This Cannoli Cake Recipe has a delicious, homemade vanilla cake filled with a cannoli frosting that has mascarpone, ricotta cheese, cinnamon, vanilla, and all of the amazing flavors of a cannoli. It's the perfect cake for any occasion especially the holidays!
The cannoli has been around for centuries! When a dessert is so good that it has stuck around for hundreds and thousands of years, you can bet that there are tons of variations and new takes on the classic treat.
While traditional cannolis are still truly amazing, you can now find cannoli cupcakes, cannoli pie, cannoli cheesecake, and, of course, cannoli cake.
What is a Cannoli Cake?
Cannoli cake is a special cake that is made to taste like a cannoli. Rather than a crunchy shell, we use a rich vanilla cream cake. The vanilla cake has a similar flavor profile to the cannoli shell but it is much more tender and light.
We remade the standard cannoli filling into cannoli frosting. In fact, many of the ingredients in the cannoli frosting are the same as the ones in my favorite cannoli filling recipe.
This cannoli cake is made with layers of vanilla cream cake and cannoli filling frosting. The whole cake is iced with the frosting as well. Then a chocolate ganache is poured over the top and real, mini cannolis are added to the cake for decoration.
How to Make Cannoli Cake
Making a homemade cannoli cake does take a few steps. You need to make the vanilla cake, the cannoli frosting, the chocolate ganache, and also fill the mini cannolis for decoration. None of the steps are too difficult but it will take a little time and planning to put this recipe together.
Here is a quick overview to give you an idea of how to make cannoli cake.
- Make the cake first. Blend the vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla together. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together.
- Add the dry ingredient mix and the buttermilk to the mixing bowl of oil and eggs. Alternate between adding the dries and buttermilk. Mix until a smooth batter forms.
- Bake the cake until golden brown then let it cool completely.
- While the cake is cooling, make the cannoli frosting.
- Beat together the mascarpone, ricotta and powdered sugar. Add the cinnamon and vanilla. Add the chocolate chips to half the frosting (for the cake filling), keeping the rest of the filling plain, without chips (for the outside of the cake).
- Make the ganache by whisking the hot heavy cream into the chocolate chips until all the chips have melted.
- Assemble the cake by layering the frosting between the vanilla cake layers. Ice the outside of the cake with the plain mascarpone ricotta frosting. Drizzle the ganache over the cake then decorate the cake with extra mini cannolis.
How to decorate Cannoli Cake
There are so many great ways to decorate a cannoli cake. You can get as creative as you’d like or stick to traditional decorations. When planning my cake decorations, I always consider what is inside the cake.
Since this cake is made to taste like a cannoli, with sweet cheese, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, think about these components when you decide on decoration.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to decorate a cannoli cake:
- Press mini chocolate chips into the sides of the frosting
- Drizzle ganache down the edges of the cake
- Cover the cake in cannoli shell pieces
- Use mini cannolis to place around the cake top
- Sprinkle crushed pistachios over the cake
- Use candied orange peel and cherries as decoration
- Pipe rosettes all over the cake with the cannoli cake filling
- Leave the cake sides exposed (uniced) so you can see the pretty cannoli cream cake layers
You can also look at some pictures of cannoli cakes online to get some ideas.
How Long Will Cannoli Cake Last?
In my house, this cake is never around too long! However, homemade cannoli cake will keep in the fridge for about 4-5 days. Any longer than this and the frosting will start to soften and the cake will sag.
Any cake made with fresh cheeses or creams only has a shelf life of a few days. Just be sure to eat the cake while it’s fresh and you will never have a problem!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you freeze cannoli cake?
You can freeze this cannoli cake recipe. I recommend freezing the cake before you add the ganache and decorations. Wrap the layered, iced cake in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to two months.
When you are ready to decorate and eat the cake, let it slowly thaw in the fridge overnight. Add the ganache and mini cannolis to the cake after it has thawed.
