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This Italian Love Cake starts with a boxed cake mix for an easy dessert recipe that only looks fancy! With chocolate, sweet ricotta and a whipped pudding topping, the layered Italian cake is moist, rich and perfect for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or any other special occasion!

Fork in slice of Chocolate Italian Love Cake

I promise, though — you don’t really need an excuse to enjoy this delicious Italian Love Cake recipe! In fact, the boys and I whipped up this treat on a recent snow day — because baking seemed like a cozy thing to do while we were all housebound. No holiday, no birthday, just a fun way to spend time together in the kitchen!

My friend Kristin originally shared this recipe with me, since it’s one of her kids’ favorite cakes. She knew that we would probably love it as much as her crew, and she was right! It’s one of the most moist and flavorful cakes that I’ve ever made!

What is Italian Love Cake?

Like a cross between chocolate cake and cheesecake, this special dessert includes layers of chocolate cake, sweet ricotta, and a creamy chocolate pudding topping.

Why is it called Italian Love Cake?

I don’t know the full history of Italian Love Cake, but from what I’ve read, this special treat is called “Love Cake” because it was traditionally served at weddings.

I can assure you of one thing: if you serve this cake to that special man in your life, he will certainly say, “I do!” 

Piece of Easy Chocolate Italian Love Cake on blue and white plate

How to Make Italian Love Cake:

First, let’s start with the chocolate cake layer! You’ll need a box of chocolate cake mix, as well as the rest of the ingredients called for on the package.

I used this mix, which required 1 1/4 cups water, 1/2 cup oil, and 3 eggs. Check your box, though, to make sure that you’re using the correct additional ingredients for your particular mix.

Ingredients for chocolate cake batter

Prepare the cake batter according to package instructions, and pour it into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Set that aside.

Chocolate cake batter in pan before baking

Next, it’s time for the ricotta layer! You’ll need a giant tub (2 lbs.) of ricotta, sugar, 4 eggs, and vanilla extract.

Ingredients for ricotta layer

Use an electric mixer to combine the ingredients until smooth.

Ricotta mixture with electric mixer in large bowl

Carefully pour the ricotta mixture over the cake batter. Spread evenly to cover as much as possible.

It’s like magic! After 1 hour in a 350 degree F oven, the layers will “switch” and the chocolate will be on top!

Ricotta layer poured over chocolate cake batter in baking dish before oven

Once the cake is completely cool, prepare the topping. You’ll need a box of instant chocolate pudding mix, frozen whipped topping that has been thawed in the refrigerator, and cold milk.

Ingredients for whipped pudding frosting

Fold the pudding together with the whipped topping and you’ll have a fluffy, chocolatey frosting to finish off the cake!

Chocolate pudding frosting for Italian Love Cake

Finally, I always add sprinkles on top, but that step is totally optional!

Allow the cake to chill for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. Trust me — it’s worth the wait! This cake just gets more moist and rich as it sits…

Slice of Italian Love Cake with bite on a fork

Does Italian Love Cake need to be refrigerated?

Yes! This cake tastes best after it has been refrigerated overnight. If you have leftovers, you will need to keep the cake refrigerated (or the topping will “melt”).

Can Italian Love Cake be frozen?

I haven’t actually tried freezing this cake, but I do believe that it should keep fine in the freezer. Just make sure that it’s wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn, and enjoy the cake within 1-2 months.

COOK’S TIPS AND ITALIAN LOVE CAKE VARIATIONS:

  • Prepare this cake at least 1-2 days in advance, so that you have plenty of time to allow the cake to cool and chill before frosting and serving. The cake just gets better as it sits in the fridge!
  • Check your box of cake mix to see which ingredients are required to prepare the batter. Different brands require different ingredients.
  • When adding the whipped topping into the pudding, be sure to carefully fold the ingredients together. You want to preserve as much of the air in the whipped topping as possible, so do not vigorously stir.
  • Vanilla Italian Love Cake: use a white cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping.
  • Lemon Italian Love Cake: use a lemon cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping and add plenty of fresh lemon zest to give the topping a bright citrus flavor!
  • Strawberry Italian Love Cake: use a box of strawberry cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries just before serving.

Piece of chocolate italian love cake with rainbow sprinkles

Other easy birthday dessert ideas or Valentine’s Day desserts that you might enjoy:

Easy Chocolate Italian Love Cake

4.75 from 28 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Cooling Time 8 hours
Total: 9 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12 large slices
Calories 549.2 kcal
This Chocolate Italian Love Cake starts with a boxed cake mix for an easy dessert recipe that only looks fancy!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (15.25 oz) package chocolate cake mix, PLUS additional ingredients called for on the package (my cake mix package required 1.25 cups water, 1/2 cup oil, and 3 eggs)

For the Filling:

  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

  • 1 (3.9 oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 16 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed (such as Cool Whip)

Instructions

Prepare the Cake Batter:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9x13 inch pan with nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cake batter according to package instructions.
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Spread to fill the pan evenly. Set aside (do NOT bake yet).

