Sweet Happy Life

For My Fellow Coffee Lovers, Tiramisu

Tiramisu is an elegant dessert that’s ridiculously easy to make – especially if you use pre-made savoiardi (also called ladyfingers) from your local bakery or market.

Sometimes called “Tuscan Trifle,” tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian. It was created in the 1970′s at a Venetian restaurant called “Le Beccherie,” located in Treviso, Italy, where it was rumored Le Beccherie’s tiramisu provided a “pick me up” to the courtesans who worked in a brothel above the restaurant. (Scandalous!)

The dessert and its name were an instant hit that were soon copied by restaurants all over Italy using variations of the original recipe, which layered savoiardi soaked in espresso or strong coffee with mascarpone-zabaglione cream and bittersweet cocoa powder. A few food historians claim that La Beccherie’s tiramisu was actually a re-imagining of a classic 17th century dessert that was created in Siena to celebrate a visit by the Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici III. The dish he enjoyed was a loose custard that wasn’t made with mascarpone. He liked it so much that he brought the recipe back to Florence, where it eventually became enormously popular among English intellectuals. (source)

Savoiardi are relatively easy to find in the United States, where they are called Ladyfingers because, well, that’s what they look like. The name “savoiardi” means “from Savoy,” which is the French duchy they originated in during the late 15th century. These light, crispy cookies shaped like women’s fingers were the official court cookie and were often given as gifts or made into trifles and charlottes for dessert. In the U.K. savoiardi are sometimes called boudoir biscuits, which I find amusing considering the alleged connection between tiramisu and courtesans mentioned above!

Tiramisu is made by soaking savoiardi in espresso or coffee, then layering the softened cookies with a mascarpone-zabaglione cream. Last week I finally decided to give the dish a go, but because traditional tiramisu is served using raw egg yolks and whipped egg whites, also uncooked, I decided a few modifications were in order. There was no reason for this other than my general aversion to raw egg in my food, so if you come across a tiramisu recipe that takes the traditional approach and you’re comfortable eating raw eggs by all means go for it.

Having never made tiramisu before, I turned to Twitter for help modifying the recipe. In no time friends like cookbook author @abbydodge suggested cooking the yolks, while @rosychik suggested the use of Grand Marnier instead of Marsala. With their ideas in mind the recipe you see below crystallized, using four different tiramisu recipes as a starting point. Rather than using raw egg I lightly cooked the yolks with the sugar and Grand Marnier in a double boiler and replaced the whipped egg whites with whipped cream. I also upped the amount of coffee in the recipe (I love coffee!) and replaced the cocoa powder with bittersweet chocolate shavings. Since Grand Marnier is made with a blend of true cognacs and the distilled essence of bitter orange, it added a lovely citrus undertone that complemented the chocolate.

Homemade Tiramisu
An easy and decadent recipe for homemade tiramisu.
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2½ cups strong brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 24 Italian ladyfingers/savoiardi (see below for Kosher for Passover ladyfinger recipe)
  • 1 6-oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate bar, such as Scharffen Berger
  1. Make strong coffee using 7 tablespoons of good quality (preferably freshly ground) coffee and 2½ cups of water. Brew according to your coffee maker’s instructions or even better, in a French press. If using a French press, brew the coffee for 5 minutes before straining it into a large, wide bowl. Set aside to cool.
  2. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, combine the egg yolks, ½ cup of sugar and Grand Marnier, stirring constantly. (I used a large pot of simmering water and a large metal bowl to make my “double boiler.” Fill the pot about ¼ full, bring to a simmer, then place your metal bowl into the pot – there should be a fair amount of space between the water and the bottom of your bowl and the bowl should form a seal with the pot.) Cook the yolk mixture about 5 minutes. It will become pale yellow in color and increase in volume.
  3. Remove the yolk mixture from the heat and gently whisk in the mascarpone until combined. Set aside.
  4. In a chilled metal bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar while continuing to beat the cream. The cream is ready when it holds stiff peaks (this will happen very quickly after the soft peak stage). Fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture.
  5. One at a time, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee for 3-4 seconds per side, then transfer them to an 8-inch glass baking dish. Line them up so they are touching each other. Trim the ladyfingers as needed to ensure a snug fit. Spread half of the whipped cream mixture over the ladyfingers, then layer the remaining ladyfingers after dipping them in the coffee. Top with the rest of the whipped cream mixture.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 5 hours before serving. Using a vegetable peeler, grate bittersweet chocolate over the top of the tiramisu just before serving.
  7. The tiramisu can be made up to 1 day in advance and will keep for 2 days max.
Kosher Ladyfingers for Passover
A homemade ladyfingers recipe (kosher for Passover) courtesy of Zoë from zoebakes.com.
  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup sifted matzah cake meal Pinch salt
  • ½ lemon, zest and juice
  1. Beat the egg yolks until light on medium speed. Reduce speed and add 1 cup of the sugar slowly to the yolks, beat again until lemon yellow in color.
  2. Add the matzah meal, pinch of salt, zest and juice of the lemon.
  3. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks on high speed. Reduce speed and slowly add the final ½ cup of sugar. Increase speed and beat until whites are stiff peaks, but not dry.
  4. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk/matzah mixture, in 3 additions.
  5. To make the ladyfingers follow the directions from my website. Be sure to work quickly when piping the ladyfingers.

