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Italian Rum Cake, Cannolis, Italian NY Cheesecake Recipes! Don't Go to Grandma's If You Are on a Diet!

Updated on July 22, 2021

I Haven't Made Cannolis in 25 Years!

My husband and I used to make cannolis as Christmas gifts for the people we cared about. For a couple of weeks every year, our kitchen would be full of flour, shortening and ricotta that was flown in to California from New York. We had a real Italian deli in our small town, owned by an Italian family and they would actually fly in authentic ricotta, mozarella and Italian meats from my birthplace in New York. Sure, you can buy these products in California, but they are not the same! I think it is the water on the east coast. The cheeses actually have a taste and the meats are even better! We would make dozens and dozens of shells and then right before we were planning to do our Christmas Eve drive-bys (it had a different definition then!), I would make the ricotta filling, we would stuff them and make the trays up. It never seemed like a chore. It was always fun and we knew our friends looked forward to these treats every year! And sure enough, before the shells became the least little bit soggy, these luscious delicacies were gone!

I haven't made cannolis since the year my husband died. It has been 26 years since I bought Crisco. The forms I used to shape the shells were long gone and the ricotta cream filling recipe was lost. One day, a few months ago, I was looking through some old papers and there it was, my cannoli recipe! Since everything in my life has to have a greater significance than it really does, this find had to mean something! It must, after all, be a sign that the world is in need of my cannolis again. I sent for new forms. I even bought a big can of Crisco! The Italian deli closed a few years after my husband died, but Frigo whole milk ricotta is pretty good. I never had to drain the NY ricotta, but I won't take the chance with the Frigo. I will drain the ricotta through cheesecloth so that the filling isn't runny and just this year, I will make cannolis for Christmas again!

The Tools I Have That You Might Like, Too!

Norpro, Set of 4 Stainless Steel Cannoli Forms, 5.75in/14.5cm
Norpro, Set of 4 Stainless Steel Cannoli Forms, 5.75in/14.5cm
These are just like the ones I used 25 years ago!

Italian Rum Cake Was What I Grew Up On!

When I was a little girl in New York, we would go to church every Sunday. After church, someone would stop by the bakery and pick up the rum cake and we would go to great grandma's for the day. My grandma (we lived with her) would be there, my mom and dad and of course, my Aunt Rose and her son, my Uncle Buddy, the bookie. Aunt Rose and Uncle Buddy lived with great-grandma. My cousins, Al and Frankie and my Uncle Bobby would spend the better part of the day at great grandma's. I think my Uncle Tony was away in the Army, either that or he didn't go to church anymore. When the boys got to a certain age, they didn't go to church, that is until they got married and then the rule was that you had to go again. Their vacation was over when they got married! They got to have sex, but they had to pay a price; going to Church with their new, Italian wife!

Anyway, as a little girl, I didn't know any of those things. I just knew I was going to have my great grandma's spaghetti and meatballs and then I was going to have my favorite, Italian rum cake!

I remember that it had a whipped cream frosting, the sides covered with slivered almonds, and cherries on top. It was so tall, a full four layers of moist, rum soaked cake, divided by whipped cream icing on each of the layers. I don't know why I was allowed to have this cake that had at least a full cup of rum in it? But I do remember it being my absolute favorite part of Sunday!

I have a recipe for Italian Rum Cake. My grown kids don't like it, probably because they tasted it before the rum actually soaked into the cake for 24-48 hours. This is a cake that you cannot eat until at least the next day, unless you really like rum a lot. Ideally, 48 hours is the optimal waiting period.

My best friend spent the weekend with me a few weeks ago. Her favorite dessert is tiramisu, another Italian dessert. God! We make the best food! I have a recipe for tiramisu, too, but it is so involved, I don't have enough energy to make that one. So, I made her an Italian rum cake. I figured she would like it because it has the same rum that the tiramisu has. She loved it! I didn't even have the chance to make the whipped cream frosting for it. She wasn't interested in the frosting; she had to have the cake! I was so happy! My friend took the rest of the cake with her when she left and called me two days later saying she had finished it and that it was the best cake she had ever had. It was now tied with the tiramisu for first place.

A Real Italian Cheesecake!

There is almost nothing better than a New York Cheesecake, unless of course, it is an Italian Cheesecake from New York! There is a distinct difference. A NY cheesecake is tall. It is baked in a water bath, which gives it a creamy texture. On the other hand, an Italian cheesecake is tall, but is usually not baked in a water bath, which gives it a more cake-like texture. I don't have a problem duplicating the cream cheese from New York, so the biggest problem I have with an Italian cheesecake is making sure that I can prevent it from cracking down the middle. Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese provides a beautiful texture, as well as taste. Even if it cracks, I may be a little disappointed, but it still tastes the same.

