Cannoli Poke Cake

This Cannoli Poke Cake is a lovely vanilla cake soaked with sweetened condensed milk and covered in sweet cannoli filling. It’s a moist, indulgent dessert that will rock your socks off!

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

Cannoli Poke Cake

Can you believe I’ve never made a poke cake before? I’ve been wanting to for forever, but never quite got around to it. Until now. And boy have I been missing out! This Cannoli Poke Cake is super easy to make and SO tasty!

If you don’t know much about poke cakes, they are basically a cake that’s baked, covered in sweetened condensed milk which soaks up into the cake, making it incredibly moist, and then usually topped with some kind of whipped topping. There are a ton of variations out there. The sky is the limit!

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

A friend requested something “cannoli flavored” for her husband’s birthday a while ago and since I’ve been wanting to make a poke cake for so long, it just popped into my head and I knew I had to do it!

There are so many ways to make cannoli’s – particularly the filling – and when done right, they are absolutely delicious!

The filling really is the best part – and that’s exactly what this cake is covered in. Get pumped!

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

The cannoli filling “icing” on this cake is one of those things that you just cannot get your finger out of. I was lucky any of it made it onto the cake.

And my small group felt exactly the same way! They were basically licking the sides of the pan where the topping was left behind – using their finger of course. So stinkin’ good.

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

One thing I did a little differently with this poke cake is that I didn’t use an entire can of sweetened condensed milk when pouring it over the cake. I didn’t want to the cake to be too soggy, but I wanted it to have the moist-ness and delicious-ness that the sweetened condensed milk gives.

But since it didn’t all go into the cake, and I hate wasting things, I put it into the cannoli filling.

Best. Decision. Ever.

It sweetened the topping up just enough and made it even harder to resist. Pure deliciousness.

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

Have you seen my Baklava Poke Cake? Or my Cannoli Icebox Cake? So yummy!

Update 6/10/14: One thing to note about the topping on this cake is that it is not like a traditional icing. It is meant to be more like cannoli filling. The texture is kind of like whipped cream at the soft peak stage. If you’d prefer it to be thicker, you can do one or both of these two things – leave the sweetened condensed milk out of the topping (as it thins it out a bit) and/or add up to about 3 cups of powdered sugar (which would thicken it). I chose to leave it thinner so that I didn’t dilute the cannoli flavor from the cheeses – I love that flavor! And though it’s thinner, it’s still plenty thick to be on top of the cake. I’ve made this cake a couple of times and it has sat out at parties and the icing stays in place. So it isn’t so thin that it runs or anything, it’s just not a traditional icing. I hope that helps, as I know many have been surprised the fact that it isn’t thicker.

You might also like

Cannoli Layer Cake
Cannoli Cheesecake
Cannoli Tart
Cannoli Icebox Cake
Baklava Poke Cake
Cannoli Stuffed French Toast

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A slice of Cannoli Poke Cake on a white plate

Cannoli Poke Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: Box Directions
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 15-18 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


This Cannoli Poke Cake is a lovely vanilla cake soaked with sweetened condensed milk and covered in sweet cannoli filling. It’s a moist, indulgent dessert that will rock your socks off!



  • 1 box white cake mix, plus ingredients on box
  • 1 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • powdered sugar, for dusting


1. Bake cake according to directions on box for a 9×13 pan.
2. Remove cake from the oven and poke holes all over the top of the cake. (I used a straw)
3. Reserve half a cup of sweetened condensed milk and pour the rest of the sweetened condensed milk over the cake.
4. Put cake in refrigerator for about an hour to absorb milk.
5. Combine ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract in a mixer bowl. Mix until smooth.
6. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using and mix until combined.
7. Add reserved sweetened condensed milk and mix until combined.
8. Once cake has absorbed milk, spread cannoli topping evenly over cake.
9. Top with mini chocolate chips and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
10. Cover cake and allow to set in refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Cake should keep for 4-5 days.


Do consider straining the ricotta before using, especially if it’s a particularly watery brand. Also, when mixing together the ricotta and mascarpone cheese, DO NOT over mix it. If mascarpone cheese is over mixed, it becomes very thin.

Keywords: cannoli cake, cannoli cake recipe, poke cake, poke cake recipe, cannoli recipe, cannoli cream recipe, italian christmas cake, italian dessert recipe, moist vanilla cake recipe, moist cake recipe


Cannoli topping modified from The Vintage Mixer.

Cannoli Poke Cake - vanilla cake topped with cannoli filling icing!

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Recipe rating

  1. Kristina

    I’m making this for the second time in a week tonight. Tested it out on my family on Sunday – LOVED it. Making it for a work function tomorrow & have no doubt it will be a BIG hit. THANKS!

  2. Jewel Penzam

    I just made this for Easter and everyone loved it! The frosting came out just like normal frosting for me. I used whole milk ricotta which I could not drain at all. I also used only a 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk in the frosting, along with 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar and it came out exactly like normal frosting. I will definetly be making this cake again!

