cannoli crepe cake with orange puree

cannoli crepe cake

I think this post should be filed under “I-Can’t-Just-Leave-It-Well-Enough-Alone”. Because, really, I can’t. Here’s the rub: while, in thirty-four years of eating I’ve eaten many a cannoli, I could count probably on one hand the number of times I have actually enjoyed it. This, coming from an Italian (and even more so a Sicilian) food fanatic, is a very sad, even embarrassing admission. But it’s true.

crepe mise the beginnings of orange puree
blanched orange puree - done!

If I think about it, the components themselves sound absolutely amazing. Sweet ricotta lightly nuanced with orange zest and cinnamon – delicious! Crunchy cannoli shell – incredible! But somehow, when I get an actual cannoli and bite into it, I am almost always disappointed. The filling, often, tastes starchy, almost glue-like; it is often so incredibly sweet that no other flavors shine through. The shell is almost always too hard, too sandy-tasting. Perhaps my disappointments stem from a certain inexperience, but here we are. And I have a crepe cake to show for it.

about to flip

I don’t know how I first conceived of a cannoli masking as a cake. At first I thought of a traditional layer cake but the idea felt somewhat unexciting. Somehow, in my mind’s palate, the ricotta filling and the cake layers, while sounding good, needed more. The filling needed a more delicate background against which to truly shine. My next idea led me to individual crepes, rolled up with a ricotta filling and served individually. But for some reason it lacked the ta-da! aspect of presentation. I was already thinking of doing a mushroom duxelles crepe cake for Mother’s Day brunch, and decided that doing two crepe cakes side by side might be too much.*

crepe edge

And so, I was almost ready to present this cake before you. The cake was almost perfect, but it was missing something.

cannoli crepe cake

But then something happened. Andrew took me out for my birthday to Aldea, an incredible Portuguese restaurant run by a very talented chef, George Mendes. We sat at the bar, facing the open kitchen – it was like theater to me. My main course emerged (a duck paella-like dish) and the plate had been dotted with these small orange blobs that tasted of the most intense orange I’ve ever had. On their own they were stupendous, but mixed with the saffron rice and the salty black olives – the puree was revelatory. Curious, I asked our server about it, and she went back into the kitchen to find out. A few minutes later, the chef himself (!), came over and explained exactly how he made the puree. And then, moments later, he returned with a small container of the puree, “This is for you to take home. It’s amazing on toast in the morning.”

cannoli crepe cake

I was floored by that small, kind gesture alone. I managed to squeak out a thank-you,
but in my head all I kept thinking was, “This is it! The missing element to the cannoli crepe cake.”

cannoli crepe cake

And there you have it. A little patience and a touch of serendipity – and the most amazing orange puree that will transform not just a cannoli cake, but just about anything that could use a little burst of sunny citrus.

As for a traditional cannoli, perfecting it is one of my many summer projects albeit slightly below getting married and finishing another book. But only slightly.

*If anyone wants to see a mushroom duxelles crepe cake, speak up. Maybe it’ll be perfect for a Father’s Day brunch? Not that Mother’s Day brunch should be all dainty and sweet and Father’s Day brunch should be all manly and savory.

Cannoli Crepe Cake

The orange puree here is entirely George Mendes recipe, as told to me. I approximated the number of minutes to whip the puree to get the consistency I had at the restaurant. The puree will look an awfully lot like curd, but the beauty of it is that it’s vegan friendly. Of course, my ricotta filling throws that notion right out the window.

For the Ricotta Orange Filling:
2 cups fresh ricotta (homemade is always best*)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

For the Orange Puree:
1 orange, preferably organic
1/2 cup sugar

For the Crepes: (makes about 16 crepes)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted melted butter, plus additional for the pan
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 scant tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Make the Ricotta Orange Filling:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon and the orange zest. Refrigerate until needed. [*If you decide to make your ricotta at home, be sure to drain it until it’s thick and creamy, not completely dry. Depending on how you’re draining your ricotta, that time will vary – I use flour sack towels and it takes about 6 to 8 hours. When I use cheese cloth, that time goes much, much faster. My advice to you is check on your ricotta until it’s the consistency of whipped cream cheese.]

Make the Orange Puree:
2. Zest the orange, making sure to have nice long strips of zest and discarding any pith you might inadvertently get. Cut the orange into large chunks, discarding any pits. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch the zest in boiling water for 2 minutes. Transfer the zest to an ice bath. Repeat the process 2 more times.
3. While you blanch the zest, bring 1/2 cup of water and the sugar to a boil. You will have more simple syrup than you will need. You can add the syrup to your morning iced coffee, cocktails, what-have-you. It’s good for 2 weeks.
4. Add the blanched zest, the orange segments, and 1 tablespoon of the simple syrup to a blender. Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, puree the mixture for about 8 minutes or until it becomes thick and emulsified. Refrigerate the puree until needed.

