This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure.

Cannoli cake is inspired by the classic Sicilian dessert that’s beloved in Italy: we pair soft, moist yellow cake with cannoli cream filling, vanilla buttercream frosting, and chocolate ganache. And for the perfect finishing touch, we decorate the top with mini cannoli!

top view of homemade cannoli cake with mini cannoli

If you’re looking for a special cake with a big wow factor, you found it! Next time you want to bake a cake for a birthday or special occasion, surprise your friends and family with this and watch their eyes light up.

Sicilian cannoli served as the inspiration for this extravagant cake. But don’t be intimidated, it’s not as hard to make as you might think.

Just be sure to read through the whole recipe before starting to get a feel for the timeline. And I’m going to walk you through the entire process with step-by-step photos. You got this!

whole cannoli cake on wooden cake stand with yellow roses

What is Cannoli Cake?

Moist, fluffy yellow cake is the base. The cake itself is rich and buttery, and lightly scented with vanilla, almond, and orange. It’s made even more indulgent with mascarpone in the cake batter.

It’s a 3-layer cake, so what better filling between the layers than cannoli cream? For this recipe, we make a traditional ricotta cannoli cream. (Heads-up, it’s also delicious served as a dessert dip if you want the flavor of cannoli without all the work!)

Next comes buttercream frosting, which somehow manages to perfectly walk the line between light + fluffy and rich + decadent.

cannoli cake with cream filling and mini cannoli

Chocolate ganache on top is optional, but I love that it makes this cake even more special. I find that its bittersweet flavor is a lovely contrast to the sweetness of the cake and frosting. Plus it helps our cannoli cake look more finished.

And then let’s not forget about the crowning jewel on top: mini cannoli! Because what would cannoli cake be without actual cannoli?!

The resulting cannoli cake is to die for: a perfect blend of flavors and textures, and a cake that’s truly special!

partially eaten slice of cannoli cake on stoneware plate

The Best Cannoli Cake Recipe

In these sections, I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas. For the full recipe (including ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

Cannoli Cake Filling Ingredients

cannoli dip ingredients
  • Ricotta cheese – traditional cannoli is made with ricotta cheese, not mascarpone, so that’s what we use here
  • Powdered sugar – adds sweetness and helps thicken the mixture
  • Heavy whipping cream – for rich flavor and creamy texture
  • Vanilla extract and orange zest – these are the flavorings we use here; alternatively, you could use almond extract or ground cinnamon
  • Semisweet mini chocolate chips – or you can use finely chopped chocolate, or omit this if you want your cannoli cream filling smooth

Cannoli Cake Ingredients

cannoli cake ingredients
  • Flour – all-purpose flour
  • Cornstarch – instead of using cake flour, we use a combination of all-purpose flour + cornstarch, which results in a cake with a soft crumb that’s similar to cakes made with cake flour
  • Baking powder and baking soda – the leavening agents that help this cake rise
  • Salt – a natural flavor enhancer, we even need salt in sweet recipes
  • Butter – for rich, delicious flavor and a uniform small, tight crumb
  • Sugar – granulated white sugar
  • Mascarpone – instead of buttermilk or sour cream, I decided to use mascarpone in this cannoli cake to keep true to regional ingredients
  • Eggs – act as a binder and help make the cake fluffy
  • Vanilla extract, almond extract, and orange zest – for flavor and aroma; also, if you like your cannoli laced with cinnamon, you can add a little bit

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

vanilla buttercream frosting ingredients
  • Unsalted butter – if possible use good-quality butter because you’ll be able to taste its flavor; make sure it’s at room temperature
  • Pure vanilla extract – for flavor and aroma
  • Vanilla bean paste – this adds pretty flecks of vanilla bean throughout the frosting; if you don’t have vanilla bean paste, you can use the scrapings from 1 vanilla pod instead, or double the amount of vanilla extract
  • Salt – this is to balance the flavor profile and make sure our buttercream frosting isn’t overly sweet
  • Powdered sugar – along with the butter, powdered sugar is the base of American buttercream
  • Heavy whipping cream – cream is the secret ingredient that makes our vanilla buttercream lusciously rich and velvety; if you don’t have cream, you can use any kind of milk instead, but start with just a little bit less (2 1/2 tablespoons or so) and add more as necessary

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

chocolate ganache ingredients
  • Good quality chocolate chips – I like to use semisweet chocolate chips, but you can also use chopped good-quality chocolate
  • Unsalted butter – make sure your butter is at room temperature

Other Ingredients

  • Butter and flour – for the cake pans
  • Mini cannoli shells – we fill mini cannoli shells and place them decoratively on top
  • Semisweet mini chocolate chips – we dip the ends of the mini cannoli in mini chocolate chips; you could also dip them in finely chopped pistachios or almonds
close up overhead view of cannoli cake with chocolate ganache

How to Make Cannoli Cake

This cake it’s hard to make, but it is a time-consuming process. It’s helpful to get a general idea of all the steps before you dive in.

