Italian Cream Cake's beginnings are murky, but it is said to originate from an Italian baker that moved to the southern US. This is our family recipe, passed down to me from my mom. It's a delicious classic cake that everyone should try at least once. (I'm certain you'll be hooked!)Make sure the cake layers are completely cool before frosting them. Cream cheese frosting is soft and easily meltable.
Preheat oven to 350F. Generously coat three 8-inch cake pans with flour-based baking spray (or grease and flour pans).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, beat well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Beat the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk; begin and end with the flour. Add vanilla, coconut, and pecans.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Cream cheese frosting
Cream together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the powdered sugar in two additions. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again until combined. Cover frosting with a damp towel to keep it from drying out while you work.
Remove about 1 cup of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip. Set aside.
Place a cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with a thin layer of frosting; stack another layer and frost. Top with the third cake layer. Apply a thin crumb coat of frosting to the outside of the cake. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. Cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Smooth top and sides using a cake smoother or bench scraper. Immediately press the ground pecans onto the lower edges of the cake.
Pipe eight large swirls of frosting on the top edge of the cake using the reserved piping bag of frosting. Immediately sprinkle swirls with leftover ground pecans. Place a pecan half between each swirl. Top each mound with a rolled wafer cookie.
Refrigerate cake. Bring to room temperature before serving.