Make the Crepes:
5. Place the flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, brandy, vanilla extract, and the kosher salt into a blender and whip on high for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
6. Warm a 10-inch crepe pan (or another shallow non-stick pan) over medium heat. Brush the pan very lightly with melted butter. Ladle 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan and quickly swirl the pan to coat the bottom with the batter. Let the crepe cook, undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Using a small offset spatula (I find these work best for me), flip the crepe over and finish cooking the other side, about 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Transfer the cooked crepe to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter. You can stack your crepes on top of one another and then gently peel the crepes off – don’t worry, they won’t stick.

Assemble the Crepe Cake:
7. Lay 1 crepe on plate or a cake stand. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling over the crepe and dot with 2 teaspoons of the orange puree. Spread the puree. Top with another crepe and repeat with the filling and the puree until you are out of crepes. If you have enough ricotta at this point, you can spread the remaining on top of the last crepe. [I don’t recommend mixing the ricotta filling with the orange puree because if you have any puree left over, you really want to save it to put over your morning toast – it’s divine.]

8. Serve the cake immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. The cake should stay good for about 4 days, if it lasts that long.

Serves 8 to 10


  • Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking

    Perfect! I’m really not too fond of cannolis because whenever I bit into one there almost always seems to be something missing and I can never figure out what it is. I think you may have struck gold with this little component! I’m very excited to try it! Thanks, Olga!
    Sounds like you had an incredible dinner! What a huge treat to be able to speak personally to the chef and have him give you that wonderful gift – and on your birthday!
    Happy Birthday to you!!

  • Dana

    If this is what we get from not being able to leave well enough alone, keep up with it! :) This looks so tasty! Perfect for Mother’s Day.

  • Marissa

    Beautiful. I agree with you about the ‘something’s missing’ factor of cannoli – citrus zing seems a likely remedy. Can’t wait to try this.

  • Sarah

    I agree about the cannoli filling! It’s almost always too sweet and gluey – thanks to the mascarpone mostly.

    I worked at a European pastry shop that used to make crepe cakes with pastry cream filling and chocolate ganache on top and it was divine, but yours sounds just as awesome! Maybe you could put chocolate ganache on top of yours, too? I love chocolate and orange together.

  • Radish

    Sarah – go for it. I wanted to keep this as a simple cannoli flavors. I didn’t want to put so much into 1 cake. The orange puree really needed its own platform, so to speak, but definitely try with drizzled chocolate, I doubt you can go wrong.

    Laurie – good luck! You can do it!

  • Hannah

    This is inspired! I’ve made a crepe cake before with a pastry cream/whipped cream filling and loved it – I think I’d like your version even more! I completely agree with you about cannolis, they are so often overly sweet. I was just in Boston last week and had a fabulous one – not too sweet, and you could really taste the flavor and grain of the ricotta. Very rich and satisfying! Can’t wait to try your cake (especially with the orange puree).

  • Katie

    Quick question – when you say to repeat the blanching / ice bath process 2 more times, do you mean to take the zest from the ice bath and return it to the blanching water, back to the ice bath, back to the blanching water, and one last time in the ice bath?


  • Radish

    Katie – you need to change the water every time, but yes, you’re taking the zest from the ice bath back into boiling water. Because it’s a small amount of water, it’s easy to heat up in no time. Alternatively, you can have 3 small pots of water at the ready.

  • Mikaela Cowles

    I completely agree. Cannoli’s have to be refrigerated because of the filling, but when you do that the shell gets all gross. And, in general they just rarely taste that “wow” amazingness which you expect. Total let down, but from the looks and sounds of this, there’s not let down here.

  • Anna

    I made the banana crepe cake that smitten kitchen posted a few weeks ago, and im totally enamored with the concept and technique. I’d love to see the mushroom duxelles one!

  • Radish

    Anna – Debbie’s cake is nothing short of terrific! Loved her idea and think it’s absolutely brilliant!

  • Melody Hyatt

    Hi! This sounds amazing!! I am a bit confused though. Is the zest the orange peel? I see in your photo that you have the peels in the blanching basket. Thanks!

  • Bella Hardy

    Wow! Thiscannoli crepe cake with orange puree recipe is incredible! I’m seriously so inspired right now. I need to add honey to recipe and it would be perfect. Thx for sharing!

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