Before you make this cake, take a few minutes to peruse the next sections. I explain each step of the process, and share step-by-step photos so you can follow along visually.

Let’s get to it. You’re going to love the cake that comes out of your kitchen!

Strain the Ricotta For the Cannoli Cake Filling the Night Before

how to strain ricotta cheese

Strain the ricotta in the fridge the night before. This will help make the filling smooth and creamy, and reduce the gritty texture that cannoli filling can sometimes have.

See the recipe card below for detailed instructions on how to do this.

Make the Cannoli Cake Filling

how to make cannoli dip
  1. After the ricotta is strained overnight, add all ingredients except the chocolate chips to a large bowl.
  2. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined, smooth, and creamy. Alternatively, you can beat everything together using a stand mixer.
stirring chocolate chips into cannoli dip

Stir in the chocolate chips. (At this point, you can serve the cannoli cream as dip!)

filling mini cannoli shell with cannoli cream

Use about 1 cup of cannoli cream to fill 8 mini cannoli shells, and then dip each end in mini chocolate chips. You will use the rest of the cannoli cream as filling for the cake. (Or to keep the cannoli shells crisp, set the filling aside and wait to fill the shells until the cake is frosted and ready to decorate.)

Make the Cannoli Cake

how to make cannoli cake
  1. Use a handheld electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the mascarpone.
  2. Beat in the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and orange zest and/or cinnamon (if using). 
  3. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet half at a time, and beat to combine.
  4. Be careful not to over-mix. The batter will be thick!
  5. Divide the batter between 3 buttered and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes at 350F. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Turn them out onto wire racks to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), and then refrigerate 15 minutes to chill.

Whip Up the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

how to make vanilla buttercream frosting in 5 mintues
  1. Add the butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, and salt to a large bowl.
  2. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined.
  3. Add the powdered sugar and cream.
  4. Beat until smooth and creamy. Set aside about 1 1/4 cups of buttercream to pipe rosettes on top of the cake.

Make the Chocolate Ganache

how to make chocolate ganache

Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, or in a double boiler.

Stir gently until smooth and let it cool until the ganache is no longer warm, but is still pourable (it can’t be warm or it will melt the buttercream).

Assemble the Cannoli Cake

how to assemble cannoli cake
  1. Once the cakes are cooled completely, trim them so the tops are flat (save the cake to make parfaits or cake pops!). Put 1 9-inch cake onto a cake stand with the trimmed side facing up. Spread about 1/2 of the cannoli cream filling on top. 
  2. Place a second 9-inch round cake on top (trimmed side facing up), and spread about 1/2 of the cannoli cream filling on top. Then put the last 9-inch cake on top (trimmed side facing up). Frost the sides and top of the cake evenly with the buttercream (keeping the reserved 1 1/4 cups of buttercream to decorate the top later).
  3. Pour the ganache on top of the cake, letting it drip decoratively down the sides, but try not to let the drips reach the bottom. Let the ganache set for at least 1 hour.
  4. Once the ganache is set, you can decorate the top.

This is how I decorate the top of cannoli cake:

  • Put the reserved 1 1/4 cups buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a 1M open star piping tip. Pipe 8 rosettes evenly spaced around the outer edge of the cake on top. If you have extra buttercream frosting, use it to pipe smaller rosettes around decoratively.
  • Put 1 mini cannoli on top of each of the 8 evenly-spaced buttercream rosettes.
  • If you have any mini chocolate chips left, you can decoratively sprinkle them around the top of the cake.
  • Chill the cake for 1 hour and then serve. Right before serving, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top if desired.
close up of mini cannolo and buttercream rosettes

Storage

This cake is best when it’s eaten on the same day it’s made or the day after. However, if you have leftover cake, you can wrap it well and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Cannoli Cake Recipe FAQs

What is Cannoli?

Cannoli (singular cannolo), are made of tube-shaped fried pastry shells filled with sweet ricotta filling.

Where is Cannoli From?

Cannoli are from Sicily! I’ve heard debate as to whether this pastry is from Caltanissetta, Palermo, or Messina, but all agree that cannoli are Sicilian and not Italian.

From Sicily, this pastry made its way to Italy, and beyond!

from scratch cannoli cake on wooden table

Is Mascarpone or Ricotta Better for Cannoli?

Ricotta is traditional for cannoli cream. However, some people prefer mascarpone instead of ricotta because it yields a smoother and creamier cannoli filling.

