We've come a long way from the fruitcake and fig pudding, baby!
The selection of desserts made for the holidays is as vast as the ocean. This year I wanted to come up with a dessert that was a refreshing as it was delicious. Christmas desserts can be as heavy as dinner, making them more of a chore to eat than a delight. That, of course, will just not work. I knew there had to be a combination of ingredients out there that was able to please, to wow and be so distinctive that it would have my guests taking seconds.
So I was on the Gazelle, running to nowhere and watching David Rocco on the Food Network. He and his wife had just run off to Italy real quick to visit some friends. Really? Now even though I was annoyed with his ability to flit off to foreign lands I resisted the want to change the station because his recipes are always inspiring.
That day's show did not disappoint.
He mentioned that after a three-course Italian meal there was nothing more refreshing than the flavors of a lemon and made a lemon tiramisu. Now I love tiramisu and could probably eat a whole pan with a big spoon and some good espresso. However, I want more wow than tiramisu so I started tossing around ideas for other lemon desserts. One of my favorite Italian treats is the cannoli. So my decision was to deconstruct its layers of flavor add the lemon in there somewhere and make it a table-worthy cake.
This cake has a lot of steps so I will try not ramble on about crazy things like Christmas spirit. Now, please do not be intimidated by the preparation; this cake is as easy as it is tasty. The layers of lemon cake, fluffy and light cannoli filling and rich dark chocolate are satisfying and refreshing and are sure to please.
Let’s cook and bring something unique to the holiday table.
Lemon Cannoli Cake
Mixer (handheld or stand up)
1 mixing bowl
1 small sauce pan
1 large cake round (or use 3 rounds if you have all the same size)
Metal rack (like the kind you use to cool bread or cookies)
Sheet tray to drain chocolate
Very sharp long knife, a bread knife works great
Oven at 350
For the Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 c milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 lemons, zest and juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp yellow food coloring (optional, just for color)
For the Filling
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
¼ c + 2 tblsp powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cocoa or ground chocolate (I throw a couple of chocolate chips in the coffee grinder)
For the Ganache
1 pint of heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
¼ c brewed strong coffee
1 bag of dark chocolate chips or 2 dark chocolate bars (very large bars)
Putting It All Together
Begin with the cake. Start with the butter and whip until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest, vanilla, milk and food coloring and mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated. Add in the flour a little at a time and mix well. Place the batter into the cake round. Now using one pan you will have to slice the cake into layers. (It is not as hard as it sounds.) If you use three rounds, fill the pans as evenly as possible. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean. Take the cake and place in the refrigerator to let the cake get very cold. About two hours.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl put all of the ingredients. Whip on high speed until the volume increases by about half. What you are doing is incorporating air to make the filling as fluffy as possible. Place the mixture in the refrigerator until the cake is cut.
Take the cold cake out of the fridge and place on the wire rack. I like to cut a round of parchment paper to place under the cake to keep it from sticking to the rack and to make it easier to slide off. Now take your knife and slide through the cake ⅓ of the way from the top. Set aside. Cut the cake again halfway between the top and bottom of the remaining cake and set the top portion aside. Don’t worry if you have uneven spots; they will be covered by filling and chocolate.
Take one half of the filling and place on the bottom layer then place the middle layer on top. Put the remaining filling on the middle layer and place the top back on. Now take the back of your knife and smooth the side so that it is even all the way down. You will have some grooves between layers, which will look wonderful under the chocolate. Place the cake in the fridge.
Now the ganache is so simple. Take the chocolate (don’t forget to chop it if it is in bars) and place it in a bowl. In the small sauce pan place the cream. Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat taking care not to scorch it. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let the heat from the cream melt it down. After a minute or two give the chocolate a stir and add in the vanilla and coffee. Stir until shiny and smooth.
Take the cake out of the fridge and place the cake, still on the rack, onto the sheet tray. Beginning at the center pour the ganache over the cake, letting it drizzle over the sides. Start slowly so that you have chocolate left to pour over uncovered spots. What you are left with is a delicious lemon cake with cannoli filling and a perfect chocolate glaze.