This post was originally published on my previous blog, Baking and Books.

105 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I didn’t realize tiramisu and lady fingers had such a scandalous past! Although I do remember my first encounter with tiramisu was one of those close your eyes and swoon moments. The Grand Marnier sounds like a great addition. I love chocolate, coffee and orange.

    Janel´s last blog post -> Library Loot 4/1/09

  • I have been following your blog for a while but has never written any comments. Love your blog, especially the book review part. I also doing running and I am glad another blogger is into running.
    As forTiramisu. I am not a big fan of it, but after seeing your Tiramisu picture , I feel like making it.

    Roossy Tirta´s last blog post -> Tomatoes

  • I love Tiramisù! That’s always been one of my favorite desserts…

    Yours looks perfect and mighty good!

    Cheers and have a good weekend!



  • Marsala is hard to find … i use rum as substitution and in addition to putting a little in the cream, i also put it in the coffee in which i soak ladyfingers. When i found the recipe i use, i thought it was particularly elegant, it uses the exact same ingredients for the cream and the savoiardis, exept for mascarpone (and a hint of rum) in the cream and flour in savoiardis. Unfortunatelly i love tiramisu way too much and am capable of eating all six extralarge pieces in one sitting, so i haven’t made it in a while. Do you think it’s freezable? ;) Buon appetito with yours, if there is still any left! :D

  • These look good. I love coffee, but Tiramisu has never been on my favorite dessert list. Must try it and see if I can have my mind changed.

  • Tiramisu…My Fav dessert!!!I dip the lady fingers in a mix of fresh coffee Kahlua and Amaretto…Looks yummy Ari!!!

  • my foodie/cooking-loving french boyfriend adores tiramisu beyond pretty much any other dessert, and makes a great one himself. HOWEVER! i think i should hold a little contest with him using this recipe, and see who has the last laugh – this one looks like a winner to me :)

  • This looks lovely!! And I love the little tidbits of information that you always add. Makes for an interesting read. I LOVE TIRAMISU!!

  • Very enjoyable & informative post! Your photos display the truly sensual delight of this dessert. Beautiful!

  • Living in Italy really helped me love tiramisu even more before I came here. I can’t wait to try this one out.

    Have a good weekend! :)

  • MMMM Looks good

    I love the book you’re giving away this month. I’ve checked it out of the library before and I wanted to bake everything in it

  • WOW.

    i’m not much a fan of tiramisu, but this looks absolutely amazing! i will definitely be trying this sometime! :) thanks!

  • Great sounding recipe! Tiramisu is the 1 dessert I’m always searching for the “perfect recipe”. Thank you for sharing this version.

  • I just made a tiramisu as well, but looking at yours makes me want it again! Great that you have provided a passover-safe version of the ladyfingers, everyone is looking for passover desserts now.

  • Love that you have a Passover version for this, will have to make it this year. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts (and being lactose intolerant makes it difficult to enjoy too often!).. And to top it all off you have Storyville coffee with it, how perfect — that was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had (and started my love affair with using a French Press!)

    Tammy´s last blog post -> Contradictions

  • This looks better than the Tiramisu I’ve eaten at an Italian Restaurant! You’re pictures always make my mouth water.

  • Your tiramisu looks delicious. I’ve hesitated to make it at home as well, but now I might have to try. Those pictures just gave me a craving!

  • I find Tiramisu to be one of those desserts that tastes light, even though the ingredients might not necessarily be. A lovely choice for dessert after a nice meal.

  • Yum! That looks delicious, I will definitely be adding that to my must bake list. I have recently discovered your blog and I love it!

    It’s also enticing to know that just by stopping by and saying “Hi” one could get a great book!

  • I just ordered some Storyville coffee! I couldn’t resist… I’m a sucker for packaging, a good story and promises of good coffee. Do you have the grinder they recommend in the video? I have a regular coffee grinder… is it worth it, do you think, to get the conical one?

    • Nancy – Glad you ordered their coffee! The conical grinder is called a burr grinder and yes, it’s worth it. It grinds the beans more uniformly, which makes for a better cup of coffee. :)

  • I love Tiramisu and have tried many recipes. I can’t wait to try this one! It looks so yummy!

  • Wow, Ari! This tiramisu looks fabulous. I’m so glad that you decided to break down and make this wonderful Italian dessert. The coffee flavor throughout, paired with the creaminess of the dessert…well, it’s just perfect! I can’t wait to try out your recipe!

  • I have also been a but hesitant to try making tiramisu for the same reasons…although I have made a shortcut version with ice cream :) Your’s looks perfect!

    Gotta love foods that have “scandalous” histories :)

  • I love reading up on different food blog, and I have just discovered this one. I have to say that I love the photography and posts. How do you make your pictures come out so nicely?