Cannoli cream made with ricotta can sometimes have a little bit of a gritty texture. This is why I recommend straining the ricotta overnight. Once the ricotta is strained we add heavy whipping cream, which helps create a smooth, velvety texture.

This way, we get the best of both worlds. We use ricotta to keep true to the original cannoli filling, and it’s still deliciously creamy!

More Epic Cake Recipes to Try

top view of cannoli cake with slice

Let’s Connect

an edible mosaic submark initials

Did you make this recipe? Please rate it and leave a comment below. You can also tag @anediblemosaic on social media.

To stay up-to-date, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter!

Cannoli Cake Recipe

Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time30 minutes
Other Time14 hours
Servings: 24 servings
Cannoli cake is inspired by the classic Sicilian dessert that's beloved in Italy: we pair soft, moist yellow cake with cannoli cream filling, vanilla buttercream frosting, and chocolate ganache. And for the perfect finishing touch, we decorate the top with mini cannoli!

Email This Recipe

Get this recipe link emailed straight to your inbox!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Equipment

Ingredients
 

Cannoli Cream Filling:

Cake:

Vanilla Buttercream:

Chocolate Ganache Topping:

Other:

Instructions
 

The Night Before You Want to Make This Cake:

  • Strain the ricotta overnight. To do so, place a strainer inside a bowl, and line the strainer with cheesecloth or coffee filters so that they hang over the outside of the strainer. Scoop the ricotta into the lined strainer and fold the cheesecloth or coffee filters over the top of the yogurt. Cover with plastic wrap and put a plate on top. Put something heavy on top of the plate to help press the liquid out of the ricotta. Let the yogurt sit like this in the fridge for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours.

For the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour 3 9-inch round cake pans.
  • Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  • Use a handheld electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the mascarpone, and then the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and orange zest and/or cinnamon (if using).
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet half at a time, and beat to combine. Be careful not to over-mix.
  • Divide the batter between the 3 prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Turn them out onto wire racks to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), and then refrigerate 15 minutes to chill.

For the Cannoli Cream Filling:

  • After the ricotta is strained overnight, add all ingredients except the chocolate chips to a large bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined, smooth, and creamy. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • If the cannoli filling is too thick, add a splash more cream; if it’s too runny, add a little more powdered sugar.
  • Use about 1 cup of cannoli cream filling to fill the mini cannoli shells to decorate the top of the cake. Dip the end of each mini cannoli in mini chocolate chips. (Or to keep the cannoli shells crisp, set the filling aside and wait to fill the shells until the cake is frosted and ready to decorate.)

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

  • Add the butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, and salt to a large bowl, and use a handheld electric mixer to beat until well-combined. Add the powdered sugar and cream, and beat until smooth and creamy.
  • If the buttercream is too thick, add a splash more cream; if it’s too runny, add a little more powdered sugar.
  • Set aside about 1 1/4 cups of buttercream to pipe rosettes on top of the cake.

To Assemble the Cake:

  • Once the cakes are cooled completely, trim them so the tops are flat (save the cake you trim off to make parfaits or cake pops!).
  • Put 1 9-inch cake onto a cake stand with the trimmed side facing up. Spread about 1/2 of the cannoli cream filling on top.
  • Place a second 9-inch round cake on top (trimmed side facing up), and spread about 1/2 of the cannoli cream filling on top.
  • Then put the last 9-inch cake on top (trimmed side facing up).
  • Frost the sides and top of the cake evenly with the buttercream (keeping the reserved 1 1/4 cups of buttercream to decorate the top later).

For the Ganache:

  • Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Stir gently until smooth and let it cool until the ganache is no longer warm, but is still pourable (it can’t be warm or it will melt the buttercream).
  • Pour the ganache on top of the cake, letting it drip decoratively down the sides, but try not to let the drips reach the bottom. Let the ganache set for at least 1 hour.

To Decorate the Cake:

  • Once the ganache is set, you can decorate the top. Put the reserved 1 1/4 cups buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a 1M open star piping tip. Pipe 8 rosettes evenly spaced around the outer edge of the cake on top. If you have extra buttercream, you can decoratively pipe on more rosettes.
  • Put 1 filled cannoli on top of each of the 8 evenly spaced buttercream rosettes.
  • If you have any mini chocolate chips left, you can decoratively sprinkle them around the top of the cake.

Notes

  • Storage: Store leftover cake wrapped well in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 75g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 259mg | Potassium: 228mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 56g | Vitamin A: 949IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Italian, Sicilian
Keyword: Cannoli Cake, Cannoli Cake Recipe

Share it with me on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

the best cannoli cake recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Similar Posts