PW Wednesdays: Billie’s Italian cream cake

This Italian cream cake from the Pioneer Woman is filled with coconut cream and outrageously decadent.
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.

Pioneer Woman's Italian cream cake

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.

Billie's Italian cream cake

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.

Billie's Italian cream cake

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.

Billie's Italian cream cake

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


  1. Pingback: Italian cream cupcakes | Baked by Rachel

  2. Julie @ Table for Two

    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!

  3. Pingback: PW Wednesday’s: Billie’s Italian Cake » Table for Two

  4. Cait's Plate

    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.

  5. Julia {The Roasted Root}

    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 ;)

  6. Megan {Country Cleaver}

    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…

  7. Kat

    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 ;)

  8. Margarita

    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.

  9. Pingback: Country Cleaver » PW Wednesday – Billie’s Italian Creme Cake

  10. Heather

    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.

    1. Gina

      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.

    2. BakersDozen

      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!

  11. Heather

    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. :)

  12. Meghan @ After the Ivy League

    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.

  13. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    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!

  14. Anna @ hiddenponies

    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 :)

  15. Jen

    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!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

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

  16. KaraHadley

    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.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      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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  20. Pingback: PW Wednesday’s: Billie’s Italian Cake | Table for Two

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  22. Connie Baldino

    I made this cake (did 3 layers) and in my opinion you could halve the icing and still have enough.
    I loaded it up with the icing and am worried my quests will go into ‘sugar shock’!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I couldn’t agree more. I found most of the PW recipes we made to be that way…way too much sugar, butter, oil, etc. Hope it was still enjoyable!


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