  • Tiramisu is one of my very favorite desserts and your recipe makes me feel like I could actually do it. Thanks!! Can’t wait to try!

  • hey ariela – looks delicious, as usual! will definitely be trying this one for our second seder! ~ alix

  • I think you just made my brother-in-laws week. Kosher for Passover Tiramisu. What can be better!

  • This is the first time I visit your website/blog, but I just wanted to stop by and congratulate for your wonderful editorial project. Your blog is such an interesting source of information :) thanks for sharing this!
    About the tiramisu, I use to make it with a simple strawberries salad during the summer (replacing coffe and chocolate/cocoa) and I use Pavesini instead of Savoiardi, a thinner kind of biscuits., which makes the dessert less thick, in my opinion. Anyway, your dessert looks absolutely fantastic! I think that I will make tiramisu very soon… ;)

    Fudgella´s last blog post -> Lo Stampo per Mini Muffin in Silicone, tanto agognato…

    • Nirvana – Yes, but if you want the citrus undertone I’d also add some orange zest (maybe 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon). :)

  • We made tiramisu in class and it was so much better than anything I’d ever had commercially. Your post reminded me of just how much it was worth taking the time. It looks fabulous.

  • WOW!!!!
    It’s sounds strange when you read about a typical italian dessert on a foreign blog…..I’m italian, you know!
    I just discovered thi blog and I believe it is really well done! Congrats, will follow you now!!!!

  • I’ve made tiramisu ice cream, which was a wonderful experience but I’m hesitant about making the regular dessert. My husband professes to love tiramisu, but really dislikes coffee! Any suggestions for a coffee alternative that might work better for the coffee-hating crowd?

    • Seanna Lea – Hmm. I hate to say this, but I don’t think you can substitute another liquid since coffee is one of THE defining characteristics of tiramisu. You might be able to use a soda or orange juice, but the resulting dessert wouldn’t be tiramisu and would taste very different.

  • Tiramasu is my mother-in-law’s favorite dessert! i will definatly be making this for her the next time she visits.

  • Tiramasu is my favorite dessert, I have never made it but your recipe seems so simple i cant wait to make it this weekend.

    • Cathy – Huzzah! I’m touched that you decided to try not one, but two recipes from Baking and Books this week. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  • I L.O.V.E. your blog and sooo many of the recipes! Any ideas for a Pareve substitute for the mascarpone? Hard to find kosher mascarpone to begin with here… Keep up the awesome work!

    • Estie – I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to find a parve substitute for something like cheese. By definition cheese is “dairy” so it can’t be parve… and if you use a non-dairy substitute then the resulting dish, in this case, would definitely not be tiramisu. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful, as vegetarians my husband and I never have to deal with this sort of conundrum! Why not just use mascarpone and serve the tiramisu with a dairy meal, like pasta or something? You can have the Italian theme run through the entire meal. :)

  • Thanks anyhow.

    I think that’s what I’m going to have to do-but it’s even hard to find regular kosher mascarpone here all together-although FYI- I substitute Sour Supreme (parve soy sour cream) and Tofutti (pareve soy cream cheese) all the time and they come out AWESOME!

    • Estie – Good to know. Now I’ll have something to suggest the next time someone asks me for a parve sour cream or cream cheese substitute. Thanks! :D

  • I think Tiramisu is one of the best desserts that was ever created, at least according to my sister. lol :-)

    This looks really yummy and will have to try it soon.

    Thanks for sharing… I also love the new site!!!

    Great job!

    ThatsSoYummy´s last blog post -> What’s In Season: Spring

    • Jordan – You can still do the recipe. I included a Passover friendly version of ladyfingers in case someone wanted to make it during the holiday, but the main recipe itself just calls for ladyfingers. When I first made it I used store bought lady fingers from Whole Foods!

  • LMAO.. I would never look at Tiramisu the same way, ever again. What a creative pick me up huh….. especially after energetic activities in the boudoir, ahem!!!

    Now I just have to go & try this recipe out… just so I can share the story with everyone who wants a bite.

  • Wow… the real version is so complicated to make. I tried an improviso tiramisu with no research making my own simple version, and it didn’t taste so bad. I was trying to find coffee alternatives so my bub (1 yr old) could have it too when I came across this site.

    Anyway here’s how I made mine:
    1 x store bought chocolate muffin.
    3 x lady finger biscuits
    1 tbl spoon instant coffee
    1 tbl spoon sugar
    1/2 cup boiling water
    150gm thickened cream

    I made a strong sweet coffee syrup with the sugar, instant coffee and water. While letting rest after stirring, I cut the muffin into small pieces, and broke the lady fingers into small pieces. Layering the muffin and biscuit pieces into a sealable container, I then spooned the coffee syrup over this mix, and then spooned about 1/3 of the cream. I then whipped the cream and spread it over the mix, pressing down with the spoon to be flat. Sealed the container and popped in the fridge 2 hours, and it was good to eat. Prep time was about 5 mins all up.

    Anyone have any ideas on what I could replace the coffee with? I don’t think it would taste very good if I used green tea, and the chocolate muffin makes using hot choco a bit too chocolatey…