This is my dad's favorite cake. He used to get bags of pecans from his grandpa's house every summer and his mom would have to come up with lots of recipes to use them in. She made pecan pie every Christmas for all of her neighbors, but I personally like what she's done with the pecans in this recipe even more than her wonderful pies. I've made my grandmother's version many times before and loved the texture and taste of it, but it takes a lot of time so be prepared. Unless it is my dad's birthday, I usually just stick with the semi-homemade version. I've put up both recipes for you to choose from.
Italian Cream Cake (Grandmother's version)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
5 eggs (divided)
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup Crisco
2 cups sifted flour
1 Tbs vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 small bag of coconut
Combine soda and buttermilk and let stand a few minutes. Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside. Cream sugar, butter and shortening; add egg yolks one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add buttermilk mixture alternately with flour to sugar mixture. Stir in vanilla, fold in egg whites. Gently stir in pecans and coconut. Bake in three 9-inch greased and floured cake rounds for 25 minutes.
Italian Cream Cake (Semi-homemade version)
1 vanilla cake mix
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 bag shredded coconut
1/2 cup pecans, plus more for decorating
Prepare the vanilla cake mix as the box directs. Chop pecans and add to cake mix with vanilla. Add in 1/2 of the bag of coconut (I usually chop my coconut beforehand a little so that the cake holds together better). Pour into 2 prepared cake rounds and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the center bounces back when lightly touched.
The reserved 1/2 bag of coconut is for the outside of the cake. To toast, set the oven on broil and lay the coconut out on a cookie sheet. Hold under the broiler for 30 seconds at a time, mixing between. Once the frosting is on and the coconut has cooled, just press onto the sides of the cake using your hand. This is a messy process but makes the cake so much prettier.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-oz package regular cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla
4-5 cups powdered sugar
Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla, then add powdered sugar in stages. This makes plenty to cover and decorate one cake.