Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lydia DeGaris Pursell
Total Time
2 Hours 25 Mins
Makes 12 servings

Brown sugar is the shortcut to quick caramel flavor in both the cake layers and the frosting.

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°. Place shaved coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan. Place pecans in a second shallow pan. Bake coconut and pecans at the same time 5 to 7 minutes or until coconut is toasted and pecans are lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Step 2

Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add granulated and brown sugars, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.

Step 3

Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in pecans and 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut.

Step 4

Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, and fold into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Step 5

Bake at 350° for 23 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Step 6

Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting. Immediately spread frosting between layers and on top of cake. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over sides of cake; press 3 cups toasted shaved coconut onto sides of cake.

Ratings & Reviews

grace33083's Review

January 13, 2013
This cake was a 4 hour labor of love. The cake itself was moist and fluffy. I didn't have pecans, so I subbed with walnuts. I was concerned that the cake would be overly sweet, so I only did half the caramel frosting. It was enough for thin inner layers and a thicker topping. It was super sweet, so I'm glad I didn't end up doing the entire amount prescribed in the recipe. The cream cheese frosting is only enough for a very thin outer coating, which was perfectly fine with me. I couldn't find flaked coconut in any of the stores I visited, so I ended up nixing that. Overall, this produced a very sweet cake. I ate about half a slice and was in a sugar coma. It was very good though.

FifiDecatur's Review

December 12, 2012
This cake is fabulous! It does take a lot of time to prepare, but it's worth every minute. I have made many Italian Cream Cakes in the past and had no problem with the cake(s) rising, but this time mine did not rise very much, so the layers were very thin. However, after frosting in between each layer, and then the top, it made a beautiful presentation that was just perfect. The caramel frosting will definitely need a few teaspoons of water to keep it soft and creamy, but it was amazingly easy to prepare with great results. I highly recommend this recipe, especially when you are looking for that "WOW" factor!

yolichas's Review

May 24, 2011
This is an outstanding cake. I found shaved coconut at Kroger's in the baking aisle. The only change I made was to use less powdered sugar in the caramel frosting. As I was beating it, I decided that 3 cups was plenty. It made a very creamy, yummy frosting. The first time I made the cake, I used all 4 cups and the frosting really set up. In either case, the hot water, added a tiny bit at a time, really helps the creamy factor. For kgaccetta who cannot get the cake to rise I have two suggestions. Check the expiration date on your baking soda. And, very importantly - when you fold in the egg whites, be certain you have beaten them to stiff peaks. Then, FOLD them into the batter - this means very gently with a spatula. NO mixing, just gentle folding. It keeps a lot of air in the batter and makes for a light and springy cake.

kgaccetta's Review

April 24, 2011
This cake tastes Awesome, BUT...I have baked it twice now and I can NOT get my batter to RISE when baked - The layers are very dense and are only about 1/2 inch in height. I followed the recipe EXACTLY both Times and the same results! I even had my Husband bake it, he followed the recipe exactly and his did NOT RISE either!! What are we doing wrong, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!!! The layer are not fluffy, they are VERY DENSE and THIN!!! Help me Please!

annbauer24's Review

December 14, 2010
I used shredded coconut in a bag-it worked fine. The cake was a huge hit at my office--9X13 pan with only the caramel frosting. It is moist and absolutely delicious. I have trouble with carmel being grainy but had no problem with this recipe. The caramel was very smooth!

ddnaomi's Review

December 07, 2010
This cake is fantastic. Not to be made by the faint of heart though. The caramel frosting will require more that 2 teaspoons of water to make it creamy though. I think I will use shreaded toasted coconut next time to make cutting the cake easier. Must use fresh coconut for toasting as bagged will be too sweet. Excellent cake. On my repeat list.