Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cake
If you’ve learned much about me recently it might be that I love making cakes for my friend’s birthdays. My friend Sarah’s birthday was recently, and she always knows what’s coming so I didn't have to worry about maintaining the appearance of surprise, and I got to ask her what she might like. She mentioned she loves peanut butter and chocolate (cause, really, who doesn’t?), or key lime. I had actually just made a key lime pie for someone, and choc/pb is a frequent combo out of my kitchen, so I was super excited when she added that she loves Boston cream pie and cannolis. Time to experiment!
I did research for about a week on adapted cannoli desserts, thinking that if I made a cake we’d be missing that “crunch” element that seems key. But, ultimately, I couldn’t stay away and developed this chocolate chip cannoli layer cake. I figured the mini chocolate chips might provide enough crunch, and really - it’s all about the ricotta, right?
I know many cannolis are spiked with marsala or another wine, or cinnamon, or other flavors, but I wanted to keep this pretty simple and let the “yellow” flavor of the shell and the Italian-cheese flavor of the filling shine through. But - I also wanted to added a chocolate layer since I knew she liked that mostly-yellow-but-a-little-chocolate balance in Boston cream pies. I started with my favorite yellow cake recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum, which features plenty of egg yolks and some sour cream for extra richness, and soaked it with a chocolate liqueur syrup for the boozy oomph. I then made my favorite chocolate fudge frosting for a chocolate boost, and a mascarpone frosting, to which you add ricotta and chocolate chips for the filling. Cut the cake layers in half so you have four, soak, layer with your fillings, frost and decorate to your heart’s content, and enjoy! If you want to, you could even make or - gasp - buy some cannoli shells, and when you’re ready to serve the cake use them as decoration. That would add the crunch (that, to be honest, I didn’t really miss at all), but you can’t put them on the cake until the last second because they will get soggy quickly.
Makes 1 4-layer 9” round cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, Wellesley Fudge Cake, & Olga’s Flavor Factory
WELLESLEY CHOCOLATE FUDGE FILLING
This recipe will make more than you need for the cake, but since when is leftover fudge frosting a problem? You can freeze the leftovers, or keep them in the fridge for a few weeks.
400g powdered sugar (3.5c)
45g cocoa powder (1/2c)
1 stick butter cut into tablespoons, room temperature
300g light brown sugar (1.5c)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half, split in half
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Medium mixing bowl
Large mixing bowl (not plastic)
Sift together 400g powdered sugar (3.5c) and 45g cocoa (1/2c) into a medium mixing bowl.
In your saucepan over medium-low heat, mix 4TB butter, 300g light brown sugar (1.5c), 1/2tsp salt, and 1/2c half and half.
Whisk occasionally until small bubbles appear around the edges, 4-8 minutes.
If the other 1/2c of your half and half is cold, warm it very gently in the microwave until it is at room temperature or warmer. Make sure it doesn’t boil!
Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly and turns golden brown - about 8-10 minutes.
Transfer to your large mixing bowl, then add the remaining 4TB butter and 1/2c half and half and whisk to combine.
Add 4oz chopped chocolate and 1tsp vanilla and mix until smooth.
Slowly whisk in the powdered sugar/cocoa mix until incorporated.
Cool to room temperature stirring occasionally.
Chill for 30-40 minutes until it reaches a spreadable consistency; make sure you don’t chill it too longer or it will get too hard. Check it every 5 minutes or so once it’s been 20 minutes, and take it out of the fridge once it’s thick enough to spread.
While it’s cooling/chilling, move on to make your cake layers, syrup, and cannoli filling/frosting.
YELLOW CAKE LAYERS
8 large egg yolks (freeze the leftover egg whites for future Swiss buttercream making!)
240g & 80g sour cream, separately (1 cup and 1/3 cup sour cream)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
400g cake flour (4 cups, measured after sifting)
400g sugar (2 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into ~1TB pieces (room temperature - must be soft!)
Two 9” cake pans
CAKE GOOP! and a silicone brush (or shortening to grease & flour to coat)
Stand Mixer with beater attachment
Heat your oven to 350 degrees and goop up your cake pans.
In your stand mixer, mix together the 400g cake flour (4c after sifting), 400g sugar (2c), 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp baking soda, and 1/2tsp salt. Should take about 30 seconds on low.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together your 8 egg yolks, 1/3c sour cream, and 1TB of vanilla.
Add your 3-sticks of butter pieces and your 240g (1c) sour cream to the mixer, and mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 minute until fully combined.
