PW Wednesdays: Billie’s Italian cream cake

We’re back! And someone finally picked a dessert for these Wednesday shenanigans. Thank you, Julie!

Dessert is pretty much the last thing I need right now after bridal shower ice cream sundaes & cake and happy hour wings & beer over the last few days. But, when duty calls…

Let’s talk about the fun part first.

1. This was my first attempt ever at a layered cake. I was half excited, half scared.

2. Spreading icing all over a cake is like an edible art class. I give myself an A.

2. Cream cheese frosting, need I say more?

3.  Yes, I will say more. Coconut. Ok, now I’m done.

Now here’s my honest take on this cake.

1. I have no idea why it’s called Billie’s Italian cream cake. Billie definitely ain’t Italian. In fact, there’s nothing Italian about this cake at all. Cream cheese is not Italian. Perhaps if it were marscapone or ricotta, I’d get it. Maybe if there was some sort of amaretto flavoring to the actual cake part even I could get behind this Italian claim. But alas, there’s not. Seems like Billie’s horizon’s need some broadening.

2. While the cake was very fun to assemble and looked absolutely awesome, I thought the taste was less than impressive. I hid that slice above in the microwave for the entire day patiently waiting for dessert after dinner to dig in. Hopes were high for this cream cheese filled little guy but one bite in and I was pretty disappointed. It’s not that it wasn’t good (that would be hard to do with the amount of cream cheese, sugar and butter in this), it’s just that it tasted like any other regular cake. If I didn’t actually make it myself, I honestly would’ve thought it was store bought. There’s no “wow” factor to the cake part and the cream cheese icing overpowers everything else. Not that cream cheese is a bad thing, because it’s definitely my favorite kind of icing, it was just TOO MUCH.

In typical Gina fashion, I made a few tweaks. First of all, I halved the recipe which was easy except for the fact that it had 5 eggs in it. Unlike some others, I did not shove half an egg into a measuring spoon and just went with 3. It worked fine. I cut the sugar down even further than half and I subbed applesauce for half the oil. For the icing, even halving the recipe required a POUND of powdered sugar. Yes a full freakin pound. Slightly insane-o. I used less. I don’t even know how much less, I just poured enough from the bag into the mixer until I got the consistency I wanted. Don’t worry, there’s still too much plenty of sugar.

I used a large baking sheet and just spread the batter out as far as it would go and crossed my fingers it wouldn’t slip into the empty abyss to the right. It didn’t. I cut it into 3 sections (yes, using a tailor measuring tape for accuracy) thinking I was going to do one long rectangular cake but then ended up cutting those in half and making two smaller ones instead. The icing was made while the cakes cooled, my kitchen was left in a total state of disarray and whisks were attacked with vigor during the cleanup.

All in all, I think this cake has potential. The cake part needs to be sassified up with some more flavor. Personally, I’d make it a bit healthier with some flour and sweetener changes too. It’s a shame when you give into “normal” ingredients and don’t even come out with something that tastes good enough to be worth it. The icing could also use some healthy tweaks, a lot less sugar and just less of it in general. It should be an accent to the cake, not completely overwhelm it. Not a horrible recipe, but not a great one either in my opinion.

For the recipe, check out Julie’s post.

And for everyone else’s opinions and fun variations on this check them out below.

Megan- Wanna Be a Country Cleaver

Rachel- Baked by Rachel

Catching up on PW Wedneday posts?

Fried chicken tacos

Mushroom swiss sliders

Carnitas pizza

Breakfast pizza

White chicken enchiladas

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  1. 2

    Stunning! That is all! ;)

  2. 3

    I can’t help that I cut down the eggs like that lol :p Maybe I have baking ocd.

  3. 4

    There is nothing worse than a disappointing cake although it looks amazing!

  4. 5

    haha, this wasn’t half as bad as what i thought you were really gonna say. definitely agree with you on the italian part..i was wondering the entire time why she called it an italian cake..if there was ricotta or mascarpone, like you said, i’d get it. your layers turned out beautiful!

  5. 6

    For your first layer cake….I am seriously impressed!

    PS: I like your kitchen!

  6. 7

    This looks sooooo yummy! I love cream cheese frosting.

  7. 8

    Oh what the heck! It’s 8:30am and I haven’t eaten breakfast and now all I want is cake. This looks INcredible. I love layer cakes but they always seem like so much work. Too pretty not to try though.

  8. 9

    There is no such thing as too much cream cheese frosting!

  9. 10

    HOLY YUMMINESS! That looks really good!

  10. 11

    Bummed you were’nt super impressed with it…the cake looks great but when it comes to all the fats that go into regular baked goods, I’m with you: it needs to be stellar in order to be worth it. Looks like you did a great job improvising and I’d probably still eat a big ol chunk by the looks of it ;)

  11. 12

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one left thinking “what the hell is so ‘Italian’ about this cake?” and thinking it was just “meh”. It totally needed something else, and until you said Amaretto I didn’t know what that could be, but Amaretto would totally do wonders for this thing. I have an amaretto frosting I use all the time, *slaps forehead* why it didn’t dawn on me until now is beyond me…

  12. 13

    just pinned this…thanks for sharing!!

  13. 14

    Ok although it might be lacking in taste in person, from the pics it looks absolutely delicious. I think you should test how fedex does with cakes….I’ll even volunteer to be a test dummy ;)

  14. 15

    Thats stinky that it wasn’t all that great. It looks fabolous!! I love anythng that has coconut in it. Love the picture of you licking the batter. I think thats one of my favorite parts of baking! Shame on me!!

