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Cannoli Cake

This homemade Cannoli Cake is a moist layer cake with all the classic cannoli flavors you love!

A light cinnamon cake with delicious ricotta and mascarpone cheese cannoli filling is a delicious treat ideal for special occasions and the dessert table. With a coating of mini chocolate chips and cute mini cannoli on top, this is going to be your most popular dessert cake!

Finished Cannoli cake recipe covered in mini choc chips with 6 cannoli on top. The cake is on a wooden cake stand.

Why you’ll love this recipe

If you love Italian cannoli, you’ve come to the right place. This Cannoli cake recipe is a delectable dessert that highlights all of the wonderful flavors of that Italian classic. This is undoubtedly the BEST Cannoli cake I have ever eaten!

This made from scratch cake uses basic ingredients that you will find in any supermarket to create a dessert that is deceptively light. Bake and assemble the Cannoli Cake the day before for an impressive, make ahead dessert. Then decorate with store bought, mini cannoli and lots of mini chocolate chips so there is no doubt of the flavor within!

Traditional Sicilian cannoli are filled with sweetened whipped ricotta. Usual additions are chocolate, cinnamon, candied fruit or orange zest. For extra creaminess which you’ll love, the cannoli cream frosting also uses mascarpone.

Don’t be scared off by the length. This Cannoli cake recipe, like my Chocolate Cake with caramel and my Raspberry Torte, has a few steps but just follow my instructions carefully for complete success!

Just like more simple desserts such as my easy vanilla cake, poached red wine pears or budino al cioccolato, this Cannoli Cake will become a firm favorite that your family and friends will ask for time and time again!

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.

Ingredients for Cake

Firstly the cake must be baked and cooled before assembly of this dessert.

Ingredients for this cake recipe.

This layers for this Cannoli Cake are rather light and definitely moist. The ingredients make all the difference. You’ll find all the usual cake ingredients here but some may require an explanation.

  • all purpose flour for structure and moisture
  • cake flour for lightness and fine texture
  • buttermilk combined with baking soda creates air to give your cake good volume and tenderness
  • butter for flavor
  • oil for moisture

Substitutions

  • Homemade cake – if you are in a hurry use store bought cake. I suggest you purchase a vanilla pound cake or sponge
  • Buttermilk – make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring jug. Add milk to the 1 1⁄4 cup mark, stir. Wait 5 minutes before using.

Variations

  • Almond Flavor – use a teaspoon of almond extract instead of cinnamon for something different
  • Tutti Frutti – use candied fruit in place of the orange zest.
  • Nutty – press toasted, sliced or chopped almonds or pistachios to the sides of the cake instead of chocolate chips.

Instructions for cake

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC and grease two 8-inch round deep cake pans and line the base with non stick paper then flour the sides.

Six-step photo collage showing how to bake this cake.
  1. Whisk or sift together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  2. Beat butter, sugar and oil.
  3. Add eggs one at a time followed by vanilla.
  4. Mix in dry ingredients until just moist then add buttermilk.
  5. Divide amongst prepared pans.
  6. Bake until cooked through and golden brown.

Hint: To test if a cake is done, uses your senses. Smell it. The smell of baked cake should fill the kitchen. Look at it. It should be golden brown. Feel the top. It should feel springy. Finally push a skewer into the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Ingredients for frosting and assembly

Ingredients for cannoli cream filling.
  • Ricotta cheese – use only full fat ricotta cheese. This recipe is not a low fat cake. It’s a special occasion cake which deserves using full fat, quality ingredients.
  • Mascarpone cheese – this is a thick creamy Italian cheese that is found in many supermarkets. If you can’t find it, you could substitute cream cheese though the flavor will be different.
  • Powdered sugar – Also known as icing sugar or confectioners sugar, it dissolves and blends quickly and easily into the ricotta cheese.
  • Orange – You’ll only need the orange zest. Reserve the orange for juice or cut it up for a fruit salad.
  • Dark rum – I like to use rum but if you’d rather have an alcohol free cake, use orange juice.
  • Cinnamon – powdered cinnamon is the perfect sweet spice to complement the cannoli cream filling.
  • Cannoli shells – these are optional but add to the appeal of the cake. Fill them with reserved cannoli filling.
  • Chocolate Chips – mini chocolate chips are complete adornment of this Cannoli cake.

Instructions for frosting and more

Next prepare the cannoli cream frosting, syrup and cake for assembly.

Four-step photo collage showing how to make filling and prepare to assemble layer cake.
  1. In a food processor, combine ricotta, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon until creamy.
  2. Fold in mascarpone. Refrigerate until needed.
  3. Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with dark rum. Stir to dissolve sugar.
  4. Cut and level off tops of cakes and cut each cake in half horizontally making four cake layers.

