Cannoli Cake

Cannoli cake is a take on the beloved Italian cannoli pastry. The best part is the luscious, velvety filling. My sister, Elina, shared this recipe with me. She is always baking up delicious cakes, pastries, and other goodies, not to mention her beautiful cupcakes. She is like the Cupcake Queen. Since she is an amazing baker, I totally trusted her judgement and knew that it would be delicious. I was right. Except it was even better than I expected.

I used a foolproof sponge cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, brushing each layer with a chocolate liqueur syrup. The filling is made with ricotta cheese, cream cheese and mascarpone cheese. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? Smooth and creamy, this filling is the perfect texture and combination to complement the tender sponge cake.

Yields: 1 cake

Ingredients:

For the cake: (makes 2 (8 or 9 inch) sponge cakes)

1/2 cup cake flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 eggs, separated and at room temperature

10 Tablespoons sugar

Syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chocolate liqueur

Filling and Frosting:

12 oz. cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), softened

8 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 – 2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup heavy cream

Almonds, toasted and chopped, for decorating (To toast nuts, cook on a dry skillet on medium heat until golden brown, stirring frequently. You can also do this in the oven at 400 degrees, in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, for about 5-10 minutes, until golden and fragrant, stirring halfway through.)

Mini chocolate chips, for decorating

Sponge Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl to combine and set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup or mug place heat the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter is completely melted. Add vanilla, cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or using a medium bowl and and hand mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, adding 5 Tablespoons of sugar gradually. Set aside.  IMG_6757 Repeat with the egg yolks and the remaining 5 Tablespoons of sugar, until pale yellow and thick.  IMG_6929 Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as possible.  IMG_6932 Sift the flour mixture over the folded eggs and gently fold in the flour also. IMG_6935 When there are still some remaining streaks of flour, pour in the warm milk and butter by the side of the bowl.  IMG_6939 Continue gently folding until evenly distributed. IMG_1552 Divide the batter in half, pouring into the prepared cake pans.  IMG_1554 Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.  IMG_6947

Chocolate Liqueur Syrup:

Make a simple sugar by heating the sugar and water in a small pot until sugar dissolves and add the chocolate liqueur. Set aside to cool. (In the picture below is a double portion of the syrup. You need half the amount for one cake).  IMG_6787

Filling and Frosting:

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla. You can just fold in the mascarpone cheese with a rubber spatula, since it’s soft enough or mix with the mixer just until combined, about 30 seconds.

Set aside half of the mixture in a medium bowl. One part will be the filling and one part will be the frosting. IMG_1768 Add 1 cup ricotta cheese to the first part. This is the filling. Set aside.  IMG_6784 For the frosting, whip the heavy cream with 1-2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar.

I always put the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment in the freezer to chill before I add the cold heavy cream to make whipped cream.

Gently fold in the whipped cream into the second part of the cream cheese/mascarpone cheese mixture. This will be the frosting IMG_3576

Assembling the Cake:

Cut each cake in half horizontally.

Using a serrated knife, make a small incision all around the outside of the cake. This will keep your knife on the same level as you are cutting across. Continue cutting deeper into the cake until you have cut all the way through. Simple and works perfectly every time.  IMG_7022 Using a pastry brush, brush the top and bottom of each layer with the chocolate liqueur syrup.

Another trick I use when decorating cakes is to line the serving plate all around the edge with aluminum foil, so that the edge of the cake is overlapping the aluminum foil by about 1/2 inch. This will catch all the drips and crumbs, leaving your serving plate neat and clean. When you’re done decorating just carefully pull the aluminum foil out

IMG_7024 Top the cake with 1/3 of the ricotta cheese filling and repeat with the the other 2 cake layers.  IMG_7025 Use the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

You should have enough frosting to pipe some shells or rosettes around the cake. I sprinkled mini chocolate chips around the border of the cake, and shaved some chocolate to decorate.

Cup a handful of almonds in your palm with one hand and holding the cake with the other hand, slightly turn it, press the almonds all around the sides of the cake.  IMG_7028

Variations:

Look at this gorgeous cake, Elina’s masterpiece.  IMG_7129 Elina used freshly squeezed orange juice and some zest in place of the simple syrup (water and sugar) to brush the cake layers with. You can use orange liqueur instead of the chocolate and also add some orange zest to the cake batter.

