Sunday, February 14, 2010

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake - made February 13, 2010 from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans

Someone asked me for a recipe for Italian Cream Cake a few weeks ago and I had to admit I'd never really heard of it before, much less made one. But I went searching through my baking books out of curiosity (there's a cake I'd never heard of??) as to what it was. And discovered most of my baking books, not even the ones specializing in cakes, had it listed either. However I did find a recipe for it in 2 of my baking books and both had the same general ingredients. It appears Italian Cream Cake, at least in both these recipes, is made with a combination of butter and shortening with coconut and frosted with a cream cheese frosting. Okay, I can get behind that.

I tried this recipe from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans just because I had a higher success rate with her book than with the other one that contained a recipe for Italian Cream Cake as well. The only thing that surprised me in Elinor Klivan's recipe is she calls for margarine. Let me declare my prejudice now: I don't do margarine. While admittedly I have many baking prejudices - against poor nuts in brownies, fruitcake, no-name brand baking ingredients and cheap chocolate - margarine tops the list. I don't buy it, I don't bake or cook with it and I don't eat it. I'm all about butter. Using margarine...I can't even bring myself to think about it much less do it.

So it should come as no surprise that I substituted butter everywhere she calls for margarine. The cake turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. It's actually similar to Mrs. Fields' coconut cake recipe (blogged about earlier) except this one had more of a pound cake texture. Regardless, it was quite good. I tried a piece when it was still lukewarm and I hadn't frosted it yet - so good. It also holds up with the cream cheese frosting although the frosting recipe makes more than enough to thoroughly cover a Bundt cake. So I now know what Italian Cream Cake is but I will confess I don't know the difference between that and a regular coconut cake with cream cheese frosting.

5 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) soft margarine (not reduced-fat)
8 tablespoons (½ cup) soft vegetable shortening such as Crisco
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (nonfat is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) softened margarine (not reduced-fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

1 ½ cups shredded sweetened coconut for sprinkling over the frosting

1. Mix the cake: Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter the bottom, sides and center tube of a 9 ½- or 10-inch fixed-bottom tube pan with at least 3 ¾”-high sides. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.
2. Have the egg whites ready in a clean, large bowl.
3. Put the granulated sugar, margarine, and vegetable shortening in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the mixture from the sides of the bowl and any that becomes caught in the beaters as needed throughout the mixing process. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Stir in the vanilla to incorporate it. Put the buttermilk in a small bowl, add the baking soda and stir them together gently just to dissolve the baking soda. Decrease the speed to low, and in 5 additions (3 flour, 2 buttermilk), add the flour and buttermilk, alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Let each addition of buttermilk and flour incorporate before adding another. The batter may look curdled after the buttermilk additions. Scrape the sides of the bowl again after the last addition of flour. The batter will look smooth. Use a large spoon to stir in the pecans and coconut. Set the batter aside and immediately whip the egg whites.
4. Use an electric mixer with clean, dry beaters to beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they look white, shiny and smooth. As the egg whites become firm, the movements of the beaters begin to form lines in them. If you stop the mixer and lift up the beaters, the whites should cling to the beaters rather than drip off them. Pour about half the whipped egg whites over the reserved batter and use a rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the batter by digging down to the bottom of the bowl with the rubber spatula and bringing the 2 mixtures up and over each other to combine them. This lightens the batter slightly, but it is not necessary to fold every bit of egg white in at this point. Pour over the remaining egg whites and fold them into the batter until thoroughly incorporated and no white streaks remain. Use the rubber spatula to scrape all of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top.
5. Bake the cake: Bake for about 1 hour, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The top of the cake will be firm and golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes. Use a small sharp knife to loosen the cake from the sides and the center tube of the pan. Hold a serving plate on top of the cake in the pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Carefully remove and discard the paper lining the cake bottom. Place a wire rack on the bottom of the cake and invert the cake onto it. The cake is now right side up. Cool the cake thoroughly on the wire rack before frosting it, about 2 hours.
6. Make the frosting: Put the cream cheese, margarine, and vanilla in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute until the mixture is smooth and the margarine and cream cheese are combined thoroughly. Decrease the speed to low and add the powdered sugar in 2 additions. Continue beating until the powdered sugar is incorporated and the frosting is smooth.

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