I hope everyone had a wonderful and chocolatey Easter!  Apologies for taking so long to get this post up but better late than never, right?

Tiramisù means “pick me up” and is a classic dessert, the origins of which are a hotly debated issue.   I won’t join the fray here except to suggest the claims that it originates in the Veneto region, and specifically around Treviso, are well founded.  OK … disclaimer:  my family is from Treviso, so sue me for being a little biased, but I think there’s evidence to support it.  It’s a modern dessert, inspired no doubt, by the famous Zuppa Inglese from Toscana.  Its flavour roots though bear more than a passing resemblance to a traditional pick-me-up treat that was given to children and adults alike when they needed to regain strength after an illness or were just feeling run down.  I remember my grandmother used to beat a fresh egg with Marsala and sometimes a shot of espresso coffee and the reason was always per tiratesù! (Venetian dialect for to pick you up!).  It was certainly the only way I could contemplate having egg as a child, with the sweetness of the Marsala and the sharp kick of the coffee.  It was funny watching her force my father to have it just because she claimed he was “too skinny” by her standards and couldn’t possibly be strong enough to work as hard as he did.  Ahhh … I loved my Nonna 🙂

I learned to make tiramisù on my first trip to Italy, as a teenager, and I was lucky enough to learn from a wonderful lady, Zia Lucia.  OK, she isn’t my real aunt, rather a close friend of the family, but I called her Zia anyway.  We were invited for lunch and it was the first time I’d ever eaten tiramisù.  I thought it was the most fabulous dessert EVER.  It wasn’t too sweet, wonderfully creamy but with a lovely sponge biscuit layer that was SOAKED, I mean SOAKED, in coffee, brandy and a little Marsala.  I modified Zia Lucia’s recipe over time.  Not because her recipe wasn’t wonderful enough as it was!  I like to think my changes have merely gilded the lily a little.

Over the years, I made this dessert so many times, I’ve lost count.  It featured at practically every occasion for family and friends.  So much so, I ended up making large decorated free-standing tiramisù cakes for special occasions.  I stopped making it some years ago as a form of protest.  Can you blame me?  Oh come on, I was bored.  But now I’m rediscovering it all over again in a fit of nostalgia.  I made it as a surprise for our family gathering at Easter this year and I think it has become special all over again.  I may just put it back on the Easter lunch menu as a given from now on.   It’s always been a favourite of family and friends.

You can, of course, make your own sponge fingers for this – using your favourite sponge recipe and piping the mixture into 12 cm x 3cm finger lengths.  I tend to make a sponge for this recipe only when I want to make it look elegant as a showpiece Tiramisù Cake or entremets, for which I make sponge layers as it’s more stable to cut into slices.

For a classic tiramisù, however, I’m a traditionalist … only good quality bought savoiardi will do.  It’s one of those rare occasions in which I don’t bake them from scratch, but I think it’s important for the coffee soaked biscuit layers.  The reason this tiramisù is so wonderful?  In part, it is because the cream is rich but also very light in texture thanks to the Italian meringue (one of my changes, sorry Zia!).  It’s also great because the biscuits are thoroughly soaked in the coffee.  It cuts through the richness of the cream.  I’ve tried so many that have the coffee sprinkled over what remains, in the end, a fairly dry sponge finger layer.  FORGET THAT, FOLKS.  We really need to get the flavours happening here!  Good quality bought savoiardi will allow you to soak them in the coffee without them disintegrating completely.  Home made sponge fingers tend to have a softer texture and I find they don’t hold their shape as well.  This isn’t a problem if you are making the tiramisù in a dish.  I tend to prefer to make mine free-standing.  Plus, it’s authentic, right? 😛

Choose a coffee that is sweet and has low acidity for this dessert because you need to brew it strong to get the intensity of flavour.  I used Gridlock Coffee House Blend this time around and it was lovely.  A little chocolatey, light and sweet.  Brewed strong, there was no hint of bitterness at all … just perfect.   Don’t think you can get away with using instant coffee or an over-roasted bitter espresso.  You’ll taste it.

You can use all brandy or substitute another liqueur.  I often just use only brandy or sometimes Frangelico instead of the Marsala.  Don’t be tempted to use Sambuca or Grappa for this dessert.  While they do go well with coffee, they really don’t work with the mascarpone cream.

This is a great make-ahead dessert because it really is best if made the day or night before you plan to serve it.  The flavours develop beautifully if left overnight.

It’s an easy dessert to make but there’s a big difference between a good tiramisù and a sublime tiramisù experience.