How long can cannoli cake stay at room temperature?
Cannoli cake is filled and iced with a soft dairy filling. Because of this, it should really only sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours before being refrigerated.
Can you make this cake ahead of time?
You can make cannoli cream cake ahead of time, however, it's best when served as fresh as possible. I recommend making the cake a day in advance and then serving it the following day. This gives the cake time to set up in the fridge but still tastes freshly baked.
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- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup butter room temperature
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¾ cup buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons mini chocolate chips divided
- 24 ounces mascarpone cheese room temperature
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta drained
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- Cannoli shells
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8 inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Add the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add in the vanilla extract and then the eggs one at a time. Beat in each egg just until incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Alternate adding in the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. I like to do 3 parts flour and 2 parts buttermilk.
- Once everything is combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in any bits remaining.
- Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared pans. For a more even cake, wrap the pans with Wilton bake even strips. Mine are ancient, but they’re the same as the purple ones.
- Place in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 30 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Add the mascarpone cheese and drained ricotta to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until combined.
- Add in the powdered sugar, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until a thick frosting comes together.
- Add 1 cup of frosting to a separate medium bowl and mix in ⅓ cup of mini chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
- Set aside for filling the cannoli shells.
- Add the chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals and stir after each interval until the ganache is smooth and completely melted.
Assemble the Cannoli Cake
- Using a cake leveler or serrated knife, level the top of the cakes, if they’re domed, and then cut each cake in half so you have four layers.
- Add a small amount of cannoli frosting without the mini chocolate chips in it to the center of a cake plate.
- Place the first layer of cake cut side down on a cake plate right on top of the frosting. Gently press down.
- Add an even layer of cannoli frosting on top of the layer. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons (up to ¼ cup if you happen to have ¾ cup of mini chocolate chips on hand for filling the cake) of mini chocolate chips on top of the frosting.
- Repeat placing the cakes cut side down, covering with frosting, and sprinkling with mini chocolate chips.
- Once you place the last layer of cake on top, pile frosting on top of the cake. Spread it out evenly using a large angled spatula and push the excess frosting over the edges of the cake.
- Grab more frosting and start covering the sides of the cake.
- Clean the angled spatula and place the cake plate on a turntable. Holding the spatula so the blade is parallel with the cake, begin slowly turning the turntable and taking off any excess frosting, smoothing out the sides of the cake.
- Clean off the angled spatula with warm water and a paper towel to dry it off before you place it on the cake to ensure clean swipes with the spatula.
- Add the cooled, but pourable consistency ganache to a sandwich bag. Cut a small hole in one of the corners of the bag.
- Run the ganache along the outside edge of the top of the cake. Allow it to drip slightly down the sides. If you are afraid it will run too much, chill the cake first.
- Add any remaining frosting without chocolate chips to a piping bag fitted with a round tip or use a storage bag and cut a hole in the corner of the bag. I added some mini chocolate chips to this frosting before adding it to the piping bag to give me more frosting to work with.
- Pipe 8 mounds of frosting.
- Add the 1 cup of frosting that you set aside into the piping bag. Fill 8 mini cannoli shells or 4 large shells with the frosting. If you’re using large shells, cut them in half.
- Place each shell on a mound.
- Drizzle the top of the shells and cake with any remaining ganache.
- Eat right away or store in a cake container in the fridge.
(Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.)
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This was awesome excellent recipe and thank u for using Mascarpone with the whole milk ricotta. I know so many ppl who use just Ricotta and nothing wrong with doing that but adding Mascarpone really adds wonderful flavor, it’s thinker, adds a nicer appearance and doesn’t make the shell soggy. Again thumbs up!
Thank you Gina!! I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe. 🙂
I made this for my mother in law's 80th birthday and am making it again for one of my twin boys' to celebrate his 21st birthday with his college friends. It's a delicious cake!!!!
That's awesome! I'm glad it was a hit!