You can also add fresh fruit to the cake in the filling and to decorate the top of the cake. I was also going to add mini chocolate chips to the filling in between two of the layers, but forgot:)

Cannoli Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 1 cake
Ingredients
For the cake: (makes 2 (8 or 9 inch) sponge cakes)
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 10 Tablespoons sugar
Syrup:
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup chocolate liqueur
Filling and Frosting:
  • 12 oz. cream cheese (1½ packages), softened
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • ½ - ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Almonds, toasted and chopped, for decorating
  • Mini chocolate chips, for decorating
Instructions
Sponge Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl to combine and set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup or mug place heat the milk and butter in the microwave until the butter is completely melted. Add vanilla, cover and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or using a medium bowl and and hand mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, adding 5 Tablespoons of sugar gradually. Set aside.
  5. Repeat with the egg yolks and the remaining 5 Tablespoons of sugar, until pale yellow and thick.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as possible.
  7. Sift the flour mixture over the folded eggs and gently fold in the flour also.
  8. When there are still some remaining streaks of flour, pour in the warm milk and butter by the side of the bowl. Continue gently folding until evenly distributed.
  9. Divide the batter in half, pouring into the prepared cake pans.
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Chocolate Liqueur Syrup:
  1. Make a simple sugar by heating the sugar and water in a small pot until sugar dissolves and add the chocolate liqueur.
  2. Set aside to cool.
Filling and Frosting:
  1. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar.
  2. Add the mascarpone cheese and vanilla. You can just fold in the mascarpone cheese with a rubber spatula, since it's soft enough or mix with the mixer just until combined, about 30 seconds.
  3. Set aside half of the mixture in a medium bowl. One part will be the filling and one part will be the frosting.
  4. Add 1 cup ricotta cheese to the first part. This is the filling. Set aside.
  5. For the frosting, whip the heavy cream with 1-2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar.
  6. Gently fold in the whipped cream into the second part of the cream cheese/mascarpone cheese mixture. This will be the frosting.
Assembling the Cake:
  1. Cut each cake in half horizontally.
  2. Using a serrated knife, make a small incision all around the outside of the cake. This will keep your knife on the same level as you are cutting across.
  3. Continue cutting deeper into the cake until you have cut all the way through.
  4. Using a pastry brush, brush the top and bottom of each layer with the chocolate liqueur syrup.
  5. Top the cake with ⅓ of the ricotta cheese filling and repeat with the the other 2 cake layers.
  6. Use the frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
  7. You should have enough frosting to pipe some shells or rosettes around the cake. I sprinkled mini chocolate chips around the border of the cake, and shaved some chocolate to decorate.
  8. Cup a handful of almonds in your palm with one hand and holding the cake with the other hand, slightly turn it, press the almonds all around the sides of the cake.

 

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Comments

  1. JoAnn says

    Oh my! I used to make a cake similar to yours, I knew it as Italian cassatta I think. It was slightly different, but your cake just sounds better! Thanks for providing wonderful pics along with the recipe!

  2. Irina Malichek says

    Good luck in expanding your delicious recipes. You have a great collection and I hope that you will add more of the Slavic cuisine. I will certaily try a few of your suggestions. Easter dishes and “zakuski” is something I am always looking for, as I love to cook.
    thank you again!
    Irina Malichek

  3. nadia says

    So I made this cake last night,and can I say this is hands down one of new favorites. Yummy doesn’t describe it :)))

  4. MARIA says

    HI I JUST WANTED TO DOUBLE CHECK WHEN U SAY TO REPEAT WITH EGG YOLKS FOR THE CAKE PART DO YOU MEAN TO WHIP THEM UNTIL SOFT PEAKS FORM AS WELL AS THE EGG WHITES?

    • olgak7 says

      Yes, whip the egg yolks also. “Repeat with the egg yolks and the remaining 5 Tablespoons of sugar, until pale yellow and thick.”

