Buongiorno tutti! The past four months have been a chaotic mess of never-ending schoolwork, tests, and projects. And with school being my number one priority, my baking and blogging was unfortunately put on hold. But now that summer has begun, my fingers are itching to bake and chronicle my new recipes and adventures! This certainly deserves something grand and celebratory. And when I think of celebration, only one dessert will do: Italian Creme Cake.
Italian Creme Cake has been a summer tradition in my family for numerous years now. It is the dessert that we take with us on our yearly vacation to the beach. It is therefore only natural that I celebrate the commencement of summer with this cake. There is, however, one problem. The Italian Creme Cake recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, a recipe that I have used and adored for years, is not gluten-free. But never fear! Thanks to the inventive genius of Carol Fenster and her book, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, even those with gluten-intolerance can now enjoy the decadence of this incredible Italian dessert.
And this recipe could not be anymore perfect. There is absolutely nothing gluten-free-tasting about this dessert. Unlike the dense quality of most gluten-free products, this cake has a light texture that is created from the careful folding of egg whites into the batter. This airiness is then perfectly complimented by a delicious, but not overpowering, sweet coconut flavor and a spattering of chopped toasted pecans that adds a welcome textural and flavorful addition to the delicate, sweet cake layers.
With these amazing flavors and textures, there is only one type of frosting that is truly worthy of adorning this delicious cake: vanilla cream cheese. One of my personal favorites, this smooth frosting is truly the perfect compliment to the components of this cake. The slight tanginess of cream cheese accents the sweetness of the cake layers, and the vanilla flavor pairs perfectly with the coconut. Another wonderful aspect of this show-stopping dessert is the nearly endless decorating possibilities. Only limited by your imagination, you can garnish this cake with any combination of toasted or untoasted coconut, chopped or whole pecans, and smooth or swirled frosting. But even if you decide to go “Plain Jane,” leaving the cake adorned with only its sweet frosting coat, your guests will still be awed by this incredible dessert. So if you are looking for the perfect dessert for a birthday, graduation, or even the simple commencement of summer, this is the recipe for you! But be warned, you may fall in love after just one piece.
Italian Creme Cake
Slightly adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster
Yield: 12 servings
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1 1/2 cups Carol’s Sorghum Blend*
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract or flavor
4 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pecans and coconut (toasted or untoasted) for decoration, as desired
Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Generously grease two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper or wax. Grease again; set aside.
Make the cake: In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another bowl, sift together the sorghum blend, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and coconut extract/flavor.
With the mixer on low speed, beat the sorghum mixture into the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the sorghum mixture. Add the pecans, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat just until smooth.
In a clean large bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter, and spread the batter evenly in the pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes or until the tops of the cake are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans 10-15 minutes on a wire rack. Remove the cakes from the pan, discard the paper, and cool completely on the wire rack.
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar on low speed. Add the vanilla extract and beat well. Taste and adjust according to desired sweetness, adding more sifted powdered sugar if need be.
Place 1 cake layer, topside down, on a serving plate; spread with one-third of the frosting. Top with the other cake layer, topside up. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with coconut and pecans as desired.
*Carol’s Sorghum Blend
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch/cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour