Italian Cream Cupcakes

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy…but they’re still one heck of a delicious dessert!

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Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!Recipe names are a funny, funny thing.  I mean some recipes make sense.  Take a Lowcountry Shrimp Boil (or this Lowcountry Shrimp Perloo), for example.  The lowcountry (southern coastal area of South Carolina) has plenty of shrimp.  In fact, I remember seeing the shrimp boats coming back in the evenings when I was growing up down in Charleston.  And since shrimp is plentiful in the area, lowcountry shrimp dishes make sense.  Same logic works for Louisiana and the Cajun Crawfish Boil.  (mmm…crawfish!)

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!But then you run up against some really strange recipes.  Take the Italian Cream Cake, for instance.  The name suggests that it comes from Italy, right?  Nope.  Not at all.  In fact, there is very little Italian about an Italian Cream Cake.  The cake is topped with a tasty cream cheese frosting…but cream cheese isn’t really common in Italian cooking.  Mascarpone is.  But not cream cheese.

It seems that the first recipe for an Italian Cream Cake actually appears in a Dallas, TX newspaper in the mid 1930’s.  Some folks say that an Italian baker living the southern part of the U.S. invented the cake…thus the name.  No-one really knows.  But then again, I’m not sure I really care.  Italian Cream Cakes are one heck of a delicious dessert!

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!Speaking of recipes in various parts of the world, Laura and I just booked a summer vacation.  We’re doing a Rhine river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland.  Most of the stops along the cruise are in German cities, though, and I can’t wait to visit Germany!

Have any of you guys ever visited any of the German towns along the Rhine?  Anyone ever done a Rhine river cruise?  I’d welcome any and all advice that you might be willing to pass my way!  I’m sure I’ll have all sorts of fun stories to share after that trip, but we’re currently in the planning/anticipating phase.  (And for me, half the fun of a vacation is the anticipation!)

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!But back to the Italian Cream Cake…or, in this case, Italian Cream Cupcakes.  If you’ve never come across this cake, then you’re in for a treat!  Italian Cream Cupcakes feature pecans and coconut both as garnishes as well as ingredients in the actual cupcake.  So these cupcakes actually have a bit of a tropical flavor going on.  Oh, and buttermilk is used as the liquid to provide a rich flavor to the cake.  Top these bad boys with a maraschino cherry, and you’ve got one delicious dessert!  Enjoy!

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!

Italian Cream Cupcakes

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy…but they’re still one heck of a delicious dessert!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 514kcal


For the Cupcakes

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¾ cup coconut flakes
  • 12 oz. cream cheese room temperature
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 –3 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • {optional garnish} maraschino cherries


For the Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
  • Using a countertop mixer, cream together butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy (~2-3 minutes on medium speed).
  • Add egg and egg yolk; mix until just combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt). In another bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients (buttermilk and vanilla).
  • Add ½ of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl; mix on low speed until fully combined. Add ½ of the liquid ingredients; mix on low until fully combined. Repeat with remaining dry and liquid ingredients.
  • Once all ingredients have been added, scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula and mix on medium speed until batter is smooth.
  • Fold in coconut flakes and 1 cup of the toasted, chopped pecans. (Note: The remaining pecans will be used to garnish tops of cupcakes.)
  • Divide the batter evenly among cupcake liners. Bake at 350°F for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean.
  • Let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Spread the coconut flakes out on a baking sheet; bake at 350°F for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. (Tip: Watch coconut closely as it can burn quickly!) Set toasted coconut flakes aside.
  • Using a countertop mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fully combined.
  • Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar (½ cup at a time) until frosting reaches desired consistency.
  • Beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until fluffy.
  • Once cupcakes are completely cool, fill piping bag with frosting and decorate as desired. (Note: I used a Wilton 1M large star tip.)
  • Garnish tops of cupcakes with toasted coconut and reserved chopped pecans.
  • {Optional} Garnish cupcakes with maraschino cherry before serving.

Italian Cream Cupcakes might not actually be from Italy...but they're still one heck of a delicious dessert!

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  1. Well, whatever the name, they sound (and look) delicious! Love the coconut touch here too. I seem to recall a few years back making an ‘Italian’ cake and I think that it had cream cheese too. So good!
    How exciting that you guys have a trip planned! And I’m totally with you about half of the excitement is the anticipation. You guys are going to have so much fun planning and I’m sure we’ll hear lots about it when you do go. Maybe you’ll get some cool recipe inspiration too (I’m all about the food when travelling, lol). I think I’m always about the food ALL the time…hehehe. Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

    1. I’m with ya, Dawn…you can call these cupcakes whatever you want. They are still super delicious! 🙂 I’m definitely hoping I get some food inspiration from the upcoming trip…I know I plan on eating my fair share! Hah! We did indeed have a good weekend down here, and I hope you guys did, too. Thank you!

