Classic Tiramisu Recipe
This tiramisu recipe is absolute heaven! Made the classic Italian way, with mascarpone, espresso, and marsala wine. So fluffy, creamy, and full of rich flavor!
Tiramisu is one of those classic desserts that is so beloved! I know a lot of people who utterly cannot resist it when they see it on a restaurant menu.
And I totally get it! There’s just something about that light-as-air yet creamy-rich mascarpone cream, layered with boozy coffee-soaked ladyfingers…
I love making tiramisu because it’s so easy, you don’t even have to bake it. And it serves a big crowd, so it’s perfect for parties and pot-lucks. Plus, because of the fancy-sounding name, people are always so impressed with it!
If you check online, you’ll find TONS of different tiramisu recipes, and the ingredients are all over the map. Different recipes call for different kinds of liqueurs. Some call for instant espresso, and some call for the real brewed kind. Some tell you to use cream, while others recommend egg whites. Some don’t even have any eggs in them at all!
DOES TIRAMISU CONTAIN RAW EGGS/?
I like to use eggs in my tiramisu recipe because it’s authentic. They also give a richness, and a light airy texture that I really don’t think can be replicated any other way. But I do prefer to cook them.
As I’m sure you know, if you eat raw eggs there is a very small chance of salmonella. But the main reason I recommend cooking the yolks over a double boiler is because they will become so luxuriously thick and airy. It also helps to dissolve the sugar, so your tiramisu filling will be incredibly silky-smooth.
Just whisk your yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine together in a bowl placed over a small pot of simmering water.
After about 5 minutes, you’ll notice the mixture becomes noticeably different. It will go from being just a little foamy on top to whoa! Almost mousse-like, very thick, pale, and doubled in volume.
Guess what? You just made zabaglione. Besides being the base of tiramisu filling, zabaglione is also another traditional Italian dessert! It’s great just eaten with a spoon, or even better spooned as a topping over fresh fruit or cake.
DOES TIRAMISU CONTAIN ALCOHOL?
Traditionally, tiramisu is made with Marsala wine in the filling, and the ladyfingers are soaked in a boozy coffee mixture.
The Marsala wine gets cooked over a double boiler, along with egg yolks and a little bit of sugar. I think that most of the alcohol is probably cooked out. You are left with just the flavor of Marsala.
Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily, similar to Madeira or Sherry. It often has a caramel-y flavor, with notes of apricot, vanilla, and tamarind.
As for the boozy coffee that the ladyfingers are soaked with, that is not cooked. The alcohol in that mixture is definitely present, and it gives a nice warmth at the back of the throat.
I don’t think there’s enough alcohol in this tiramisu to get anyone buzzed (only 3 tablespoons of liqueur for 12 large servings), but if you want to make a non-alcoholic tiramisu, just leave the liqueur out, or sub with fruit juice or additional espresso.
If you enjoy a boozy treat once in a while, you can use any kind of liqueur that complements coffee well! I’ve seen tiramisu made with coffee liqueur, brandy, rum, Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, and the list goes on. Coffee liqueur (aka Kahlua) is my favorite choice, but you can use anything you like!
WILL TIRAMISU KEEP ME AWAKE?
If you soak your ladyfingers in caffeinated espresso, it could!
The word “tiramisu” is Italian for “pick-me-up,” so it definitely has the reputation for putting a little extra pep in your step.
Personally, I am very sensitive to caffeine, so I choose to use a decaffeinated espresso. I have an espresso machine that uses pods. It took 4 pods to make enough espresso to soak all 48 ladyfingers.
If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can purchase brewed espresso at a coffee shop, or use instant espresso powder mixed with hot water. There’s a link to my favorite instant espresso just above the recipe card below. The flavor is rich and full, and I always keep a little jar on hand for any kind of coffee or mocha flavored treat I might want to make.
You might also want to check out my chocolate tiramisu, for a completely caffeine-free and non-alcoholic version that the whole family will enjoy!
WHAT KIND OF LADYFINGERS SHOULD I USE?
Look for Savoiardi. This is what is traditionally used in tiramisu.
They’re light and very dry, so they will soak up the liquid well.
Sometimes I can find them in the gourmet cookie or Italian section of my supermarket; sometimes I have to order online. Look for a link below (just above the recipe card), to the exact brand I used for the tiramisu you see pictured here.
You can also make homemade ladyfingers! Check out my homemade ladyfingers recipe, if you really want to be a superstar! Just leave them out (uncovered) overnight so they become crisp.
SHOULD TIRAMISU CONTAIN CREAM?
I’ve definitely seen the case made for no cream in tiramisu. Some people say it’s more authentic that way, although I’ve enjoyed tiramisu in Italy that I’m sure was lightened with whipped cream.
I prefer tiramisu with whipped cream because it builds it up and makes it more fluffy and light. It also helps the squares to hold together better. And it makes it last longer, without weeping or deflating.
If you want to leave out the cream that’s no problem. You can leave it out entirely (your squares won’t be quite as tall), or replace it with 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks.
Mascarpone is a soft, creamy cheese that’s made in Italy. It’s very similar to American cream cheese, but without the tangy flavor. It’s found pretty easily in the cheese section of most grocery stores.
If you’re looking to make a substitution, cream cheese is probably the closest thing. But it will yield a slightly different flavor, and not be as authentic. Tiramisu is all about the mascarpone!
Allow your mascarpone to come to room temperature before whisking it into your zabaglione. It might take a little elbow grease, but you can get a nice smooth filling, with no lumps, by just whisking vigorously by hand.
CAN I MAKE TIRAMISU AHEAD?>
That is one of the best things about this dessert! It’s gets better the longer it sits.
I would recommend making tiramisu the day before you plan to serve it. This way, all the flavors have a chance to meld, and the ladyfingers become pillow-soft.
If you make this tiramisu recipe as written, it should keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, but it’s definitely best the day after it’s made.
Looking for a layer cake version of tiramisu? Be sure to check out my Tiramisu Cake!
More great cake recipes on my “Cake Recipes” Pinterest board!
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Authentic Tiramisu Recipe
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 g) Marsala wine
- 16 ounces (453.59 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup (238 g) heavy cream
- 2 cups (60 g) brewed espresso*
- 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur or brandy
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 48 Savoiardi ladyfingers
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, (for garnish)
- Place the egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala in a large metal mixing bowl, and set it over a pot of simmering water.
- Cook, whisking, until the mixture is pale, thick, and doubled in volume (about 5 minutes).
- Remove from the heat, and whisk in the mascarpone.
- Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks.
- Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
- Set the filling aside.
- Whisk the espresso, liqueur, and powdered sugar together in a shallow dish.
- One at a time, dip the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and arrange in an even layer in the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. (Line the ladyfingers up in two straight rows of twelve.)
- Spread half the filling over the ladyfingers, and repeat.
- Spread the rest of the filling on top, dust with cocoa powder, and refrigerate for 8 hours.