Need a delicious make-ahead dessert? Traditional tiramisu will be your next go-to!Jump to Recipe
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The classic Italian dessert is easier to make than you think! With only 5-6 ingredients and not needing to bake, it’s a great back-pocket recipe: just mix, layer, and pop in the fridge.
In the US, l thought I didn’t like tiramisu. I didn’t see the appeal of soggy cake. But in Italy, it’s so much better! Promise. This is a pretty typical recipe around here.
The secret to avoiding soggy tiramisu is timing. When you assemble the dish, dunk the cookies fast. I’m talking in and out, no need to let it soak.
After it’s made, it needs to set for at least 3 hours, but 8 is better. This lets the flavors do their thing. But then the older it gets, the more soggy it becomes, so plan to eat it within 2 days of making it. If you’re worried about finishing it in time, cut the recipe in half and do it in an 8×8 tray instead.
Since the eggs aren’t cooked, make sure you use pasteurized eggs (no farm eggs for this one, sorry!), and the freshest you can get.
For the espresso, you can’t just substitute drip coffee because traditional tiramisu needs that concentrated flavor to show up in the end. I highly recommend you buy a Moka pot. They’re easy to use, make great espresso, and are pretty cheap. It’s only slightly more work than a drip coffee machine, but with an infinitely better end product for your daily caffeine enjoyment. You can also use decaf espresso if you’d rather.
The most traditional tiramisu recipe doesn’t use liquor in the coffee mixture, but it’s a pretty common addition. I like a touch of it, and it’s so little that it’s not going to move the needle in terms of alcohol consumption. But 100% optional!
About Traditional Tiramisu
Several regions of Italy claim to have invented tiramisu. The city of Treviso (near Venice) in Veneto can point to the first restaurant to put it on a menu, so they claim traditional tiramisu as their own. But neighboring Friuli Venezia Giulia also claims it, and registered it as one of their regional heritage foods, essentially calling dibs. Tuscany and Piemonte also say they invented it, so really, who knows.
The name tiramisu means “pick me up,” referring to its coffee content! Typically Italians finish a meal with espresso either way, so having a caffeinated dessert after dinner isn’t a big deal here.
Tools you’ll need: mixer, 8×11 pan, Moka pot, small strainer.
- 1 ½ cup espresso (337 g)
- ⅔ cup sugar (120 g) plus an additional ½ Tbsp
- 2 tsp rum, Marsala wine, or coffee liquer
- 5 eggs
- 12 ½ oz Savoiardi cookies (350 g) or ladyfingers
- 3 ⅓ cups Mascarpone (750 g)
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- If you haven't already, make the espresso. When it's ready, stir in ½ Tbsp sugar and let it cool. Put into a shallow bowl that's long enough to fit the cookies and set aside.
- Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls, making sure that no yolk gets into the whites. It won't work if there's even one drop.
- Beat the yolks on high, adding ⅓ cup sugar after 45 seconds. Once the mixture is lighter in color and foamy, add mascarpone, one scoop at a time, allowing it to combine fully before adding the next.
- When all the mascarpone is incorporated, it should look a little like frosting. Set aside.
- Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy, then add the rest of the sugar a spoonful at a time.
- Whip the whites into stiff peaks, meaning when the beater comes out the white tip barely falls at all. The whites shouldn't move if you flip the bowl upside down.
- Add a scoop of the whites into the mascarpone mixture, folding it in gently but thoroughly. Repeat until all the whites are incorporated.
- Assemble! Spread a thin layer of the mascarpones mixture onto the bottom of an 8×11 dish.
- Dip the cookies into the coffee quickly. You want them to be covered, but not to sit in the mixture too long. Lay the cookies out in a single layer over the mascarpone, then top with another layer of mascarpone. Repeat the cookie layer, then top with a thick layer of mascarpone.
- Top with a generous layer of cocoa powder. It's easiest to do this using a small strainer.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set. Eat within 2 days.
Looking for more traditional Italian dishes? Try carbonara, chiantigana, spritz aperol or my entire Italian food lineup!