It is rich and heavenly, and of all the desserts that I have already talked about, an Italian cheesecake is by far my favorite! To make it even better, raspberry sauce can be served on the side.

Italian Cannolis Recipe!

These shells can actually keep for well over a month, even up to 2 months if they are stored in an airtight container, so you can spend the time, make them once, and then make the filling as needed.

Cannoli Shells:

  1. 3 Tablespoon of shortening
  2. 2 cups of flour
  3. 2 Tablespoons of sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  5. 1 egg, beaten
  6. 1/4 cup of milk

Cut the shortening (I use Crisco, but you may use cold butter) into the flour. Fold in the sugar. Combine the vanilla and the cinnamon into the milk. Add the milk a few drops at a time. Add the egg and mix until the pastry holds together. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Divide the pastry dough into quarters. On a flour covered board, roll out the pastry dough so that it is thin, but not too thin to handle easily. Cut each quarter into 4 - 5 oval shapes. I start with cutting circles and then gently rolling each into an oval shape. Wrap each oval around your forms. Keep your dough cold between batches of ovals I only have 4 forms, so it takes a little longer. Seal the edges with an egg wash. Deep fry the first batch of cannolis in heated Crisco. 350 degrees is probably right around the correct temperature. When the cannoli shells are browned on all sides, remove them to drain on paper towels. When they have cooled enough to handle, gently slide them off the forms and repeat the process.

A Basic Cannoli Filling Recipe:

  1. 2 cups of whole ricotta cheese that has been drained through a strainer lined with cheesecloth for at least 24 hours. Keep the ricotta refrigerated throughout this process.
  2. 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  3. 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar
  4. 1 cup of roughly chopped chocolate chips
  5. 1 cup of maraschino cherries, roughly chopped and dried with a paper towel
  6. 1 Tablespoon of lemon or orange zest (I prefer the orange)

Mix together the ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla and the zest. Gently fold in the chocolate and cherries. Fill the cannoli shells with the filling as you are planning to use them. If they are filled too far in advance, the shells will get soggy. Dust the tops with powdered sugar. This filling is quite plain. Cannoli filling usually has dried, candied fruit in it; much like the fruit found in a fruit cake. I don't like that in my cannolis.  Enjoy!

An Easy, Italian Rum Cake Recipe!

Even though I pride myself on using boxes or cans very rarely in my kitchen, this is the recipe I take help with. I have been unable to mimic the actual rum cake texture of my childhood memories, but this recipe comes the closest, and it requires a box cake mix and a boxed instant pudding mix. A homemade yellow cake, or even a homemade spongecake doesn't have the strength to hold up to the rum, at least in my experience.

I have done some research on rum cakes. Send one to a soldier and it will make it just fine through the mail, without refrigeration. The rum and the sugar act as preservatives. Apparently, throughout the years, rum cakes have have been a favorite to send during times of war. The only thing missing will be the whipped cream frosting and if you have ever had rum cake, the frosting is really not necessary. I am considering accepting orders and making these wonderful cakes for shipping to anywhere in the world!

  1. 1 box of yellow cake mix (I highly recommend Pillsbury)
  2. 1 box (3.5 ounce) of vanilla instant pudding
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 1/2 cup of water
  5. 1/2 cup of canola oil
  6. 1/2 cup of rum
  7. 1/2 cup of chopped pecans

Combine the yellow cake mix and the pudding in a bowl. Make sure the two are well mixed. In another larger mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium high. Add the water, oil and rum and mix until frothy. Add the yellow cake mix and pudding to the wet ingredients. Blend the ingredients and then mix on medium high for about 2 minutes, making sure that there are no lumps. Generously spray or grease and flour a bundt pan, such as the one I have pictured above. Make sure the entire pan is treated, not just the bottom, but all the way up the sides. Evenly pour the pecans across the bottom of the pan. Pour in the batter evenly. Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean when the cake is finished. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan. Clean the pan and re-spray it. When the cake has cooled, return it to the bundt pan and with a skewer, poke some holes into the cake. Evenly pour the rum glaze over it and allow the glaze to soak in.

Rum Glaze:

  1. 3 Tablespoons of butter
  2. 1/4 cup of butter
  3. 1/4 cup of sugar
  4. 1/2 cup of rum

Heat the sugar and water. Add the butter and cook this over a medium high heat until it is syrupy. Make sure you stir this while you are cooking it. When it is the same consistency as syrup, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rum. Allow it to cool for a few minutes before pouring it over the cake.

One hint: After you have poured the glaze onto the cake, do not let it sit in the pan too long. The cake will end up sticking because the glaze is sticky. Let it soak in, but this shouldn't take more than 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan. Place it on your cake plate and allow it to sit for at least 24 hours before you frost it. If there is any rum glaze at the bottom of the pan, pour it over the top of the cake.

