Serves a Crowd

Cannoli Cake

May 11, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

When I think about recipes I'm proudest of, I also realize how fortunate I've been. A lot of what I consider to be my best recipes are regularly featured by Food52--they've been in contests, in cookbooks, or are popular in their own right. It's almost as if they don't belong to me as much as they do to the world, and I'm really proud of that.

So for this contest, I thought about things I've created that I still make and that my friends and family enjoy when I do. This particular recipe is one I'm really proud of because, in thinking about the ricotta contest, I knew I wanted to evoke cannolis, but I'm not really a fan of the shell, and I used a technique that was new to me. And I felt as if the cake turned out really well. I make it as a dinner party dessert (because I still think it's best on the day it's baked). And while making baked goods beautiful is not really my strong suit, this one usually looks pretty (even though it sometimes slumps a little--I just consider that part of its charm). Here's what i wrote when I first submitted the recipe:

My husband is not a fan of ricotta cheese. But he loves cannoli. So in his honor, I wanted to make a cake that had the components of a cannoli without the mess of deep-frying. Most cannoli cake recipes are simple yellow cakes with sweetened ricotta cheese as the filling, but I wanted a cake in which the ricotta cheese was part of the cake. I borrowed the pudding cake technique of folding beaten egg whites into the cake batter. The result is a light and airy cake with crispy edges, shot through with orange zest and chocolate chips. And he won’t let me take it to work tomorrow, so I call that a success. - drbabs —drbabs

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe really solves the dilemma of the leaden cannoli shell. The pleasing creaminess of a great ricotta filling is front and center, with just enough structure to hold the cake together. As drbabs mentions, it becomes dense and custard-like after some time in the fridge, which I enjoyed. Next time, I will reduce the amount of orange zest and almond extract, but this is strictly personal preference, and fans of chocolate & orange in combination should proceed exactly as directed. I look forward to making this for Easter dinner in a few weeks. An excellent, well-written recipe! - SorrySuri —SorrySuri

What You'll Need
  • 4 eggs (room temperature), separated
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained for a couple of hours till it's fairly dry
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (plus more for serving)
  • zest of two medium-sized oranges
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla extract if you prefer)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Generously butter a 9” springform pan and wrap the bottom well with foil to prevent leaking. Put water on to boil for the water bath.
  2. Stir together ricotta cheese, milk, and egg yolks until well blended. Fold in flour until blended. Pour in melted butter, sugar, orange zest and almond (or vanilla) extract and stir until blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry. This will go quickly. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites into the batter until the mixture is well blended and there are little or no streaks of egg white visible.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place it in a large roasting pan inside the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan to about 2 inches high. Bake for one hour until the top is brown and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and release the springform. Serve at room temperature with chocolate chips sprinkled over it. (A little whipped cream would be lovely, too.)
  6. The cake is best (in my opinion) on the day it is baked. After overnight refrigeration, it is more like a custard (and moist, like the filling of a cannoli). Not that there's anything wrong with that! (Turns out, my husband liked it even more the second day. Go figure!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Elizabeth Traverso
    Elizabeth Traverso
  • lilliwill
  • Moema Bentley
    Moema Bentley
  • Lynne Boyle
    Lynne Boyle
  • The Pontificator
    The Pontificator

