Italian Cream Cake

10-12 servings

For the Cake

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

Pinch of kosher salt

2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 Tablespoons (4-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

3 extra large eggs, yolks and whites separated

1 cup sweetened shredded dried coconut, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Frosting

12-ounces cream cheese, cold

12 Tablespoons (6-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 cups confectioners' sugar

1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

For the Cake

Preheat the oven to 350º f. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.  In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the 1 1/3 cups sugar.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4-6 minutes.  Beat the egg yolks in one at a time.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beating on low speed, add the flour in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 2 parts; scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat until combined.  Stir in the coconut and pecans.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar using a hand-held mixer or whisk until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar and beat on high until stiff, but not dry peaks form.  Fold one-quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the cakes to detach from the pan.  Invert the cakes, remove the parchment, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla just until blended.  Add the confectioners' sugar, one-third at a time, and beat just until smooth (do not over beat).  Stir in the pecans.

Place one cake layer on a serving platter and top with 1 cup of the frosting, spreading evenly.  Place the other cake layer on top and frost the sides and the top with the remaining frosting. Enjoy!

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