Whipped Cream Frosting that won't get runny:

  1. 1/4 cup of water
  2. 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
  3. 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  4. 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  5. 2 Tablespoons of sugar
  6. 10 maraschino cherries, dried off with a paper towel
  7. 1 cup of slivered almonds, optional

Mix the gelatin and water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and then allow it to come to room temperature.

In a bowl that has been sitting in your freezer or fridge, pour in the whipping cream, vanilla and sugar. Beat on high. When halfway through, add the water and gelatin mixture. Continue beating on high until stiff peaks form. Frost your cake immediately. Place the cherries on top, scattered. You can now put the almonds around the sides of the cake. Refrigerate promptly.

The frosting really is not necessary for this cake to be a hit! If you think it is too much trouble, leave it unfrosted. If however, you want everyone to admire your handiwork and have an indelible memory branded into their minds, jump in! You really cannot mess this frosting up. The addition of the gelatin will make this frosting hold up well and not get runny. I have used this frosting recipe for many cakes. Anywhere you think a whipped cream frosting, this one will work quite well.


Italian Grandma's Best Italian Cheesecake!

This recipe will not disappoint you if you are a lover of cheesecake! It is so good! Even if it cracks, no one will complain! This recipe contains no ricotta and when people think of an Italian cheesecake, that may be what comes to mind. That particular type of cake is what I have always called an Italian Easter Cake. I have never considered that to be a true Italian cheesecake, but a holiday cake. In a future hub, I will give you a great recipe for an Italian Easter Cake! But for now, get ready for an incredible cheesecake experience!

Update: 11/21/2010: My best friend and her daughter just made this cheesecake a few days ago. They had never tried baking a cheesecake before and it was an enormous success! They couldn't believe they had actually made something that looked as if it came from a bakery and tasted incredible! It was so good that they have been asked to make one for a Thanksgiving Dinner that they have been invited to attend. So go ahead! Try this recipe!

  1. 4 packages (8 ounces each) of Kraft Cream Cheese, room temperature-DO NOT USE REDUCED OR LOW FAT! Take the plunge! Use the real thing!
  2. 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 3/4 cup of whole milk
  5. 1/4 cup of flour (sift the flour to remove any lumps)
  6. 1 Tablespoon of vanilla
  7. 1 cup of good quality sour cream

Crust: For the crust I use:

  1. one sleeve of graham crackers ( I prefer honey graham)
  2. 1/4 cup of sugar
  3. 4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Crush the graham crackers by hand (or in your food processor) and mix them with the other ingredients. Press the cracker mix into the sprayed pan by hand and then refrigerate for 15 minutes prior to adding filling. I take a glass and use the bottom of the glass to tamp down the crust. It seems to work really well.

All of the ingredients for the cheesecake filling need to be at room temp. Cream sugar and cream cheese together. Add eggs, one at a time. Add milk- then flour, alternating, using about one third of each at a time. Add the vanilla- Add the sour cream last. Pour into a well-sprayed 9 inch springform pan like the one I have pictured- bake at 350 for 60 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for a few hours without opening the oven door.

I wait for cream cheese to go on sale and then I make this cheesecake. The last time I made it, it did crack, so the next time I am going to try putting a small pan of hot water in the oven and see if that will help. Previously, I stated that the crack didn't bother me, but I would like to perfect the recipe while not changing the texture or flavor of the cake itself.

As for the raspberry sauce, try this one or use your own favorite:

  1. 1 pint of fresh raspberries
  2. 1/4 cup of sugar
  3. 2 Tablespoons of orange juice(if you don't have orange juice, you can use lemon juice)
  4. 1 - 2 Tablespoons of corn starch (I like a thin syrup, so use less than 2 T. Plus, when this is refrigerated, it gets thicker.)
  5. 1 cup of cold water

Put all of the ingredients in your blender. Blend into a smooth puree. Transfer to a small pot and while stirring, bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes. If you want this completely smooth, you can put it through a sieve or a strainer.

My Calabrese Recipes Might be Different from Your Sicilian Ones!

Remember, every region and area of Italy makes things differently. Some dishes named the same thing are not similar, region to region. My family is from Calabria. When my great grandma came to America, Calabria was a small farm town. I don't think she ever made a cannoli or cheesecake in her life! It was the next generation that formed our tastes as to these desserts and all Italian pastries. As for the rum cake, every cake great grandma ever made had some sort of liquor in it! I was told that during prohibition, she even made her own liquor in the basement; a talent she passed on to my grandma. My grandma tried to pass it on to me, but I wasn't interested. I am sorry now that I didn't.

As I edited this hub, I noticed that most of the childhood memories of my family included the foods that were served. If my memories were not so intertwined with food, this hub would be much shorter, but because of the family memories that these things evoke, writing these favorite Italian dessert recipes make me smile!


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