Scrape down the sides of your bowl, then add half of your egg mixture. Beat for 20 seconds on medium, then add the rest and beat 20 more. Scrape down your bowl (check to make sure everything on the bottom is incorporated!) and mix for 10 more seconds on medium-high.
Evenly divide your batter between your cake pans, ideally by using a digital scale (which you should have!)
(while the cake layers are in the oven, make the syrup)
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the tops of your cake layers spring back when pressed gently. Depending on your oven, it really could take as little as 35 minutes, or as many as 45, so make sure to start checking the layers every two minutes as of about 33.
Let your cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks and let them cool completely to room temperature. Don’t try to frost warm cake layers! If you need to speed things up, once they’re not super hot, throw them in the fridge or freezer for a bit, but don’t forget about them - you don’t want them to dry out. Chilled layers are easier to work with anyways.
(while the cake layers are cooling, make the cannoli filling/frosting)
Level each layer to remove the domed top, then split each layer in two - http://www.seriouseats.com/2017/05/how-to-level-a-cake.html
CHOCOLATE LIQUEUR SOAKING SYRUP
1 cup water
75 grams sugar (1/4 cup + 2 TB)
1/2 cup chocolate liqueur (like Godiva, or Creme de Cacao)
Silicone brush or soaking bottle
Combine 1c water, 75g sugar, and 1/2c chocolate liqueur in a saucepan
Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 5 minutes
Set aside to cool
CANNOLI CREAM FILLING/FROSTING
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (2 packages)
1.5 cups powdered sugar (I usually don’t weigh powdered sugar in frosting recipes, because a little extra never hurt anyone)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (you’re only allowed to bake with mascarpone if you can pronounce it right - it’s NOT MARS-CAPONE.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
1.25 cups full-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup mini chocolate chips
stand mixer with beater attachment
Add 1.25 cups ricotta and 1 cup mini chocolate chips and beat on medium-low for 15 seconds to combine. Be careful not to beat too much/too fast or the ricotta will start to release water. If you’re worried about using the stand mixer, or want to keep mixing, use a spatula and mix by hand.
Separate half of your mixture out to use for the frosting.
With your mixer on medium-low, stream in 1/2cup chilled heavy cream. Once all in, increase your mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 30 seconds.
Add 8oz mascarpone and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat on medium-high until fully combined
Add 1.5 cups powdered sugar, starting the mixer on low so sugar doesn’t fly anywhere, then gradually increasing speed to medium-high and beat for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy
Make sure your 16oz cream cheese is at room temperature, then beat it in your stand mixer on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
Cake board or carrier base
Optional: 1-3 cups mini chocolate chips (as many as you need for decorating)
Note: this frosting is too soft for any piped decorations, and there won’t be much leftover anyway!
Brush each cake layer evenly with about 1/4 of your soaking syrup. You can do this in advance, or one at a time as you are layering them. When you get to the top layer, brush it before adding it to the cake stack and then stack it with the brushed side facing down.
Add a dollop of frosting (not filling) to the middle of your cake board/plate and spread a bit to use as a glue for your bottom cake layer.
Place one of the two layers that came from the bottom part of the cake pan (so it has a solid bottom and not a bottom exposed of the cake crumb) on your cake board and press down very gently to secure it.
Evenly spread a thin layer of your fudge filling on top of the cake layer. I used a thin layer because I didn’t want the chocolate to dominate the cake, but you can use more as you’d prefer.
Evenly spread a layer of about 1/3 of your cannoli filling mixture on top (the one with the chocolate chips). Spread gently so you don’t end up mixing the chocolate and cannoli filling together. It may help to dollop the cannoli filling evenly around before spreading rather than piling it in the center, so you don’t have to spread quite as much.
Place the next cake layer with crumb exposed on both sides on top, then repeat spreading layers of fudge and cannoli fillings.
Do that again.
Top with the final cake layer, which should have the syrup-soaked exposed side down and the solid side on top.
Place in the fridge for 15 minutes so the fillings can solidify a bit, and the layers won't move around much when you add frosting to the top/sides.
Crumb coat the cake with your frosting, then return to the fridge to chill for 20 minutes. Don’t know what that means? Check it! http://bravetart.com/blog/CrumbCoat
Coat the whole cake with a thick layer of frosting, and decorate as desired with mini chocolate chips!
Because of the soft cheeses in the filling and frosting this cake must be kept refrigerated. It’s okay to leave it at room temperature up to 3 hours before serving. It will keep 48 hours covered in the fridge.