December 22nd, 2010

Two for “2″ Italian Cream and Red Velvet Cake


Gifts! More Gifts!

It’s just days before Christmas, and the hustle is on to fill in the missing pieces of the present-puzzle. I have to navigate with care getting those last minute goodies, and quell those did-I-get-enough-maybe-I-should-get-just-one-more-thing feelings.

Whew. Stop! There’s more the enough.

As we like to say in the South, there’s Gracious Plenty.

But I didn’t want to forget you this season. Wouldn’t think of it! You’ve been so nice to come along with me on these little culinary forays. And, since this is the Two Year Anniversary of Good Food Matters, (whoo-hoo! we are 2!) it seems only fitting that I offer you not one but two cakes. Please. Yes, you deserve them.


This first cake, the lavish Italian Cream (sometimes called Italian Wedding Cake) has so many delicious elements–lemon zest, toasted pecans, shredded coconut–that combine to create a complex cake with terrific texture. People who do not like coconut like this cake. Layers are light, a little spongey–thanks to eggs that are separated, whipped, and folded throughout the batter.

I hadn’t made one in a long time, and remembered this tip, in preparation: Do not overbeat the egg whites—you want soft peaks that will fold with ease. Stiff egg whites will result in stiff (tough!) crumb. But otherwise, this is a simple recipe, elegant under a coat of lemony cream cheese. Enjoy.


And then there is the Red Velvet Cake, the Enigma. It elicits an initial Shock of the Red, and speculation of what its flavor could be.

It’s a flavor that has nothing to do with its color, (eek! red food dye!) and cannot truly be described as chocolate or vanilla, even though cocoa and vanilla extract are recipe ingredients.

Buttermilk and vinegar make major contributions to its alluring tang.

Created at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the 1920s, Red Velvet was popular for its regal crimson layers. In the times of scarcity that soon followed, Red Velvet was preferred over chocolate cakes for its modest use of cocoa. Sometimes beet juice was used as a coloring agent. The butter roux icing mimicked whipped cream. Somewhat.

It never made sense to me that I should like this nebulous concoction, but it has a beguiling je ne sais quoi.

Once, I thought I had pinpointed its mysterious appeal. I was leveling the tops of some Red Velvet layers, which left some thin slices behind. I slathered them with the icing, and rolled them up to eat. In this fashion, the Red Velvet reminded me of a cherished childhood treat, like a “Yodel” or a “Devil Dog.” Hmmmmm. Somewhat.



1 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
5 Eggs, separated
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 cup Buttermilk
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon Lemon zest
½ teaspoon Salt
1 ½ cups shredded Coconut
1 cup chopped toasted Pecans

3-8” or 2-9” cake pans, spray coated, bottoms lined with parchment

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla and lemon zest.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and beat into mixture. Fold in coconut and pecans. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold into batter.

Divide batter between the cake pans.

Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Cool, remove from pans, and frost with cream cheese icing.
Garnish with toasted coconut and pecans.

1 1b. softened cream cheese
½ lb. softened unsalted butter
1 T. Vanilla
1 T. Lemon Juice
2 plus cups Powdered Sugar (to taste!)

Cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon.
Gradually add powdered (confectioner’s) sugar, a cup at a time, until you reach desired sweetness.


¼ lb. softened Butter
½ c. Canola Oil
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 Eggs
3 T. Red Food Coloring
3 T. Cocoa
1 t. Vanilla
1 c. Buttermilk
2 ½ c. All Purpose Flour, sifted
½ t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Vinegar

Cream butter, oil, sugar, and eggs together. Make a paste of cocoa, food coloring, and vanilla, and beat into mixture. Beat in buttermilk and flour alternately, then add salt, baking soda and vinegar.

Pour batter into 2 -9” or 3-8” buttered and floured cake pans and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, if in 9’ pans, or 24 minutes, if in 8” pans. Allow to completely cool before frosting.

4 ½ T. All Purpose Flour
1 ½ c. Milk
1 ½ c. Sugar
2 t. Vanilla
12 T. softened Butter (1 ½ sticks)

Stir flour and milk together until lumps are removed, and cook in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, continuing to stir, until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap (so that it will not get a “skin”) and allow to completely cool.

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together. Beat in cooked milk/flour mixture until fluffy. Icing will become whipped cream-like.


Have lovely holidays, and we’ll gather again soon. x Nancy

Posted in Desserts, Recipes

26 Responses to “Two for “2″ Italian Cream and Red Velvet Cake”
  1. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Your Italian Cream cake looks so good! I’d even eat it for breakfast.

  2. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    Wow! Your cakes are stunning! I love the combination of pecans and coconut in your Italian cake. The red velvet looks so striking in color.

    I hope your family has a happy holiday!

  3. Juliana Says:

    Oh! These two cakes are just perfect, so nicely done and decorated…absolutely gorgeous!