  2. Hi David. I don’t care what you call these…pecans and coconut AND cream cheese frosting, yes. I assume you used unsweetened coconut flakes (which I just happened to buy last week). Also, from the ingredient amounts I assume this makes twelve cupcakes. I see these in my immediate future.

    1. Hey there, Dorothy! I did indeed use unsweetened coconut flakes for these cupcakes. I feel like the unsweetened version just have so much more coconut flavor. And, yes, I’m really bad about putting yields in my recipes…I’m usually good about it for things like cupcakes, but I dropped the ball this time. But hey, when you’ve got cupcakes this tasty staring you in the face, you tend to forget a lot of things! (That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. haha!) Hope you and Gary had a good weekend…and I hope you guys are avoiding some of that nasty weather I’m seeing on the news for the south right now.

  3. YUM. Diggin’ the buttermilk in there and that cream cheese frosting buddy. I’d take a few off your hands no problemo.
    A few years ago Dave and I went and did a Rhine river cruise. Majestic castle scenery and it’s amazing all the wineries and vineyards along the river. Beautiful. I highly recommend if you can (even for 1 day) to hit up Prague. So many movies have been filmed there. Still one of the most gorgeous cities ever. Hitler loved it so it was never bombed, just pristine and amazing. Every time I see this INXS video it reminds me of it. Enjoy!

    1. Ah, so you’ve been over to the Rhine! I can’t wait for that trip! Unfortunately, Prague isn’t on the agenda this year…we chose to stay in Amsterdam for a couple of nights before the cruise leaves. But Prague was a debate for sure, and I’m thinking we’ll try to get there soon! And wow, you’re reaching back…INXS! Love it! Don’t think I’ve ever actually seen this video now, but it’s a good one. Thanks, Kevin!

  4. Stop it right now David! What are you doing to me? Are these cupcakes diet approved? Ok Ok I’ll just have one. I can tell they are worth it 🙂 I can’t wait to visit Charleston sometime soon the food scene is out of this world. I didn’t realize Italian Cream Cake wasn’t at all Italian, tricky tricky, tricky. Have a great weekend my friend

    1. Hahaha…these cupcakes are sadly not diet approved. Although you can totally still eat them on a diet…it’s just all about portion control! (Yes, that is easier said than done, but still.) Charleston has indeed turned into a huge foodie place, and it’s a wonderful city to visit! (Let me know before you go, and I’ll give you some tips.) I don’t remember it being a foodie mecca when I was a kid…but then again, I was a kid and my idea of gourmet food was mac and cheese. (Oh, who am I kidding? I still love mac and cheese!) Hope you had an awesome weekend, Mary…thank you!

    1. Thank you very much, Puja! We often keep those cherries around to garnish drinks in the summer, but it’s still chilly here…so I stole the cherries for these cupcakes instead! 🙂

    1. Robbie will be staying at home with grandma during the cruise! We’ll sure miss the little guy, but the thought of sleeping in past 6am is mighty nice, too. Haha! And, yes, recipe names are just silly sometimes…but who cares what you call a good recipe, right? I’ll still eat these non-Italian cupcakes and enjoy every single bite! 🙂 Thanks, Kathy!

  5. Buttermilk, coconut and cream cheese? What is there not to love? I need to try these and I don’t care if it is not from Italy. Your vacation sounds fun!!! Eating your way through Germany and Switzerland? Is the little man coming?

    1. Oh these are some mighty tasty cupcakes, Z! So rich and full of flavor thanks to the buttermilk. (I love buttermilk in cupcakes!) So the little guy will be staying home with Grandma during the trip. I know we are going to miss the heck out of him, and we’ll probably be watching videos of him on our phones the whole time. But he’s just not quite ready for a trip like that. One day, though! Hope you and your little guy are doing well, my friend! 🙂

  6. Yeah, some names are completely weird, David! As you may remember, I always say a coffee cake that doesn’t have coffee inside shouldn’t really be named a coffee cake! Or let’s say a tea cake which – guess what – doesn’t include any tea either. This story about creating the Italian Cream Cupcakes really is a mistery. I do believe not all facts have being revealed, and you need to investigate it! Apart of history, these cupcakes sound amazing! And although I love mascarpone, I like this recipe calls for cream cheese cause it’s not that overly decadent like mascarpone.

