This swoon-worthy chocolate dessert begins with a box of cake mix — the rest is culinary magic

Is Sicilian love cake not the sexiest sounding thing in the world?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published March 10, 2022 5:45PM (EST)

Sicilian Love Cake (Mary Elizabeth Williams)
Sicilian Love Cake (Mary Elizabeth Williams)

In "Quick & Dirty," Salon Food's Mary Elizabeth Williams serves up simplified recipes and shortcuts for exhausted cooks just like you — because quick and dirty should still be delicious.

I don't know what the official name is for the genre of dessert I refer to as "wet cake." What I do know is I've never met a piece of rum caketiramisu or tres leches I didn't like.

When I first saw the enticingly named recipe for "Sicilian love cake" in "Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today" by Valerie Bertinelli, I had no idea what a moist, magical chocolate creation I had come across. I just knew it began with a box mix, which is always a fine place to start.

Like the hot fudge cake or the St. Louis gooey cake, the Sicilian love cake is a little bit of culinary magic. A cheesecake-ish filling is spooned atop a regular old chocolate cake mix batter. The filling sinks as the cake bakes, transforming the entire dessert into something new and amazing. What's more, it gets topped with a chocolate pudding frosting. The end result is a sheet cake guaranteed to make any crowd swoon. 

Bertinelli makes her Sicilian love cake with mascarpone. Though mascarpone is one of the most delicious foods on Earth, I chose to omit it in my "Quick & Dirty" version. It would have added another ingredient to my shopping list — and $12 to the cost of my cake. If you're feeling flush, feel free to follow Bertinelli's original equation.

RELATED: "I bought into the whole diet industry": Valerie Bertinelli on loving herself, food and Betty White

I used the same bowl for all three separate elements of my cake, but you have permission to dirty up as many bowls as you like. If you're serving a smaller group, simply leave half the cake unfrosted and freeze it for later. You won't regret having extra Sicilian love cake in your freezer on a rainy day.


Recipe: Sicilian Love Cake
Inspired by Valerie Bertinelli's "Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today"

12 servings
Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
40 minutes



  • 1 box chocolate cake mix, plus the ingredients in the directions
  • Additional oil, for greasing the pan


  • 1 32-ounce tub ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt


  • 2 cups whole milk 
  • 1 box instant chocolate pudding mix


  1. Preheat the oven according to the directions on the box of cake mix. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with oil. In a large bowl, prepare the cake batter (per the directions), pour it into the pan and set the pan aside.
  2. Combine the ricotta, eggs, sugar and salt in the same bowl and mix until smooth.
  3. Pour the filling onto the cake pan over the chocolate batter.
  4. Bake until the cake is firm and the chocolate layer has risen to the top, about 40 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.
  5. In a bowl, blend the pudding mix and milk until smooth, then frost the cake. Serve it straight out of the pan.


Cook's Notes

The box of chocolate cake mix that I used calls for 3 eggs and 1/3 cup of oil. 

The Sicilian love cake is so good that you can skip the frosting altogether and serve it with just a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

If you're feeling festive, you can also stamp out single portions with cookie cutters and frost them individually.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Cake Mix Quick & Dirty Recipe Sicilian Love Cake Valerie Bertinelli