This one is sublime, I promise 😉

Serves 6

200 grams mascarpone*
100 grams double cream (min. 50% milk fat)
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste or scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean
3 tablespoons sugar
30 millilitres water
2 egg whites
12 savoiardi biscuits
400 millilitres strong espresso coffee, freshly brewed
50 millilitres brandy
50 millilitres Marsala or Frangelico
unsweetened cocoa or grated chocolate (70% cacao solids or greater)

*Mascarpone varies a lot depending on the brand and sometimes the time of year.  Some varieties can give the dessert a strong cheesy flavour that not everyone appreciates.  So, I use a combination of mascarpone and double cream to tone it down.  I do this more often than not with spectacular results.  Don’t use ordinary whipping cream as it needs to have the same consistency as the mascarpone for the mascarpone cream to have enough body.   Use 300 grams of mascarpone and omit the cream if your mascarpone has a milder flavour.

While the coffee is still hot, pour it into a dish and add the brandy and Marsala.  Set aside to cool completely while you make the cream.

Whip the mascarpone, egg yolks, and vanilla on medium speed until it is really light.
Place the water and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Raise the heat and let the syrup come to 115°C.  While the syrup is on the heat, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  When the syrup is ready, pour it in a slow steady stream into the egg whites, as you continue to whip them on a medium to high-speed.  Keep whisking the meringue until glossy, stiff and the sides of the bowl have cooled to just warm.
Gently fold the meringue into the mascarpone mixture.  The texture should be mousse-like.

One at a time, carefully dip the sponge fingers into the coffee and turn over until well soaked. Gently lift them out and place side by side in a dish or on a serving plate.  You will need six savoiardi for each layer.   Take care when lifting the biscuits so that they don’t break.  I use two large forks or a flat bladed spatula for this.  Follow with a layer of the mascarpone cream.  Repeat with another layer of savoiardi and top with the remaining mascarpone cream.

This is what I’m talking about, yeah?  The coffee has permeated the savoiardi through and through:

Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
Before serving, liberally sift some unsweetened cocoa over the top or cover the top with grated dark chocolate.

And there you have it … a true classic … plus I scattered a few coffee beans over the top.  Just because.

It’s always nice to have a few leftovers the next day 😛  Note the puddle of coffee?  That’s because the sponge fingers are dripping with coffee and booze.  This is success!




Filed under All Recipe Posts, Chocolate, Desserts

42 responses to “Tiramisù

  1. ………..I’m drooling. I understand the need to take a hiatus – there have been so many mediocre imitations that I couldn’t face them for a long time either. But now I’m inspired to give it another go – and with an ‘authentic’ recipe, I know I can’t fail!

    • oh dear, yes, beware the nasty “variations” … i’m a tiramisu` snob and think that variations are fine so long as they’re not called tiramisu` 😉 thanks for the lovely comment. it is rather a good feeling to have made it again. enjoy!

  2. Natasha

    You’ve got me! I will try this one asap.

  3. Your family is from Treviso, really? I just spend there 3 days last week and was thought the town was simply beautiful. I didn’t know tiramisu was from there, I tend to know it more as a polenta region (if I’m correct)
    Love your tiramisu recipe! 🙂

    • Indeed my mum is 100% Trevisana and we are definitely “polentoni” through and through! It is a gorgeous town … the Piazza dei Signori is beautiful. So glad you liked it. I miss it very much. hey, did you get a chance to see the “fontana delle tette”? LOL
      Thanks for the kind words, I think the recipe is pretty good. Always drives me batty when I see dry lifeless tiramisu` 😉

      • I’ve heard about the fountain 🙂 but I’ve only had 1,5 hours for sightseeing (sad, I know), so unfortunately didn’t get a chance, but keeping this one for next time 🙂

      • I have a photo but it’s not a digi one. will see if I can get it scanned properly etc and will post if for you…with the story….you know, white wine from one teet, red from the other at special town celebrations 🙂 She’s hidden away these days, hard to find. 🙂

  4. I love love love the fact that you spelled tiramisù correctly (with the grave accent). Very few people do, especially on English-written blogs. Anyway, I think this looks fantastic. Is it possible to leave out the alcohol completely? If not, is there a non-alcoholic substitute?

    • Yeah, don’t you just hate it when it’s spelled totally incorrectly???!!! Leave out the alcohol if you want to … just don’t leave out the coffee 🙂 You might want to increase the amount of coffee by 100ml though. Thank you for visiting and the kind words of encouragement!

  5. Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for all the tips. Tiramisu is one of my very favorite desserts.

