There is nothing more thrilling for an amateur baker than to have something turn out looking exactly like it does in the book, AND tasting as good as it looks! If you think about it for a second, you realize the credit probably goes to the recipe's author rather than the home cook, but I am taking it anyway. I am AMAZING!
Because this cake is. This is what we served for the grown-up February birthdays at our house (me, my husband, my Mom.) Four layers of delicious yellow cake full of coconut, pecans, and FOUR different extracts, filled with creamy vanilla pastry cream* and slathered with lemony cream cheese frosting. We served it, as directed, with lemon sorbet, but ooheee, that sorbet was tart with this cake! I think I'd go with sherbet at least, or even better, lemon ice cream. Yes, I think lemon ice cream would be perfect.
*Here's the thing about pastry cream. It's kind of hard to make and easy to screw up. And it makes a mess. And at least the times I've successfully made it without a curdled disaster, it never tasted as good as vanilla cook-and-serve pudding. So after another attempt at pastry cream this time around, I ditched the effort and went with the pudding. So delicious.
Italian Cream Wedding Cake (print recipe)
1 large box of cooked vanilla pudding, prepared and chilled
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
5 large eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Milk, as necessary
Chopped toasted pecans
Toasted shredded coconut
White chocolate shavings/curls, optional1. Prepare pudding according to box directions, maybe add a little less milk so it will set up firm. Chill well, several hours or up to 3 days.
2. For cake, preheat oven to 350. Spray two 9-inch round pans with cooking spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper circles and spray them with cooking spray. Place pans on parchment paper lined baking sheets and wrap with bake-even strips if you have them.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and shortening until well blended and fluffy. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar and mix well. Blend egg yolks into butter mixture, scraping down bowl every so often (if it seems curdled, add some of the flour called for in cake batter. Fold in vanilla, almond, lemon and orange extracts. Blend in buttermilk and then fold in remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lastly, add coconut and pecans.
4. Place egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl, and using whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed of mixer until frothy. Increase speed and slowly dust in remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Increase speed and whip until whites are stiff and glossy, abut 3 to 4 minutes. Fold one-third of egg whites into cake batter. Then carefully fold in remaining whites so as to incorporate whites but not deflate batter.
5. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake until cakes spring back when gently pressed with fingertips, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake layers well, and, once cooled, cover loosely with wax paper while making frosting.
6. For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese in a mixer with paddle attachment until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and as much milk as required to get a smooth and spreadable consistency. Whip on medium speed for 3 minutes.
7. To assemble, cut each cake in half horizontally. Whisk or mix chilled pudding with a spoon to loosen it. Place one cake layer on a serving platter and cover with one-third pudding. Sandwich remaining layers the same way, leaving top layer plain.
8. Frost cake sides and then top with Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting. Dust top with a fine mixture of pecans, coconut and white chocolate shavings or curls. Chill 1 hour before serving (or up to 3 days.)
Recipe adapted from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman