Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caramel Pumpkin Italian Cream Cake

I have made a countless Italian cream cakes in my life.  For this Thanksgiving though, I want to break out of my rut, so I had an idea running through my mind that I just had to try.  I made a few changes to my tried and true Italian cream cake recipe and voila!  ( I had originally typed "wallah", but something deep down told me that's just not right, Lorie, that's just not right.) (And FYI--I do not know how to put an accent mark over the A.)  A pumpkiny fall version, perfect for any Thanksgiving table.  This cake is very moist and has the addition of a slightly salted caramel filling, because I'm not a huge fan of an excessive amount of cream cheese icing.  I love the way it turned out.

And can someone tell me why these cakes are called Italian cream, because I'm not getting the whole Italian connection. 

Here are my notes:

-This cake should be stored in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before serving.  I think this can definitely be made a couple of days ahead of time.  Just store in an airtight container.

-Work fast when spreading the caramel icing on the first two layers.  If it gets too thick by the time you reach the second layer, just heat it over low heat while stirring to loosen it again.

-There is just enough cream cheese frosting to frost the outside.  I really didn't have enough to do any piping, so if you like to pipe fancy dollops and scrolls, you may want to increase.

-You could stir in the toasted coconut and pecans into the cream cheese icing, I just never do that.  I prefer to pack it on the sides.

-You could certainly increase the cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter if you wanted.

-Traditional Italian cream cakes are not my favorite.  I like them, I just don't love them.  However, everyone around me seems to love them and I get lots of requests for mine, but I'd take this one over a regular one any day.

-Did I mention that it's really moist?

-When making the caramel icing, it needs to be brought to a rolling boil.  Here's what that process looks like:

See the bubbles around the edge?  We are not there yet, monkey.

 Wait for it....

 ....wait for it....

 ....WAIT FOR IT...

...okay, monkey!  We're there!  When I stirred, the bubbles did not go away.  It is rapidly boiling all over the surface, not just around the edges.  

I'm curious.  How do you feel about me calling you monkey?

You may now proceed with beating in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  But work fast when your spreading, because it hardens quickly.

Caramel Pumpkin Italian Cream Cake

2 cups pecan halves
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup pure canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk

Caramel frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup sifted powdered sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.  Reserve 8-10 halves for decorating the top, then finely chop the remainder.  Set aside 1 cup chopped for the cake batter, then place the remaining chopped pecans in a small bowl.  Toast 1 cup coconut in a nonstick skillet over high heat until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Reserve remaining coconut for cake batter.  Place the toasted coconut in the bowl with the pecans and mix.  Set aside.

Cream the shortening, butter, sugar, and 1 cup light brown sugar together until fluffy on medium speed.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated.  Beat in the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well mixed.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Stir 1 cup reserved (untoasted) coconut and the reserved 1 cup chopped pecans.

Beat the egg whites until stiff in a medium bowl.  Gently fold into batter.  Divide the batter equally among 3 (9-inch round) cake pans that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and lined with parchment paper or wax paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.

When cakes are completely cool, make the caramel frosting.  Place 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup heavy cream and the fleur de sel in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to rapid boil and boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 cups powdered sugar with a handmixer on medium speed until mixture is thick and spreadable.  Immediately spread half of the frosting on the first cake layer that has been placed on cake plate or cardboard cake round, bottom side up (flat side up).  Place the second layer on top, bottom up, and spread the remaining frosting to the edges.  Place the third layer on top, bottom side up.

Make the cream cheese frosting.  Beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy and fluffy with the whisk attachment on high speed.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy and smooth.  Beat in vanilla.  Frost the outside and top of cake with frosting.  Carefully press the reserved coconut-pecan mixture into the sides of cake, then place pecan halves on top for decoration.

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  1. wow that is one beautiful cake! and your photos are so lovely.

  2. Holy moly this cake looks amazing! And I love the step-by-step instructions on the caramel icing. Super helpful.

  3. Look at it crumble and moisten.... Perfect with a cup of warm peach/apple tea....

  4. Lorie, I don't know that I have the adjectives to tell you how good that cake looks! I absolutely have to make it :) You cracked me up with "wallah". Lovely photos too!