  4. gg loyd Says:

    Nancy, once again you put words to what I have always intuited, yet couldn’t quite put my finger on just what is was (is)….the red velvet cake…who knew….it is truly beguiling!!
    These cakes are such gems. Thank you sooo much for sharing. Now you are making me rethink my holiday menu (grrr)…:) blessings and love xoxoxo

  5. Kathy Henderson Says:

    Happy 2 year Anniversary and Happy Holidays – thanks for sharing these two delicious cakes with us!!

  6. Michele Napoli Says:

    Happy 2nd Anniversary, Nancy. I have so enjoyed reading your culinary adventures and look forward to more ahead. These gorgeous celebratory cakes look good enough to eat ; ) Merry Christmas.

  7. Maggie Says:

    Just beautiful, Nancy! Congrats on the two year anniversay, and I look forward to many more! Very Happy Holidays!!!!

  8. FOODESSA Says:

    Nancy…I am so charmed by your version of the Italian cream cake…sooo scrumptious. I will certainly have to try yours when another birthday party comes along.

    Red velvet cake intrigues me and I know one day I’ll want to make this for sure.

    I’m so glad that your 2nd year anniversary marks a moment that you should be very proud of…especially since you are fabulous at what you do ;o)

    I wish you a wonderful time with your family and friends over these Holiday festivities.
    All the very best,

  9. Patsy Vaughan Says:

    I haven’t tasted – or even seen – Italian Creme Cake since the death of the mother of one of my friends almost ten years ago. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories of a dear lady –

    I’ve never heard of a “Yodel” or a “Devil Dog” – must be an up north thing! – but, if they resemble Red Velvet Cake, I would LOVE them!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Patsy-I think that Yodels and Devil Dogs were “up north” things, as you say. The Yodels were sort of like Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, but I’ve not seen a southern counterpart to the Devil Dog–which had devils food cake in the shape of a hot dog bun, and the filling took the place of the hot dog!

  11. Becca Stinson Says:

    I am so excited to make your Italian Cream Cake for my family’s Christmas dinner. Thanks for these wonderful recipes!

  12. Karen Says:

    FABULOUS!! These cakes are calling my name… My husband loves Red Velvet Cake, and I’m going to try your recipe. Happy 2-year anniversary, Nancy! Have a very merry Christmas and all the best wishes for a healthy and wonderful New Year. Karen

  13. teresa Says:

    Nancy, my mother was a wonderful cook and made Italian Cream cakes 45 years ago!! Still one of my favorites. When I married my Jim from Appalachian hills of Ky, the red velvet cake made it’s show. It is the favorite of my 33 yr old son to be 34 on Christmas day. I bake it in 3 or split to 4 layers to slather on the frosting. What a lovely tribute to Christmas and birthdays and wonderful mothers. Thanks as always.

  14., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Nancy, Happy Birthday to Good Food Matters and you who have made it a most wonderful food blog for all of us. Every inspiring, lovely and thought provoking. Here’s a toast to #3!

  15. Kath Says:

    Two cakes, for me? Thank you, they were delicious. Happy 2nd anniversary and I hop you are having a wonderful holiday. xx

  16. Faith Says:

    I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas, Nancy! These cakes are both absolutely stunning. A huge congrats on your second anniversary!!

  17. chocolate freckles Says:

    Wow so fancy and so cute!!!

  18. Katie@Cozydelicious Says:

    Both look amazing! <Love the two cakes, one for each year! I'm a sucker for red velvet. I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

  19. buyffxivgil Says:

    Love the velvet cake! My eyes feast as well as my tummy glad to have this one for this new year. Thanks for the share! Bookmarked!

  20. Leisa Hammett Says:

    You wrote that we deserve these? Okay. So, where’s the offer to send one to one lucky reader? (wink)

  21. Joyti Says:

    Wow, BOTH of your cakes look phenomenal! So gorgeous and fluffy and probably just SO good.

  22. Kristi Rimkus Says:

    Beautiful cakes! I’m always so impressed with my foodie friends that can bake. I’m afraid it’s not what I do best. Lovely!

  23. Tammy Says:

    Wow. What lovely holiday cakes! I’m not a baker but perhaps I should try some in 2011 as a way to grow. You are certainly an inspiration Nancy.

  24. Nancy Says:

    Hi Nancy,
    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! These cakes look amazing. I am a sucker for red velvet cake, although I’ve never had it with butter roux icing – how interesting!

    Happy New Year and Happy Blog-o-versary too!

    All the best,

  25. My Little Expat Kitchen Says:

    Nancy these cakes are amazingly beautiful! Hope your Christmas was wonderful and I wish you a Happy New Year. All the best to you and your family!
    Happy birthday to your blog as well. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes!

  26. How To Make An Italian Creme and Red Velvet Cake » Gimster Says:

    [...] Italian Creme and Red Velvet Cake Tutorial [...]

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