95 Reviews

Elizabeth T. April 21, 2023
I have made this several times. It is my go to for my in laws birthdays as they both love Cannoli's but having made it the day of and the day before both are amazing and people seem to enjoy it both ways. The cake never takes an hour to cook the first time I cooked it for 45 min and it was ready so I am glad I didn't let it go the full hour. I use vanilla instead of almond as my kids prefer the vanilla to the almond. Otherwise this cake is delicious and easy. I do take the ricotta cheese and place it in a sieve for a couple hours and then bake with it.
drbabs April 21, 2023
Linda May 13, 2018
Okay, I've already reviewed this, but just want to say, if you haven't made this yet...just do it! I made it for the 3rd time in as many months and took it to our gourmet dinner group last night. People were almost licking their plates and everybody wanted the recipe. I got comments like "the best dessert...ever". It really is. It's not too sweet and the orange zest just takes it over the top. Everyone thought it had liquor in it! I'm not a huge fan of desserts, but this could be addicting...seriously addicting:-) Thank you so much drbabs!
P.S. Made the day ahead and served cold.
drbabs May 13, 2018
Linda, you made my day. Thank you.
jeannieroseburg April 6, 2018
I made this cake for passover using passover cake meal instead of the flour. It came out perfectly (in my opinion). I substituted 1/2 cup cake meal for 1/2 c flour.
drbabs April 7, 2018
That's great! I really appreciate your commenting.
Vida April 5, 2018
I was quite disappointed in this cake. A few things didn't work out, two I take blame for. I folded in the egg whites, but I should have been more vigorous, and as a result it was a little souffle like on top. (I always fear deflating my hard work of beating the whites). Second fault of mine was that it was slightly underbaked. I had to go out, and I didn't have more than an hour to bake it. I put the pan in the water bath and used the correct size pan, but the bottom of the cake was not done. Aside from these two issues, I did not like the flavor of the cake at all. I reduced the orange peel to zest of only one orange, based on the Food52 review at the top. With so little flour in the cake, the orange was overpowering. Even if my cake had come out perfectly, I still wouldn't have liked it at all. I have made some wonderful cakes with Ricotta, and I have made many citrus-y cakes with orange zest. But this cake didn't work at all for me.
drbabs April 5, 2018
Vida, I'm sorry it didn't work out. Thank you for commenting.
Kevin K. April 5, 2018
Try cooking longer and switching the orange to lemon. Skip the chocolate. See what you think.
lilliwill April 3, 2018
Absolutely delicious! Incredibly light texture, packed with flavor! Love the orange chocolate combination! So glad I had ricotta to use up! Will def make again
drbabs April 3, 2018
I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for letting me know.
lilliwill April 3, 2018
Husband and son are swooning over this!
Kevin K. April 2, 2018
This is delicious. I used lemon zest and vanilla in the cake, rather than orange and chocolate (chocolate does not work for me here), and used a 10-inch springform. Took 1:05 to finish. Made a simple sweetened whipped cream topping and topped that with sugared lemon peel. Very, very good.
drbabs April 2, 2018
I'm so glad. Thanks for commenting.
Sharon B. September 3, 2018
I am thinking of lemon zest and vanilla as well because I am not a fan of the orange/chocolate combination. Did you use two lemons? I don’t want the taste to be overpowering in lemon flavor either. Thanks m
Moema B. April 1, 2018
Hi, i just put this into my oven and had to use a standard 9 inch cake pan because my roasting pan isn’t big enough for my springform pan. I am really really hoping this will come out and I can just pop it out of the pan that I buttered and added parchment paper to. Any suggestions?
drbabs April 1, 2018
I wish I could help you. Can you please post how it turns out?
Kevin K. April 2, 2018
Did it work? It is such a delicate cake when finished I would imagine it would be somewhat difficult to get out without breaking.
Rose April 1, 2018
Is the bottom suppose to be custard-like?
drbabs April 1, 2018
Maybe a little, or it might be a bit under baked.
Pat S. April 1, 2018
My comment should say "it is not as brown as yesterday"...sorry about that.
Pat S. April 1, 2018
Ugh...I made this yesterday to take to my daughter's house today for Easter dinner. It was WAY over cooked...i found an hour is too long. SO...i got up this morning and made it again after I decided to give it a 2nd chance and watch it carefully. I checked it at about 30 minutes. is way overcooked (but not as bad as yesterday). The top is not as form as yesterday, but it's definitely medium brown in stead of light brown. I won't try it a 3rd time. Very disappointed, since I followed the directions carefully both times.
drbabs April 1, 2018
Oh, I'm so sorry. What was the inside like?
Pat S. April 1, 2018
I didn't try the one I made today, but cut the top off the one from yesterday and tried that. It's "ok", but too firm for my liking. Maybe that's because I refrigerated it overnight (I was going to try to rescue it today, but upon looking at it again today, then trying it I decided it was beyond my "culinary talents"). It sounds great and was hoping for a cheese cake that is more of a custard. I'm still looking. Thank you for posting/sharing your recipes!
drbabs April 1, 2018
I'm actually wondering if your oven is running hot. Also, this is more cake than custard.
Pat S. April 2, 2018
I am going to put a thermometer in my oven this evening to check it. I haven't had problems with other baked goods or crème brulee (that I make every couple months), but that can always change. Thank you for the suggestion...
Brooke J. March 31, 2018
Can I drain the ricotta overnight so I can get up and bake in the morning? Or will it be too dry?
drbabs March 31, 2018
I think it will be fine, but I haven't tried that.
Kevin K. April 1, 2018
An easy (and much quicker) way to drain ricotta: Lay a large clean woven kitchen towel (not terry cloth, smooth or fairly so) on your counter and fold it in half. Measure your ricotta (in this case, one cup) and dump it on top of the middle of the folded cloth; with the bottom of your measuring cup or the back of a spoon, pat to an even 1/3-inch or so. Using a double or triple thickness of paper towel (use triple if your ricotta is especially wet), place on the ricotta and GENTLY press till you feel the moisture coming through the paper; press evenly all over. Allow to sit a couple or three minutes. Peel off the paper towel. The ricotta will lift off the kitchen towel easily.
Lynne B. March 29, 2018
Is it possible to test before taking out of the pan so it is not liquidy? djb
drbabs March 29, 2018
You could use a cake tester.
GAIL M. March 30, 2018
I removed it from the water bath for the last 10 minutes of baking... still very moist bottom but drier than the 1st one I made. I was concerned that this occurred because I had used GF flour but seeing these additional experiences makes me believe otherwise. Such a very good cake and a great alternative to the efforts to make great at-home cannoli. This will be repeated again... and again... and.......
drbabs March 30, 2018
So glad you liked it.
Lynne B. March 31, 2018
I couldn't tell from the picture, if, during baking if there a "cake" layer. Just wondering what to test. I'm making it for Easter, and I am using homemade ricotta, so I want it to turn out well!
Lynne B. March 31, 2018
Lynne Boyle
I couldn't tell from the picture, if, during baking if there a "cake" layer. Just wondering what to test. I'm making it for Easter, and I am using homemade ricotta, so I want it to turn out well!
drbabs March 31, 2018
Are you asking if it separates into separate layers during baking? It doesn't.
Dana L. March 29, 2018
Hi Dr. Babs,
I just tried making this recipe. I cooked it in a 10-in springform pan for 1 hr 5 min. The top came out done but the bottom was pretty liquidy...what is the desired texture? Any tips?
drbabs March 29, 2018
It should be cake like in texture. Sounds like you needed to bake or longer.
GAIL M. March 30, 2018
I had the same experience with the 1st one I made. So I did bake the 2nd one longer and finally removed it from the water bath for the last 10 minutes of baking. Still pretty moist at the bottom but drier than the 1st
Constancia W. March 26, 2018
Does the ricotta measure 1 cup before or after being drained? Thanks; sounds delicious.
drbabs March 26, 2018
Before. Thanks, I hope you enjoy it.
The P. March 25, 2018
I think my A1C just went up from reading this recipe.
Sprinkle the top with chocolate bits AND crunched-up cannoli shells.

