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Making light of Italian cream cake

Robbi Reeve asked for the "light" version recipe for Italian cream cake that appeared in Cooking Light magazine several years ago. A number of readers had saved this recipe and share it.

The article notes that the traditional old Southern favorite, which probably isn't Italian, "contains a stick of butter, five eggs, a cup of buttermilk, plus coconut and pecans, and that doesn't include the frosting, which calls for cream cheese and even more butter."

The light version is delicious, easy to make and reduces the calories per slice from 511 to 300, fat grams from 25.7 to 8 and cholesterol from 87 milligrams to 39.

Caramel cake with caramel frosting is another old-fashioned Southern dessert. We won't pretend that these cakes are light versions, but they have stood the test of time.

Brenda's caramel cake is frosted with caramel fudge frosting. It is a good idea to work as quickly as possible when frosting the cake, but, if the frosting starts to get too stiff, set over hot water.

Ruth MacDowell sends the recipes for buttermilk cake with caramel frosting that she found in the March 2000 issue of Southern Living magazine and says both are delicious and worth trying.

For: Robbi Reeve of Clearwater.

From: Helen Rusgis of Lecanto, Ronnie King of Clearwater, Mary Tansey of Weeki Wachee, Fiane Dyer of Ruskin, Denise Sutter of Tarpon Springs and Betty Davis and Beverly Hyde of St. Petersburg.

Recipe: Italian cream cake from Cooking Light, November/December 1995.

Italian Cream Cake

Cream cheese icing (recipe follows)

Vegetable cooking spray

Cake:

2 cups sugar

{ cup light butter

2 egg yolks

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

{ cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon butter extract

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 egg whites (at room temperature)

Sugared kumquats (optional)

Orange rind strips (optional)

Kumquat leaves (optional)

Prepare cream cheese icing; cover and chill.

Coat bottoms of 3 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pans); line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray and dust with flour; set aside.

Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda; stir well. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in pecans and extracts.

Beat egg whites at high speed of electric mixer until stiff peaks form (do not overbeat). Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen cake layers from sides of pans using a narrow metal spatula and turn out onto wire racks. Peel off wax paper and let cool completely.

Place one cake layer on a plate and spread with cup cream cheese icing; top with another cake layer. Repeat with cup icing and remaining layer, ending with cake. Spread remaining icing over cake. Garnish with kumquats, orange rind and kumquat leaves, if desired.

Yield: 20 servings (serving size: 1 slice).

Note: To make sugared kumquats, dip kumquats into lightly beaten egg white, and drain; roll in sugar.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 tablespoon light butter

1 8-ounce package Neufchatel cheese

1 1-pound package confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and cheese at high speed of mixer until fluffy. Add sugar; beat at low speed until well-blended. Add vanilla; beat well. Yield: 2 cups.

From: Brenda Helton of Seminole.

Recipe: Caramel cake with caramel fudge frosting.

Caramel Cake With Caramel Fudge Frosting

Cake:

2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup boiling water

3 cups sifted cake flour

3{ teaspoons baking powder

{ teaspoon salt

} cup shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, separated

Melt { cup sugar in heavy pan over low flame, stirring, until liquid becomes golden brown. Remove from heat and gradually stir in boiling water, then simmer until caramel is dissolved.

Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Cream shortening until soft and smooth; gradually add remaining 1{ cups sugar, creaming until very fluffy; beat in flavorings and well-beaten egg yolks. Add flour mixture alternately with caramel syrup, beating until smooth after each addition. Fold in thoroughly the stiffly beaten egg whites.

Bake in 2 greased and floured 8-inch layer pans (or muffin pans) in 375-degree oven about 25 minutes (less for cupcakes). Cool layers on wire rack and put layers together and cover cake with caramel icing.

Caramel Fudge Frosting

1{ cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup rich milk

2 tablespoons butter

Dash of salt

{ teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring sugar and milk to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil covered 3 minutes, then boil uncovered until a small amount forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water; stir occasionally. Remove from heat and add butter, salt and vanilla. When lukewarm, beat until mixture is thick enough to spread. If frosting stiffens while spreading, place over hot water to keep soft. Approximate yield: enough to frost tops and sides of 2 8-inch layers or 2 dozen cup cakes.

From: Ruth MacDowell of St. Pete Beach.

Recipe: Buttermilk layer cake with caramel frosting, from Southern Living, March 2000.

Buttermilk Layer Cake With Caramel Frosting

Cake:

1 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2{ cups all-purpose flour

{ teaspoon salt

{ teaspoon baking soda

1{ cups buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

Combine flour, salt and soda; add to shortening mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Beat at medium-high speed 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Spread caramel frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Yield: 1 3-layer cake.

Caramel Frosting

3} cups sugar, divided

1{ cups whipping cream

\ cup butter ({ stick)

\ teaspoon baking soda

Bring 3 cups sugar, cream, butter and baking soda to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Sprinkle remaining } cup sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar melts and syrup is light golden brown. (Sugar will clump before melting.) Gradually pour into whipping cream mixture. (Mixture will bubble.) Stir until smooth.

Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 10-12 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove from heat. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until spreading consistency (8-10 minutes). Yield: 3 cups.

If you have a cooking question or the answer to someone else's question, write to You Asked For It, the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Be sure to include your full name, city and phone number with your letter. Letters without this information will be discarded. Requests cannot be answered by phone or mail.

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