  3. Catherine

    Dear Lindsay, this cake sounds marvelous. It looks so light and moist…I will be dreaming of this all day! xo, Catherine

  4. tamatha

    I love cannolis. A real connisuer. I made this cake on Sunday. The reviews from family and friends were some of the best I have ever gotten and I bake a lot. I love this cake! So much so, that I am making it again, this Sunday! SO Delish and kind of refreshing! Thank you, Recipe Maker.
    1 note; I used 1 1/2 bars of the new “greek” cream cheese in stead of the mascapone for a nice little tangy zip. I think I’ll keep it that way on the count of the extra protein. Thanks again..Love Love LOVE this recipe!

  5. Patti

    This cake was as you said: amazing!! The
    next time I make it though(and there will be
    a next time) I will make the cannoli frosting
    a little thicker. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Candace Wray

    I didn’t read through every comment, so I’m not sure if this has already been answered or asked, but can you make a white cake from scratch and use instead of a box? That may seem like a silly question, but I was curious. I have only recently learned about poke cakes and I always see them made with boxed cake mix. Is it just for convenience?


      Yes, you could use a homemade cake. I think it’s mostly convenience to use a box. Box cakes also tend to be very fluffy, which makes it nice for absorbing the liquid easily. I have done other poke cakes with a scratch cake before though.

  7. Christine Gascoine

    I am making this now. Going to a rather large gathering and i doubled it. My “frosting” is not overly thick or thin. I did strain the ricotta. It is tasty. I found the type of ricotta you use can be on the “grainy” side. I only used a few tablespoons of the condensed milk in the frosting. I will give it a full review once it has been consumed. So far so good.

  8. anita

    I am making this cake this very second. Looks absolutely amazing. My store did NOT have mascarpone cheese but I did find a substitute recipe…..16oz softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream & 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream. Blend until smooth. Voila

  9. Miss Madhatter

    Hello, love 🙂 I happened to tumble upon this website by accident, and as usual, the sugarey section attracted me to clicking and more clicking. I scrolled down to the reviews and I saw how you replied to each and every one. I think it’s very kind of you to do so, and with those hopes, I decided to tell you thank you and God, how I wish I were your neighbor! And I also had a question; my dad isn’t very fond of too much sugar so I was worried about how sugarey all of that condensed milk plus frosting plus cake box mix, which is already very sweet, is going to be. Can I make the white cake from scratch without adding sugar? Or is it going to taste horrible? Please tell me, oh Great Sweet One. 😀


      I’m so glad you found my blog! 🙂 As for how sweet this cake is, I have a pretty big sweet tooth, so probably take this with a grain of salt – or sugar – but I do think this is one of my less sweet cakes. The topping for sure is not super sweet. You could reduce the amount of sweetened condensed milk that you pour over the cake though, if you wanted.

  10. Courtney Gullickson

    I made this today. My icing was grainy…maybe from the ricotta. Is that normal? Could I have done something wrong?


      Hmm, it isn’t normal for it to be grainy, but I have heard that once before. I’m really not sure what it’d be. The mascarpone and powdered sugar shouldn’t make it grainy, so the only thing I’d think would be the ricotta. Maybe try to beat the ricotta until smooth before adding it to the topping next time.

  11. SynCyn

    I am so making this cake for work this Thursday coming for a friend that is leaving. I will get back on the turn out. It looks and sounds amazing.

  12. Tiffany

    Made this late tonight. Will be taking it to a get together tomorrow afternoon. Wasn’t sure I would have enough time to make it in the morning. Looks delicious! I was worried with some of the reviews about the consistency of the topping. However mine actually came out thick and whipped like frosting. I really think it does have a lot to do with the water content of the cheeses. I used Mascarpone (container said made for Tiramisu and more) and Fresca Ricotta cheeses found in deli section of grocery store. They each had a thick consistency. I used Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate chips on top. I can’t wait to eat this tomorrow!

  13. Erin

    Currently in the process of making the cake! So far so good, just waiting for the cake to absorb milk in the fridge and then I will frost it! Question about the cannoli filling/topping… thickness is good as I added just a little extra powdered sugar and my ricotta didn’t need straining (I was worried but so far it’s not water) however it is a bit grainy


      Hmm, I’m not sure why it’d be grainy. There isn’t really anything in the icing that should cause that. Did it turn out alright?

  14. Holly

    The only thing that worked was the cake. The frosting/topping went in the trash. Somehow this recipe is deceptive since it has failed for so many.


      I’m not sure what you mean Holly. Looking through the comments, there are a few that had trouble, but the majority have loved it and made it several times. Did you strain the ricotta? It seems like different brands have various amounts of liquid and that could be the problem that some are having.

  15. destiny

    ive been dying to make this for a while just hadnt had time to go out and find mascarpone cheese i havent been able to find it anywhere and i finally did but instead of regular i got cocoa flavored I saw it and was like why not add more chocolately ❤❤
    the container says made with espresso and cocoa mmmm

  16. Laura James

    I made this is week. Delicious! I do have a question…Is it suppose to be 1/2 cup of ricotta and 1/2 cup mascarpone or 1-1/2 cups of both? I did the 1-1/2 c of both and my icing layer was much thicker than what yours appears to be in the photo.


