I love tiramisu because it has all the best things in one package: coffee, rum or brandy, a super creamy but not too sweet custard and just a little chocolate! It’s one of the FIRST recipes I made as a teenage baker and has remained a favorite ever since.
When the weather warms up I really gravitate towards lighter less sweet desserts and for these recipes mascarpone cheese is the perfect ingredient. If you’re not familiar, it really tastes like solid cream and goes PERFECTLY with everything.
What You’ll Need for This Recipe
Mascarpone: If you’re not familiar, it really tastes like solid cream and goes PERFECTLY with everything. It’s available in most grocery stores but if you’re REALLY in a pinch you can make a substitute, I’ve included a how to for that in the frequently asked question section below.
Espresso: Strong espresso is one of the main flavors in any tiramisu recipe so brew a big batch, get some from your local coffee place, or use some instant espresso.
Dark Rum: I used a nice dark spiced rum but you can use brandy or cognac instead.
Ladyfingers: These finger-shaped cookies are available at many grocery stores but not all. You can make your own or order a package online if they are not in your local stores because they are an absolute must have ingredient for tiramisu.
How to Make Tiramisu
1. In a medium bowl combine the espresso and dark rum. You can sub the rum out for cognac or brandy, or you can add some Kahlua or orange liqueur to the bowl for some extra depth of flavor. If you don’t want to use alcohol then add some vanilla, simple syrup, and/or hot chocolate to the espresso.
2. Add the mascarpone cheese to a large bowl then pour in the dark rum, mix to combine, and set aside.
3. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium glass bowl, or the bowl of a double boiler, then whisk together until combined. Place over a pot of simmering water making sure that the water does not touch the bowl. Whisk over heat until the mixture is thick and light yellow in color. This is the zabaione or sabayon depending on if you want to go the Italian or French route. It’s the custard that will set and hold your tiramisu together so take your time and whisk, whisk, whisk!
4. Pour the zabaione into the mascarpone mixture and mix until well combined. Place in the fridge to hang out a bit while you work.
5. Combine the cold whipping cream and vanilla extract in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and mix on low for 30 seconds or so and slowly increase the speed over the course of a few minutes to high. Beat until you have medium-stiff peaks but keep an eye on it, the whipped cream will turn to butter if over-whipped which will ruin your tiramisu! Fold the whipped cream into your mascarpone mixture then set aside.
6. Time to dip those ladyfingers! These cookies soak up liquid fast so they only need a quick second or two for each side. You want the centers to be dry since they will absorb moisture from the mascarpone filling and you want some structure for your tiramisu. As you dip arrange the ladyfingers side to side in your 9×13 dish so there are no gaps.
7. Add half of the mascarpone filling over the bottom layer of ladyfingers and smooth out with an offset spatula. Then continue dipping and arranging the second layer of lady fingers.
8. Add the remaining mascarpone filling and smooth out to the edges then dust with cocoa powder and refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours. Your tiramisu needs time to set up so you can cut nice clean pieces.
Pro Tips for this Recipe
- If you’re not into adding alcohol to your tiramisu then mix the coffee with some simple syrup and vanilla to the soak the cake with. If you hate the taste of coffee but are still tempted to try this then sub in some hot chocolate and mix with the brandy.
- Using fresh mascarpone cheese is best for this tiramisu recipe. I’ve had bad experiences using this ingredient when it’s close to the expiration date as it can lose some of that fabulous creaminess and separate into granules.
- Don’t drench your ladyfingers. You want the centers to be dry so the tiramisu retains some structure and doesn’t collapse.
- Whip the cream slowly starting at low and moving to high over the course of a few minutes. This will yield a thicker more stable whipped cream which helps the tiramisu retain its structure.
- Take your time with the egg yolks. They are the foundation of any tiramisu recipe and need to be thick and creamy before you remove from heat. And don’t stop whisking! If you’re not into all the physical labor just use your electric hand mixer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Tiramisu have to have Alcohol?
A traditional tiramisu has either marsala, brandy, rum, or some other liqueur. You may of course omit the alcohol or use a rum extract if desired.
What can be used instead of mascarpone?
- 8oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2tbs unsalted butter
How is it served?
A classic tiramisu is often served in a glass dish or cut into square pieces so the layers of mascarpone custard, and espresso soaked lady fingers can be seen.
How far ahead can you make it?
A tiramisu can be made 2-3 days in advance. You can of course freeze the tiramisu if you’d like to store for longer. Wrap well and thaw overnight in the refrigerator
If you’ve tried this tiramisu recipe then don’t forget to leave a rating and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
- 9x13 dish
For the Coffee Mixture
- 1 1/2 cups espresso
- 1/2 cup dark rum
For the Mascarpone Filling
- 16 ounces mascarpone
- 1/4 cup dark rum 60ml, for the mascarpone
- 6 large eggs
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream 480ml
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Assembly
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder unsweetened
- 40 lady fingers You may need a few more or less depending on your dish.
- Combine the coffee and 1/2 cup of dark rum in a medium bowl then mix together and set aside. You can omit the rum and add a dash of vanilla with some more coffee for soaking or you can add a favorite liqueur like Kahlua, Grand Marnier, or Godiva.
- Transfer the mascarpone to a large bowl then pour in 1/4 cup of dark rum and mix together until well combined. You can use an electric hand mixer or a whisk for this step.
- Add the egg yolks and sugar to a double boiler or glass bowl. Whisk together then place over a pot of simmering water making sure the water does not touch the bowl. Whisk over heat until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light yellow in color and thickened a bit.
- Pour the egg yolk mixture into the mascarpone and whisk until combined. You can use an electric hand mixer for this step if desired. Place in the refrigerator until needed.
- Add the cold cream and vanilla extract to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a large bowl if using an electric hand mixer. Mix on low for about 30 seconds then slowly increase speed to high. Beat until the whipped cream has stiffer peaks but keep an eye on it because it will curdle into butter if over-whipped.
- Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. You can run a whisk through it at the end to mix in any remaining unmixed bits.
For the Assembly
- Dip the top and bottom of your lady fingers briefly in the coffee mixture. They sop up the liquid quickly so they don't need more than 2 seconds of dipping. Arrange the lady fingers in the 9x13 dish as you go. They should be places so there are no gaps.
- After the bottom layer of dipped ladyfingers is arranged in the dish add half of the mascarpone mixture on top and smooth out to the edges using an offset or rubber spatula.
- Dip more ladyfingers, arranging them on top of the filling as you go. Once the dish is fully covered add the remaining mascarpone mixture and smooth out.
- Dust top with cocoa powder and chill overnight. You tiramisu needs time to set up or it will be a delicious mess.
- If you're not into adding alcohol then mix the coffee with some simple syrup and vanilla to the soak the cake with. If you hate the taste of coffee but are still tempted to try this then sub in some hot chocolate and mix with the brandy.
- Use fresh mascarpone cheese. I've had bad experiences using this ingredient when it's close to the expiration date as it can lose some of that fabulous creaminess and separate into granules.
- Don't drench your ladyfingers. You want the centers to be dry so the tiramisu retains some structure and doesn't collapse.
- Whip the cream slowly starting at low and moving to high over the course of a few minutes. This will yield a thicker more stable whipped cream.
- Take your time with the egg yolks. They are the foundation of the dessert and need to be thick and creamy before you remove from heat. And don't stop whisking! If you're not into all the physical labor just use your electric hand mixer.