drbabs March 30, 2018
Cool idea.
Bellamamma March 25, 2018
Hi! This sounds delish. Could I substitute almond flour for the regular flour to make it suitable for Passover?
drbabs March 25, 2018
I honestly don't know. I think the gluten in the flour probably helps it rise, but you could try it without. (I don't think I'd use almond flour because that will just add fat but not structure.) Maybe matzo meal? If you try it, please share the result.
lois March 25, 2018
I have the exact same question! Please repost if you try almond flour or matzo cake meal.
Anna B. March 25, 2018
I was about to post with the same question!
GAIL M. March 30, 2018
I made this with Bob's Gluten Free all purpose flour... Delicious
Stephanie March 25, 2018
Hi! What do I wrap my pan with?
drbabs March 25, 2018
Aluminum foil. I tried to edit the recipe, but I don't think it went through. Enjoy!
Nancy March 25, 2018
Stephanie March 25, 2018
Hi! What do I wrap my pan with?
Franca April 9, 2014
I modified it slightly to our personal tastes, lemon instead of orange and a little less sugar. This was excellent. It will be making a regular appearance at our house.
drbabs April 10, 2014
I'm so happy you liked it.
Emilia R. September 8, 2013
This is good, but the addition of chocolate was not to my liking. Next time I'll make it without chocolate. Thanks for sharing.
drbabs September 8, 2013
I totally get that. (My husband loves the chocolate.). Thanks for trying it!