My First Cannoli

February 9, 2011

Here is where I admit that up until a couple of days ago, I had never eaten a cannoli.  My parents were both born and raised in New York and they had the luxury of eating things like real bagels, good profiteroles, late summer tomatoes, and cannoli.  My mom has a cousin who used to come visit us every summer and they would bring 4 dozen bagels with them to store in our garage freezer.  I’m sure that if the other things on that list weren’t so perishable, my mom would have requested she bring those too.

So, cannoli were not a part of my childhood.  If I were the type to go nuts over cheese in my desserts, I would have made them long ago.  But truthfully, this is not my kind of treat.  If you are a regular here I think you know what my kind of treat is.  But I am telling you about these cannoli for several reasons.

1)  Someone at Saturday’s yoga retreat sat me down and said, “If you do not post the recipe for these cannoli, I will never speak to you again.”  Strong words.

2) One of my new favorite “Food and Graham” stories happened while preparing these.  I don’t mention this often enough but Graham is a great eater.  He has a huge appetite and really loves food.  He is eager to try new things.  Something he hasn’t seen before makes him wonder what it tastes like.  Spencer‘s response is the opposite.  Anyway, I was chopping crystallized ginger for the filling and Graham asked for a taste.  I gave him a cube of it, he took a little bite, and then asked for three more pieces.

3)  I got this recipe off Epicurious.  Our computer is in our study which is not right next to the kitchen.  I was the end of a LONG cooking day when it came time to prepare these.  I took a quick glance at the recipe and then went back to my food processor to finish it.  I had a nagging suspicion that I had forgotten something in the filling but was too lazy to go back and double check.  Finally, once the filling was in the bowl, I took a quick taste and thought it was fine for, you know, a cheese filling, and into the refrigerator it went.  Then I checked the recipe.  Sugar.  I didn’t add the full 2 cups of powdered sugar that the recipe called for. I tasted again.  I’m no expert, but cannoli are not supposed to be super sweet, right?  It tasted just about right to me and everyone loved this without the sugar.

So there you go.  Cannoli.  Discuss.

Now.  The recipe makes enough filling for 25 regular size cannoli.  For reasons that are too boring to explain, I only bought 12 shells.  I cut each cannoli in half so everyone could have one but I still had tons of leftover filling.  I brought it back home with me, wondering what I was going to do with it.  And then, an unexpected opportunity came my way.

This is Spencer’s birthday cake.  Once again for reasons that are too boring to explain, I did not make enough frosting.  I was left with just enough to very lightly frost the outside of the cake but  not enough to frost all of the cones.  (The chocolate you see is the buttercream mixed with melted chocolate.)  As I was contemplating driving to the store to buy some frosting in a can (shudder), I remembered my leftover filling.  So that is what is adorning half the cones.

This cake is pretty darn cute and the cake part itself, which is the part I care about, was super moist and flavorful.  If you are interested in making it, I direct you to this recipe.  In the comments, most people hated the frosting, so I made a simple buttercream from The Cake Bible.  Just do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough frosting…

And now, back to the cannoli.

One Year Ago: Olivetta Loaf and Spicy Smoky Chili
Two Years Ago: Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie

Dried Cranberry and Ginger Cannoli
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 25

This recipe originally called for dried cherries but I only had cranberries.  If you would like to add the sugar that I forgot, add two cups – one in each batch.

4 cups (2 pounds) fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup minced crystallized ginger
¾ cup minced dried cranberries (or cherries)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
25 purchased cannoli shells
Chopped pistachios

Working in 2 batches, blend first 4 ingredients in processor until smooth; add ginger and cranberries and process until finely chopped and well incorporated.  Using on/off turns, mix in chocolate just until blended (do not purée).  Transfer filling to a large bowl.  (Filling can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Working in batches, transfer filling to pastry bag without tip.  Pipe into shells.  Dip ends in chopped pistachios.  Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.


  1. I’ve never had a cannoli before either, but these look really good and I like that they aren’t super sweet. And the ginger? Yes, please!

    Comment by kickpleat — February 9, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

  2. that first photo made me need to sit down. what gorgeous cannoli! and crystalized ginger? love that.

    your cake is absolutely adorable, and worthy of your fine little man. happy, happy day to him.

    Comment by tara — February 9, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

  3. Cannoli! Ate my first during a trip to Boston with my parents as a teen. There’s a shop in the North End, Mike’s Pastry, which has amazing cannoli. Though I will say that the cannoli from Sciortino’s Bakery in our hometown of Milwaukee are phenomenal as well. Haven’t yet tried making them at home, but my fiancee has been saying wants to buy a piece of tubing from Lowe’s to make a cannoli mold on the cheap. All I know for sure is that the ends *must* be dipped in chopped pistachios, and I love your idea of crystallized ginger!



    Comment by heather — February 10, 2011 @ 1:30 am

  4. Yay! Cannoli! The cranberry-ginger combo sounds wonderful. And that cake…stunning!

    Comment by Nina — February 10, 2011 @ 3:51 am

  5. Dana, it’s like you’ve been reading my mind these days. I’ve never has a cannoli either, and lately have been thinking to rectify that. And the ice cream cone birthday cake is so cute!

    Comment by Ele — February 10, 2011 @ 7:20 am

  6. Well, even though you may protest, I think that the next time you are in NYC I am going to have to force feed you a cannoli. You know, they DO make some with chocolate filling…

    I’ve never attempted cannoli myself but I think I’m going to have to since you mentioned the ginger in the filling. I could fall in love with a cannoli like that.

    Comment by Joanne — February 10, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

  7. MMM! Cannoli was my birthday treat of choice growing up….but it had to be from the little old Italian Grandma who ran the ice cream/pastry shop on the Boardwalk in Ocean City MD. Her name was Julia, and she made the best cannoli I’ve ever had. I may need to make a batch of these tonight to assuage my nostalgia attack.

    Comment by Jessica — February 10, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  8. […] Dried Cranberry and Ginger Cannoli from Dana Treat […]

    Pingback by Three Perfect Valentine’s Day Menus — February 10, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  9. I have to say, I absolutely LOVE to make (and eat) cannoli. One of my favorites! These look fabulous.

    Comment by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — February 11, 2011 @ 12:13 am

  10. I love cannoli and I love with you did here. What a great idea.

    Comment by The Food Hunter — February 11, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  11. I’d love to try making cannoli one of these days. I don’t think the shells are sold here, at least not that I know of, and making them is what has prevented me from ever attempting this dessert. The filling sounds great without the sugar. And, that is one cute cake! Great thinking to use the filling as frosting.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — February 11, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

  12. Looks good. Vegetarians should always check ingredients on packaged cannoli shells (or ask, if you buy from a bakery). Classically/authentically, cannoli shells are made with lard. (I learned this from a friend who keeps kosher; I’ve checked it out, and sadly it turns out to be true. Of course, if you’re okay with lard, yum.)

    Comment by Jennifer — February 14, 2011 @ 3:53 am

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