  5. inessa says

    I have made this cake for my husbands birthday party… And can truly say EVERYONE loved it.. I did make just few tiny changes,, i did not have the chocolate liquor so i used coffee, and i did not use sugar in the frosting but used half of can cooked condensed milk.. The cake was awesome!!! The beskvit was soo good and I am not a big fan of biscviti, but this one yammm!! Thanks for the recipe..So simple but so good.

  6. Natalka says

    Olga thank you so much for your website, first time writing comment, mnogo recipes try from your blog (loved). Have some voprosik, if i dont have 2 odinokovux cake pans, testo mozna ostavit v xolodilnike kogda spechetsya pervuj tort (korzh), kak zdelat mozhna ?

    • says

      Hi Natalka!
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog:).
      Yes, you can wait until the first cake bakes and then bake the second one, however, it might not rise as much, since the beaten eggs will deflate with time.

  7. Tanya says

    My cakes turned out really low, like they weren’t even high enough for me to cut them in half. Any ideas as to what I could have done wrong? I followed the recipe exactly, or so I thought I did.

      • erin says

        Hi! A friend of mine has made a cake like this before and i’m almost positive it was this recipe, but needless to say it was absoluteley incredible and I am going to attemp to make it myself! I was reading the cake tips, and about using less sugar…do you recommend using less sugar from what your recipe says, or are you saying that for any recipe in general? i guess what i’am wondering is would i use, say 5 tablespoons instead of 10?! just curious:)
        Thank you

        • says

          Hi Erin,
          Glad you stopped by!
          In the cake tips, I was talking about other recipes in general. For the recipes that I have here, I already reduced the sugar.

          • erin says

            Thank you for the clarification! Also, if i wanted to make it into a rectangular cake, what size pans would you recommend loaf pans or 8×8 pans?

  8. Nadia says

    Can I bake the cake layers couple of days in advance? like if i bake today and then assemble it tomorrow for Saturday party?
    BTW love your site!

    Thanks

  9. erin says

    Hi Olga…just wondering if i can freeze the sponge cake? Made the cake part already, but later found out that our dinner plans were cancelled :(

  10. alina says

    Wonderful site. i had a quick question. how is the cream is it runny, i am making a cake and using fondant on top and wanted to try this recipe, but the cream cant be runny, it has to hold its self. this sounds soo delish im just afraid that its too Nezhniy? Thanx :)

    • says

      Hi Alina,
      If you make the cream correctly, it’s not too runny. In fact, it’s pretty thick. Of course, not like buttercream, but I can’t stand how buttercream taste, like you’re biting into a stick of sweet butter. My opinion about desserts is that they have to taste good first. What’s the point of a pretty cake if you can’t eat it?
      I’ve decorated fondant cakes in the past, and don’t see why you can’t use this frosting. It should work well. If you want it to be a bit thicker, add a package of softened cream cheese to the sour cream and mix until it’s completely mixed. Whip up the cream separately if you’re worried that it wont whip up in the frosting and then fold it in.
      Hope that helps.

      • Ginseng MacKay-Tsibert says

        I don’t see why you suggest adding cream cheese to the sour cream mix…. what sour cream mix? the recipe doesn’t call for sour cream. sorry, confused.

        • says

          I’m confused as well. I just re-read the recipe instructions and don’t see sour cream referred to anywhere.

          “For the frosting, whip the heavy cream with 1-2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar.
          Gently fold in the whipped cream into the second part of the cream cheese/mascarpone cheese mixture. This will be the frosting.”

  11. Alena says

    Liquor stores in SC are called ABC stores. I don’t know if that’s the case in other states. Anyway, thanks for the quick reply, and S Novim Godom!

  12. Mila says

    Olga, I made this cake and mine didn’t turn out as perfect looking like yours but I’ll say it was delicious!!! My sponge cakes didn’t turn out as big as yours but I think its because I wasn’t mixing it gently enough, but that’s okay. You are a great cook and I love your recipes. Keep it up!

  13. Tania says

    Hi Olga, does it have to be chocolate liquor? I have kahlua liquor handy at home and what wondering if it’s ok to substitute that instead?

