Tag Archives: Cat Cora

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

This cake got made for the most boring of reasons: I had most of a bag of sweetened shredded coconut left over from something else, and I didn’t want to throw it out. Fortunately, the cake itself is far, far more interesting. Before making this, I don’t think I’d ever had this classic.

Italian Cream Cake

At first I assumed that was natural, seeing as I’m not Italian. But then I learned that the origins of this cake are largely unknown, except that it seems to hail from America’s Deep South rather than Italy itself, and no one really knows how it got its name.

Italian Cream Cake

Then, it made much less sense that I’d never had it, given where I grew up and all, but the most important thing is that I’ve had it now. Better late than never! Suffice it to say, this is a wonderful cake that everyone should know how to make. The batter, studded with shredded coconut and chopped walnuts, turns out a very delicious cake! It’s light and fluffy, flavorful, and lightly tangy with that cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!

Italian Cream Cake

Source: Cooking From the Hip by Cat Cora


2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
12 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

First make the CAKE: place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 F. Cut a circle to fit each of two 9-inch round cake pans. Grease the pans, fir the parchment into the pans, then grease the parchment.
Whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, then set aside. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the butter and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix well. Then add half the buttermilk, beating on medium speed and scraping the size of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Repeat, alternating the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk. Add the vanilla, coconut, and toasted walnuts and stir until just combined.
In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar, then beat until the sugar is incorporated and stiff peaks form. By hand, fold in one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter until incorporated. Fold in the next third of egg whites until incorporated, then the final third. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake until the top is golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set the cakes on racks and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the cake pans.
Meanwhile, make the FROSTING: in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla at medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until blended. When all the sugar is incorporated, beat at high speed until smooth. Stir in ½ cup walnuts.
Place 1 cake round on a serving plate or cake stand. Place a mound of frosting on top, then use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the entire cake. Place the second cake round on top, then mound the remaining frosting on top of the cake. Use the offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the top and down the sides. Press the remaining ½ cup chopped walnuts on the top of the cake. For best results, refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to firm up the frosting.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel-Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brittle

This is Matt.  He is my husband, best friend, confidante, lover, life partner, cheering section, shoulder to cry on, traveling companion, sounding board, love of my life.  Last weekend was his birthday.  I’m not sure exactly when this got started, but our birthday tradition is that we get one home-cooked meal, whatever we want, and we go out to eat for one special meal.  Matt varies what he wants for dinner every year, but for the past three years he has not wavered on dessert.  He always wants this ice cream, so I make it for him every year.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit laborious, and every year, I say I’ll not make it again.  But then I taste the finished product, and that all goes out the window.  It tastes so amazing that of course I’ll make it again and again.  Besides, I’m only kidding myself if I really think I could ever deny my amazing other half his special-request ice cream, the one that has become known in our house as “Matt’s Birthday Ice Cream”.

This dish actually combines two recipes: one for a basic vanilla bean ice cream, and one for caramel-chocolate-peanut brittle.

You chunk up the brittle and it becomes the add-in while the ice cream is churning.  It was inspired by Ben & Jerry’s peanut brittle flavor, and we both agree this one is even better.  The ice cream is super creamy, contrasted with the satisfying crunch of the brittle, which is that irresistible combination of chocolate and peanut butter, along with some caramel and sea salt thrown in for good measure.  I really don’t have words to convey how heavenly it is, so you’ll just have to make it and see for yourself.

The brittle is actually very quick to make, about twenty minutes hands on time (not including time for cooling and chilling of course).  Sure, your hair is on fire those twenty minutes, but it’s all worth it.  You’ll also have a ton of leftover brittle to snack on, which you deserve after all that work to make it.

Vanilla Ice Cream – Lightly adapted from Cooking From the Hip, by Cat Cora
Brittle – Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2007


4 unsalted matzo crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
One 12-oz bag milk chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Coarse sea salt

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Very important, and I pity the fool who skips this step. Place a layer of matzo crackers on the surface, breaking as needed to fit.
In a heavy medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and 2 tbs water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook undisturbed until it is light golden and a thermometer inserted reads 255 F. This takes 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla and quickly pour all over the matzo layer. Use a metal knife or spatula to spread it around evenly. Bake for 8 minutes.
Remove the brittle from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Bake 2 minutes, until the chocolate starts to melt. Then spread the chocolate out evenly. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Drizzle it over the chocolate and, using the handle of a spoon, swirl the chocolate and peanut butter. Sprinkle with salt.
Let the brittle cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Break into pieces to serve the brittle alone.


4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar and salt; pour into a medium to large saucepan. With the side of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan, and toss the vanilla bean in as well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. This takes a good 20 minutes. Don’t cheat or your ice cream will lack creaminess.
Strain the custard into a medium bowl and place the bowl in an ice bat. Continue stirring every few minutes until it’s tepid. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
When you’re ready to churn, add the cream to the base and stir well. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions for churning. While it’s churning, remove the brittle from the refrigerator and immediate break off a large piece. Chop it into bite-size chunks, but be careful not to go too small. In the last five minutes of churning, add the chunks to the ice cream maker. When it’s done, freeze until you’re ready to serve.