As rustic yet festive cake to celebrate the holidays, this Italian Cream Cake with Cranberry Curd will be the star of your table combining a light, sweet Italian Cream Cake with a tart, creamy Cranberry Curd and Sugared Cranberries.
Italian Cream Cake is a forgotten cake flavor and not something you often find in bakeries. Traditionally, this cake is frosted with a cream cheese frosting but in my version, I chose to use a vanilla buttercream in place of the cream cheese frosting.
The cake itself is heavenly light, made so by incorporating whipped egg whites into the batter right before baking. The cake bakes up to a beautiful brown color, you’ll know it’s done when you gently touch the sponge-like top and it springs back into place. The cake is slightly sweet from the sweetened, shredded coconut in the batter. Some people don’t care for coconut but in this cake, the flavor is so subtle that it truly adds more of a sweetness than a full-on coconut flavor.
The Italian Cream Cake is filled with a tart and creamy cranberry curd. Cranberries are often the forgotten seasonal fruit but in this cake, they definitely shine! The curd is creamy from a mixture of eggs and butter. When done, it’s a beautiful pink color that adds a bit of excitement to the white cake & frosting when you cut into it.
The tartness of the cranberry curd is balanced with a fluffy, vanilla buttercream. My preference is to frost this cake with a thin layer of buttercream so it doesn’t overpower the light Italian Cream Cake. But if you’re a frosting fanatic, go ahead and pile it on thick, the frosting recipe definitely makes enough to support both preferences!
Sugared Cranberries really are the topper on this cake! They give a sneak peak to the cranberry curd hidden inside the layers while also dazzling your guests with their beautiful, frosted coating. I loved piling the cranberries on top and around the edges of the cake, creating mock holly with springs of rosemary.
You’ll have plenty of sugared cranberries remaining which make the perfect addition to your holiday drink station! Throw them in a glass of champagne, top your mulled wine, or float them in your morning mimosa! They’re a festive holiday treat that will add a bit of fancy to your event.
Although this Italian Cream Cake with Cranberry Curd definitely has a lot of components, some of these can be made the day ahead of time and assembled the day of your event. When I made this cake, I made the cranberry curd and frosting the day before then the morning of the event, I made the cake and sugared cranberries, assembling everything about an hour before leaving. If you’re really in a pinch the day of the event, feel free to also make the cake and sugared cranberries the day before, carefully storing everything until assembly.
This cake is sure to be a hit at your holiday party! It’s a showstopping cake that’s sweet, tart & creamy sure to please your guests.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup shortening
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- Cooking spray
- flour for dusting the cake pans
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- juice and orange peel of 1 orange
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, beaten
- Sugared Cranberries:
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1½ cups sugar (for rolling)
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- rosemary (for decorating)
- Vanilla Buttercream:
- ½ cup unsalted softened butter
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons powdered egg whites
- 2 pounds confectioner's sugar
- 6-8 tablespoons milk
- For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350*
- Grease and lightly flour three 9-inch cake pans
- Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vanilla
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating between each new addition
- Add the baking soda and mix
- Add the flour and whole milk alternately, beginning and ending with milk.
- By hand, mix in the coconut and nuts
- In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites to stiff peaks
- Gently fold the egg whites into the batter
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes
- Cool completely before assembling and frosting
- For the curd:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and set aside
- Bring the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel to boil over medium heat. Stirring occasionally until the cranberries burst
- Carefully pour the mixture into a sieve or small strainer placed over a large bowl
- Press the mixture into a bowl until mostly pulp and peel remains
- While still hot, whisk the butter into pressed liquid
- Remove 1 cup of liquid and whisk it into the eggs to temper
- Slowly whisk the tempered eggs into the remaining cranberry liquid.
- Return the mixture to a pot and cook over low heat until nearly bubbling and thick, about 10 minutes.
- Cool completely before using. If storing, place plastic wrap tightly on top of the curd to keep out air so a skin layer doesn't form prior to use
- For the sugared cranberries:
- Place a wire rack over a large baking pan (to catch sugar while cranberries dry)
- In a medium pot, combine ½ cup sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
- Gently stir in cranberries until well coated
- With a slotted spoon, transfer to the prepared wire rack and let dry for at least 30 minutes
- Roll cranberries in 1½ cups sugar until well coated, placing the cranberries back on the wire rack to dry. You may need to work in batches.
- For the buttercream:
- In a mixer, mix together butter, shortening, egg whites, and 1 cup of confectioner's sugar. Add in vanilla. Gradually add more sugar, alternating with milk until desired consistency is reached.
- To assemble:
- When the cake and curd are completely cool, spread the curd between the layers and frost with vanilla buttercream. Top with sugared cranberries and sprigs of rosemary for decoration.