  14. marina says

    I really want to try this. Would love to see you cut into the cake. I am always curious what the inside looks like:-)

    • says

      I’ll have to take a picture next time I make it. Cakes are very tough for me to photograph, since I don’t usually make them for just my husband and I. It would take us a week to eat it. I make cakes when we have company, so it’s not always convenient to take a picture of the slice of cake. I’ll keep it on my to-do list.

  15. Donna says

    Hi!
    I was browsing for recipes to find something for my edible mid-term for my pastry/baking class using techniques we have learned. I had made lasagna and had left over ricotta cheese and wanted to use it. I remembered a cake I had a while back that was a cannoli cake. Well,….after searching forever…I found this recipe of yours, and I knew this was IT! Can’t wait to try it(yes, I will practice first…). wish me luck:). Just for the record…you can teach an old dog new tricks..I have gone back to school after 25 years, to become an assistant pastry/baking chef.

  16. Inna says

    Hi Olga,
    I made this cake for mothers day. It turned out perfect. Everyone loved it and by the end of the night there was none left. Thank you so much for the recipes!!

    P.S. I have dinner in the oven as im writing this….also from your menu, the potato and chicken casserole :)

    • says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write, Inna! I’m thrilled to hear that you guys enjoyed the cake.
      Hope you like the casserole. It’s definitely a favorite of ours:).

    • says

      You certainly can, J9. I usually make most of my cakes ahead of time. Usually, they taste even better after having time to stand and soak in all the flavors.

    • says

      Absolutely, Cheri!
      As a matter of fact, almost all the cakes that I make can be prepared and assembled a few days in advance. They will probably taste better too, since there will be time for the flavors to meld and the frosting to seep into the cake layers. As long as you keep the cake refrigerated, it will be good for a few days.

  17. Tony Pisano says

    Olga. I am glade I found your site. I have been looking for this type of cake I will be making it in a week for a party i am having. I will let you know how I make out. Thank again for your posting of great sounding and fantastic looking recipes

    • says

      Hi Tony! Welcome! I’m so glad you stopped by. I hope you enjoy the Cannoli Cake and I’d love to hear what you think once you’ve tried it.

  18. Tony says

    Olga: I made your Cannoli cake for a dinner party this past week end. It was GREAT!!!!. Not to sweet a good combination of sweet and I would say a bit of tartness. One of the guest ask if she could have my recipe I told her it was a family recipe passed down from generation to generation. Then I told her I got if off a Russian girl web site and we all laugh. They said to tell you that you sure know what you are doing and must have a little bit of Italian blood in you. LOL.
    Thanks again I will be making other items from your site.

    • says

      Thanks, Tony! That really made me laugh!
      I’m so glad to read such awesome feedback. You never know, maybe there is some Italian in me:). Either way,Italian is my favorite cuisine besides Slavic. My husband and I went to Italy this summer and loved it.

  19. Gina says

    This recipe is FABULOUS!! My family’s new favorite. I just did a “white forest” version adding in kirch marinated cherries. Thanks!

  20. Olya D says

    Do you think this sponge cake will work if i make this into a cake roll instead of a layered cake? Or will it break when i try to roll the cake?

      • Olya D says

        I’ll just pour, “na oko”, into my usual big rectangle pan that I use for cake rolls :). Looks like this one can even make 2 rolls, but I’ll see. I just wasn’t sure if the batter will be roll-able enough, without breaking, once baked… I’ve been in love with cake rolls for some reason. Think this would be a perfect cake roll with chopped pistachios! I’ll let you know how it works out :)

          • Olya D says

            So I did it into one big roll instead of a regular cake. I also used chopped pistachios & chocolate chips for inside & on the outside of the roll instead of almonds. It turned out really really yummy & elegant looking! All my guests raved about it! This is my new favorite cake recipe!
            I do have to say that I barely tasted the choc liquor. It was a little too diluted for my taste. Maybe your liquor is stronger, but next time I plan to just sprinkle my chocolate liquor straight up. It’s pretty sweet.

