So I said to myself…I said, “Self? If you can make ice box cakes, why can’t you make ice box CUPcakes? And, if you can make ice box cupcakes, why can’t you make No Bake Ice Box Cannoli Cupcakes?” Turns out…you can!
All it takes it a little summer heat to motivate me to make desserts that require little or no baking. As with so many things I make, this idea has been brewing in the back of my mind for a while now.
I love a good cannoli. I even requested a cannoli cake for my birthday last year. (My husband and kids did a bang up job with that:) I’ve been wanting to re-make that cake for the blog, but haven’t gotten around to it quite yet.
So this? This is the next best thing. Or, it’s the best thing if you don’t want to bake a cake at all.
As with many ice box cakes, you need something that will become the “cake.” The mother of so many ice box cakes is the one where you layer graham crackers and pudding, then top with whipped cream.
That’s the ice box cake I grew up with. There’s also the Famous Chocolate Wafer ice box cake, another blast from the past. I use those cookies in this version of an ice box cake.
The crackers or cookies are softened by the moisture in the pudding or whipped cream and become cake-like as they sit in the refrigerator.
Since I was making cupcakes, I wanted a round cookie that would fit nicely into my cupcake pan. I chose vanilla wafers as my “cake.”
Then, I moved on to my filling. I made a simple cannoli filling with ricotta cheese, whipped cream, vanilla and sugar. Easy peasy. It all happens in one bowl with an electric mixer.
I do love ricotta cheese in all its sweet (and savory) forms. I use ricotta in my Lemon Ricotta Crumb Cake and in my Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. It adds such a lovely richness and creaminess to those cakes.
For this recipe, I didn’t make the ricotta super sweet. The cookies are already sweet, so I just wanted a hint of sweetness from the filling. Of course, you can taste and adjust to your preference. But taste it on a cookie instead of straight from the bowl before you make your final decision.
Once you’ve got it mixed up, stir in your mini chocolate chips. They really should be mini. They’ll work the best here; minis means there will be more chips per bite.
Then, it’s just a matter of layering and assembly. Line a pan with paper cupcake liners. (You must use liners or you won’t be able to remove the cupcakes when you’ve completed the recipe.)
Start with a cookie bottom. Divide the ricotta mixture in half in your bowl. We’re going to do two layers of ricotta. Dividing it in your bowl (by just making a line down the middle of the mixture) will help you estimate how much to use for each layer.
We’ll be using three cookies for each cup. Once you have your cookie base placed in each cup, take the first half of the ricotta and divide it evenly among the cups.
Then, top all of the ricotta with another cookie and press down lightly to sandwich the filling between the cookies, making sure the ricotta spreads to the edges. Divide the remaining ricotta mixture among the cups. Top with another cookie and lightly press to sandwich the second layer.
Now it’s time to make the topping. And guess what? We’re going to save dishes and use the bowl the ricotta mixture was in. No need to clean it out. A little bit of ricotta in the whipped cream could only be a good thing, right?
Once you’ve whipped your cream and lightly sweetened it, we’ll use it to completely cover each cupcake. Remember, the secret of an ice box cake is to make sure all of your dry cookies are in contact with the moisture that’s going to allow them to become soft and cake like.
I decided to pipe the whipped cream but you are welcome to just dollop it on and spread it around with the back of your spoon or a spatula.
Next up is the chocolate shavings. I just took a bar of dark chocolate and used a vegetable peeler to shave off layers of it. If you want curls, you’ll need to have a softer block of chocolate so that the chocolate rolls better as you’re peeling it.
I just wanted shavings, so I didn’t bother with warming the chocolate at all. I just shaved off layers that were like little spikey sticks of chocolate yum, ready to melt in your mouth on contact. (You could also use mini chocolate chips, but I wanted something with a different texture and look for the top.)
I sprinkled some chocolate onto each cupcake and then sent the whole pan to the refrigerator. You’ll need at least four hours or overnight to insure that the cookies have softened properly into “cake.”
When it’s time to serve, just top with a cherry! I use Tillen Farms because they’re made with natural ingredients. I usually find them at Whole Foods. They are especially good in this recipe because I sometimes like to spoon a little of the cherry juice on top of my cupcake right before I eat it.
These No Bake Ice Box Cannoli Cupcakes were a hit with my taste testers. Of course, I had my questions…Should I have used two cookies instead of three? Is the filling thick enough? Is it sweet enough? Does it taste like cannoli?
Both kids and sugar loving adults that tried these thought everything was perfect as is. Except one. I had one tester that loved the filling so much she would have skipped the whipped cream and gone for another layer of ricotta on top.
And, by the way, you could totally do that. Just make more filling or use the same filling to make less cupcakes. You won’t have that pretty dollop or piped swirl of whipped cream on top, but I always believe that taste takes priority over presentation. (Though I’m confident that you could make a ricotta top look lovely, too!)
That’s another great thing about these assembly type desserts. They’re so easy to play around with. A little more of this, a little less of that. In the end, you’ll end up with this easy no bake dessert.
So, maybe you’re in the mood for a little cannoli. You can make an ice box cake, but can you make No Bake Ice Box Cannoli Cupcakes? Why yes,
yes you can!
No Bake Ice Box Cannoli Cupcakes
For the filling:
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
- 36 vanilla wafers (I used Trader Joe's)
For the whipped cream:
- 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tablespoons confectioner's sugar
For the topping:
- Chocolate shavings or mini chocolate chips for sprinkling on top
- Maraschino cherries I use Tillen Farms
- In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat ricotta, sugar and vanilla on medium until well combined. Drizzle the whipping cream down the side of the bowl and whip until fluffy. Fold in the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
- Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Place one vanilla wafer into the bottom of each cup.
- Take half of the ricotta filling (I draw a line in the filling to estimate about half) and distribute evenly on top of the wafers.
- Place another wafer on top of the filling and press down gently to sandwich the filling between the wafers.
- Top the second wafers with remaining filling and top with another cookie, pressing down gently to sandwich the filling between the wafers.
- In a medium bowl, (I used the same bowl the ricotta filling was in), whip the topping ingredients to stiff peaks. Pipe or use a spoon to top each of the cups, insuring that the entire cookie is covered.
- Sprinkle chocolate shavings or mini chocolate chips on top. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. You can use a toothpick to test if the cookies have completely softened. It should be able to penetrate the entire cupcake without resistance.
- Top with a marschino cherry just before serving.
*The filling is lightly sweetened to balance with the sweetness of the cookies. You can add more sugar if you'd like a sweeter filling, but when tasting, try the filling on a cookie to get a better idea of how they work together. The same goes for the whipped cream. Add more sugar if you'd like a sweeter topping.
*You can top with mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings. To make chocolate shavings, I simply used a vegetable peeler and scraped it across a thick bar of chocolate.
*For an extra hit of cherry flavor, you can drizzle a little bit of the maraschino cherry juice on top of the cupcake just before serving.
*If you want more filling and less cake, use only two cookies in each cup and just sandwich the filling between the two cookies. You may end up with less cupcakes since you'll need more filling in each cup.
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