Prepare the Filling:

  • In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Carefully pour the cheese mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter. Spread to cover cake as best you can (the layers will switch during baking).
  • Bake the cake for 1 hour.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Frosting:

  • To make frosting, whisk together pudding mix and milk until combined and slightly thickened (about 1-2 minutes). Carefully fold the whipped topping into the pudding until combined.
  • Spread frosting on top of cooled cake. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

Notes

Recipe courtesy of "Little Chefs Camp" at the Virginia Discovery Museum.
Does Italian Love Cake need to be refrigerated?
Yes! This cake tastes best after it has been refrigerated overnight. If you have leftovers, you will need to keep the cake refrigerated (or the topping will "melt").
Can Italian Love Cake be frozen?
I haven't actually tried freezing this cake, but I do believe that it should keep fine in the freezer. Just make sure that it's wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn, and enjoy the cake within 1-2 months.
COOK'S TIPS AND ITALIAN LOVE CAKE VARIATIONS:
  • Prepare this cake at least 1-2 days in advance, so that you have plenty of time to allow the cake to cool and chill before frosting and serving. The cake just gets better as it sits in the fridge!
  • Check your box of cake mix to see which ingredients are required to prepare the batter. Different brands require different ingredients.
  • When adding the whipped topping into the pudding, be sure to carefully fold the ingredients together. You want to preserve as much of the air in the whipped topping as possible, so do not vigorously stir.
  • Vanilla Italian Love Cake: use a white cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping.
  • Lemon Italian Love Cake: use a lemon cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping and add plenty of fresh lemon zest to give the topping a bright citrus flavor!
  • Strawberry Italian Love Cake: use a box of strawberry cake mix. Use a box of vanilla pudding for the topping. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries just before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1large slice (1/12 of the recipe)Calories: 549.2kcalCarbohydrates: 62.1gProtein: 16.9gFat: 26.7gSaturated Fat: 11.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.6gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.7gCholesterol: 142.2mgSodium: 637.6mgPotassium: 186.1mgFiber: 1.3gSugar: 40.7g
Keyword: Cake Mix Recipe, chocolate cake, Love Cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in October, 2015. It was updated in January, 2019.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Just made this cake and realized my ricotta wasn’t very fluffy. As I pored on top of the chocolate layer it started to sink in a little. I think it’s because I used my kitchen aid mixer rather than a hand mixer. Do you think it will still come out tasting okay if the ricotta layer was not fluffy? It was the same consistency as the cake batter. Thank You!!

    1. Hi, Tarah! I think it will probably be fine, but I haven’t experienced that problem, so I can’t say for sure. Let me know how it ends up!

    2. 3 stars
      Wanted this to be so amazing, however did NOT have the same amount of the Ricotta as your picture looks. I used 2lbs as listed, however it did NOT cover that much of the cake at all and was runnier then your photo. It sank into the cake kinda fast UGH!!! I am scared now to serve it. Since it was baked for 1 hour, but oh well we still have to try it out before I can really know if it still tasted ok. I used a hand mixer myself and only to mix it all together and then stopped, and it still seemed kinda runny. My Ricotta was not super runny, I think the 4 eggs did that? Let ya know after we taste it tomorrow.

  2. So, I’m 10 minutes away from the 1 hot baking time and I’m so nervous! I’m making this for a dessert for my dad. We’re having a day late Father’s Day dinner and this is what’s for dessert! I can see the layers flip flopped but my center is still moving (I shook the pan a touch to see how it was fairing. The one hour bake time had me a little worried). This sounds and looks delicious! Will let you know how it turns out…

  3. Hi I have made this cake many times and love it. However I just made it this morning and it had huge cracks on top some pretty deep. Do you know what might have caused this?

    1. Hi, Joan! I’m so glad that you love the cake! I honestly have no idea why it would crack this morning. That’s not a problem that I’ve ever run into. According to some experts, cakes crack when the oven temperature is too high (or, similarly, when the pan is placed on an incorrect rack). A crust forms early on, but as the inside of the cake continues to cook and rise, this crack crusts. Not sure if your oven was accidentally at a higher temp this time, or if you placed it on a different rack than usual? Just trying to help troubleshoot. 🙂

  4. Hi! I was thinking about baking the cake in an aluminum pan. Does that change anything? What pan do you think is best to bake? Thanks

  5. 5 stars
    I tried first and it was a HIT!, then 2nd time again another HIT! hahahaha. We absolutely love this cake. Still bit of sweet for us trying to reduce measure of sugar. Now iw ant to try the lemon version that will be next!! Maybe coconut in the top …Yummm

  6. 5 stars
    I made this cake last night and served it the next day at dinner time, it was delicious and my husband and guest also loved it. I follow the recipe exactly and it turned out beautifully but the only thing is I had to bake my much longer then an hour. I baked it for 1 1/2 hrs.
    Thank you for this recipe I plan on making it again and with different flavors.