Hint: If you don’t have a food processor, the ricotta frosting can be beaten in an electric mixer. Beat until smooth and creamy which may take as long as 5 minutes. It will never be as smooth as frosting prepared in the food processor.

Instructions for assembly

Four-step photo collage showing how to assemble layer cake.
  1. Brush one cut side of each layer with rum syrup.
  2. Place one layer on a cake plate and spread some ricotta filling over.
  3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  4. Continue layering and filling with ricotta cream and chocolate chips.

Spread the rest of the cream all over the cannoli cake and decorate with chocolate chips and filled cannoli shells.

Storage

Cannoli Cake with keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. The cake will dry out in the fridge so be sure to cover it well with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container.

Unfilled cake can be wrapped well and frozen for a month. However the ricotta frosting and completed cake cannot be frozen.

Tips for success

Be sure to follow these important points for success of this Cannoli Cake.

  • Use whole milk ricotta cheese and if it’s not as dry and crumbly as indicated in the photo, you MUST to strain it overnight.
  • Mascarpone cheese should also be full fat and strained if not thick and creamy. It can be tricky to use, splitting if over beaten or if it gets too warm.
  • Cannoli shells are optional but nice and can be purchased at good Italian food stores or online.
  • Have ingredients at cool room temperature. This will ensure the butter creams well and the eggs incorporate thoroughly.
  • If measuring the flour with cups, stir the flour first then spoon into the cup so that it is not overpacked.
  • When making the cannoli cream frosting, fold in the mascarpone because over beating will cause it to split.
  • Cakes must be cold before frosting.

FAQ

What is the Cannoli Cake filling?

This recipe uses icing similar to cannoli filling consisting of full fat ricotta cheese, orange zest, cinnamon and sugar. I like to add mascarpone cheese to the filling for extra creaminess.
If you want a completely smooth exterior, you may use Italian meringue buttercream to finish the Cannoli Cake after filling the cake layers with cannoli cream filling.

Does cannoli cake have alcohol?

This recipe for Cannoli Cake uses rum which adds flavor and moisture. However, if you prefer a non-alcoholic cake substitute fresh orange juice for the rum.

Does cannoli cake have nuts?

My recipe for Cannoli Cake doesn’t have nuts. A delicious variation is made by pressing toasted, sliced or chopped almonds on the sides of the cake instead of chocolate chips.

Slice of this layer cake on white plate with a mini cannoli.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Mocha Cake
Lime and Blueberry Syrup Cake
Torta Caprese – flourless chocolate almond cake
Italian Peach Cookies

Made this recipe?
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cake covered in mini choc chips with 6 cannoli on top. cake on on a wooden cake stand.

Cannoli Cake Recipe

A light cinnamon cake frosted with ricotta and mascarpone cream, the sides are covered with mini choc chips and 6 cute mini cannoli on top. An ideal dessert cake with classic cannoli flavors!
4.96 from 182 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings:12 generous servings
Author: Marcellina

Equipment

  • stand mixer
  • food processor
  • 2 x 8 inch (20 cm) round deep cake pan
  • measuring cups and spoons (or scales)
  • off set spatula
  • serrated knife

Ingredients

Cake

  • 6 oz (1 ½ sticks or 170 grams) unsalted butter softened
  • 1⅔ cup (340 grams) superfine (castor) sugar
  • ¼ cup (60mls) oil see notes
  • 4 eggs room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cups (185 grams) all purpose flour
  • cups (185 grams) cake flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cup (300mls) buttermilk

Ricotta frosting

  • cups (2 pounds/ 900 grams) fresh ricotta use dry ricotta or must be strained overnight – see notes
  • ¾ cup (90 grams) powdered (icing) sugar
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (approx 250 grams) mascarpone cheese

Rum Syrup

  • ½ cup (62 grams) powdered (icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup dark rum

To assemble and decorate

  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips
  • 6 small cannoli shells optional

Instructions

  • Before beginning this Cannoli Cake, please read the recipe fully including all the all the tips for success. Be sure to use dry ricotta!

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Grease two 8-inch/20cm round deep cake pans and line the base with non stick paper. Then flour the sides.
  • Whisk or sift together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  • In an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar and oil for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  • Scrape sides of the bowl then add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Stir in vanilla.
  • Add dry ingredients. Then combine on low speed until just moistened. Add buttermilk and beat for 1 minute on medium until well combined and smooth.
  • Pour evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check at 30 minutes.
  • When done the cake will come away from the side and settle down a little on the edges. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
  • Cool completely before filling and decorating.

Ricotta frosting

  • In a food processor, combine ricotta, ¾ cup powdered sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon until creamy.
  • Fold in mascarpone. Refrigerate until needed.

Rum syrup

  • Combine ½ cup powdered sugar with dark rum. Stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.

