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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 that is ideal for special occasions and the dessert table. With a coating of mini chocolate chips and, mini cannoli on top, this will be your most popular dessert cake!

Cannoli Cake covered in mini choc chips with six filled cannoli on top.
Yes! This Cannoli Cake is worth it!!

If you love Italian cannoli and cake, 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!

While not as simple as my easy vanilla cake, poached red wine pears, or budino al cioccolato, this cake recipe will become a firm favorite that your family and friends will ask for time and time again!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Made from scratch – this recipe uses basic ingredients found in any supermarket to create a deceptively light dessert.
  • Impressive – Your family and friends will be impressed by your skills and talent when you serve this impressive, make-ahead dessert.
  • Make in advance – Bake and assemble the cake the day before. The following day, decorate with filled mini cannoli and lots of mini chocolate chips, so there is no doubt of the flavor within!
  • Traditional flavors – Typically, Sicilian cannoli are filled with sweetened whipped ricotta cannoli filling. Usual additions are chocolate, cinnamon, candied fruit, or orange zest. The cannoli cake frosting also uses mascarpone for extra creaminess, which you’ll love.
  • Step-by-step instructions – 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 follow my instructions carefully for complete success!

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

Ingredients for Cake

Firstly, the cake must be baked and cooled before assembling this dessert.

Ingredients for this cake recipe.

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

  • Flour – two different flours are needed for this recipe. All-purpose flour is used for structure and moisture, and cake flour is used for lightness and fine texture.
  • Buttermilk – easily available at the grocery store. Combined with baking soda, this creates air to give your cake good volume and tenderness.
  • Butter – I prefer the flavor of unsalted butter for most of my baking.
  • Oil – choose a light-flavored oil for moisture, not flavoring.

Instructions for cake

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC and grease two 8-inch (20 cm) round deep cake pans and line the base with non-stick paper, then flour the sides.

Whisk or sift together two flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Creamy mixture clinging to mixer paddle and a cracked egg in a bowl.

Beat butter, sugar, and oil. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

Cake batter clinging to electric mixer paddle.

Mix in dry ingredients until just moist, then add buttermilk.

Cake batter being spread into cake pans.

Divide amongst prepared pans.

Overhead view of two baked plain cakes.

Bake until cooked through and golden brown.

Hint: To test if a cake is done, use your senses. The smell of baked cake should fill the kitchen. Look to see if it’s golden brown. Now 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 that deserves to use full-fat, quality ingredients.
  • Mascarpone cheese is a thick, creamy Italian cheese found in many supermarkets. If, you can’t find it, you could substitute cream cheese, though the flavor will differ.
  • Powdered sugar – Also known as icing sugar or confectioners sugar, powdered sugar 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. However, 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 cake’s appeal. If you can’t purchase them at the grocery store, make homemade cannoli shells using my recipe. Fill them with reserved cannoli filling.
  • Chocolate Chips – mini chocolate chips add the finishing touch to this Cannoli cake.

Instructions for frosting and more

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

Two creamy mixtures being mixed together.

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

Liquid and sugar in the bottom of a saucepan.

Combine powdered sugar with dark rum. Stir to dissolve sugar.

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

Cut and level off the tops of the cakes then cut each cake in half horizontally, making four cake layers.

Brushing liquid onto cut surface of a cake.

Brush one cut side of each layer with rum syrup.

Cream being spread onto a cake.

Place one layer on a cake plate and spread some ricotta filling over.

Chocolate chips on frosting.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Side view of four cake layers with cream filling.

Continue layering and filling with ricotta cream and chocolate chips

Spread the remaining filling all over the assembled cake and decorate with chocolate chips and filled cannoli shells.

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 buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring jug. Add milk to the 1 1⁄4 cup mark, then 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.

Storage

Cannoli Cake will 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 it 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.

Top Tips

Close up of a cake with sides covered in chocolate chips with six filled cannoli on top.

Be sure to follow these important points for the 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 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 overbeaten 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 will whip up fluffy and white, and the eggs will incorporate thoroughly.
  • If measuring the flour with cups, stir it first, then spoon it into the cup so 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 completely cold before frosting.

FAQ

What is the Cannoli Cake filling?

This recipe uses frosting that is 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 can frost it with Italian meringue buttercream instead of the 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 with 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.

Serving Suggestions

Slice of layered cake filled with cream and chocolate chips.

It’s perfectly acceptable that this Cannoli Cake can be served without any other adornment other than a cake fork! However, if you’re creating an Italian feast, it wouldn’t be complete without homemade Tiramisu and Pizzelle cookies.

Either way, stand back and prepare for the accolades when you serve this incredibly luscious cake! You’ll know that it’s worth the effort!

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 183 votes
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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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91 Comments

  1. I’d live to make this for my son’s birthday- it looks delicious! Can I make the cake ahead of time and freeze the layers and can I frost the cake the day before? Thankyou!

    1. Yes, the cake layers can be made in advance. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap while still warm. This traps in the moisture so that the cakes don’t dry out. Freeze for up to two weeks. You can also frost the cake the day before. I always prefer cakes freshly frosted but it’s hard when there is so much to do on the day of the birthday. Be sure to wrap the completed cake well in plastic wrap (or in an airtight container) before refrigerating overnight.