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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 available 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. You could substitute cream cheese if you can’t find it, 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 it 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
Blueberry Pound Cake
Torta Caprese – flourless chocolate almond cake
Italian Peach Cookies

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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’m so excited to try this recipe! Just curious do you use all of the rum syrup on the layers or do you have any left over? Thanks!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. 5 stars
    I am in love with the Ricotta/Mascarpone frosting. Heavenly! This is a cake I look forward to making again. Great site

  7. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness, I can tell by the ingredients that the frosting should have it’s own fan club! Your step-by-step instructions are incredible. I’m bookmarking this and will make it for my daughter’s birthday. I’ve always loved cannoli so I’m certain this cake will be a huge hit for my family.

  8. 5 stars
    This cake … the frosting … heaven! This cake is truly a cannoli! It is so decadent. I love it.

  9. 5 stars
    I’d not heard of cannoli cake before, but now I’m hooked! Definitely planning on making this at the weekend.

  10. 5 stars
    Who needs to pay the high prices at the bakery? This is gourmet made right at home. Perfect for any celebration. A crowd pleasing dessert for sure.

  11. 5 stars
    Love this cake!!

    My only issue was I accidentally used the stand mixer for the frosting/filing instead of food processor. The filing was a little runny. I did put both cheeses separately in strainers overnight. A little water came out of the ricotta but the mascarpone was dry. Is the looseness due to not using the food processor?

    Thank you!!

    1. I’m glad you love the cake! It may be due to the stand mixer but I don’t think so. It’s possibly the wetness of the ricotta. I suggest putting a heavy weight on the ricotta as you drain it overnight. This will really push any moisture out. Hope that helps!

  12. I would like to bake this cake for my birthday in September. I have a cute cake carrier which would go well with my Italian theme. My question is how tall is this cake when finished?

    1. Linda, I haven’t actually measured the height. If depending on if you have the cannoli on the top and how high you pipe the swirls, the cake would be about 7-8 inches high. Next time I make it I’ll measure the height and add it into the recipe.

  13. Hi Marcellina, I am excited to bake your cake for a birthday party but live in Europe where we usually have 26cm cake pans – appr. 10inch. I would rather not buy a new pan just to make this recipe work, any tips on how to adjust the recipe to the bigger pan size? I was thinking 1.5 times the batter?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Natalie, I understand your predicament and while I have never bake this cake in a 10 inch pan, I’m sure it can be done. I think you would need to actually make 1.6 times the batter and other ingredients. If you do 1.5, the cake will be thinner. Alternatively it might be easier to to 1.75 times the batter. It will take a little bit of fiddling but it should work. Of course, the time to bake the cake will be longer. I would double line the sides of the cake pans to protect the sides of the cake from overcooking. Be sure to increase the rest of the ingredients so that you have plenty of filling and cake frosting. Enjoy!

  14. oh yes ~also when you say cake must be cold do you mean to actually fridge the cake wrapped cold or just cooled completely ? also i may do a trial run with a half recipe for 6 “‘ layer cake ~~do you think half would make 2 6 ” layers and about how long to bake then ? thanks

    1. Denise, the cake must be completely cool/cold. If you live in a hot climate, I’d have the cake cold from the fridge. If not, room temperature cool is fine. I have never tested this cake as a mini cannoli cake. In saying that, you can do your own testing but keep in mind that batter doesn’t always bake up the same in different size pans. To be accurate, I think you would need 0.6 of the batter but half is close though the layers would be thinner. I think you’d need to keep an eye on the baking. Possibly 25 minutes could be enough but I can’t make any guarantees.

  15. in your variations you mention a sub for buttermilk with 1 tablespoon acid to cup then add milk to the 1 1/2 mark but the recipe itself only calls for 1 1/4 cup milk ? which is it then and if the 1 1/4 is correct do you then add less acid ?

    1. Hello Denise, thanks for picking that up. The measurement is 1 1/4. I have adjusted it accordingly. There is no need to adjust the acid. It will work either way.

  16. I have made this cake following the instructions very carefully as instructed but unfortunately the cake was a complete flop…it did not come fluffy at all.

    1. Miriam, this is a flavorsome dessert cake but it isn’t meant to be fluffy. Perhaps you were thinking of another recipe because I don’t actually call this cake “fluffy”. Many readers have made this cake and love it so I’m not sure what went wrong with yours. Please reach out to me via email so that we can trouble shoot. I’d love to help. If you’re looking for a “fluffy” cake try my Pan di Spagna – it’s definitely fluffy! You could possibly use it in this recipe although the weight of the filling may make the cake not so fluffy. Hope this helps!

  17. 5 stars
    Wonderful cake to make. Easy frosting, easy to follow. Great instructions. It’s yummy, but when all is said and done, it’s an expensive cake.

    1. Kelly, I’ve never baked this cake in a 9 inch pan however I’m sure it’s possible. I would increase the amount of ingredients because I think that the cakes would be too thin otherwise. You can increase the ingredients easily by adjusting the serving size in the recipe card. The cakes may take a bit longer to bake so you’ll need to keep an eye on that. Alternatively bake the recipe as is in the larger pans (you may need to reduce the cooking time slightly). If the cakes are too thin to split, simply make a two layer cannoli cake. It will still be delicious with a thick layer of wonderful filling in the middle! Hope that helps.

  18. I haven’t made this cake yet, just getting a start on prepping. My 8 inch cake pans are only about 1.5 inches deep. Do I need to purchase new pans?
    This cake is meant for a group of 6, so would a possible alternative be to half the recipe and the layers not be as thick or try in smaller pans?

    1. I would line the sides of the pans with parchment paper so that it reaches above the sides of the pan. This will support the batter as it rises and (though I haven’t tried it with this particular cake) I’m quite sure it would work. The pans I use are 2 inches deep so it’s not that far off. Yes, it is possible to half the recipe but use smaller pans otherwise the cake will be dry and very thin. Try 6 inch pans. Again, I’ve never halved this cake but I think it is possible. You can adjust the servings in the recipe card and it will adjust the ingredients for you. Baking times will need to be adjusted manually. Hope that helps.