This cannoli cake is made with a soft, fluffy cake and a sweet ricotta mascarpone filling. It’s the best Italian cannoli cake I’ve ever tried and I know you’re going to love it too!
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I am not going to lie, this cake does take a little bit of time to put together. First, you need to bake the layers of cake, then make the homemade cannoli filling. Once the cake has cooled, the layers are held together with the delicious filling and the cake is finally ready to enjoy! Yes, this cake is harder than a box mix but, no, it is not actually difficult to make. All great things take time! And this cannoli cake is well worth the effort, I promise.
Classic Cannoli Cake Recipe
A true, authentic cannoli cake is packed with incredible, interesting flavors. My cannoli cake recipe is made with lemon zest, orange zest, almond extract, and cinnamon, all ingredients that are classic Italian.
I also tried to stick with true cannoli ingredients for the filling. Some cannoli are made with just ricotta cheese but mascarpone, a soft, sweet Italian cheese, is often mixed in to add a creamy texture. I love how mascarpone makes the cannoli filling super rich and soft. It also holds up better inside a cake than a filling made with pure ricotta.
If you have ever wanted to try your hand at making a true Italian cannoli cake recipe, I really hope you give mine a try. I think you will adore it!
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Butter – I like to use unsalted butter when baking.
- Lemon zest – One lemon will give you about a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.
- Orange zest – One medium-sized orange will give you about 2 teaspoons of zest. This will be enough for both the cake portion of the recipe and the filling.
- Almond extract
- Baking Powder
- Whole milk – It’s important to use whole milk in this recipe in order to have the perfect quantity of fats. Skim milk or milk alternatives will make the cake batter a little too runny and cause the cake to bake dense.
- Ricotta cheese – Be sure to use whole milk ricotta and drain it well. See the recipe notes, which tell you all about how to drain the cheese and remove a lot of the extra water.
- Mascarpone cheese – While mascarpone may have a similar, soft texture to cream cheese, it is completely different in flavor. You can usually find mascarpone with gourmet cheeses in the grocery store. It’s pretty fancy!
- Powdered sugar – Powdered sugar melts completely into the filling, leaving behind no gritty texture.
- Orange juice – I like to use pulp-free orange juice to keep the filling smooth and creamy.
- Vanilla extract
- Mini chocolate chips – Most cannolis are made with mini chocolate chips but you can skip them if you do not want chocolate. If you do choose to use chocolate chips, the mini ones do work great as they are super small and will not make the cake too crunchy.
- Replace the almond extract in the cake with vanilla extract. This will make the cake nut-free and it will still taste fantastic.
- Use just orange zest, replacing the lemon zest in the cake recipe with orange. I love the tangy lemon taste, but more orange can be just as good!
- Skip the mascarpone cheese and replace it with more whole-milk ricotta cheese. This will give you a more traditional cannoli filling, but it can be runnier. Be sure to drain the cheese well!
How to Make Cannoli Cake
- Prep the equipment: Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Then, spray two eight-inch round cake pans with baking spray and dust them with flour. Set the pan aside.
- Cream the butter: Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Then, add the orange zest, lemon zest, and almond extract to the bowl and mix until everything is blended together.
- Sift the dry ingredients: In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
- Add the dries and milk: Add about ⅓ of the dry ingredient mix to the bowl of batter and blend. Next, add ½ of the milk and blend again. Repeat this step, alternating between blending in the dry ingredients and the milk. This will prevent the batter from breaking and make the texture nice and smooth.
- Bake the cake: Divide the cake batter between the two greased pans and bake for about 25 minutes. The cakes will be golden brown.
- Make the cannoli filling: Beat the strained ricotta cheese and mascarpone together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, orange juice, orange zest, and salt, then beat the filling until it is light and fluffy.
- Assemble the cake: Scoop about a cup of the cannoli filling on top of one of the cooled cake layers. Spread the filling across the cake evenly, then top it with the second layer of cake.
- Frost the cake: Use the remaining cannoli filling to frost the outside of the cake. Decorate the cake using maraschino cherries, orange slices, or extra mini chocolate chips.
If you plan to add the mini chocolate chips to the cannoli filling, you can stir them right into the filling, rather than sprinkling them on top after the filling is already on the cake. Mixing the chips into the filling will help them be evenly distributed throughout the cake. Just remember that the chocolate chips will make the frosting on the outside of the cake look a little rougher and not as smooth. But I actually like that rustic look!
How to Store Cannoli Cake
If you happen to have leftover cannoli cake, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to a week. Keep the cake wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. It’s best served cold, so anytime you want a slice, you can enjoy one straight from the fridge!
Cannoli cake is made with a vanilla citrus-infused cake that is filled with a sweet mascarpone and ricotta filling. Cannoli cake often has chocolate chips inside the cream or on the outside, used as a garnish. The cakes are also typically made with orange, lemon, cinnamon and almond flavorings.
Cannolo means “little tube” in Italian. The word “cannoli” stems from this and is an apt name since cannoli shells are shaped like small tubes. The cannoli filling is stuffed inside the tubes and the dessert can come in a wide variety of sizes.
The middle of a cannoli is made from mostly ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and flavorings. Cannoli filling often has mascarpone cheese mixed in as well. Cinnamon and citrus zest is common in cannoli and adds to the delicious, vibrant taste.
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1 ¾ cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ cup whole milk
- 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese, drained (see notes)
- 1 pound mascarpone cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Spray two 8 inch round cake pans with baking spray. Then add a small scoop of flour to each pan and shake the pan around to coat the bottom and edges in the flour. Tap out any excess flour into the garbage and set the greased, floured pans aside.
- Start by making the cake. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again to ensure all the butter is well blended.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Add the orange zest, lemon zest, and almond extract to the bowl and mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
- Alternate adding a scoop of the dry ingredients and the milk. You should add about ⅓ of the dry ingredients to the bowl, stir, add ½ of the milk, stir, and continue until all the dry ingredients and milk is mixed into a smooth batter.
- Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans, then bake for 25 minutes. The center of the cake should spring back to the touch and the top of the cake should be golden brown.
- Let the cakes cool inside the cake pan for about 20 minutes before flipping them onto a cooling rack to continue cooling.
- While the cakes cool, make the cannoli filling. Beat the strained ricotta and mascarpone together in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, orange juice, orange zest, and salt to the bowl and beat everything together until thick and fluffy.
- To assemble the cake, place one of the cooled cake layers on a dish or cake plate. Scoop about 1 cup of the cannoli frosting on top of the cake layer and spread it so it covers the whole top of the cake.
- Sprinkle the frosting with about ¼ cup of mini chocolate chips and gently press them into the frosting.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting then use the remaining cannoli frosting to coat the outside of the cake. If you have extra frosting, you can use it to pipe decorations on the cake.
- Sprinkle the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the mini chocolate chips and then store the cake in the fridge until you are ready to slice and enjoy.
- The type of ricotta you find in the grocery store can be very watery. You want to be sure to get whole milk ricotta, which is thicker than the skim or 2% cheese. It is also a good idea to strain the ricotta overnight. Use a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Scoop all the ricotta into the strainer or cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the ricotta sit overnight in the refrigerator to strain. A lot of water will be extracted from the cheese and drained into the bowl. Discard the water and use the dry cheese.
- If you can find ricotta impastata, this is best for making cannoli. Impastata is ricotta that has been pressed and drained already. It is the best for making a nice, thick cannoli frosting.