Years ago, more like ages ago, I came across a recipe for Italian ricotta cake. It was either in the New York Daily News or the New York Times – I can’t remember which. Unfortunately, the original newspaper cutout has since disintegrated into the oblivion of other clipped recipes that have ended up who knows where. I do recall that the recipe was attributed to the Four Seasons Hotel. The basis of the cake is a prepared box cake mix. Ricotta cheese is spooned over the top of the cake batter and through the magic of cake physics, the ricotta ends up on the bottom and the cake on top. The original recipe called for anise or lemon flavoring and a dusting of powdered sugar on top.
I revised the recipe to mimic a classic cannoli filling and added my recipe for Orange Fluff Frosting, an equally simple frosting that is not too sweet. It’s a frosting I use frequently because my family does not like really sweet frosting. Warning: the frosting recipe makes enough to cover the top of the cake but it’s so good that you may want to double the recipe.
This recipe has become a family favorite because it is so simple to make and no one can tell that its humble beginnings came from a box mix. It’s a great dessert to make if you’re having company for dinner and pinched for time.
EASY CANNOLI CAKE
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 15 generous servings.
FOR THE CAKE LAYER:
1 (15.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix batter, prepared according to package directions
1 teaspoon orange extract
FOR THE RICOTTA LAYER:
2 15-ounce containers whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup candied cherries, cut in half
1/4 cup chocolate mini chips
2 Tablespoons candied orange peel, minced
ORANGE FLUFF FROSTING:
1 3.4-ounce package vanilla flavored instant pudding
1 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon orange extract
l. MAKE THE CAKE LAYER: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 9” x 13” baking pan. Using an electric mixer on low speed, add orange extract to the cake batter and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until well blended.
2. MAKE THE RICOTTA LAYER: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the ricotta, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract, orange extract, and cinnamon. Stir in candied cherries, chocolate chips, and candied orange peel.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, and shake pan back and forth a few times on the counter to level the batter. Using a large spoon, carefully place spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture on top of the cake batter, keeping 1/2-inch away from the edges of the pan. Bake for 60 minutes, until cake comes away from sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or frost with orange fluff frosting.
3. MAKE THE FROSTING: In the bowl of an electric mixer at low speed, combine the pudding mix, milk, heavy cream, and orange extract. Beat for 3 minutes, until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Frost the top of the cake.