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Tiramisu – the Ultimate Italian Dessert

Tiramisu is the ultimate Italian dessert. My first stint with Tiramisu was at one of the Olive Garden Restaurants. Was I impressed at the first bite?? Actually yes and no. Yes, because I loved the coffee flavored dessert. And no because I had it in winter, on a cold December day and unfortunately, I think my tiramisu had not been defrosted properly. So it was just one cold frozen bite and I couldn’t really enjoy it. So I left it at that. I had tasted tiramisu, all was well with the world and I was content.

What inspired me to make tiramisu at home, was the Daring Baker’s challenge a few months ago, I guess February 2010. Many of my blogger friends are a part of the Daring Baker’s group and when I saw the recipe of Tiramisu on their blogs, I knew I had to try it. It was just unfortunate that my first experience wasn’t so good, but I knew I would love it. So I had been waiting ever since looking for an excuse and I finally found one! We had some friends visiting us and I made this exquisite dessert. Fortunately or unfortunately (for the tiramisu) they had a change in their plans and could not visit us. I had the whole tiramisu to myself :) (I know you can see the wicked smile on my face)!!

Well, now coming to the experience of making tiramisu at home, it was fun. Yes, this is a recipe that needs a lot of planning and patience, but it is not at all complicated. Tiramisu is basically a layered dessert, with alternative layers of custard and ladyfingers/Savoiardi biscuits. The custard is a blend of vanilla cream, zabaglione, whipped cream and mascarpone cheese. The coffee flavor is induced at two stages, in the zabaglione and in the ladyfingers. The tiramisu can be made with/without alcohol and I prefer the non alcoholic version.

I chose to make the ladyfingers at home and bought the mascarpone cheese. I have been meaning to join the Daring Bakers group for a long time now, I guess the time has come now! Now, here’s the recipe for you. You could serve the tiramisu directly from the serving dish or invert it like a cake (like I’ve done here).


For the Ladyfingers/Savoiardi biscuits:
Eggs – 3 large, separated
Granulated sugar – 6 Tbsp
Cake flour, sifted – 3/4 cup (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
Confectioner’s sugar – 6 Tbsp
(makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers)

For the Zabaglione:

Egg yolks – 2 large
Sugar – 3 Tbsp
Marsala wine (or port or coffee) – 1/4 cup
Pure vanilla extract – 1/4 teaspoon
Finely grated lemon zest – 1/2 tsp
For the Vanilla Pastry cream:
Sugar – 1/4 cup
All purpose flour – 1 Tbsp
Finely grated lemon zest – 1/2 tsp
Pure vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
Egg yolk – 1 large
Whole milk – 3/4 cup

For the Whipped Cream:

Chilled heavy whipping cream -1 cup
Sugar- 1/4 cup
Pure vanilla extract – 1/2 tsp

To assemble the Tiramisu:

Brewed espresso, warmed – 2 cups
Rum extract (optional) – 1 tsp (I didn’t use this)
Sugar – 1/2 cup
Mascarpone cheese – 1/3 cup
Savoiardi/ladyfinger biscuits – 36 (you may use more or less)
Unsweetened cocoa powder – 2 Tbsp


  • For the Ladyfingers/ Savoiardi Biscuits.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
  • Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the egg whites, using a wooden spoon.
  • Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed.It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
  • Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Zip loc bag) and fill with the batter.Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
  • Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes.The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
  • Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
  • Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
  • Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.Store them in an airtight container till required. They keep well  for 2 to 3 weeks.

<h2>For the zabaglione:</h2>

  • Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
  • In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  • Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:

  • Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
  • Place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  • Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer).
  • Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:

  • Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:

  • Have ready a serving dish (8 inch square/8 inch circle) or one of your choice.
  • Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
  • Line the bottom of the dish with parchment paper. Spread one-fourth of the cream mixture on the parchment.
  • Working quickly, dip about 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
  • Spoon one-fourth of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
  • Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
  • To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and place the serving platter inverted, over the tiramisu. Now gently invert the tiramisu on the serving platter. It should come out fairly easily, just shake the pan lightly and keep it inverted for a minute. Remove the pan carefully and take off the parchment lining on the top.
  • Sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

I’ve made some chocolate pattern, leaves and curls to adorn the tiramisu. I shall talk more about these in a later post as this post is already too long!!

And now, we are ready to eat, aren’t we?

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Pizza – Homemade, better than takeout!

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