Assembly and decorating

  • Cut and level off tops of cakes and cut each cake in half horizontally.
  • Brush one cut side of each layer with rum glaze.
  • Place one layer on a cake plate and spread 1 cup of ricotta filling evenly over the cake.
  • Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips.
  • Continue layering and filling with ricotta cream and chocolate chips finishing with the fourth layer of cake.
  • If you are using mini cannoli, fill with a teaspoon or a piping bag and press chocolate chips onto the ends. Keep refrigerated until needed.
  • Reserve ⅓ cup of ricotta cream. Then spread the rest of the cream all over the cake beginning with the sides then covering the top.
  • Press more chocolate chips onto the side of the cake and arranged filled cannoli shells on top spacing apart evenly.
  • Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tube with remaining ricotta cream and pipe 6 stars in between the cannoli on top of the cake.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving. See notes for preparing ahead.

Notes

The cake recipe has been adapted from this Vanilla Cake
Tips for success
Use the BEST quality ingredients – this is very important! Particularly the ricotta and mascarpone cheeses.
For the cake:-
  • Have ingredients at cool room temperature. This will ensure the butter creams well and the eggs incorporate thoroughly.
  • Use light flavored oil like sunflower or grapeseed.
  • If measuring the flour with cups, stir the flour first then spoon into the cup so that it is not overpacked.
For the frosting:-
  • Ricotta cheese and mascarpone cheese varies greatly from brand to brand, country to country. It’s very important that both cheeses are thick, almost like cream cheese otherwise the frosting will be runny. I can’t stress this enough. If you are in any doubt, drain both cheeses overnight in a muslin lined sieve. Keep them separated so that you can measure correctly when drained.  
  • When making the frosting, fold in the mascarpone because over beating will cause it to split.
  • Taste the frosting and add more powdered sugar if you prefer it sweeter.
  • Cinnamon and orange zest can be omitted if not to your taste.
  • Cakes must be cold before frosting.
Variations
  • use orange juice instead of rum to make it alcohol free
  • substitute 1/4 cup finely chopped candied fruit for the orange zest
  • if you have no buttermilk try this – to a measuring cup, add 1 tablespoons  white vinegar or lemon juice. Add milk to the 1 1/2 mark, stir. Wait 5 minutes before using
  • use store bought vanilla pound cake or sponge for a quick cannoli cake
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 870kcal | Carbohydrates: 94g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 148mg | Sodium: 261mg | Potassium: 249mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 61g | Vitamin A: 1124IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 294mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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Recipe Rating




92 Comments

  1. It has been a tradition in our home for me (dad) and kids to make a cake for mama’s birthday. She tells us a theme or a specific type (i.e. a hobbit cake or a whale cake). This year she said ” Italian theme”. Knowing she really enjoys a good cannoli we were quite excited to discover this Cannoli Cake recipe. We (dad & 4 youngins under 11) were only able to create this because of your excellent recipe layout – picture, explanation. tips, substitute advice. Everyone really enjoyed it especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My grandfather and grandmother were immigrants from Naples and Calabria and we make an effort to honor them and the courage and resolve they lived to make a better life for the next generation. We thank God for the beauty not only in our cultural heritage but also for the beauty in the various cultures of His creation.

    1. I’m thrilled that you and your family loved this cake made with love for your dear mama. I absolutely agree with you about honoring our parents and grandparents who made sacrifices so that we could live a better life. Yes indeed, we have a lot to thank God for.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Marcelina, do you know if this recipe can be doubled and still work out? I’ve been asked to make it for a big party.

    1. Diana, don’t double the recipe. Just make two cakes unless you can test it out beforehand. I wouldn’t recommend baking the double the quantity of cake batter in a larger pan. There is too much risk of error. Enjoy the party!

  3. 5 stars
    The frosting is to die for! I strained the ricotta 24 hours in a mesh sieve with a heavy plate on top of the ricotta until it was almost completely dry. Worked like a charm and the frosting was not runny. It’s a pricey cake but worth every penny. I’ll be making this again!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this cake for my 40th Birthday, it was absolutely delicious, the recipe was well explained and the recommendations and tips were very helpful. I had my doubts about the amount of sweetness the cake would have, but the all the flavors combined and complemented each other perfectly, producing a balanced flavored cake. Not to mention it looked stunning.
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipes and techniques, I received many complements on its flavor and it’s look.

    1. Isabel, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you loved this cake and trusted in my recipe! I’m happy that you received lots of compliments for it too!

    2. 3 stars
      The cake was very dry but the cannoli cream was delicious! I was very disappointed as I served it for Christmas Eve and my 7 fishes dinner.

      1. With butter, oil, eggs and buttermilk it’s unlikely that the recipe would make a dry cake. Perhaps you overcooked it? Ovens can vary a lot. Or did you forget something…maybe the rum syrup?