This is a traditional Italian dessert that is often served as a birthday cake and can be purchased in Italian bakeries in NY. But alas, if you now live in Texas, you have to figure out how to make it yourself. I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere that was exactly what I was looking for and so I ended up pulling different parts from different recipes and tweaking them to get it right — and the end result was pretty amazing and something I will make again regularly for birthdays and holidays. It is both creamy and crispy, rich without being too sweet, and has a really unique consistency and flavor.
There are several parts to the cake; sponge cake layers, cannoli cream (a filling), a rum syrup (that the cake layers are brushed with), and stabilized whipped cream ( the topping). Below are the recipes for all the parts.
For the sponge cake: Pan di Spagna
- 5 egg yolks
- 5 egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cannoli cream layer:
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup confectionary sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
For the chocolate Pasticciera cream layer:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
For the rum syrup:
- 1/4 cup dark or light rum
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
For the stabilized whipped topping:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 cup confectionary sugar
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
For the Italian Sponge Cake (Pan di Spagna):
1. Place egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat (with the whipping beater that you would use for egg whites) until very thick and lemon colored (mixture should be at least doubled in volume, and thick like frosting – it takes about 10 minutes of beating to reach the proper volume/texture).
2. Add flour, a little at a time, gently folding it in until well blended.
3. Fold in vanilla
4. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into cake mixture.
5. Butter and line the bottoms of 2 8’ cake pans with parchment paper
6. Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
7. Remove cake from oven and turn out (of pan) onto a cake rack to cool completely.
For the chocolate cream layer (pasticciera):
1. Place sugar, egg yolks, flour, and vanilla in a saucepan and mix together well.
2. In a separate saucepan, scald milk.
3. Slowly pour milk over egg yolk mixture, in a thin stream, beating constantly.
4. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring, until mixture reaches the boiling point.
5. Cook 4 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
6. Remove pan from heat, add chocolate and butter and mix well.
7. Pour into bowl and let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, until very thick. This will be used as a filling between the cake layers.
For the cannoli cream layer:
1. Beat together (using the whip attachment): 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla, and 1/2 cup confectionary sugar
2. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use as a filling between cake layers.
For rum syrup: mix together the water, sugar, and rum in a small pot.
1. Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Remove from the heat and cool before using.
For Stabilized Whipped Cream:
1. Beat cold cream until it just starts to thicken.
2. Add corn syrup, ¼ cup of sugar, and vanilla
3. Beat until stiff peaks form.
1. Slice each sponge cake in half to form 4 layers
2. Brush each layer with the rum mixture and let dry slightly
3. Place one layer down at the cake’s bottom, then spread the cannoli cream layer, then lay another cake layer, then the chocolate cream layer, then another cake layer, then another cannoli cream layer, then another cake layer. Frost with the whipped cream and let chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. Refrigerate any leftovers.