A couple weeks ago frosting and I battled at Petit Four. At the end, I whimpered off the field to nurse my wounds, count my losses, prepare for a double plus batch of Italian Cream Cake. This cake had been scheduled before the Petit Four battle. I don’t believe either of us had realized back then the importance of the Battle of Cream Cheese Frosting. With only a week and a half I had to regain some confidence.
There was one area of consolation. Even though frosting had won, it was a difficult win. I was forced into defeat, but the frosting hadn’t survived. Now I would be facing a new foe eagerly seeking vengeance for its fallen comrade. On my side I had the good powdered sugar.
Again, the day started with cake. Essentially Italian Cream Cake is buttermilk cake with coconut. Yum…coconut. If you’re not a coconut fan let me remind you of this post and the fact that this is the cake that turned me into a coconut convert. Cake and I are good friends, allies to the end, always coming through together.
The vintage stand mixer that had so valiantly beat through a double plus batch of batter began to wheeze on the frosting. Its beaters became bound by the butter and cream cheese that refused to soften while there was snow on the ground. Scraped clean, they were given a break while the mixing bowl was set on top of a hot oven. My first win.
For my second I brought out the good powdered sugar. It had been kept isolated from evil influences, but even so it still managed to explode. The walls, the counters, the floor, me all seemed pinned down. Ignoring the splatter I stubbornly turned the mixer higher. Around and around it went. I continued to add sugar past my own frosting sweetness tolerance level until I was left with a bowl of whipped, smooth, sweet, cream cheese frosting. Victorious.
Not that my side came out unscathed. True frosted smoothness wasn’t achieved and I had to resort to frosting-free decorations.
We’ve called truce. Are we on friendly terms? Not precisely. More like we can, once again, co-exist. Is it permanent? Unlikely. Aware that my next baking will most certainly be frosting-free the powdered sugar and food dye are in the pantry — planning their next move.
Italian Cream Cake
Adapted from epicurious.com. However, all Italian Cream Cake recipes seemed to be the same. Some called for either 1 or 2 cups of coconut. Some called for anywhere from ½ cup to 1 ½ cups shortening. All called for nuts, but dietary restrictions required that these cakes be nut free. Though, as you can see, some received almond decorations. None called for orange, but it just seemed so right.
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening, softened
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
5 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
zest of half an orange
(1 cup chopped nuts pecans or walnuts)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1-pound box powdered sugar (though I would, personally, use much less)
Prepare by heating oven to 375° and greasing and flouring two 9 inch cake pans. For even easier cake removal, grease cake pans and lay parchment paper on the bottom of the pan.
Beat together sugar, shortening and butter until smooth and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Alternately add flour mixture then buttermilk into butter-egg mixture. The recipe recommend that you begin and end with flour. However, I’m a fan of finishing the pattern and have ended with the buttermilk in the past — seemed to work okay to me. Add in vanilla, coconut, orange zest (and nuts).
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to hold stiff peaks. You will have to clean and dry your beaters to do this. Unless you happen to have multiple sets. Fold egg whites into batter. Pour into waiting cake pans. Bake about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool cakes in the pans for a few minutes. Remove to cooling rakes and let cool completely before attacking the frosting.
Beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in sugar. Tasting frequently until you’re happy with the sweetness level.
Spread a couple large spoonfuls of frosting between each cake layer. Frost the outside of the cake. To help improve your chances of a pretty cake you are supposed to first, I believe, frost a thin layer all over the cake. This is known (in my house) as a crumb catcher layer. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting sets a bit. Then take it out and frost it again. Does it help? Maybe. I was making 2 and a half cakes and the recipe doubled wonderfully. The larger cakes were decorated with toasted almond slivers, as pictured. The smaller cake was decorated with toasted coconut, which seemed like it would turn out looking like fur or a nest, but happily didn’t.