized salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

2¼ cups cake flour

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Italian Cream Cake Icing (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease insides of three 9-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper circles and grease them, and dust insides of pans with flour.

2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer using medium speed, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk, baking soda, salt, vanilla and almond extract. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk mixture into batter, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in coconut and pecans.

4. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into batter. Divide batter among prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake until center bounces back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes.

5. Remove layers from oven and cool in pans on a rack 5 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on racks.

6. To frost, spread ½ cup icing on top of bottom layer and sprinkle with ? cup pecans. Place second layer over bottom layer and spread with ½ cup icing and ? cup pecans. Place third layer on top and spread icing on top and sides of cake. Decorate with remaining chopped pecans and pecan halves. Can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.

Italian Cream Cake Icing

Makes enough to frost a 3-layer cake.

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1½ cups shredded coconut

1? cups finely chopped pecans, plus pecan halves for garnish

In a large bowl using medium mixer speed, beat together cream cheese and butter until completely smooth. Beat in vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Stir in coconut. Reserve pecans for sprinkling between layers and for garnish.