Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; set aside.
Beat butter and shortening until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in coconut, chopped pecans, and vanilla. Fold in egg whites. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cakepans.
Bake at 325° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove cake layers to wire racks, and cool completely.
Spread Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish, if desired.
I bake Italian Cream Cheese Cakes all the time. Adding chocolate gives a wonderful version for a chocolate alcoholc. For people not familiar with an Italian Cream Cheese Cake, they are not as sweet and heavy as some cakes, therefore, the chocolate seems to be just right, not overwheling. The only thing I do different is toasting the pecans for the icing and not mixing them in the icing, but presing them in the sides of the cake and decorating the bottom and top edges like the picture.
I made this recipe for my Grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary party last year and everyone LOVED it!! Made it for a Christmas gathering also and same rave reviews. I personally don't like pecans or coconut so I can't attest to the taste, but everyone who has tried it loved it. A little bit time consuming but well worth it!!
I bumped up the flavor of the chocolate by adding 1 1/2 teas. of instant coffee to the cocoa. Instead of using regular unsweetened cocoa, I used King Arthur Flour's mix of dutch processed cocoa/black cocoa. Black cocoa is what gives oreo cookies their dark chocolatey color, whereas regular cocoa always looks reddish, instead of a rich brown. If your cake came out dry, it could be because your oven runs hot, or it was cooked too long. It can also be affected by altitude and whether or not you have a convection oven.