      It is 1-1/2 cups of each. It could just be the way the photos look. Sounds like you did it correctly. I hope you enjoyed it!

  17. Debbie Lind

    This cake is in the fridge now.. It’s
    Christmas Eve and I was asked to bring dessert to a party. I know it will be yummy because it smells amazing and we licked the frosting batters!

  18. melissa

    I loved this recipe!! I wondered if it could be made and frozen? It would only be for a week then taken out. Thanks for the delicious recipe!


      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I have never tried freezing it, so I’m not sure how well that’d work.

  19. Kerrie

    This is on my menu for Christmas. Can someone tell me do I have to strain the Ricotta? Lindsay do you? Thanks.


      I don’t strain it, but I know some have and prefer to. I think it’s a question of just how thick you want your icing. I don’t think you can go wrong either way, but if it’s a particularly wet ricotta, straining it might be good to be safe.

  20. cpink537

    I made this today and my icing came out thick. I strained the ricotta as you are supposed to do with cannoli filling. The consistency of the icing was great however, overall I didn’t think the cake itself was great. It wasn’t very sweet and very bland, not much flavor at all. Everyone who tried it thought the same. 🙁


      That’s perfect! It should be thicker. I’ve never actually had a problem with it being runny.

  21. Linda

    Made this for dinner tonight – absolutely delicious!!! Thinking about adding a little bit of Amaretto to the topping next time – YUM!

  22. funsize wife

    This is a lot easier to make than it looks. I made it for friends that lived in the Chicago area and they were pretty impressed. Just don’t try the frosting until the cake is covered or it will never get to the cake. Using the cinnamon gave the taste a little more complex and I recommend adding it in. Thanks for such a great recipe, because cannoli are a real pain to fill!

  23. Michelle

    Love the recipe. Am making today for my stepdaughters birthday. Cannoli cake is her face and we all love homemade. Am going to try to thicken up icing with various tips on your comments section. So so excited

  24. Charlene

    I made this cake into two 8×8 cakes and brought them to two different occasions. They were both met with rave reviews! The cannoli topping is so good!!! I used slightly less than the recommended cinnamon and about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. I am baking some white cupcakes right now to attempt to transform this recipe into cupcakes… Here goes nothing!

      1. Charlene

        First crack at cupcakes did not work out… I used a different ricotta that must have been more moist because I could not get the filling to thicken… Next time I will try straining the ricotta. Also, I will alter the white cake batter – adding the sweetened condensed milk wasn’t working and a plain white cupcake was missing something… This is definitely a work in progress and I will be trying again! This cannoli frosting is too good to not be inside a delicious, moist white cupcake!

  25. Carol

    When I make a layered cannoli cake, I use whipped cream to frost the sides. Is there any way to use whipped cream into the recipe?


      Maybe you could add some whipped cream around the edges of the cake? Or a scoop when you serve the pieces of cake?

  26. Miranda Chandler

    Made this tonight and the filling is wonderful! I substituted the mascarpone cheese with 1 package of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream, and 2 tablespoons of softened butter – just whipped them together in my mixer and it turned out awesome!


      I’m so glad you were able to make substitutions that worked for you! Thanks Miranda! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  27. Friday Fun! - Cupcakes & Kale Chips

    […] I love and want to bake – Cannoli Poke Cake from Life, Love and Sugar (on my Gluten-Free Baking Inspiration […]

  28. sarah y.

    I made the cake today and for the frosting I omitted the extra condensed milk and used 1.5 cups of powdered sugar. I think it taste amazing and looks pretty sturdy. I am bringing this for a potluck along with the no-bake Oreo cheesecake. I love this site!


      I’m so glad you are happy with it Sarah! I’m glad you are enjoying the site too – thanks!! 🙂

      1. valerie

        I used and did everything you said and the frosting was so runny! It would not stay on the cake…..why???? I made it twice and the same terrible end result. Why am I reading people had to alter the recpe. Why did your come out like the picture and not ours? What a mess!


        I’m sorry you’re having trouble with the topping. It seems like the ricotta usually is the problem, as there’s a lot of variation in the amount of water in it. You could try replacing the ricotta with mascarpone, to avoid it completely. You could also strain the ricotta, leave the sweetened condensed milk out of the icing entirely or add more powdered sugar.

  29. Tannette B

    Made this tonight (according to reipe). Yes, the cannoli filling was runny even though the ricotta was not wet enough to drain. It did not stay on top of the cake but ran to and over the sides. It tastes delicious and was definitely hard to keep from eating out of the bowl. I’m hoping it will harden in the fridge because it does not look like yours. Did you whip the filling with an electric mixer or by hand? Runny or not, I will try it again!

  30. Cheri Wilkinson

    I wanted to let you know that this recipe was the most awesome cake I have ever made !! I also tried it over a dark chocolate cake which was absolutely heavenly !!! Kuddos to you for sharing this recipe !!!

About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12