  5. Just found your blog and I can already tell I'll be a regular visitor. This cake looks wonderful, I've never tried a cream cake. Your photography is also great. I'm off to explore the other delicious posts I spied on your sidebar!

  6. Amazing! This cake looks incredible!

  7. Thanks all! Thanks for stopping by!:)

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  9. Oh I'm going to be craving cake all morning! :)
    This looks fabulous. I love that you used caramel frosting! YUM!

  10. Oh wow. Speechless, I am. This will be my husband's next birthday cake. What am I saying? This will be my next birthday cake.

  11. Been reading through your blog and drooling, yes DROOLING thank you very much!Your recipes, your photos are amazing but I also love your unique writing style. Will be a reg visitor too, so far I want to try it all :D

  12. I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

    I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author's site.

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  13. Seriously Monkey? I'm loving this! A friend of mine has asked me to make her something pumpkin, something coconut, maybe something with cream cheese icing as a treat and I find this recipe. Talk about a voila moment! I'm going to try this but without the nuts. Do you think it will be okay?

    The caramel frosting reminds me a lot of penuche. Have you heard of that.. is it the same?

    I call my boyfriend Monkey and he calls me Banana, but I still love it when you call me that. ;)

  14. This cake looks like a real treat, especially the Caramel frosting which looks to die for. Can't wait to have a few quiet hours so i can bake it :)

  15. Oh, be still my Italian heart! This looks like an incredible take on the beloved Italian cream cake--fabulous post.

  16. definitely a "wallah" idea. Southern version of voilà. I would understand. This is going on my Thanksgiving menu for sure. Thanks!

  17. Monkey? Bake this cake for me and you can call me anything you want!

  18. Monkey? Bake this cake for me and you can call me anything you'd like!

  19. Going to try your recipe today. It looks very good and your pictures are beautiful
    I was wondering why you call people you never met monkey.

  20. Making this cake for hubby's birthday on Sunday... it's all his favorite things! I got all the supplies already... can't wait to start on it... going to be wonderful and I hope it looks as nice as yours does. Thank you so much for sharing this and the photos are amazing!!

  21. I just made this cake today and it was amazing! Thank you so much for the beautiful pictures and great recipes! I will definitely want to make this cake again next year.

  22. Lorie, I found this in a Washington Post article on Columbus Day:

    " Italian cream cake is more Southern American than Italian, and no one seems to know where the recipe originated. You begin with a white cake mix with buttermilk and all sorts of other good things like pecans and coconut folded in.

    The cream cheese frosting is accented with a tad of coconut flavoring to mirror the coconut in the cake. And the result is a delicious three-layer cake perfect for serving to company celebrating the ingenuity of Columbus or just your prowess for pulling off yet another delicious meal."

    Read more:
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

  23. Please tell me... how do you wrap this cake ?

  24. Hi, do you use bleached or unbleached flour ? Thank you. I forgot to ask you in my earlier post .Also LOVE your coconut cream pie !

    1. Anonymous--I use bleached. You know, the bad stuff, heehee. :) I am not sure what you mean by wrap the cake above? Like for transport? If you put it in the fridge for a coupe of hours, the outside will crust over and you can cover with plastic wrap. Or use cake taker. It is a pretty tall cake, though, so depends on the size.

  25. Thank you so much for your answers. I thought the icing would come off on the plastic wrap. I did not even think about how it would not stick after refrigeration. Sometimes common sense escapes me, as I'm swinging thru the trees..Guess that's the monkey in me. Ha

  26. Made this cake tonight from your recipe. Had to do the carmel twice the first time I overcooked it. I hope it tastes as good as it looks. This was on the 'cusp' of my 'cakery' skills!

  27. I totally feel you on not loving something but being surrounded by people who do. Cue my cut-out cookies.
    This looks very yummy and the caramel filling looks especially interesting.
    P.S. I'm OK with monkey references.