Recipe – Dessert: Tiramisu (Italy)

I dare you to serve some to others and to NOT stick a fork in the rest to take a sample and to NOT eat all of what remains.

Two very highly regarded Italian restaurants near me, Trattoria Stella and Pepe Nero, both make a wonderful “classic” tiramisu.  This dessert could be described as Italian Heaven in the mouth.  I would order it often, especially if I had the perfect excuse with me – someone willing to share it.

But then:  Having walked by containers of mascarpone cheese on sale at the store one too many times to ignore any longer, I caved into my curiosity and bought some.  A simple recipe for tiramisu was innocently printed right on the container.  One thing led to another, and I discovered how easy and fun it is to make extraordinarily addicting tiramisu.  Now, at the time of writing this, I find myself wanting to make it almost every weekend – for one of the greatest pleasures about making a dessert like tiramisu is when friends and family inhale it within minutes;  and when they ask for more, the only option is to make more.

About my method:  Evenly covering all the ladyfingers with extra fluffy, creamy, heavenly goodness is intentional and is not meant to replicate such pictures online revealing bare naked ladyfingers only scantily clad in cream.  I also like my tiramisu generously, almost overwhelmingly, caffeinated and alcoholic.  Some may choose to serve tiramisu on a flat platter.  That is acceptable; however, using a sided tray/dish (shown) serves two purposes:  The tiramisu stays uniformly fresh and moist, without getting soggy, and it transports well.  My tiramisu once drove over 240 miles in the tray shown in the photo (and with me in the car too),  before safely arriving at its destination.

Recipe makes about 4-8 servings in one small ~ 8″ x 12″ tray.
Double the recipe for 8-16 servings and if using a large tray, ~ 12″ x 18″.

TIMING:  If you plan to serve this…

  • …after dinner:  Make it in the morning.
  • …for breakfast – goes great with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate:  Make it in the evening.
  • …after lunch or during Afternoon Tea:  Depends on whether you prefer a “super fresh just-made” or “delicately settled and amalgamated” taste and texture.
  • …a week from now:  Don’t make it yet.


  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese (e.g. BelGioioso which comes in an air-tight plastic tub)
  • 3 large whole eggs (from happy healthy chickens)
  • 1/2 Cup + 3 Tbsp + 1 heaping tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Cup freshly made espresso or very strong coffee, cooled to room temperature (A stovetop “moka pot” coffee/espresso maker works too.  I use the Alessi “Espresso Maker 9090 by Richard Sapper” 6-espresso-cup version, which results in just over 1 cup espresso – enough for this recipe, plus the optional chocolate sauce.)
  • 1/4 Cup + 3 Tbsp rum (e.g. Cruzan Black Strap Rum), Cognac, or Italian liquor / liqueur (Blackstrap rum is my personal flavor preference, but Cognac is often used.)
  • One 7 ounce (200 grams) package ladyfingers or “biscotti savoiardi”  (I use Alessi, occasionally DeLallo, both made in Italy.)
  • Cocoa powder – at least 3 Tbsp or enough for dusting tiramisu + optional chocolate sauce recipe below.
  • love (This is essential, essential, essential.  Do not underestimate.)
  • optional:  Chocolate sauce (Ingredients are listed below in Directions step 9.)


  1. CREAM BASE.  Put the 3 egg whites into one medium-sized mixing bowl and the 3 egg yolks (with white thread removed) into second medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. In the bowl with the yolks, add the 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp espresso, and 3 tbsp rum.  With a stiff whisk, whisk all the ingredients together for at least a few minutes until well blended and until the sugar begins to dissolve.
  3. Gradually add all the mascarpone cheese to the bowl, a few tablespoons at a time, whisking thoroughly to ensure that all bits of mascarpone are sufficiently dissolved, until smooth evenly-colored cream results.  Vigorous, energetic stirring is recommended to achieve an extra airy creaminess.  You can choose to alternate between this step and Step 4, working on both items simultaneously.
  4. WHIPPED EGG WHITES.  In the bowl with the egg whites, add the 1 heaping tsp sugar.  With a flexible whisk or hand beater, whisk/beat the whites and sugar together until the whites are white, fluffy, shiny, and form moderately stiff peaks.  Do not whisk further (if whisking by hand like I do, you could be tired by now anyway).
  5. TIRAMISU CREAM.  Slowly add the whipped egg whites to the cream base, gently folding them in with the stiff whisk until well blended, forming a smooth evenly-colored cream.
  6. ASSEMBLY.  In a bowl, with a flat bottom wide enough for a ladyfinger, add the ~1 cup espresso and 1/4 cup rum.  Stir gently.  The liquid should be cool to warm, not hot, before proceeding.  Working quickly:  Dip one ladyfinger in the espresso-rum liquid, turn over to cover both sides, and place this length-wise in one corner of the tiramisu tray.  Repeat, adding the ladyfingers in rows, until the bottom of the tray is filled with a single layer of espresso-rum ladyfingers.
  7. Pour between 2/5 to 1/2 of the tiramisu cream over the first layer of ladyfingers.  Gently smooth the mixture evenly over the ladyfingers with a soft spatula.
  8. Add the next layer of ladyfingers on top, as done in Step 6, the rest of the tray.
  9. Pour the rest of the tiramisu cream over the ladyfingers, using up all of the cream.  If it is impossible to add all the cream to the tray, eat what remains or consider making “Tiramisu Custard Ice Cream“.
  10. Generously dust the top with cocoa powder, keeping in mind that some of the powder will absorb into the tiramisu cream layer.  Transfer to the refrigerator, keeping uncovered if your frigo is *clean* and non-odorous.   Tiramisu01a2018-01-20
  11. CHOCOLATE SAUCE (“optional” but once you try it, it will no longer be optional):
    In small stovetop saucepan (glazed ceramic or enamel ideal; steel or copper tolerable), combine:  1/4 Cup or remaining espresso-rum liquid (whichever quantity is less), 3 Tbsp cocoa powder, and 3 Tbsp granulated sugar.  On very low heat, using a flexible whisk, mix all ingredients together, until well blended and sugar is completely dissolved. Switch to a silicone spatula and continue stirring frequently, ensuring that all chocolate-covered sides of the pan are reached.  When sauce approximates the density of must-infused Balsamic vinegar / warm honey / maple syrup, turn off heat and continue stirring to thicken a little further.  Transfer sauce into heat-tolerant glass (e.g. Pyrex measuring cup or canning jar) and allow to cool to room-temperature.  Stir occasionally with spatula or spoon to enable even thickening, waiting at least 15 minutes before pouring sauce over tiramisu.  The sauce best adheres if the tiramisu has already been pre-chilled in the refrigerator.  Within a few minutes after adding the sauce, return the tiramisu to the refrigerator accelerate the sauce drying process.
  12. When ready to indulge, use a thin steel spatula to cut sections and carefully lift out of the tray, one serving at a time.  Try to share.
Tiramisu is more fun to make while drinking espresso.  (Background:  My favorite espresso cup!)

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