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I’m glad that you enjoyed it, and thanks for the tip about baking it longer in your oven. Not sure why there would be such a drastic difference, but that’s really helpful for other readers to know that their cakes might need longer, too. 🙂

        1. Hi, Meghan! I always use a whole milk ricotta. I’m not too particular about the brand. My store carries Galbani, so that’s usually what I buy. 🙂

          1. Hi, Meg! Let the cake cool on the counter after baking until it comes to room temperature. Once the cake is frosted with the Cool Whip mixture, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator.

  7. I just made the cake for the first time, we are having it tomorrow for Easter Sunday and it looks awesome. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  8. 5 stars
    How long in the refrigerator will it last? Up to 5 days? The best cake I ever had. Just asking because I have a lot of Family coming.
    Thank you

    1. Hi, Meighan! I honestly think it gets better as it sits. I would say it’s fine in the fridge for up to a week. 🙂

  9. I’m planning on making this, but using a mini springform pan and one larger one. Making this for my son’s 1st birthday so I want him to have a mini smash cake and one for guests to enjoy. Any tips or suggestions on modifications? Will bake time need to be modified for the mini and the larger springform? Thank you!

    P.S. Coworker made this and it was delicious!

    1. Hi, Kasia! It’s hard for me to say, since I haven’t tried it myself in those types of pans. I would think that the small cake will cook quite a bit faster, so I’d keep a close eye on that one. The other cake might be slightly faster than the indicated time in the recipe, but probably not a huge difference. Hope your son has a wonderful first birthday!!!

  10. Fantastic cake!! Served it this weekend at the annual Girls Weekend I host. TEN thumbs up!!! Even the one who doesn’t really like cake (??!!?!?) thought it was SUPER good!
    Thanks for a really impressive dessert!
    TIPS-Subbing cooled coffee for the water always improves a chocolate cake. No coffee taste, but it really enhances chocolate flavor.
    I used Godiva brand chocolate pudding mix & that made the top layer even more decadent!

    1. 4 stars
      This cake is scrumptious! However next time I make it I think I will use 8 ounces of whipped topping instead of 16 ounces. It was a bit much. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  11. Hi, Blair – I’m making this tomorrow for an Italian-themed dinner party I’m hosting on Wednesday. I noticed a couple posters mentioned that their layers didn’t switch during cooking, yet it didn’t seem to have an adverse effect on the final outcome, so I’m curious – what causes the layers to switch, and in the instances where they don’t, do you have any idea why? Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’ll come back with a rating once I get my guests responses.

    1. Hi, Cindy! I don’t know the science behind it! I’ve made the recipe many times and I’ve never had a problem with the layers, so I can’t even give you a good answer as to why they may or may not flip. I hope the cake is a hit at your party, though! 🙂

  12. I have made this cake before but instead of the cool whip for the topping I use 12 ounces of mascarpone cheese with 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese and whip with electric mixer on medium spread until smooth. then I gradually add the milk beating until smooth and then the pudding mix. Let stand about 5 minutes until thicken and spread over cake.

  13. Hi, I really don’t like eggs very much and worry that the filling might taste a little eggy for my family. Do you think I could use 2 eggs and achieve a good result? Thanks

    1. Hi, Michelle! I don’t know how it would work with two eggs, since I haven’t tested it that way. I would worry that it will be too soft and may not stand up as firm (resulting in a layer that doesn’t “set” very well). That’s just my guess, though. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think that you can taste the eggs in the filling at all. It’s more of a creamy, ricotta flavor. 🙂

  14. Hi Blair I got volunteered to make your Italian Lovers Cake for a Bridal Shower. I am a little nervous because I will be using a 14 inch cake pan and a 10 inch cake pan round. Can you help me with the ingredients. I would appreciate it.

    1. Hi, Jodi! That’s tough. I would double the ingredients, and assume that you’ll have a little bit leftover. The 10 inch round pan will hold about 10-11 cups, while a 13 x 9 pan will hold about 14 cups. That means that you won’t need an entire recipe to fill the 10-inch pan, but it will be fairly close. I would just assemble the two cakes as instructed, and then discard any excess batter or filling (or try to use it for smaller cupcakes if you feel up to it). Hope it’s a hit at the shower!

    1. Hi, Jay! Ricotta is often sold in 15-ounce containers, so I’d just use two of those if you can’t find two 16-ounce containers. Hope you enjoy!

  15. 5 stars
    I am amazed by this cake. I’ve made it twice and didn’t notice it was 2ibs of ricotta. I only used 15 oz. I made a chocolate then a strawberry. Both were great. I have just now made a chocolate & noted my error. But now it appears I have no headroom for the wonderful cool whip/ pudding mixture. I’m going to slather it on..but there’s no way I’ll be able to use the lid to my pan without it oozing out. Such a dilemma! Serving it as a surprise birthday on Thanksgiving.