I had been anxiously awaiting baking this beauty since I had the privilege of tasting it while Southern Living test kitchen was perfecting it. They did get the recipe quite perfect, but the magazine fancified it with cream cheese icing and shaved coconut on the sides. I tweaked the recipe to put more spotlight on the caramel frosting that I can't stop talking about; plus, "basic" homemade layer cakes require enough labor as is.
Caramel Italian Cream Cake
From Southern Living, with a few tweaks
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Quick Caramel Frosting (below)
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place pecans in a shallow pan. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until pecans are lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
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.
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.
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.
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).
6. Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting. Immediately spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Quick Caramel Frosting
1 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a rolling boil in a 3 1/2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly (about 7 minutes).
2. Stir in cream, and bring to a boil; remove from heat. Pour into bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Gradually beat in powdered sugar and vanilla at medium speed, using whisk attachment; beat 8 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Use immediately.
Tip: Don't panic if you overbeat the frosting. Thin to a spreadable consistency by adding 1 to 2 tsp. hot water.