    1. You are indeed right, Ben! Coffee cake is one of those weird ones, too. I think it got it’s name since it’s supposed to be served with coffee…but who the heck knows! Yes, I have no idea about the “Italian” origins of this cake, but I do know that these cupcakes are mighty delicious. I wonder if you could use mascarpone and make these cupcakes a bit more Italian? Hmmm…things to try sometime when I get bored, right? 🙂 Thanks, my friend!

  7. Geebuz, I feel deceived- Italian Cream Cupcake but not really Italian. I feel like the time Niki said she was craving good Italian food…then had pizza hut.

    Anyway- Regardless, this looks so good and the fact that it has cream cheese frosting seals the deal. Now for the Rhine, save me a spot 😀

    1. I know! These cupcakes will shake your beliefs about Italian food all the way down to the core. But, hey, who cares about the name…they’re still delicious! (And, yes, I’m ok with Pizza Hut as long as Niki doesn’t call it Italian food. Haha!)

  8. Ha! Maybe they should be called Italian-American cupcakes. Like our “Chinese food” is really Chinese-American food– chop suey was invented in this country during the gold rush according to a documentary I watched. And we all know pizza was invented here by an Italian-American, not in 🇮🇹 Italy.

    Bring us your foods,
    Your flavors waited to be blended,
    Your crazy ideas
    And we will glady eat them.

    Isn’t that what it says on the Statue of Liberty?😳😳😜😜

    1. I did not realize that chop suey is an American invention…interesting! And I do think that’s exactly what’s written on the Statue of Liberty! 🙂 We love our tasty food, right? And America is a big melting pot of different types of food, too. Thanks so much, SueAnn!

  9. I wish I had loads of suggestions for y’all on y’alls escapade coming up – but I’ve never been to Germany. One of my professors currently had a cousin who lived in Germany prior to the wall coming down and he has been sharing all sorts of stories with us – though, he hasn’t shared anything about notable food joints …gosh, am in awe, all I ever think of is where to eat!
    And – I remember those shrimp boats the last time Lil S and I were down in Charleston – think we were on a dock somewhere waiting on a boat ride and we saw one pull up and people coming with their buckets to get their fresh shrimp! Speaking of Charleston – guess where we will be later this week? 🙂
    David – love your research on the orgin of food names – I gotta admit, I haven’t though much about it – and I bet, you put one of these cupcakes in front of me and all I’ll be thinking about is hmmm would it be rude to ask for another?

    1. Haha…all I ever think about is food, too, Shashi! That’s why we’re such good friends! 🙂 So I bet that would have been interesting to see Germany before and then after the wall coming down. But I’m still super excited about the trip! Robbie won’t be there with us (he’ll be with Grandma), so I know we’ll miss the little guy…but I’m still ready to get away for a bit here.

      Wait…you’re going to Charleston this week? Ummm…jealous!! Make sure to eat lots of good food while you’re there, ok? I miss the heck out of Charleston!

  10. How exciting that you’ll be visiting Germany!

    And, it’s so true about recipe names. They can be deceiving, this one is no exception. I just assumed that Italian cream cake was a recipe from Italy. But no matter where it’s from, sign me up! Especially in cupcake form…

    1. Oh, I can’t wait for that vacation! I love Europe, but I’ve never been to Germany. As far as recipe names, they are quite funny. Who would’ve thunk that Italian Cream Cakes have nothing at all to do with Italy? But that’s ok…I’ll give this one a free pass since it’s delicious! Haha. Thanks, Marissa!

  11. Hey David;

    Let me put your mind at rest and end the controversy once and for all. I’m Italian and this is definitely an Italian recipe. I remember it as a cake, called Italian Cream Cake, or Italian Wedding Cake. The original recipe called for a combination of butter and shortening, but other than that this is it. Thanks for sharing this updated version in cupcake form.

    1. Hey there, Karolyn! Thank you so much for settling this debate once and for all. 🙂 I’ve never heard the Italian Wedding Cake nickname for this one, but it makes sense. This would be one heck of a delicious (and unique) wedding cake. Thanks so much for commenting, and happy baking, my friend!

        1. Awesome! Thanks for the link to the cake version…I’ll have to try making that one sometime. And I’m really glad you enjoyed these cupcakes. I appreciate the kind words, Karolyn! Hope you have a great day…and I hope there’s some cupcakes left for later on, too. 🙂

          1. HA HA!! Some cupcakes left for later on…You are too funny!! My family and friends descended on these cupcakes like Locust!! XO

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