  6. This looks GORGEOUS! Just discovered your blog–thanks so much for sharing your recipe 🙂
    Question though: Can ALL the alcohol be substituted/removed without changing the original taste too much? I can’t use alcohol for religious purposes. Thanks! 🙂

  7. I loove tiramisù! And yours look especially delicious!!!

  8. Madelyn

    hey viviane, your post here really inpires me to make my own tiramisu so i’m gonna give this a try. i can’t wait! wish me luck! 🙂

  9. Madelyn

    Sure! I’ll keep it secret, from you and your Nonna 😉

  10. Caroline

    Can you tell me how much sugar is for the meringue and how much sugar for the mascarpone mixture? It says 3 TB only. Then mix the mascarpone with the “sugar”. And also – for the meringue – heat the “sugar” and water, would be another 3TB for that?
    Thanks for the recipe!!! I am actually making it now…. but got to the meringue part, and I don’t know how much sugar to use for that since I already used all 3TB on the mascarpone mixture 😦

    • Oh dear! You use the sugar and water to make a syrup and add that to the egg whites to make an italian meringue, which is then folded into the mascarpone mix which is just the mascarpone, eggs etc but not the sugar!
      It’s OK … if you’ve added the sugar to the mascarpone, all is not lost. Just whip the egg whites to a stage between soft and stiff peaks and fold that in. It will still work. That is how my aunt used to make it and it was fab. I prefer to make the italian meringue as I like the texture a little better but it will work fine.
      DO NOT PANIC. 😀

      • Caroline

        Thanks for the quick reply! I actually made an Italian meringue, but instead of using 3TB of sugar for the syrup, I used 1/3 cup. The end result, between the sugar in the mascarpone mixture, plus the extra sugar in the meringue was too sweet. But we loved it anyway 🙂
        I will try it next weekend again doing it the right way 🙂
        I have to say I still feel weird about eating raw egg yolks, and I have to make an effort to put that out of my mind while eating, but I guess is okay….
        Thanks for the recipe and the quick reply!

      • Oh cool, yes that would be a LOT of sugar!
        If raw egg yolk freaks you out, you can do this (I do this when making semifreddo): Use 3-4 TBSP sugar and make a syrup as per the recipe. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl on their own and do the same with the whites. Use half the syrup for the whites and half for the yolks. Whip the yolks until light and have some volume. Once they’ve cooled, you can fold the yolks into the mascarpone and vanilla mix, which you ‘ve already beaten so that it’s smooth. Finally, add the meringue. Hopefully, that will calm any fears about raw egg yolks?
        You can look up one of the semifreddo recipes on the site…I go through the method there in detail.
        But the ingredients are as per the recipe here of course. And thank YOU. 🙂

  11. Caroline

    Thank you so much for the replies!!!
    When I signed up to be able to post a comment, I clicked the “notify me of follow-up comments via email”, but I never get the emails, so I have to come back to the website to see the replies. Not big deal at all for me, but that’s why takes me a little longer to reply 🙂
    I will definitely do what you suggest with the eggs!! thanks for the tip!!
    Actually, what I am trying to make is a cake version of the dessert. I think I got it down to the way I want it based on your recipe 🙂
    Last time I used heavy cream, since I am in the US, and try to find double cream is very hard. But this week, I finally found double devon cream at a store near my house!!! yipe….. so I will try next weekend to make it with double cream to see if it makes much difference between that and heavy cream. But I am honestly hopping that it doesn’t as it is a lot more expensive 😀
    Also, last time I made it with kalua, this time I will try with Marsala and Brandy which I already bought too 🙂

    Again, thank you so much for your help!! I will look for the semifreddo recipe now 🙂

    • So glad, Caroline!! A couple of things that might help:

      1. heavy cream and double cream are likely the same thing and the result should be about the same. Don’t go spending a fortune on something that won’t make a difference. You just need a cream that is around 50% butterfat or more. Then is subs for the mascarpone in terms of texture. You could use all mascarpone and I have done this many times but only when the cheese is not too cheesy, if you know what I mean. Some brands are quite strong flavoured, others mild.

      2. OOH Tiramisu` cake is fabulous! I do that for parties too! BUT, if you want it to look glam, I often make a sponge cake for the cake/biscuit layers and carefully drizzle the coffee over it to make sure that it gets enough of a soaking. Once soaked it’s hard to move it. Good to do it as you layer and just carefully drizzle over with a spoon. I use a springform pan and line the base and sides with acetate or some non-stick paper for easy removal, to assemble. You can then decorate the top.
      If you have a square springform, you could use the savoiardi to make it and then unmold it to make sure it all holds together well. But for a cake that is pretty, I’d go the sponge layers. I use the sponge recipe on my blog (my standard, all purpose sponge). It’s in the recipe for the passionfruit sponge post.

      Go you!!!!! 😀

  12. Caroline

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! 😀

    • with the greatest of pleasure Caroline 🙂 x

      • Caroline

        Oh my God, you are going to hate, but I promise this is the last question. If I want to replace the “strong espresso coffee, freshly brewed” with espresso powder. What proportions would you use? how much espresso powder and how much water? and probably not sugar right? If you don’t know is totally okay 🙂
        Sorry for the bother 🙂
        Thanks! Caroline

      • Oh I am so NOT going to hate 😀
        Hmmm espresso powder … I’ve vaguely heard that term but not sure what it is!! Is that instant coffee?? Probably not…. I guess you could use that although not sure why you would? But if you do, I don’t know what the proportions would be as I’ve never seen or used espresso powder. I’m guessing follow the instructions on the pack to brew it as an equivalent to an espresso?
        It’s not bother and I think it’s an epic fail on my part here :-/
        Let me know if you do and how it goes!!