      • Olya D says

        Oh, & one more thing. Doing the whole sugar water with the liquor, is that just to dilute it? Just sprinkling straight up chocolate liquor on the cake should work too right? to save time…

  21. Christina says

    The cake you made looks amazing! I was browsing to make a cake that didn’t have buttercream icing and was somewhat different, when I happened upon your site! The cake is for my mom for her birthday, and she isn’t a big fan of buttercream, so this Is perfect!
    I’m currently in the process of making this cake now, and I added some of the mini chocolate chips to the filling. I had a question.. What do you think of adding chocolate ganache (just the glazed kind) to the top of the cake over frosting?

    • says

      Hi Christina! I’m glad you chose to make this recipe. Thanks for visiting my blog:). I’m sorry I couldn’t answer your question earlier, but I hope it turned out well. I’m sure a chocolate ganache would have been just fine for this cake.

  22. J Amari says

    This recipe tastes nothing like cannoli cake or filling. I followed your recipe to the letter. The only thing that tasted somewhat like the original is the cake. I am not saying it does not taste okay it is just not cannoli cream.

      • Alex says

        Cannoli cream is supposed to taste like THIS. Not the cannoli cream that is popular in the USA. This is as close to “Italian cannoli cream” as you are going to get. Not too sweet with a ricotta bite. Yes… “taste is a matter of preference”

  23. Kim says

    I want to use your cannoli filling for a graduation cake I’m making. I will be decorating the cake with fondant cap and diploma etc… I’m wondering if the whole cake has to be refrigerated once I add the cannoli filling in between the layers? It’s a sheet cake and not sure I’ll have room for it in my refrigerator.

    • says

      I would recommend refrigerating the cake, although if you serve it soon after assembling it, you don’t have to refrigerate. I think the texture will be better if it’s cold too, Kim.

  24. marta says

    Hi Olga,

    A nurse by night, a wife, mother and homemaker by day?!! Please tell me – how on earth do u do that and yet still look so beautiful and well rested?! Not fair!
    Your cake, btw, looks fantastic! I wanted to make this for my husband and my birthday’s, since they’re only a day apart (July 21 & 22). I do have one question, though. I’ve used waxed paper squares to put under the cake when frosting, then pull them away after but whenever I do that, the bottom part of the frosted cake pulls away and sticks to the paper. Then I have to go back and refrost the bottom. I usually end up getting frosting all over the plate anyway, which obviously defeats the purpose. Does that happen to you and is there anyway to correct the problem? Thanks.

    • says

      Thanks, Marta! The way I look so well rested is by not taking pictures when I’m exhausted, LOL. Trust me, there are plenty of days when I am exhausted and look terrible:).
      When I use wax paper for frosting a cake, it gets a little bit soft and that is why when I pull it away after frosting a cake, it leaves frosting behind. Using aluminum foil, and preferably heavy duty aluminum foil helps a lot.

  25. Alex says

    OK… Crazy!
    My Nona used to make a Cannoli cake when I was a kid. She never gave anyone her :secret” recipe. It was amazing.
    I have tried several cakes and it wasn’t quite right no matter how many different recipes I tried. I made this one yesterday. It took a lot of pre-planning as i wanted to get all my ingredients ready before I started. I followed the recipe step by step trying my best to not stray and add any of my own touches (as I, and many do when they download recipes online). It turned out to PERFECTION. I was amazed that it was the closest to my grandmother’s cake. My mom and aunt actually got tears in their eyes when they tasted it. “Where did you get this? It is just like nona’s!” I told them “it’s a secret”. Thank you for sharing this recipe and for making it easier than I thought to bring back my childhood memories. This recipe is a keeper. THANK YOU!!! (for the cake AND the diabetes) :-)

    • says

      Thank you so much, Alex! I am so glad to hear that you and your family really enjoyed this cake. I really love Cannoli cream and this cake is a favorite in our family.

  26. Brandy says

    Looks delicious. But why do you need to brush the top and bottom of each layer with the syrup? Can’t wait to try it!

    • says

      Brushing the cake with syrup will make it really tender and moist, as well as give it lots more flavor, Brandi. The liqueur that I usually use in syrups gives extra flavor to the cake.

  27. Lon says

    DON’T use this frosting with fondant. I attempted to use it on a wedding cake thinking it was thick enough. When the frosting gets warm whatsoever it turns to a pudding type of consistency and basicly melts fondant. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

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