Cannoli Cake

7 Min Read

Cannoli cake combines soft vanilla cake layers with a ricotta and mascarpone cannoli-filling-inspired frosting. I add mini chocolate chips, but you can of course use your favorite toppings like chopped pistachios or candied fruit. Recipe includes a how-to video!

Cannoli Cake: The Best of Two Great Desserts!

Today I’m transforming one of my favorite Italian desserts into a beautiful layer cake! This cannoli cake is made with three soft, tender, and moist vanilla cake layers (I borrowed heavily from my chantilly cake to make these) cloaked in a frosting inspired by cannoli filling. These components works beautifully together to give the cake a true cannoli feel.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Seriously irresistible frosting that tastes just like cannoli filling. This is the true star of this recipe! It’s made without butter, and is perfectly balanced with the right sweetness level. I could eat it by the spoonful 😋
  • Uses the reverse creaming method, which creates a tender, slightly dense crumb AND as a plus, is very hard to over-mix (so it’s great for beginner bakers!). I first shared this method years ago with my caramel cake, and I’ve been a fan ever since!
  • Easy decoration and assembly. I just use chocolate chips to decorate my cannoli cake, but you could get fancy with it and add chopped pistachios or even add some mini cannoli on top!
  • Perfect for a crowd. Instead of filling a bunch of cannoli shells, why not just serve an equally tasty cannoli cake?

This cannoli cake would be the perfect finale to an Italian-inspired dinner, like my penne alla vodka or baked ziti!


We’ll use a few key ingredients to achieve a flavorful, tender cake with a classic cannoli taste.

  • Ricotta. Just like when making my lasagna recipe, you want to make sure to use whole milk ricotta here. We will be straining this before adding it to our frosting; this ensures our frosting will have the right texture, otherwise it would be too runny.
  • Buttermilk. My easy buttermilk substitute will work in a pinch, but real buttermilk will provide the best flavor and moisture.
  • Softened butter. Unlike many cake recipes, we will not be creaming the butter and sugar together for this cannoli cake. Instead, we will be beating the butter into the dry ingredients one tablespoon at a time. This is the reverse creaming method! It’s a bit different than the norm, but I love the results and use it in many recipes (like my caramel cake and snickerdoodle cake).
  • Mascarpone. A key component you might recognize from making tiramisu, mascarpone adds flavor to our frosting alongside the ricotta. Make sure to bring yours out of the fridge for just 15-20 minutes beforehand; if it’s too cold or warm, it can be a challenge to work with.
  • Cinnamon. This rounds out the flavor of the frosting and really adds to that authentic cannoli taste!

This is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe and video, please scroll down to the bottom of the post!

How to Make Cannoli Cake

Strain the Ricotta

  1. Place a strainer over a mixing bowl (don’t let it touch the bottom) and add two layers of cheesecloth. Layer the ricotta on top and wrap it in the cheesecloth, then place something heavy on top (I use a big can of tomatoes). Let this sit in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Once strained, you will notice that the ricotta is much drier–this is perfect! Now we can add it to our frosting without adding too much moisture. You can keep this in the fridge until you’re almost ready to make the frosting (take it out about 15-20 minutes beforehand).

Prepare the Cake Layers

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients and sugars, then start adding your butter one tablespoon at a time. Mix until each tablespoon is fully incorporated, then add the next. When you are done, this mixture will be a dry and sandy-looking.
  2. Gradually pour in your wet ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth and silky.
  3. Divide your batter between your cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. If your oven only fits two pans on the center rack, you can leave the third pan on your counter (or just leave the batter in the bowl, if you only have two pans) while the other two bake.
  4. Let the cakes cool for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Make the Frosting

  1. Stir together the strained ricotta and mascarpone until smooth. Stick with low speed and mix until just combined; the mascarpone can break if handled too much.
  2. Add the sugar gradually, stirring until just combined and smooth.
  3. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt, then you’re ready to decorate!


  1. Add a thick layer of frosting over your first cake layer, then top with mini chocolate chips. Repeat with your next cake layer, then add the final layer.
  2. Cover the entire cake with frosting and decorate as you wish. I like to press mini chocolate chips up the sides and around the top of my cannoli cake!
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