  13. Caroline

    This is Espresso Powder:

    You are totally right… And I am asking the same to myself, why would I use espresso powder instead of freshly brewed coffee?? well… I don’t have a coffee maker yet 😦 and before I rush to buy one, I thought I could maybe use the powder instead. Btw, this powder is not the same as instant coffee. No instructions in the jar. And looked on internet other tiramisu recipes and they use this powder instead of fresh coffee and they all have different measures. I’ll just use what I think may be a good proportion 🙂
    Again, thanks a lot for your help!!! I wish I could post pictures here so you see the final result 🙂
    I’ll let you know! Thanks again!

    • oh wow! Hey Caroline, you can post pics on the Facebook page! That would be fantastic, please do!!!
      Sorry I couldn’t help on the espresso powder. It does look the business though, so I’d mix it up, taste it for strength and flavour and use your tastebuds as a guide! More reliable than instructions most often 🙂

      Oh now I’m waiting eagerly to see the results…yay!! 😀

  14. Pingback: Cup Cake 4 2 « Nachgekocht

  15. I just made your tiramisu and it is heaven!!!! thank you so much for sharing :)))))

  16. Hello Viviane,
    Tiramisú is one of my favorites desserts but I didn’t eat it so often because with the recipe I used to make it needed at least 100g of sugar! so I could eat it like once or twice a year.
    The first time I read the recipe I couldn’t believe I’d need only 3TB of sugar but I trust so much in your recipes because I know everything I have made from your blog is yous exquisite. So this was not any exception. I was in heaven while I was eating it. Can’t be more perfect dessert than this one.

    I was so excited with it that I wanted to share the tastiness with all my family. I planned to make it for my family in Mexico but unfortunately I couldn’t find the main ingredients in the store 😦 no savoiardi biscuits or any kind of, no mascarpone! omg I was so sad I couldn’t do it. Do you know if I could the biscuits from scratch? and may be use other cheese? so next time when I go to Mexico again I can do it.

    Thanks a lot for this and all your recipes I ❤ it!!

    Have a very nice Year!


    • Hi Angelina,

      wow, I read your comment 4 times already. Please know how much I appreciate it that you took the time to write and let me know how much you love the Tiramisu`. It’s a special recipe for me with many wonderful memories, so it’s much more than just a dessert. To have people love it so much and take the time to let me know, makes me so very emotional in the best possible way. Thank you so very much.

      I’m sorry you have not been able to find mascarpone in Mexico. From your own experience, you will know that mascarpone is a lot like a very thick cheesy version of creme fraiche or sour cream. If you can find a whole milk ricotta in Mexico and creme fraiche (preferably) or a thick sour cream, I would substitute 50/50 ricotta and the creme fraiche in place of the mascarpone. For the ricotta, it would be good to use a dry ricotta (the kind that comes in a large round slab that is sliced). Otherwise, I would drain it very well in a lined colander/sieve and topped with a plate and a weight on top. You can place it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours like this to drain some of the excess moisture. You will need 100 grams of dry ricotta and 100g of creme fraiche/sour cream.

      For the savoiardi, I have not posted a recipe on my blog for these, but you can make your own. However, homemade savoiardi tend to be much softer and spongy than store-bought savoiardi (they have a real crust that helps them hold their shape).

      Another thought – are you able to take some mascarpone and/or savoiardi with you when you travel to Mexico?

      If I want to impress, I sometimes make the tiramisu`with a sponge cake layer. I use my standard sponge cake recipe here: http://chocolatechillimango.com/2011/09/29/passionfruit-cream-sponge/
      This size sponge should be sufficient. You can slice it in half horizontally for your layers.
      Or you can make 1 1/2 times the recipe and bake in 3 shallow 20cm/8inch sandwich pans to make 3 layers if you wish.
      To soak the sponge layers, it is easier to spoon 1/2 or 1/3 of the coffee mixture over the top as evenly as you can. The best coverage actually comes from using a very small (kitchen only purpose!) watering can with tiny holes. This will help you “rain” the coffee over the sponge evenly!

      Proceed as per the recipe otherwise. I hope this helps you. If you are unsure, please contact me via email at chocolatechillimango[at]gnaritas[dot]com[dot]au

      Wishing you all the very best for 2013 Angelina!

      When you next make the tiramisu`, I’d love it if you would share it with the CCM community on the Facebook page with a photo and post!


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