  15. 16

    My face exactly when doing baking clean up! Lol! Thanks for the honesty about the cake… I made an Alice Waters recipe cake, which didn’t have an insane amount of sugar to begin with and brought it to a grad party for my class. Everyone threw out big slices of the cake because they didn’t think it was sweet enough. I felt so sad. Kids love Costco and store bought stuff, no appreciation for anything homemade with well thought out ingredients. My boyfriend gave me an I told you so look when I got home and told me I should’ve just bought cake mix from the good ole box and baked that.

  16. 17

    I can’t believe it wasn’t delicious – it looks gorgeous!

  17. 18

    Perhaps the cake wasn’t all that good because you didn’t follow the actual recipe. You can’t say you made the PW recipe and that it was bad, because you didn’t make it at all, and saying that it was a lackluster cake is a commentary on your alternations, not on Ree’s original recipe. Your assertion that the recipe is not a great one has no base in fact, because you did not in fact make her cake. You made a variation of the cake. That’s completely different. It means that your cake was not good.

    • 19

      Heather- I understand your point b/c I get annoyed when people make similar comments about my recipes and don’t follow the instructions. However, my changes were halving the recipe which should not change flavor or taste AT ALL. Other than that, I did two minor things of subbing half the oil and reducing the sugar by maybe 1-2 tablespoons. My opinion of the cake was that it was tasteless, not that it didn’t have enough sugar or was too dry (things that the oil and sugar would’ve affected). If you read the true PW recipe on Julie’s site you can see the ingredients in their entirety and see quite obviously how it is a bland tasting cake. There is hardly anything in it that gives flavor aside from the vanilla extract. In regards to the icing, my comments are that it is way too sweet and that is with using LESS sugar than called for. So all that being said, personally, I believe I do have the right to make the comments I did on the recipe.

    • 20
      BakersDozen says:

      gotta agree with this perspective.
      you changed the recipe.
      baking is chemistry and you altered the chemistry of the cake — not trying to be snarky, just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions, right?? ;)

      regardless, the cake LOOKS delish!

    • 21

      Heather – I also made this cake, making only one variation in the recipe (subbing half the oil with applesauce) other than that it was the “out of the book” version. If you’d like to see my review here is the link!

      Happy Baking! ~Megan

  18. 22

    You did an awesome job – I love the thinner layers of cake! I appreciate your honesty about the recipe!

  19. 23

    I do see your side too Gina. I have the book myself and know the recipe. I’ll agree on the confusion about why it’s “italian” and the lack of overall flavorings. And hell, it’s YOUR blog, you get to say what you want. Which is actually one of the reasons why I love your blog.! You say exactly what you want, how you want, and with a kinda sass that I totally admire. I just wanted to make the point that, even though you only made a few errors, baking is chemistry, and perhaps the substitutions altered the flavor just enough. :)

  20. 24

    That pic of you licking the beater is priceless! Yum!

  21. 25

    hmmmm…interesting and entertaining! ;-) Well, although it looks good…I don’t really like coconut and a POUND of powdered sugar?!?! Holy shakes!

  22. 26

    Normally I’d be totally on board with cream cheese and coconut too, I mean how could it go wrong? I’m also not a fan of anything super duper sweet, so that’s probably the problem! The cake looks beautiful though and I’m pretty much drooling over it.

  23. 27

    Very impressive for your very first ever layer cake!!

  24. 28

    Sorry to hear it was disappointing. Maybe if you had used the full amount of sugar it would have had that WOW factor you were looking for? Then again, maybe it would have just been sweeter, but still no wow. That is my #1 pet peeve when making a recipe from someone else…lack of wow. I know if I wing it on my own, I can get closer to my own goal since I know my own taste buds than if I were to follow a recipe so that’s why I am a wing-it girl most of the time :)

    Halving…yes, almost always!

  25. 29

    Yours turned out beautiful!

  26. 30

    It looks amazing, too bad it didn’t taste amazing :(

  27. 31

    Ohhhhhh, those radishes! I LOVE radishes, and I can’t wait to try this!

  28. 32

    Lol, I am glad you didn’t try to measure half an egg :) I appreciate your honesty on this one – it’s beautiful, but I always want to know if it’s really worth the calories! I can’t believe it’s your first layer cake – clearly you have a knack :)

  29. 33

    So this is what you all were talking about on Twitter!? Just now catching up… well it looks super tasty at least!

  30. 34

    I love blogging because I love reading honest opinions about recipes so thanks. Your pictures are pretty and I love how you all got different posts out of the same recipe :)

  31. 35

    Sorry the cake was disappointing!

    By the way, although I don’t know the origin of the name, Italian Cream Cake is a particular style of cake popular in Texas and that area, typically made with coconut, nuts and cream cheese icing. So I don’t think it’s Billie’s (or Ree’s) claim that it’s Italian, but rather that it’s her version of a particular style of cake…but I do agree that there’s nothing Italian about the cake!

    • 36
      Running to the Kitchen says:

      Ahhh, I didn’t know that! Thanks for the clarification, at least that makes a bit of sense now :)

  32. 37

    You are a champ for making these recipes. I wouldn’t be able to look at the originals without seizing up in fear of all the sugar and butter. Hopefully your next PW recipe will be worth it.

    • 38
      Running to the Kitchen says:

      Oh, I pretty much do seize up! haha that’s why I end up cutting things back in almost every recipe. I just can’t take the amounts of butter and sugar in these recipes!


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